A Question, a Chair, and a Diner (on Moonlight)

I saw Moonlight over a month ago now, and when I didn’t write about right after seeing it, I thought, “well now it would be weird, cause it was so long ago.” But fuck it. I want to talk about Moonlight.

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/3f/cc/ae/3fccae54ccce2bf8288216f17c4b5cdc.jpgAnd after everything that went down at the Oscars, it has become a historic film for several reasons, but I want to actually look at the actual film itself.

It’s become a stereotype at this point that it’s one of those movies that you always say “I want to see that” about but never  actually do. And I was one of those people. But then one day I dragged myself out of the house, found a theater were it was playing, and saw it. And I’m very glad I did. Because it affected me.

Every moment of the film is beautifully shot. I’m not always the best judge of the visual aspects of a film (I studied more screenwriting, less production), but even I recognized and respected the precision in the framing and the use of colors, deep muted tones dynamically playing off bright florescent hues.

The story structure is massively transparent. Act breaks are clearly called out as the film is split into three segments. But this does nothing to detract from the story. Instead, it enforces the changes the protagonist goes through.

The question “what’s it about?” is a hard one for me to answer. Because I don’t want to give anything away. Because I really new very little about it going in.

But it’s about 3 specific events in a man’s life, one that happens to him in childhood, one that happens to him in adolescence, and one that happens to him in adulthood, and how they shape him. I guess you could say the movie’s about a question, a chair and a diner.

i. The Question

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I absolutely adore silent films (one of my favorite movies is a Harold Lloyd picture from 1927). But I’m also a bit of a dialogue junky, so I can sometimes be put off by a movie that doesn’t have a lot of talking in it. Sometimes. In Moonlight so much is told with so few words spoken. Not that there’s no dialogue in the film. Far from it. But there are long stretches of silence, and the central character, Chiron, doesn’t speak for the first several scenes he’s in.

It’s a very quiet movie overall really. This adds to the intimate feeling you get while watching it. There are points where you almost feel too close, but Barry Jenkins, Tarell Alvin McCraney, and the brilliant cast are giving you permission. See this, feel this (like the Who song).

The movie also presents its characters in such a wonderful way, neither heroes nor villains, just people. They do good things and bad things. They’re humans.

Mahershala Ali’s character, Juan, is possibly the best example of this. He plays a fairly major role in the first section of the story, though he doesn’t appear after that. He gives Chiron a metaphorical (but very nearly literal) baptism. He takes care of Chiron when his family isn’t able to. And he gives the answer to the question.

Juan’s also a drug dealer, and Chiron’s drug-addicted mother (played brilliantly by Naomie Harris, the only actor to appear in all 3 segments) is furious that he could present himself to her son as such a kind and caring stranger, while simultaneously peddling her the drugs she’s so addicted to.

Chiron trusts Juan, but finally confronts him. He actually asks him 3 questions. The first about Juan, whether he sells drugs, and the second two about himself. Chiron wants  to know what “faggot” means and if he is one. And it’s the last interaction we see between the two of them. Juan’s responses are the most perfect I’ve heard.

Juan’s girlfriend, Lisa (played by the human equivalent of sunshine, Janelle Monae), appears again in the second section and is mentioned in the third, but Juan appears only in the first segment of the film.

I’d be remiss not to mention that this is also the introduction of Kevin, the first friendship that Chiron has with a child his own age, and a character who he’s irrevocably bonded with, though just how much you don’t even realize until the end.

ii. The Chair

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Chiron, who went by “Little” in the first part, isn’t little in the second. He’s skinny, but tall. And yet his confidence is as small as it ever was. He seems to be constantly wishing himself invisible. Except with Kevin. Kevin and Lisa seem the only people he really has a safe haven with. But as Kevin tells tales of his conquests with girls, Chiron begins to worry he will always be something other.

Until that scene on the beach. Maybe he’s not alone. Maybe he’s not the only one of his kind.

And then the bully who’s been picking on Chiron asks Kevin if he’ll rough up a kid for him. The next time Chiron meets with his bully, Kevin is told to kick the living shit out of Chiron, and Kevin does. And there are all sorts of mixed up feelings.

And that’s where I realized the true genius of the movie. I didn’t realize at the time. At the time I was too caught up in the movie, but in reviewing it in my head afterward. Here’s the thing. This movie. It’s not relatable to me. I’m a straight white women and I come with a bundle of privilege. So this movie didn’t make me empathetic. It made me sympathetic. It made me experience and feel things that I haven’t experienced and won’t experience. And it’s SO emotive.

And it does a funny thing. Because I think most people who appreciate the movie are probably pretty anti-violence, but when Chiron goes into school the day after Kevin’s betrayal, the day after school faculty urged him to tell them who had hurt him, the day after everything he’d built up was torn down, the viewers are feeling Chiron’s pain, and he just wants to make the bully feel pain.

Chiron’s pain was physical, but worse yet was the emotional and psychological damage. He can’t deliver all that, but there is one form of revenge he knows he can deal. And he does it out in the open. In the form of a bludgeoning chair wielder. And it’s a moment of release for the audience as well as Chiron, even knowing the near immediate results of the action.

So, of course, in the end, it’s Chiron who is taken away and the shell forming around him is complete. Kevin glimpses Chiron as the cops load him into the police car. Kevin will need to hear the story second hand, try to piece together what happened on his own as he sees Chiron for what, as far as he knows, could be the last time.

iii. The Diner

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But they do meet again and their next meeting is anything but a chance encounter. And I wondered about that. Why not just create a situation where they’re both costumers at a diner and happened to be getting a meal at the same place one night? By chance? I think what the point may have been was that fate wasn’t playing a role in this. It wasn’t luck or destiny. The movie, in many ways, is about the freedom of choice: when you have it, when you don’t, and how you use it.

Chiron has completely transformed from the wiry meek adolescent we last saw him as. He now looks big and muscly (and GORGEOUS) and like the sort of guy you don’t want to cross. It’s soon revealed that internally he is still very similar to the boy he was. He’s almost playing off stereotypes of masculinity.

And Kevin’s phone call, as off hand as it may have intended to sound, is a loaded invitation. Chiron’s choice in if and how he accepts it will dictate the third event that shapes his life.

Everything about the diner scene is intense. The prickly feeling I had while watching it was akin to a thriller, though the emotions I went through were very different.

Everything from Chiron’s entrance to Kevin’s slow recognition of him to the preparation of the mean to the music playing on the jukebox, even the patronage of the few customers on a slow night at a 50’s style restaurant, all build up a tense feeling. A strong worry. It must have been how Chiron was feeling. Seeing Kevin wouldn’t put him at ease. It would set him on edge.

But Chiron also seemed free of rage. He never blamed Kevin for the fallout of the middle chapter in his story.

But that scene plays out so beautifully and feels so true. And the idea of food and music soothing a soul seems very right. They speak quietly. Again, there’s an intimacy to the scene, but the quiet doesn’t mean that there aren’t massive shifts constantly happening. There are hints of confusion, frustration, attraction, disillusionment, and most importantly hope. Hope against hope against hope.

The rest of that third section seems so brief, a drive in a car, a glimpse of the beach, a conversation in a kitchen, a confession, an embrace, and a hope.

The ending isn’t exactly happy, but it certainly isn’t sad. It’s hopeful. Even if these two characters choose to go their separate ways, Chiron has been healed. I, for one, think that’s the more honest ending, perfect for a very honest film.

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I haven’t been able to get Moonlight out of my head. Especially the diner scene. So there’s no reason not to keep talking about it.

 

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10 Actors Who Could Play the Master on Doctor Who

https://i2.wp.com/www.radiotimes.com/uploads/images/original/120359.jpgNo, as far as I know Michelle Gomez has dug her heels in and is going nowhere. And I’m really enjoying her performance as Missy (Gomez could play a wall and make it interesting. And probably slightly naughty).

But with all this talk of a new Doctor I thought it might be fun to fancast his (or maybe even her?) arch-nemesis.

I also included the hypothetical Doctor I’d like to see them pitted against. Just for fun. The order of the Doctors isn’t necessarily my preference. So here are 10 actors that could do the job.

10. Andrew Scott

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I know. It feels almost too obvious, doesn’t it? But he does that utterly unhinged, but simultaneously totally fun baddie really well. I think his portrayal would feel a bit like a return to John Simm’s style of Master during the RTD era.

He’s over the top (to the point of slight camp), dangerous (in an “I’m actually going to kill you now” way), and oddly charming (welp, I’m definitely not gonna stop watching this, might as well make myself a cup of tea and settle in). He has the ability to turn from funny to frightening on a dime, but is always entertaining, and this seems to be a mandatory mix when casting the modern day Masters.

I don’t know if it’s more or less likely that he’d be cast now that Moffat’s leaving the show. Scott is probably on Chibnall’s radar, but Chibnall might also be trying to distance himself from Moffat (at least in the beginning), and I couldn’t fault him for that. Still. Fun to imagine an Andrew Scott Master gumming up the works for his best friend/worst enemy.

The Doctor: Tim Roth

9. Maisie Williams

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Okay, let me explain. I have mixed feelings about Williams’ appearance on Doctor Who so far. But, for me, “The Woman Who Lived” was the stand out episode of series 9. I think I’m the only one. But that’s okay.

To me, the episode was the one-off adventure story that I had been longing for, and didn’t get bogged down by the “look at Clara! But don’t forget she’s gonna die soon!” effect so much of series 9 seemed to be drilling into. This episode really got to showcase Maisie, whose character herself liked to slip in and out of multiple personas. Also, if you haven’t seen Game of Thrones, take my word for it, she’s the best thing about it.

It would be great for the Doctor to meet up with who we all believe is Ashildr, only for her to pull the rug out from under all our feet and turn out to be a much darker character. Maisie often pops up as characters that are slightly manic, but also seems to have great control over her performance and shows great power in her moments of stillness.

The Doctor: Idris Elba (per her suggestion)

8. Aidan Turner

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I find it strange that someone who so often plays morally ambiguous characters from various time periods in the past HASN’T been on Doctor Who yet, to be honest. The BBC should really get to work on that.

I’m not one of those people who immediately falls for vampires. If anything, it’s a fairly major hurdle you’d have to jump over for me to like you. And as I expressed in painstaking detail in my I Am Dracula (Spartacus Edition) post, vampires are blood sucking monsters, not romantic heroes. So well done to Aidan Turner, because I adore him, despite being most familiar with him for playing a vampire in Being Human.

He can play evil, he can play friendly, he can play most anything you’d like him to. He’s comfortable taking “genre” roles, if The Hobbit and Being Human are anything to go by. Also, I think he would create a more grounded characterization for the Master than we’ve seen for a while, which might be a good thing.

The Doctor: Lenora Crinchlow (’cause apparently I’m still not over it)

7. Katie McGrath

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When speculation was flying around for who could play the 12th Doctor, I put her on a list of potential candidates, and I still think that she fits the bill, but she’d also be a great choice for the Master.

In Merlin we got to see her play everything from a kind young woman training to be a Lady to a complete bitch of a queen to a literal wicked witch laying low in the woods. She played each turn in the character to perfection. And you could see her playing the Master in any of those ways. Maybe we want to return to a slightly more composed Master? She’s got you covered. Evil Master in position of power? She can do that too. Nuts? Absolutely.

I think she may be a little busy with Supergirl at the moment, but maybe Doctor Who could borrow her for a few episodes. Also, I don’t think she’s being too terribly typecast yet, so it gives her and the showrunner the chance to try taking the character in a few different directions.

The Doctor: Hayley Atwell

6. Benedict Cumberbatch

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Benedict Cumberbatch should not play the Doctor. I feel very strongly about this, and I realize that saying such a thing is upsetting to a LOT of people, but I’ve felt this way pretty much forever.

I don’t say this because I don’t consider him to be a very good actor, quite the contrary, but I think if you examine his body of work, the type of role he plays becomes quite clear: he plays the asshole. Usually, this takes the form of the villain, but even his Sherlock Holmes is a complete and utter bastard. And I’ve always longed to see him pit that characterization AGAINST the Doctor. I think it would be divine.

But like Andrew Scott, casting Cumberbatch will surely remind people of Sherlock. Then again, casting the hero of Moffat’s (current?) show as the new villain of the show he’s leaving would be a delicious dollop of good-natured irony. And just generally a good bit of casting.

The Doctor: Olivia Colman

5. Suranne Jones

Doctor Who fans might recognize Suranne Jones in one of my favorite episodes ever, “The Doctor’s Wife.” She plays Idris, the TARDIS trapped in a human body. And she does so in a wonderfully whimsical and chaotic way.

Her name has been tossed around as a candidate for the Doctor too, but I think she could easily find herself at home in the role of the Master. She’s sharp and can quick-talk as fast as Cumberbatch. Okay, but why does the Master take the same form that the TARDIS did that one time? I don’t know, but it would be cool to find out!  Just so long as they can come up with a better reason than why 12 had that face. Or else don’t mention it at all.

She has held her own both in comedies and dramas and just has a general air of mischief about her, and I think that’s a fun angle to take the Master. The Master isn’t just evil, and I like when we’re reminded that the Doctor and Master actually used to be really good friends. I think Jones would be an excellent candidate for a slightly more friendly Master.

The Doctor: Richard Ayoade

4. Naomie Harris

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Basically I saw Moonlight a few weeks ago and want everyone from that movie to be in everything I watch. I couldn’t figure out why she seemed to familiar to me, and then I was watching an interview, and surprise! She’s British. So I’ve seen her in a bunch of stuff.

She often plays a somewhere-in-the-middle character, where you’re not sure if she’s a good guy or a bad guy, only that she’s a force and will become a player you can’t ignore, the longer you’re in the game. She can play competent and put together, but she can also play a mess, and what’s a better representation of the Master than someone who started out as competent and put together and became a mess?

Would she do it? I don’t know. She’s becoming pretty high profile, and might not want to turn down any film offers to do T.V. at the moment. But maybe they could work around her schedule if the Master only shows up every so often. I think it would be worth it if they could cast her.

The Doctor: Keeley Hawes

3. Oscar Isaac

He’s, of course, the one of the right. Imagine “I Can’t Decide” is playing.

Another actor that I want to see in everything. He’s played the dashing hero in Star Wars and the evil genius in Ex Machina. He’s capable of playing menacing and creepy, but can pull off cocky banter. And he seems comfortable in the sci-fi genre.

Like a lot of people on this list, he’s probably really busy, but wouldn’t he be this be fun choice?! Even when he plays a good guy, he tends to be a little bit rascally. And while his character in Ex Machina isn’t exactly likeable, he’s at least intriguing. He even gets to show off a villainous dance number. Now where have we seen that before *wink wink, nudge nudge*

All in all, he’s just a fun performer to watch (so much so that, though Poe Dameron was originally meant to die in Force Awakens, they decided to keep him on), and the Master is a fun character to watch (they’ve killed him off a BUNCH), so I’m all for putting those two things together.

The Doctor: Helen Mirren

2. Julia Davis

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I think I can safely say I’m the first person to suggest Julia Davis play the Master, but I think I’m right on this one. She’s mostly a comedic actress, but if you take a cold hard look at the cast, Doctor Who VERY often recruits funny people. How did I come up with her?

Basically, what happened is there’s this show called Nighty Night that Davis created and starred in, and I watched a few episodes, and MY GOD, you have never seen more of a wicked witch of a character than the one she plays in this show. She’s a complete monster, but it’s a dark comedy, so she also gets to be REALLY funny. And among the cast is Mark Gatiss, who famously currently works as a Doctor Who writer.

Davis has the ability to play a bright character, who is actively plotting your demise, and doesn’t necessarily care whether you know it or not. I don’t know if she might be too similar to Missy to follow her up immediately or a great transition from Missy to whomever might play a future Master, but I’d really love to see what she did in the role.

The Doctor: Jessica Hynes (because they were sorta kinda comedy partners)

1. James Nesbitt

Yeah, pretty much on the merit of Jekyll alone, but he’d be PERFECT. And he’s been #1 on my “Master list” for a long time. I don’t understand why it didn’t happen (especially with Moffat showrunning, but I love Michelle Gomez, so I’ve made my peace with it).

For anyone who doesn’t know, Jekyll was a miniseries created by Steven Moffat, before he was at the helm of Doctor Who, based on the novel The Strage Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and featured Nesbitt it two roles: mild-mannered Dr. Jackman, and his alter ego, the dangerous Mr. Hyde. The two start to blend into each other, and that’s when Nesbitt is at his most Master-y. Sure, he’ll jump a fence and kill a lion, but he had to protect that kid.

He’s terrifying. And hilarious. And he makes your skin crawl. And you can’t wait to see what happens next. All at the same time. It takes a special actor to manage all that, but Nesbitt manages it. And the weird thing is, you want him to win. I mean, you’re supposed to want him to win, but it only works with the right actor. And I think we should always be slightly rooting for the Master.

The Doctor: Retroactively, I’d have loved to see him with Eccleston, but for a new Doctor, let’s see…Gillian Anderson would be interesting.

https://rambleonnerdyponderings.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/45891-1412046582600.jpg?w=378&h=266It’ll probably have a good long while before we get any sort of new casting news, but I have to admit, as sad as it is to see actors I love leave the show, I enjoy all the fancasting and speculation (as long as it remains respectful), After all, it’s what keeps the show fresh. There are so many new directions they can go, I can’t wait to see what happens next!

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Boy, Is Doctor Who in a Pickle with This Casting Debate…It’s About Time

If you read any thread on the subject, it seems a pretty even split. 50% of people are vehemently against having a female Doctor, to the point many claim they will stop watching if one is cast, and 50% of people are vehemently for casting a female Doctor, to the point many claim they will stop watching if one isn’t cast.

But if you look at the actual fan base, not the casual viewers or internet trolls, but the real Who lovers, I’m not sure that it’s so evenly split. The world is in a strange time. It’s been shook up, and TV could use a shake too.

I’m staunchly in the pro-female Doctor camp (not because there aren’t a lot of dudes who would do a great job, but we’ve seen a lot of dues do a great job, let’s mix it up a bit), but I’ve already written about that here.

What’s interesting now (aside form the overwhelming amount of overt sexists and bigots that have felt the need to crawl out of the woodwork and voice their opinions on this) is that Chris Chibnall and the BBC are going to have to cast SOMEBODY as the new Doctor, and whomever they choose, they will immediately be alienating part of their fan base. FUN!

Anyone for Olivia Colman?

You could argue that’s always been the case, but it’s a little different this time. More than ever, fans have been voicing their interest in the casting of a woman or a person of color as the Doctor. This, unsurprisingly, has resulted in people from the show being asked their opinions.

Both Peter Capladi and David Tennant suggested a female actor to take over as the 13th Doctor, Capaldi saying he’d like to see Frances De La Tour take on the role, and Tennant tossing Olivia Colman’s name into the the ring. Colman is Tennant’s co-star in Broadchurch, a series created by Chris Chibnall, who will be taking over as Doctor Who showrunner come series 11. What Chibnall wants to do isn’t entirely clear yet.

Billie Piper, former Doctor Who companion, Rose, said she wouldn’t take on the role herself, but is definitely hopeful that another woman will. Jenna Coleman, former companion, Clara, says there’s no reason a woman couldn’t play the Doctor. Catherine Tate (Donna) thinks there will be a female Doctor at some point, John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness) wants a female Doctor, and Matt Smith, the 11th Doctor, once suggested that Charlize Threon tackle the role and expects to see more diversity in the show’s future.

Colin Baker, Doctor #6, has said there’s no reason the Doctor shouldn’t be a woman. And the 8th Doctor, Paul McGann, recently suggested Tilda Swinton play the new Doctor.

Mark Gatiss thinks a female Doctor would be fantastic.

But Peter Davison (5th Doctor), Sylvestor McCoy (7th Doctor), and Alex Kingston (River Song) have all said that they’re against the idea of a woman playing the Doctor (though Davison did a certain amount of backtracking after receiving fan backlash).

But the person who gives me the most hope that we might have a female Doctor is actually Doctor Who brand manager, Edward Russell, who says in the past he thought the Doctor should remain a male character, but has recently changed his mind. Why does the brand manager’s decision matter? Because it’s all about the money.

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What about Hayley Atwell?

And then there are the people who aren’t yet connected to the show that have been calling for a female Doctor. Helen Mirren has been rallying for one for years (her ideal candidate would be a gay black woman), and Hayley Atwell said she’d happily take the role were it offered to her. The latter has released an avalanche of speculation after the cancellation of Agent Carter has opened up her schedule to start a new long term project.

On the other side, are all the male actors that have been suggested lately: Ben Whishaw, Eddie Redmayne, Rupert Grint, and Richard Ayoade among the most talked about. I’d allow that last one, since it would serve to break the race barrier. I’ll talk more on that in a minute. Also, being madly in love with him doesn’t hurt.

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It would be an absolute joy to tune into Richard Ayoade’s Doctor every week.

One of the most confusing casting suggestions, and one I think would be a horrific move for the show, would be for Capaldi to regenerate back into Matt Smith. The show is about change and renewal and there are so many incredible actors who would do new and interesting things with the role. We should give them the opportunity. I love David Tennant as the Doctor, but I’d never campaign for him to be the full-time televised Doctor again. Because that’s a terrible idea.

And it has almost happened. After Tom Baker left the show (he suggested being replaced by a woman), the producers considered bringing back Patrick Troughton (because secretly he’s ACTUALLY everyone’s favorite Doctor). As much as I miss Troughton’s take on the Doctor, thank GOD they didn’t implement that model.

I think what happened was that someone asked Smith if he’d ever return to she show and he said “yes.” To my mind that meant he’d like to come back the way Tennant did for the 50th, or other Doctors have done for specials. I have no problem with that. That’s fun. But several people thought, “oh, cool! He wants to come back full-time!” I honestly don’t think he does. And he really really REALLY shouldn’t.

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Smith was a good Doctor, his time has ended, good night, Raggedy Man! Good fucking night!

The call for a non-white actor to get cast as the Doctor has resulted in quite a few POC being suggested. This is great. But they’re mostly men. While casting a man of color as the Doctor would be a breakthrough in itself, women of color have a much harder time in film and TV. If Doctor Who wants to continue to claim that it’s progressive, it needs to do something big to prove it. And soon. Casting a woman of color as the Doctor would be a great way to do that. I mentioned Lenora Crinchlow as a possibility awhile back on my podcast, A Disused Yeti, and I stand by that, but there are so many others! I’m worried the BBC won’t cast a woman of color, claiming “too much too soon,” and I lament their cowardice.

Actually, let’s talk about timing for a second. I have seen several sites asking if the time is right for a female Doctor (oddly, I don’t see a lot of sites asking if the time is right for a male Doctor). Let’s take a look around. Did you hear about the Women’s March? It became a worldwide effort and shows that women want to be seen and want to be heard. And while women organized it, many men were involved in the effort as well (fun fact: both Pearl Mackie and Peter Capaldi were at the Women’s March in London). Gender-swapped cosplay and crossplay continue to grow in fan culture. A woman ran as the Democratic nominee for U.S. president in 2016 (and won the popular vote), and the current British P.M. is a woman. Look at the Star Wars films that came out in the past 2 years, hugely successful, led by women and minorities, proving these casting choices are profitable. Why wouldn’t the Doctor be a woman?

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Just think of the cosplay opportunities

I believe that one day we’ll get a female Doctor and a person of color. I don’t know if it will happen yet, but it will happen. And when it does, it’s going to be a really frustrating time to be a fan. You think people are fighting now? Just you wait. But eventually the dust will settle and we’ll keep on keeping on. Why don’t we just get that nasty part over with?

Look, I’m sure I’ll grow to love whoever becomes the new Doctor. But if it’s a white guy, my initial reaction will be to have a fucking fit.

A final note to Chibnall: please have some fucking guts. I imagine that you do, because you were mad enough to take this job. So do something mad with your casting, something new and fresh, make some fans angry straight out the gate. I think you’ll find the rewards rich.

As for you BBC: I don’t think I’ll quit the show completely, but if a white guy is cast as 13, I’ll likely become one of those more casual fans. I usually tune in, but I don’t buy the merch. And I won’t see the show as forward thinking and progressive anymore. And I’ll say so to every passerby who will listen. Ready or not, it’s time for a new Doctor. “Here we go again.”

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Top 11 One-Off Women of the New Series of Doctor Who

There are quite a few excellent females characters who briefly wound through the Doctor’s story, but for this list the  main criteria criteria was really that they could only appear in one story (there’s a couple 2-parter character in here, but other than that they only appear in a single episode. So no Osgood, Missy, Ashildr/Me, Tish Jones, Jackie Tyler, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, etc.) And there are 11 because, well, I bloody well felt like it, and it’s my list.

And after consideration…yeah. I’ll allow historical ladies that actually existed (because there are a couple I just HAD to mention. And, GOD! Can we please have more historical women on the show? Ada Lovelace, Joan of Arc, Amelia Earhart, you could probably do something really cool with Mary Anning, Frida Kahlo, Sally Ride, Sacagawea, Harriet Tubman. Maybe I’ll do a list for that too.

11. Queen Elizabeth X/Liz 10 (The Beast Below)                                                 Played by Sophie Okonedo

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*SIGH* Okay, yes, she’s in “The Pandorica Opens” too, so I’m slightly breaking my own rule already, but she’s only in it for a second, so I’m squeezing her in at 11.

To start, this was just a cool idea. What appears to be a masked vigilante is actually the Queen, protecting her citizens from dangers on the street. She’s confident, self-assured, and handy with a weapon, all of which are exhibited in her line “I’m the bloody queen, mate. Basically, I rule.” So she’s down to Earth and talks like a normal person, but she also manages to be elegant and cool at the same time. They should have done more with her in “Pandorica” and maybe beyond.

That doesn’t mean that her character is perfect. She allows the systematic torture of a rare animal. And then, rather than facing the problem head on, she chooses to be routinely brainwashed. But she can still sense that something’s wrong and is clearly looking out for the good of her people.

10. Joan Redfern (Human Nature/Family of Blood)                                                 Played by Jessica Hynes

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So I’m very biased. See, there’s this show called Spaced and Jessica Hynes co-created, co-wrote, and co-starred in it (with Simon Pegg), and I’ll love her forever for it, and she makes it really easy by being really awesome in everything else she stars in. Including Doctor Who. She’s very quietly commanding. And she keeps herself together, despite the fact that her life REALLY starts to suck when the Doctor shows up. Or, rather, when John Smith does. After the Doctor returns to his normal state he even offers to take her with him, but she declines. It would just be too hard for her Martha should have been taking notes. Or maybe she was). And Joan was clearly still on the Doctor’s mind when he visits her descendant in the future just to be sure Joan had a happy life after he left.

My only quibble is that she doesn’t treat Martha well. She’s constantly reminding Martha that she’s a servant, and clearly just doesn’t like her. But that makes sense. There’s this other woman that seems way familiar with the guy she’s in love with, and, oh yeah, Martha’s in love with him too (when he’s not all human-y wuman-y).

Oh, and shout out to the other servant, Jenny, who was a great character until her unfortunate possession.

9. Madame de Pompadour/Reinette Poisson (The Girl in the Fireplace)  Played by Sophia Myles

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Right, so this is another pseudo love story with 10. I promise the rest of the list isn’t like this. This is interesting, because, aside from evil robots, the story seem to focus more on Reinette (who becomes Madame de Pompadour) than the Doctor, sometimes choosing to leave the story of what’s happening to the Doctor, Rose, and Mickey on the ship, instead focusing on the action happening in France. And it’s a sticky bit of character development, because it creates a sort of love triangle, where the Doctor has been traveling with Rose, and there’s definitely something there (and this is write on the heels of “School Reunion,” which brought up some questions), but he’s prepared to cut himself off from her to save Reinette.

It’s also one of the few times we see the Doctor jealous. When Reinette introduces her lover as the King of France, the Doctor gives him a condescending look and retorts, “Yeah? Well, I’m the Lord of time.” In the end, the Doctor is running late again and loses her. Oh, and that chemistry? That was real. Tennant and Myles were dating at the time.

8. Queen Nefertiti (Dinosaurs on a Spaceship)                                                   Played by Riann Steele

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This is a fun episode. It’s dinosaurs in space. My two favorite things brought together. The only thing that could make it better is if some Egyptian element like Queen Nefertiti were brought into it. Then they pick up Queen Nefertiti for the trip. Brilliant! And they did it without it feeling overstuffed or just tossed in for no reason. She has purpose and added a sense of style to the episode. She shows up Amy just by existing, and also makes Amy up her game. But they aren’t competitive. On the contrary, the female characters get along (which unfortunately doesn’t happen all that often).

They do a good job of balancing the fact that Nefertiti is both from way in the past with the fact that she’s progressive and forward thinking. She never seems like anything less than a Queen, but works well as part of the Doctor’s team (or, as he puts it, gang). And she’s always working for the greater good of the group, even if it means sacrificing herself.

That being said she certainly doesn’t take being captured lightly, and when she’s face to face with the evil mastermind, her fury and strength come out. Luckily, she’s one of the kickass women on Doctor Who that gets to live to fight and flirt with Lestrade (or whatever his name is in this show) another day.

7. Adelaide Brooke (The Waters of Mars)                                                                    Played by Lindsay Duncan

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This episode is one of the most highly regarded, partly because of it’s dark story. And it wouldn’t have worked without Adelaide Brooke. She’s established as cold and strict, greeting the Doctor by pointing a gun at him. Not that it deters him (Jamie held a knife to the Doctor’s throat when they first met, and his ex-best friend, the Master, is always casually trying to murder him, so the Doctor probably thinks this is a perfectly normal way for friendships to form).

It turns out they do get along, and as the Doctor is traveling solo, she becomes a (very) temporary companion. Or rather he becomes hers. She takes the lead. She’s a little older than companions tend to be too, which I really liked and was important for this episode.

Adelaide is a historical figure, or would be, if you knew her future, and the Doctor is delighted to meet her, before realizing this is the mission that she’s supposed to die on, her death leading to a string of important events. When the point comes that he has to leave her to her fate, he instead rescues her. But Adelaide finds out she was meant to die, inspiring her family to continue her work. She confronts the Doctor, tells him he was wrong to save her. He scoffs at this, so she walks into her house and shoots herself. Because she needed to. For the good of the future.

6. Ida Scott (The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit)                                           Played by Claire Rushbrook

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Ida Scott gets forgotten. I forgot her. She’s in two seriously wacky, but, like, dark whacky, episodes. But I rewatched these episodes recently, and what a cool character! She’s the science officer on the doomed Walker Expedition of a planet orbiting a black hole. She’s a good leader in a bad situation. She’s always moving forward, but you can see the pain she has when a member of the crew dies.

Near the end, when she expects she’ll die herself, she is prepared to do so with grace and calm. She’s a space adventurer. What better way could there be for her to go? She only hopes that she won’t have to do it alone, and when she and the Doctor journey to the surface of the planet (yes, SHE’S the member of the crew that goes down), she appreciates it’s majesty, and doesn’t take what she’s seeing for granted.

This episode has some really wonderful moments. It has my favorite Rose moment, my favorite TARDIS moment, and the exhilarating appearance of the Doctor after it seemed he was surely defeated. But he’s not alone. He has Ida Scott with him, and that makes it all the more wonderful.

5. Jabe (The End of the World)                                                                                          Played by Yasmin Bannerman

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This was the first time I discovered that Doctor Who would kill off characters you liked. Bastards. And while about half the characters on this list meet that same terrible fate, she was the first for me, so it won’t be easily forgotten.

It was also her making the choice to sacrifice herself to help the Doctor, a heavily recurring theme throughout the series. Others have to face their deaths so he can continue saving people, and he has to face an unending life, losing those people and feeling guilt of it. It was the first time I’d encountered that as well.

She was also one of the first real alien beings in the new series, and they handled her very suitably and creatively. I mean, they had to make a tree person pre-Guardians the of the Galaxy.

She gets along VERY well with the Doctor, and it’s interesting to see their interactions, because he’s still pretty fresh off the Time War, and last time he made a friend he asked her to go traveling with him. If it hadn’t been for her death, reminding him what so often happens to people who fall in with him, we may have again wound up with the 5th Doctor’s revolving door policy towards companions (a.k.a. Who are you? Who cares! Come on in). That definitely wasn’t the 9th Doctor’s style.

4. Agatha Christie (The Unicorn and the Wasp)                                                  Played by Fenella Woolgar

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“The Unicorn and the Wasp” is my favorite episod,e and I’m often taken to task for it, but you needed look much further than the historical figure the episode revolves around. And I’m not a huge Agatha Christie fan (if only because I’ve read precious little of her work), but the way they used her in this episode is so great. It’s just what I want from Doctor Who, creating a reason for a mysterious historical event that we never got answers for.

Bonus points for being set at a 1920’s socialite party that I’d give my eye teeth to attend (yeah, I like “Black Orchid” too! Deal with it!).

Agatha Christie acts just like a detective in a mystery novel. Which is lucky because the cast is essentially trapped in a game of Clue (or Cluedo if you’re British). She gets just as much to do as companion Donna (who is ON POINT in this episode). She’s sniffing out clues left and right, questioning suspects, and driving after baddies, even when it means she gets into a dangerous car accident.

Christie has taken a hard hit after recently being left by her husband, but she seems confident and self-assured, though she is clearly hiding a hurt, and it seems to bring out a certain amount of determination. She has the emotional depth and entertaining spirit that creates such vivid Doctor Who characters.

3. Rita (The God Complex)                                                                                             Played by Amara Karan

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One of the first things that always strikes me about Rita is that she dies. WHYYYYYYYYY?!

Rita’s definitely one of those “what could have been” companions. The Doctor is clearly saving her in his memory banks as soon as they meet. You can tell he’s thinking, “oh, she’d be good. She’d be very good” (and basically says as much). He even jokes that he’s firing Amy as his companion in order to take on Rita (or is he joking?). She’s competent, clever, and proactive. She even has medical experience.

And she’s so well rounded for appearing so brief a time. We know a bit about her family based on it being the thing she fears (and what’s in her nightmare room) and how it’s impacted her since.

But I think her death was actually very important. There’s a whole mess of stuff that’s actually happening in that episode, and I think Rita’s fate is part of the reason for the Doctor dropping off Amy and Rory at the end. He wants them to have a happy ending after seeing a “what could have been” companion reaching her inevitable end. This is what happens to people who travel with the Doctor. And it’s a shame she didn’t get to have a few adventures in the TARDIS. I’ve gotta agree with the Doctor on this one: Rita? She’d be good. She’d be very good.

2. Sally Sparrow (Blink)                                                                                                       Played by Carey Mulligan

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Well. Duh. You can’t have a list like this without mentioning Sally Sparrow. It’s tempting to say she IS a companion. Just one that never traveled with the Doctor, and only barely met him. She certainly acts like one. She goes adventuring without too much hesitation, wandering off and doing, quite frankly, some very dumb things, while still clearly being incredibly bright.

In a way, she’s like the Doctor too, having companions of her own (the first two of who she loses, much like the Doctor): Kathy, then Billy, then Larry. It’s funny that with all this time travel affecting her and being the motivation for most everything she does, Sally is the one person who never actually travels in time. And while she’s briefly inside the TARDIS, she doesn’t actually get to take a trip in it.

Sally does occasionally lose her cool, but it’s always under appropriate circumstances, as things move from mysterious to unnerving to perilous. And she has a better handle on time travel and the crossing of multiple timelines in a non-linear, non-subjective, big ball of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey way than most companions.

Part of what makes this story so creepy is that it’s what happens when the Doctor doesn’t show up. Because he can’t always be there. So we have people like Sally Sparrow instead, who find themselves in incredible situations, and just by doing what is right manage to save a little piece of the world. Even without a TARDIS.

1. Idris/Sexy/the TARDIS (The Doctor’s Wife)                                                            Played by Suranne Jones

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Speaking of the TARDIS…

Okay, well, this is probably cheating. In a way Idris has been in EVERY episode of Doctor Who. The idea of the TARDIS being a living thing has been batted about for ages, but when you ask Neil Gaiman to write an episode, he’ll kick the show’s weird and whimsy up a notch and probably do something like put the TARDIS’ living consciousness into a human body. Because he did. And we owe Suranne Jones a huge debt of gratitude, because Idris is, to me, the greatest temporary female ever to appear on the show.

And she easily could have been a MPDG, if written and performed by less deft artists, but no. Idris is basically magic, or as close to magic as Doctor Who does, and yet she’s OFF. Completely inhuman. You can tell just by looking at her. And she bites, and she answers your questions before you ask them, and she doesn’t quite listen to what you tell her, and she’s not going to follow your instructions if you don’t follow hers.

And part of the beauty of that character is that she’s fleeting. She can’t last like that, and as she and the Doctor begin to realize it, the story becomes twice as poignant. They can’t have their cake and eat it to. And neither can we. As much as I love Idris, having her make a return would be a terrible idea. The whole point of her, is her expiration date. Of course, she isn’t really gone, she’s just returned to her original form. That’s how the Doctor really needs her. How we all do. She just wanted the chance to tell the Doctor “hello.”

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No, Blah Blah Bland Is NOT the Best Movie of the Year. Here’s Why…

I grew up on movie musicals. You might not think it to look at the other posts on this blog, but they were a big part of my life. The love went deeper than that. My family had a background in musical theater, and in my youth I joined a junior theater company where I could be in musicals myself.

So I at least kinda know about what I’m talking about.

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Singin’ in the Rain

I’m not a great singer or a great dancer, but I witnessed people who were. They were awe-inspiring. You couldn’t take your eyes off them. I was an admirer of performers like Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Julie Andrews, Bob Fosse, Fred Astaire, and Ginger Rogers in my childhood (the last one famous for doing everything Astaire did, but “backwards and in high heels”). That’s why we go to the movies.

I was wary when I first heard about La La Land. On the one hand, a well-done throwback movie musical in 2016/2017 could be fun and exciting, sheer escapism at a much needed time. On the other hand, what if it didn’t work…

When I saw the first trailer, I was more nervous. I like Ryan Gosling. I like Emma Stone. I liked them playing opposite each other in Crazy, Stupid Love. But…for a throwback to Hollywood musicals? I’d have thought you’d want some real powerhouse singers and dancers. And the visuals themselves…dancing in a field of stars sounds very romantic and all, but I didn’t really feel anything emotionally when I saw trailers and promos.

I thought, to be fair, maybe they’re holding back, they don’t want to spoil all the good stuff before the audience is in the theater. I can respect that. And maybe context would make all those moments magical after all. So I saw the movie.

Nope.

Let me break down why the movie didn’t work:

Casting and Characters

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42nd Street

Again, I like Gosling and Stone, they are utterly charming, but I think for the leads in a throwback movie musical, it may have behooved the film to cast musical theater actors. People who could sing, dance, AND act. There are many of them looking for work. I mean, that’s what the movie’s ABOUT. You could have had some life imitating art by casting some unknowns.

And if you really felt you NEEDED big names, well, there are other actors who can really bring musical talent to a film. And if that had been the case, the musical numbers could have been more frequent and more ambitious (but more on that later).

And, hey, a jazz pianist might have been a nice opportunity to cast a black actor. Especially considering that every jazz artists referenced and featured is black. But no. Instead you’ve got some white guy parading around like he’s gonna be the savior of jazz.

Another thing that was missing from the classic musical set-up was a cast of characters. There were two leads and everyone else was peripheral. We didn’t even have the “best friend” or the “villain.” It might have been fun if they had taken the roommates that Mia’s character had in the beginning and fleshed them out, given them more to do.

Or take J.K. Simmons character and make him a recurring adversary with a bad guy song. The fact that J.K. Simmons was cast in a musical and never sang is a criminal offense anyway. Hell, even his guest spot in an episode of the Thrilling Adventure Hour featured a showstopping number and multiple reprises. You have NO excuse La La Land!

OR make Gosling and Stone supporting characters, they do less singing and dancing, but are still featured. You could have done any of these things.

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West Side Story

Music

I want to be fair to the music. Cause it was good. I caught myself smiling at the reoccurring melodies at a couple of point. It was nice.

BUT

It could have been more. It should have been more.

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Sing Street

Aside from the fact that there were only a few original songs that were just used over and over (I’m looking at you, “City of Stars”), I found them forgettable. To contrast, after I saw Sing Street, which granted is a very different type of musical with a very different style of music, I downloaded several of their original songs as soon as I got home, I woke up the next morning with “The Riddle of the Model” stuck in my head, and found myself humming “Drive It Like you Stole It” later in the day.

With La La Land, try as I might, I can’t recall any music from it without seeking it out to remind myself. All great musicals should worm their way into your brain, you should find yourself humming the music as you go through your day. I haven’t. I’ve actually actively TRIED, and I can’t.

This leads me back to that first point again. Maybe the music could have been more sophisticated (and there could have been more of it) if there were more accomplished singers in the lead roles. I mean, Gosling can sing, though I’d never think of him as a singer, and Stone…well, it wasn’t grating or anything, but I really wondered what she was doing as the star of a musical whenever she started to sing.

Dance

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La La Land

Again, I want to be fair. The dancing was not a wash across the board. That opening scene is a lot of fun, and they definitely found their singer/dancers for that. The image of them all standing on top of their cars in rush hour traffic is probably the reason Damien Chazelle wanted to make the movie in the first place.

This number also exhibited another thing musicals should do: something new, whether it’s leaping across the ceiling or tap dancing in roller skates, it’s a new way to set the stage. You have to give this scene credit.

The tap dance between the two leads as they walk to their cars was cute too. And I actually found myself giddy with anticipation when Mia sat down to change her shoes in that scene (“she’s puttin’ on tap shoes!”), and she and her roommates dancing down the street, leading into the wild Hollywood party had that classic musical feel.

BUT

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All That Jazz

Across the board I wanted more. A showstopper: men in tails dancing down a grand staircase, an “audition” with singers and dancers. All That Jazz (the movie, not the song from Chicago) is an example of a musical with a lead who’s not a dancer, but makes you forget that because there’s SO much dancing whenever he’s around.

I think part of the problem in La La Land was a fear of the chorus “showing up” the leads, but you can absolutely make that work. And it was exactly the model for All That Jazz.

Chicago (since All That Jazz is making you all think of it anyway) sort of did this as well by casting Renee Zellweger as the lead, but then supporting her with Catherine Zeta-Jones, the latter of who is a dancer, and fronts most of the big numbers.

I wanted Mia’s roommates to have their own number, a choreographed dance breaking out at the stuffy club where Sebastian was playing Christmas songs, a Fosse send up at the jazz club! PLEASE! Instead a lot of the dancing was delegated to the same two damn people all movie long, and because they aren’t dancers, it resulted in a lot of serviceable waltzing. As I said at the beginning, I watch movie musical to be in awe of the performers, not to think “…yeah…I could probably do that with a couple weeks of training.”

Bad Timing

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Singin’ in the Rain

To touch back on that, take-a-chance, cast-some-singer/dancers thing: In the early 50’s MGM cast a 19 year old actress with only a few credits to her name as the lead in their upcoming production. The production was Singin’ in the Rain. The 19 year old was Debbie Reynolds.

It was a bit like a kick in the gut, a mere weeks after her death to see La La Land, after it had been tauted as a throwback to classic movie musicals to see such mediocre dancing, and watch awards get launched at an average film that does little to uphold the the style and craftsmanship that you see in classic movie musicals.

And maybe it’s just me, but that movie I mentioned earlier, Sing Street, is far batter and also a musical, but not a classic movie musical with big dance numbers in it (and has one anyway) because it’s about an 80’s New Wave band. It sucks it came out this year, because La La Land is gonna sweep the floor with it at the Oscars (they already did at the Globes). I’m mad at the situation, but that sucks.

They Didn’t “Earn” It

La La Land just wasn’t ready to be made. Chazelle needed to take a step back and really decide what movie he was trying to make. Is it a musical that’s authentically joyful, or is it a cynical commentary of the hypocrisy of L.A.? It can’t be both. Unless he’s gaslighting us.

The characterization should have been stronger, and there should have been more characters! The music should have been given more time, the choreography CERTAINLY needed work.  You hear stories about classic Hollywood dancers dancing until their feet bled or they made themselves physically ill. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that those are the films we remember. Those are the films that last. In comparison La La Land comes across as half-baked mediocrity. I’m not saying you have to hurt yourself to make a good movie, but there’s a dedication those actors had, because this was their craft. They’d been working at it their whole lives.

Part of what frustrates me is it will make a killing at the box office and continue to clean up throughout awards season. We continue to award average filmmaking. This film inspires me in no way. Points me in no direction. What was the message even supposed to be? Do the filmmakers know? This is what will actually kill the movie musical. Lowering expectations and achievements.

I get that making a film is hard, boy, do I get it. I get that making a musical is challenging, but just because both things happened doesn’t mean it’s automatically brilliant. We don’t reward movies simply because they get made. We reward movies that are outstanding in their field. This movie stands out to me in no way other than my frustration whenever I see it’s up for more awards. “That thing? I had almost succeeded in forgetting about it.”

I’ll grit my teeth through the Oscars this year and roll my eyes as it’s name is repeatedly called. And please stop pretending to be surprised when you win. We don’t believe you. You made this movie to win awards. It worked. Congrats. I’m gonna go watch Shall We Dance to keep from screaming.

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Shall We Dance

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Cross-Examining Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

I should probably start by making it clear that I am a huge fan of Douglas Adams. I’ve read all his novels. I’ve even read The Salmon of Doubt, an unfinished novel and the third installment of the Dirk Gently series, Adams’ lesser known books about an…um…unconventional detective. I read the Dirk Gently books many moons ago, and when I heard they were trying to contemporize the story for a new BBC America show, I was both thrilled and wary.

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I was a little nervous when the ads came in. They looked a bit like an Edgar Wright imitation, and Edgar Wright imitations are never as good as Edgar Wright. Still, I’m optimistic that shows with good source material will result in good adaptations (this theory has been proved wrong at least as often as it’s been proved right, but it’s still where I stand), I reread the first Dirk Gently book in preparation, from my ratty old copy that was half eaten by squirrels after I unwisely brought it with me on a trip. This exercise proved to be completely unnecessary. The thing that I had to let go of right off the bat is that the series Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency takes three things from the novel:

1. the character of Dirk Gently, who is, in a loose sense, similar to the character personality-wise (and not at all physically)

2. the fact that the main character is currently in the middle of a rough patch with his sister and

3. the general idea of a holistic detective agency

and tosses the rest of the book out the window. Well, there’s one other thing it keeps: the spirit of the DG novels. And what I realized as I wound around the the end of the tiny 8 episode season was that, ultimately, that’s what I cared about.

That’s right. I’m saying I liked it.

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It wasn’t perfect, but it tracked well enough. And I was really worried after the first few episodes, when they introduced SO many characters and SO many elements, that some of it would be redundant or excessive and fall by the wayside, but actually, it all fit together quite well. The writing was properly competent.

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And so anyone trying to decide whether or not to watch this let me be clear: I usually like my British programming (of which DGHDA is in part) to be subtle. This isn’t. I’m usually cranky when I sit down to an adaptation of a book I enjoy, only for it to immediately veer away from every minute detail. This does. And in spite of that, I had a blast watching this.

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It uses the “fixed timeline” model of time travel (this is the Prisoner of Azkaban model), so it avoids paradoxes and does the fun, “I know the thing, because a future me told a past me, but future me only knew that thing because past me already did it” bit.

I mean, I wasn’t immediately sold. The first few episodes seemed to rely too much on random luck (even as the characters seemed to be finding themselves in unlucky situations), and there seemed to be far too many characters who could all have character arcs/plot lines of their own. But I stuck with it. Maybe they could pull this out of the hat after all. And they did! The connections became clear, and the lead characters found themselves in an Indiana Jones style maze of booby traps.

https://tribzap2it.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/dirk-gently-bart-curlish-episode-2-fiona-dourif.jpg?w=1100&h=629The cast was refreshingly diverse, taking advantage of its wide scope of quirky characters. And, while there are many of them, I didn’t find myself having trouble remembering who was who or what they were after. There were also a couple of animals that were important to the story, a kitten and a corgi, who turned in excellent performances with the rest of the cast. Like, really top notch animal acting.

There were some moments that rang familiar, but the writing was comfortable enough with itself to make references in some of those moments, which added to the fun (yes, I’m thinking specifically of the Star Wars trash compacter).

And then there’s Dirk Gently himself. Yeah, I’m of two minds about this, so we’re gonna need to talk about him.

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There’s a trend and, if you’ve seen things like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, you might recognize this. Eccentric young males, who are often British (but not always) are clearly being directed to act as the Doctor from Doctor Who. Matt Smith’s in particular. And he isn’t even my favorite. But here’s the thing. Dirk Gently kind of has an excuse.

Douglas Adams, the original creator of the character, was the script supervisor (what would today be called the “showrunner”) of Doctor Who for a bit back in the 70’s. So some of his ideas for Doctor Who got funneled into the Dirk Gently books.

And I’m not saying Samuel Barnett’s (or for that matter Eddie Redmayne’s) performance wasn’t done well. And it was probably exactly as the directors and creators asked him to do it, but sometimes I felt more like I was watching a Doctor Who audition tape, and that took me out of it.

BUT he did some things really well. There were certain moments, and they were often the quieter ones, when the character felt like he was completely his own thing. And that springy over-exuberance was the top level of a layered character who was confused, frustrated, and frightened. He just figured that while he was in this series of messes that made up his life, he might as well make an adventure out if it. And I really liked that.

As a matter of fact, when Dirk and Todd get into their penultimate argument at the end, it’s Dirk that delivers the cruelest blow, one that I didn’t expect from him, and it left you legitimately concerned about the fate of their relationship. So, I guess, in the end, like so many things in the show, it worked itself out.

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Speaking of the end:

If you haven’t seen the show you might want to stop here. *Spoiler warning.*

The show, which has been picked up for a second season, was left on one mother of a cliffhanger. There’s a moment halfway through the season that almost seemed like a throwaway, with a meathead-ish army guy saying some intimidating nonsense about being prepared for some mission or other, and I didn’t really care, and it didn’t really go anywhere. Until the very end.

If you’ve seen the show then you know the take away from the final scene seemed to be  that several characters had this psychic thing that Dirk had, and there was some secret, but large army battalion, dressed in SWAT gear and armed with guns, ready to take them all out.

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I have some concerns. And not just because I like these characters and don’t want them murdered en masse.

The thing that made the first season work so well was that all the characters seemed so disconnected, but were slowly brought together. So first off, if they all get brought in, they’re all starting out in the same place. The opposite of what worked the first time around.

My other more major concern is that the new season would all be about them running from the army. I don’t like this since a.) this often turns into a sort of “aliens being examined in a white room” situation and b.) it makes the connections too far reaching. Rather than the pockets of people figuring out their mysteries, there’s a huge chunk of people involving themselves, and I’m not sure I want that to become the driving force of the show.

But, hey, they made it this far without letting me down, and I’m still on board. If you make another season I’ll certainly be tuning in. With bells on.

KITTEN!

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8 Films to Watch During the Holidays That Aren’t Holiday Movies

Winter is here. But it hasn’t brought White Walkers. It’s brought holiday joy and merriment. Bah. Humbug. What if you want to watch a movie that reflects the cold world, and you don’t want to watch a holiday movie? Well, there are some alternatives. After you’ve watched all the mandatory holiday classics like Die Hard and Trading Places, you’ve got these movies to keep you warm on a cold night.

1. The Hateful Eight

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I mean, the reason they’re all trapped out there together is that they’re snowed in by a ferocious blizzard. And Hateful Eight was nominated for an Oscar in cinematography, cause they made that snow look good. You can’t help, but feel lucky that you aren’t as miserably cold as the 8 psychopaths in the film (and O.B. Poor O.B.). And that you don’t have to literally nail the door closed behind you every time you walk inside.

The only whisper of Christmas in the whole move is when Bob sits down at the piano to play an instrumental rendition of “Silent Night.”

2. Hugo

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This movie is Christmas/holiday magic incarnate without Christmas actually making an appearance. Happy, heartbreaking, and hopeful. Every reason that those hairs on the back of your neck would stand up are accounted for. Also a really good pick for movie fanatics and ex-film students. It’s based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, but is really about movie magic (which is a very real thing).

It’s nice to watch while all bundled up and wishing you could lend Hugo a blanket (and maybe a ladder) while he’s out recreating Safety Last on a clock face high above Paris.

3. The Shining

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I bet some of you jumped the gun and watched this before Halloween, didn’t you? Tsk tsk. Far as I’m concerned, The Shining is a dark comedy masquerading as a horror movie.

The movie is basically just about a family who spends the holidays in a probably haunted hotel and get royally screwed when the dad goes a little stir crazy and is maybe the reincarnation of a former murder, or is possessed by such a person, or has some weird ghost illness thing, and his son maybe has some sort of superpowers. It’s a little unclear, but it’s a lot of fun, and in the end, the only way to stop the evil is to lead it outside and try to lose it in the snow. So…winter movie.

4. Misery

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AGAIN. You probably skipped ahead and watched this too early. I will concede, this is a horror movie, though there are comedic elements.

It’s a great premise for anyone spending the night in. There are basically only two characters in the whole film. A writer who was in a terrible accident and can’t move around freely and his adoring fan who quickly twists into a psychotic warden, who keeps him handicapped. He can’t escape because a) inability to do much walking and b) fucking snow. The latter one is the thing tying most of these movies together.

It will definitely have you giving the side eye to people you’d usually find very pleasant and leave you wondering who the hell names a character Misery.

5. Fargo

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This one’s a nice mix of delightful and gruesome (two things I love). All about money and crime and justice, but set with a winter wonderland backdrop. It does a good job of establishing just how isolated people are, as well as allowing them to be tracked. Sure, the holidays are happening, but the characters all have bigger fish to fry and any Christmas activity winds up as background static.

The characters are all odd and intriguing. Some likeable, some not. How they react when the chips are down can be unexpected.

Speaking of chips…that wood chipper scene.

6. Hanna

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Hanna is slightly fringier than most of the other films on this list. But it was made by a bunch of very capable filmmakers. It’s an interesting film about a  young girl who has been trained to be an assassin. It’s quieter than some action/thriller movies. Not boring, just quieter. I guess that’s the thing about assassins. They don’t want to make to much of a fuss. And like in Fargo, the snowy backdrop works both to illustrate the isolation of the character as well as prove useful  for tracking.

It’s definitely work checking out. Plenty of winter fun without a lot of holiday fuss. Slightly more on the artsy side. But, you know, in a fun bloody way.

7. Submarine

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I’ve talked about this movie before. Really you should just go read my post on Richard Ayoade’s directing if you’re interested in this one.

We’re moving away from Christmas and into New Year’s. This film was released (at least, in the U.S.) during the summer. And as such, paired with so much of it taking place near the ocean, I used to think of it as a summer movie. But in actuality, the penultimate scenes take place on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Heartbreaking and utterly charming. And, judging by the gear those kids are trekking around in, freezing.

8. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

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This movie begins (and therefore ends) a few days into the new year. So it’s a good one to end your winter viewing (there are plenty of fun spring movies to move on to).

Though the nature of the movie takes you through many different seasons, much of the movie is cold and dreary and muddles together. And the most iconic moments are probably Joel and Clementine lying side by side on the ice, and them lying in the bed on the beach in the snow. I’ve talked about this movie before too, in the Independent Dramadies post. It’s a really interesting and unique movie. And good. And sad. And happy.

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