Showing posts with label tv. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tv. Show all posts

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Othello (2001)

Repost from 2010.

Dir. Geoffrey Sax || 2001 || UK (made for TV)

The late 90s/early 00s were a time of modern day re-imaginings of William Shakespeare's plays. Hollywood in particular released at least three re-imaginings set in modern-day American high schools (although in the 1996 Romeo + Juliet, they were apparently home schooled). 2001's Othello cannot and should not be confused with O, also released in 2001. O takes place in an American high school and for some unknown reason stars Josh Hartnett in the Iago role, and the film revolves around the politics of high school basketball. 2001's Othello takes place in modern day London, revolves around the politics of Scotland Yard, and stars Christopher Eccleston in the Iago role (here re-christened as "Ben Jago").

Othello does not bother with attempting to adapt all of Shakespeare's language to the modern day. It comes in snippets, most notably from Jago. Scotland Yard is in turmoil because of while publicly stating that they plan to hire more Black and Asian officers, the commissioner is caught saying racist things right afterwards. In the meantime, Inspector John Othello has quelled a riot in a multiracial project he grew up in after a suspected Black drug dealer is beat to death by four white cops. Assistant Commissioner Jago, Othello's mentor, waits in the wings to receive the Police Commissioner position after the current one resigns. Othello, of course, gets it instead so Scotland Yard can basically kill two birds with one stone in a PR move. Jago plots his revenge on Othello, despite his claims of loving him, by planting doubts in Othello's mind as to the faithfulness of his new wife, Desi; and undermining the investigation of the four white cops who beat the suspected drug dealer to death.

It is a compelling, poignant, and fitting adaptation. However, I am not sure it will hold up well to a second viewing. While Christopher Eccleston does a pretty good job as Jago (and he probably kills this role on stage), his one soliloquy is shot as a hyper-edited temper tantrum in a hallway, which ends with Jago walking out of Scotland Yard and saying "well, that was dramatic, wasn't it?" to the camera. Constantly having Jago break the fourth wall does not seem as an attempt to make Jago charming or sympathetic, but it does make him come off as Bugs Bunny when Bugs says "ain't I a stinker?". Worst of all, Jago gets his wish by the end of the film. He is not hauled off and arrested, like in the play, and the sole source of comfort in the wake of all the bodies on the floor by the end (the death count is considerably less in this film). What the film is trying to say, I am not quite sure. Is it that manipulation is harder to prove in modern times? Is it that cunts are still running the world, to quote Jarvis Cocker? Evil will prevail? It is a depressing ending, made more so by the sinking feeling that I have that somewhere on the internet, someone has written fan fiction based on this film that has given Jago the "Draco in leather pants" treatment just because Eccleston was Doctor Who, a role where he divided his dramatic and apparent comedic talents well.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Crazy Theory #5: Jason X and Its Prediction of the Future of Academia


Jason X is commonly either derided because of how silly it is, or how sillier it is than the rest of the Friday the 13th series. I like Jason X because it knows how silly it is and it is a fun movie. I admit that it is in my top 3 of favorite installments of Friday the 13th, and the only one I own a copy of. It certainly works better than Jason Takes Manhattan, also a silly, bottom-of-the-barrel concept.

What I have noticed during the past two recent viewings of movie is how well it eerily predicts the corporatization of higher education. Granted, it was likely already taking hold when the film was released, but it is prominent now. Academia is still romanticized to some degree, and it is because of this romanticization, as well as the rather poisonous culture of "Do What You Love" that has now resulted in more adjuncts being hired to teach undergrads and the adjuncts being paid at an extremely poor rate. I read early on in my graduate school career that 75% of people teaching undergrads at the university I was attending were graduate and PhD students. There were horror stories of an adjacent department where the PhD students had to teach large lecture classes of 200-300 students with no TA's.

And Jason X predicts this to some degree. The field trip conducted by the professor in the film does seem to be both a lesson and a form of work for various students once they are back on the space ship, with the work seeming to fall mostly on the older students, presumably grad students. The professor puts the lives of everyone on the ship in danger after he is told that Jason Voorhees would be worth a lot of money if brought back to Earth 2. He even dismisses the idea that the students would want credit or money for finding Jason by stating that the learning experience will be enough for them.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Crazy Theory #3: Star Trek Into Darkness and Doctor Who

The 2010s: The decade of Benedict Cumberbatch with his back turned to the camera while he overlooks a city.

I am going to preface this post with the fact that I do not and have not watched that much Star Trek. I did watch Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan at some point last summer, so I know enough to know obviously The Wrath of Khan and Into Darkness are two very different films besides sharing a few plot points that J.J. Abrams tweaked for some silly reason or another. Into Darkness is a straight action film that is kind of about friendship and makeshift families, whereas The Wrath of Khan meditated on aging, friendship, and both biological and makeshift families. I will also note that I saw Star Trek Into Darkness in theaters last summer, months before the release of the 50th anniversary Doctor Who special. So whether or not this gels with that episode, I have not totally determined.

My idea is this: Star Trek Into Darkness is basically an overlong attempt to take the piss out of Doctor Who. This occurs from the first sequence where a father played by Noel Clarke (who also played Mickey Smith, one of the companions/sidekicks of the ninth and tenth Doctors) becomes a reluctant suicide bomber of London's Star Fleet site so his dying daughter will be saved by Harrison/Khan's blood that somehow has superhealing powers. Harrison/Khan is played by Benedict Cumberbatch, an actor that some people want to play Doctor Who at some point although he is rather too busy and famous for that now. Harrison/Khan is living with some form of survivor's guilt, having been brought out of stasis instead of the 900 other people from his planet. It is because of this that he wants revenge, and manipulates Kirk, although leveraging his people somewhat backfires. The people and his planet are known for being war-like, something that perhaps is always on the edge of discussions of Doctor Who and his homeplanet of Gallifrey - until the 50th anniversary special, the Doctor had to end the war between the Timelords and the Daleks by destroying Gallifrey. This is the guilt that Doctors Nine through Eleven lived with, amongst many other guilty feelings. Whether or not the retcon in the 50th anniversary special will somehow backfire remains to be seen.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

What I have been watching lately: Jean Rollin, Red State, The Walking Dead, American Horror Story...

Repost from November 2011.
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I should be working on papers right now, although I took an extension on them for Winter Break because of intermittent severe headaches and vision problems leftover from my concussion in October. I have no control over when they happen, and unfortunately they keep happening when I want or need to write or do research. My papers, as I predicted in October, are on Jean Rollin, classical French film theory, and I also have one on Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon that I have been sitting on, unfinished, since the day before my concussion. I have been on a French film and surrealist bender this quarter. I have been watching a lot of Jean Rollin's films this year and this past month. While my paper will only be focusing on The Rape of the Vampire and The Night of the Hunted (one of his three "zombie" films), I have still been watching anything of his that interests me or that I can get my hands on. The only one of his films that I cannot recommend at any level is Zombie Lake, which oddly enough, is his fairly straight zombie picture...I say "fairly straight" because it does have a story line where one of the Nazi zombies has reunited with his pre-teen daughter...although the Nazis were assassinated during of course, World War II by the villagers, and the film seems to take place in 1980, which makes no sense if the daughter is ten years old. Zombie Lake was also one of Rollin's lowest budgeted pictures, and that's saying something if you have ever seen any of his movies or read much on his films. It is one of the few Rollin pictures where you can tell that it seemed impossible to make the most of what little money there was.


Yeah, I don't know either. At least the Italians made their zombies look all arts & craftsy, what with the papier mache faces.

I think I discovered Rollin at a good point, considering for the past couple of years or so, I have been quite bored with horror at times. While Rollin has his obsessions that anyone will notice if they watch enough of his films, including how entrenched he is in surrealism well after its time as an art movement was over; I like how unconventional his films are. His endings are rarely happy and even if certain films end relatively well for the characters, there is still a sense of melancholia or even a looming sense of death. 

Speaking of unconventional horror films, I watched Red State last weekend. I am not a Kevin Smith megafan. I liked his movies when I was a teenager, but now I tend to see every other one if it sounds kind of interesting. Red State is not a perfect film - it is not subtle in its message, it's final message is kind of mixed, Melissa Leo's acting was over the top, and the opening scene at the high school bugs me to no end because that is not how a public school teacher acts in any era; but it is unconventional. It is almost like Full Metal Jacket how abruptly it switches gears, tone, and the characters we follow. Who we expect to live just based on horror conventions, likeability, or even logic is defied. The only other good thing I can say about the film is that John Goodman is awesome in it. I have missed seeing John Goodman in movies.

I have been watching a lot of bad TV this past week since last Monday night I had the worst headache I have had since hitting my head. My doctor says it is okay if I watch stupid things. So I was bedridden for a couple of days watching nothing but the second season of The Walking Dead so far and whatever episodes of American Horror Story I could find on Hulu. 

I was not a total fan of the first season of The Walking Dead. I maintain that the first episode was wonderful. But if I have to remain diplomatic at some level, I will say that the even numbered episodes were terrible, while the odd ones were better. Other than Rick being Sheriff Exposition for the first five minutes of the second season premiere, the first episode of this season was pretty good. Unfortunately, it has become tedious and like a spinning tire*. I look forward to this week's episode if it means opening up the zombie barn and maybe losing a few more characters. The series likes to project things, then take several episodes, if perhaps another season to get to the issue and/or resolve it. Lori's pregnancy for example. What is being projected this year from the main characters and secondary or even tertiary characters is Rick's leadership, the issue of neglect, and the idea of splitting up the group. Shane and Andrea, obviously. Daryl in last week's episode (and Daryl truly needs to ditch the group, even if it means taking boring old Carol), and in the second episode, T-Dog, even if he reneges on the idea later. What I find weird about T-Dog's "fever" thoughts is that he is right - he, Dale, and sometimes even Glenn are sidelined because of their age (Dale) and races (T-Dog and Glenn). Women on this show are sidelined altogether. The Walking Dead is not exactly Lost, where we learn about each character every week. Granted, Lost was not a perfect show either and harped on the Jack-Kate-Sawyer love triangle for several seasons, but at least each character got his or her individual episodes! And maybe The Walking Dead is going in that direction a bit this season, where we followed Shane and his adventure to get medical supplies to help Carl, and last week's episode with Daryl in the woods, but it was too little and did not establish much beyond what we already knew: Shane is likely deranged, and Daryl is a badass...and oh, he's not as racist as his brother Merle because he has saved T-Dog at least three times by now**. I think they fired last season's writers and replaced them with even worse writers. But yeah, the group will at least temporarily disband before the season is over. And maybe Lori will finally tell Rick about her pregnancy and/or her time with Shane, and maybe The Walking Dead will finally have a Maury Povich-based episode. And I guess Daryl better watch it since characters played by noted indie character actors do not live forever on this show, as this season has shown yet again.


We know that Shane is crazy because of the shaved head, vacant stare, mouth agape, and furrowed brow.
American Horror Story is at least fun-bad and thoroughly entertaining. It is truly the most batshit live-action television show I have ever seen. The pregnant wife eats a brain like it's no thing! There is a teenage boy stuck in 1994 who frequently speaks of Kurt Cobain (just Kurt Cobain, never Nirvana), Quentin Tarantino, Al Pacino, and Robert DeNiro; and the depressed neo-Blossom Russo-dressed teenage daughter of the family nevernever asks him his opinion on the more recent and terrible movies Pacino and DeNiro have been in! I have never been one for haunted house stories, but American Horror Story takes your average haunted house story and amps it up several times over and then combines it with at least one other horror story or trope every week, usually more than one! It is hard to say if there is a bigger meaning to this show, I doubt it even knows. The classmate who told me about this show said it was Ryan Murphy's gay revenge on America. We keep discovering the lives of the previous inhabitants who are now ghosts of the house. There is the drunk surgeon-turned-abortionist-turned-mad scientist and his wife, two nursing students, a gay couple, a woman who was raped, the pregnant mistress maybe, the male redheaded twins...but we also have the people from the home invasion episode, and rubber man who may or may not be a ghost. I mean, I guess redheads have been persecuted throughout society. Some people believe that everyone on this show is a ghost! We will eventually find out that the house was built on an Native American burial ground, because why not?

American Horror Story is also fun because most episodes feature at least one "hey, it's that guy!/lady!" moment. 


Rubber Man, Rubber Man. Does whatever a rubber can...except not.
* Yesterday, I read this post at the TCM Movie Morlocks blog that discusses how bloodthirsty zombie movie fans and movie characters are these days. I would not say that I am a bloodthirsty zombie fan or that the characters on The Walking Dead are bloodthirsty (although that is another inconsistency, especially with Rick). I would like The Walking Dead to be a watchable show that like in the first episode, does consider that the zombies were people once. Overall, I would like a good story and some characters I could care about and who are maybe more thoughtful or intelligent. The only thing The Walking Dead has been somewhat good at displaying is the tried-and-true story method of humans being just as dangerous to humans as zombies are, if not more so.

** 2011 seems to be the year of the (good) redneck in horror. I finally saw Tucker and Dale vs. Evil a couple of weeks ago because it surprisingly came to the indie theater in town (I guess because it takes place in West Virginia, and I live about 40 minutes away from the West Virginia state line now). I was worried that it would not meet my expectations because I have been anticipating this movie for almost two years, but I also had no idea what the film was about past the trailer. It was a good, fun movie that was surprisingly sweet and had some interesting twists to the story and characters. And yes, the film was quite gory at times. So there are surprises out there every once in awhile. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Wherein I discover that geeky subscription boxes may be a waste of money...

Feeling down about my job recently, I started looking into subscription boxes while at work. I miss getting non-bill, non-junk mail. After a few days of reading reviews and finding a coupon code, I decided to try Loot Crate, which is geared towards geeks. I am into the idea of receiving vinyl toys/figures and non-black t-shirts (I bought a few Fright Rags t-shirts last year, and now 75% of my t-shirt collection is black)  Finding another coupon code a week later, I also signed up for Phone Case of the Month. Both have turned out to be rather disappointing.

February 2014 Loot Crate. The brightness on the right side is the rare moment of sun this winter, flooding through the window.
My first Loot Crate at the end of February (theme: "Warriors") was not a total bust. I collect vinyl art toys, and there was a Sideshow Dunny blind box in February's Loot Crate. I actually received the mystery Dunny, the first one I have received in the 5 years I have been collecting. That made me happy. Almost everything else was geared to a cute cartoon I have never seen and the t-shirt concerned video games. Granted, it mostly seemed to be the 8-bit games I played as a child, but I did not understand enough of the references to feel excited about it. No items or references to the actual novel-turned-movie-turned-video game The Warriors were included.



Early March's Phone Case of the Month turned out to be the Tolkien quote "Not all who wander are lost" over a picture of a beach scene. It immediately went back in the bubble envelope and was traded on My Subscription Addiction's swap page within a week for a bottle of gun metal grey nail polish. I also paused my subscription. I am not really into Tolkien and I am not into Tolkien quotes that have reached platitude status. Platitudes generally earn a "NOPE" from me. It is too bad really, I need a new phone case.

March 2014's Loot Crate. At least the cover of the Attack on Titan manga looks cool.
I received my March Loot Crate a couple of days after the official shipping date of the 20th (Loot Crate does have ridiculously fast shipping, considering it came from LA to the East-ish Coast in 1.5-2 days). The theme was "Titans", and many people on Loot Crate's Facebook page guessed it would feature items from the anime/manga Attack on Titan and the new video game Titanfall. I have never seen the former and I am not about to spend $500 on a video game system - that is 83% of my rent every month. Nor do I care about buying it for PC. I had the vague hope that there would be something Godzilla or Pacific Rim-related. The box did feature the first volume of the Attack on Titan manga, which I might keep because I like books and graphic novels. And I do need a lanyard for my jump drive(s) at work. But everything else is either going on My Subscription Addiction's swap page again or on Ebay. Since I would rather not pay another $50 or so for a 3-month subscription renewal, I will be canceling my subscription in the next week or so. Unlike some subscription box services, Loot Crate does not offer the option of skipping months if one does not like the theme or whatever may be in the box. I will still receive April's box.

Loot Crate has themes, which is fine. But the past two months of crates have not been random, loosely-associated items like what appears in the boxes of previous months. Those appeared as if there would be at least one or two things in each box someone would like and that is what drew me in. This is just plain marketing and I feel resentful.  I do not know anyone who fans over Bravest Warriors, Attack on Titan, or Titanfall. These do not even blip on my Twitter or Facebook feeds, and my friends are at various levels of geekiness (even if their ages range from late 20s-early 40s). This may or may not be part of the issue - things tend to be quickly adopted into geekdom, or at least marketed as such, and there may be an overload at this point. There are so many fandoms that not every person cares or keeps track of every single show, series or game. It would be impossible to. It's cute when some fans combine Doctor Who, Sherlock, and Supernatural into Superwholock, but that is not always applicable. There are things I love, things I like, things I do not mind, and a large amount of things I do not pay attention to at all really.

Superwholock, because why not?

This experience has left me with a weird sense that I cannot completely articulate. I can never tell if I have normal geeky interests or slightly left of field ones. One of the impressions that I have gotten from these Loot Crate boxes is that you have to have a lot of expendable income to be a geek, and that is not exactly how I live my life. I do not have that much of an interest in video games, and I really have no interest in spending hundreds of dollars on a system and $50-70 on a video game. I have not had cable in almost a decade. I am only now catching up on television shows because I am done with grad school. I am cutting down on not only this brief foray with subscription boxes but streaming services because I am expecting a costly surgical co-pay in the next two months. Overall, I mostly wish that there was a subscription box for vinyl toys, both art/Kidrobot-type ones and pop culture/Funko-type ones (although Kidrobot makes pop culture-related figures too). So I guess I will just continue to buy during Kidrobot website sales or whenever I visit a city with an art toy store.