For Almost Human, there is no collapse of humanity followed by attempts to rebuild: this is a look right into the whirling eye of humanity at its worst.
Irritatingly, I find myself deeply enjoying yet another police drama. This whole thing is starting to make me highly suspicious about my supposedly anti-establishment leanings—perhaps pop culture is succeeding too well at indoctrinating me with a love of the police force. Either that, or it dedicates more resources to making police dramas excellent than it does to other programmes, with the exception of the endless reality television splooging about all over US television screens.
I never thought I’d actually say this, but: well done, Mr. Moffat.
For the first time in Steven Moffat’s run on Doctor Who, I found myself actually enjoying one of his episodes, even if it was marked by his usual tendency to radically rewrite history, canon, and everything else. In this case, that rewriting was very deliberately undertaken, and rather brilliantly done: the whole point was the complete restructuring of everything we know about the Doctor.
Needless to say, my dear, spoilers lie ahead.
Dracula appears to have embraced the spaghetti pot of television writing: namely, throwing it all against the wall and seeing what sticks.
Last week brought us the premiere of NBC’s Dracula, in which the title character arrives in 19th century London under the guise of an American industrialist, but if you’re expecting a scintillating commentary on the evils of early capitalism, think again. Actually, if you’re expecting anything even vaguely logical, you may want to think again, as Dracula appears to have embraced the spaghetti pot of television writing: namely, throwing it all against the wall and seeing what sticks.
Simply put, Katell Quillevere’s “Suzanne” is mesmerising filmmaking.
Have you ever imagined just how powerful your name is? Both with and without it you are everything and nothing. It can mask and reveal as much about your parents as it can about your own soul. Changed by friends, marriage or deed poll you have a symbiotic relationship with the letters that form the DNA of your existence. Only a parent truly relinquishes their given name, most do willingly, some do reluctantly but when a child no longer recognises you as mum or dad, when they revert to using the name of your own childhood, then you are submerged deep inside your own existential crisis.
This is a show that’s meant to spook.
Fox debuted its Sleepy Hollow, a strange mashup of “Rip van Winkle,” “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” an assortment of Biblical myths, and made up apocrypha, this week. The show appears to be capitalising on the unexpected success of Grimm, which balances camp with supernatural mysteries, a light touch of humour, and just enough creepiness to give fans the willies on occasion. Sleepy Hollow, however, looks to be darker, a horror show that intends to take itself more seriously and press home the point: though there is comic relief (as when two police officers are stumped by the Headless Horseman when they tell him to drop his weapon and put his hands on his…uh…), this is a show that’s meant to spook.
This is America in the carefree, can-do 90s, kicking ass video game style of the First Gulf War, gorging itself on Hollywood CGI.
Daniel Lugo deserves better. He wants a big fat slice of the American Dream yesterday. Daniel’s ripped and pumped, a personal trainer to the body beautiful and the ugly rich of Miami. He may look like his clients and his clients may want to look like him but they wouldn’t touch him with one of Don Johnson’s old espadrilles. Money talks but he doesn’t speak the language. Daniel hates people who waste their talents so he’s decided that it’s his time to push himself harder and learn the lingo.
US television looks like it might be going bolder, darker, and just a tad more experimental this fall.
Autumn is rapidly approaching here in the Northern Hemisphere, which means my favourite season is almost upon me. It’s not just the relief from the relentless heat and humidity that I’m looking forward to, but the release of new television with which to entertain me during long, dark nights in the cold. I’m nearly giddy with delight about some of the shows slated to take over the screen this fall, including some that look to be very, very good…and some that look to be very, very bad (Back in the Game, ABC; Believe NBC, and so many more—seriously, how many brooding detectives can fit in a primetime block?!).
Director Ben Wheatley has created something remarkable, intangible. His ability to deliver the uncanny is frightening.
A Field In England
Self proclaimed coward and alchemist’s assistant Whitehead cowers in a field. A battle rages just over the hedgerows, the God of War churns up dirt and sound. The English Civil War in “A Field In England” is captured in startling black and white, sometimes Neorealist massacre, at others Nouvelle Vague period drama, and often a psychedelic Theatre of Cruelty
The field grows vast, as the fog of war is lost over the horizon. Serene and unsettling this slice of green and pleasant land seems unsullied by the English assault on God, the challenge to the divine right of kings. Still the earth seems sentient, brooding, and ready to spew forth, righteous damnation on the blasphemous heretics or hell borne fury on the weak of soul. Either way Ben Wheatley’s fourth directorial effort infects his audience with a terrible sense of unease.
“Whilst we live fear of hell we have it” recounts Whitehead. Is he about to reject his faith and place his trust in the pseudo-science of his unseen master? Two ruffians Cutler and Jacob join him obsessed with ale and women. Friend a softer soul, fleshy and malleable takes an interest in the educated Whitehead, “You think about a thing before you touch it.” “Is that unusual?” questions Whitehead. “It is in Essex” deadpans friend.
Whitehead’s prissy curiosity just outweighs his fears and he is in fact on a mission to find the enigmatic O’Neil. Here the camera is lucid refusing to film reality but instead revealing a narrative purgatory, one that never illuminates-but rather suggests the dark arts, the lens replaced by the obsidian orb of a scrying mirror. Cutler puts the motley crew to work pulling a rope that has seemingly been displaced from a galley. Hauled into existence through the dirt is O’Neil.
In the film’s most horrific moment Whitehead is lured into a tent by O’Neil and kissed by darkness. His screams are worse than Quint’s fingernails clawing that blackboard in “Jaws.” Wheatley cloaks his torment, we can only guess at what would break a man so completely. What emerges from the tent is truly disturbing; Whitehead’s twisted countenance leers in slow motion utterly base and depraved as he shambles for eternity, whispers of Aguirre Wrath of God” echo from the screen.
“A Field In England’s” crowning glory is the wild hallucinogenic sequence; Polanski, Roeg, Cammell, Hardy and old computer generated rave videos are all referenced as the film literally collapses in on itself, the audience struggling to remain focused on the mirror images racing right before their eyes. Sound becomes detached, random, something to be caught or plucked out of the air.
Alongside his own “Kill List” Ben Wheatley has created something remarkable, intangible. His ability to deliver the uncanny is frightening. Is he the successor to David Lynch who can also make the most mundane inanimate objects seem the most terrifying things in the world? Art house “Solomon Kane” or acidic “Witchfinder General” “A Field In England” could even be a Chris Morris film about Glastonbury. Now there’s a thought.
Hunkered down with the living dead scraping at the door Brad Pitt’s Gerry Lane states, “Movement is life.” For over a decade that’s exactly what the Zombie genre has been doing, moving relentlessly forward, shoving a broken mirror right up [...]
Hunkered down with the living dead scraping at the door Brad Pitt’s Gerry Lane states, “Movement is life.” For over a decade that’s exactly what the Zombie genre has been doing, moving relentlessly forward, shoving a broken mirror right up to the bloody face of American society, replacing the Western as its barometer.
Moffat didn’t just insult women this season: he also made dull television, and that’s simply unforgivable.
Oh, gentle readers, do let’s discuss Clara the Impossible Girl and the thrilling or perhap insipid conclusion of the seventh season, which just aired on televisions ‘round the world. We were promised a resolution to the Mystery that is Clara, and we certainly got it, and, shocker, it went along the same lines as all of Moffat’s usual misogynist garbage, as Ted Kissell pointed out in his withering review at The Atlantic.
We’ve been taunted throughout the season by visions of a woman who seems to slip back and forth through the Doctor’s timestream, someone who flits over and over again onto the scene just in time, and someone who dies over and over again, the words “run, you clever boy, and remember me” on her lips. She’s tormented the Doctor, who’s spent the entire season grappling with an understanding of who she is while Clara insists that she’s simply an ordinary girl.
Moffat has been criticised before for his limited way of writing female characters and his tendency to ultimately destroy them, making their entire existence about the Doctor; River Song was perhaps the most marked example, but he ruined Amy Pond, and let us not forget What Happened to Donna. So watching Clara’s story unfold—what story there was to unfold, at any rate, in a season that felt more like watching the Doctor on a hamster wheel—was really more like waiting for the other shoe to drop. We knew it was coming, we just didn’t know when.
And on Saturday night, Clara’s moment arrived at last: yet another chance to sacrifice herself that the Doctor might go on, and a definitive explanation for her character’s seemingly supernatural tendency to show up whenever and wherever. Clara, it turns out, is bound up within the Doctor’s timestream after throwing herself into it to undo the sabotage done by the Great Intelligence (note to Time Lords: perhaps you should secure your blobs of timey-wimey lightness better in the future so as to avoid this sort of thing). Which means she’s sentenced to die over and over again for the greater good.
This puts her in the same sort of company as the rest of the Doctor’s female companions, women who are doomed to constantly live in the shadow of the Doctor, and to live effectively for the Doctor. Some viewers seem determined to spin Clara’s ‘choice’ as one made independently, one that shows strength, conviction, and determination, but it’s anything but. She’s forced into a corner by the dawning reality that she’s supposed to be responsible for the Doctor and must be willing to sacrifice herself, tearing her very being into fragments, so that he might go on.
Madame Vastra points out that without the Doctor, the universe would be a much colder, darker place, that he’s been responsible for saving millions and likely billions of lives. Implication: everyone in the Doctor’s party should be prepared to give up everything for him, as he’s a big important man and the sacrifices of individuals are insignificant in the face of that. Thus, there’s no real surprise when Clara ‘selflessly’ plunges into the Doctor’s timestream even though she knows what the consequences will be—in truth, it’s a preordained outcome, as she herself points out, because she’s already done it.
Her entire life is about the Doctor. And we’re supposed to view this as some sort of rah-rah female empowerment storyline somehow? I think not. Not with Moffat’s history, and not with the way it’s played. This is just another case of a woman throwing herself off a cliff for the Doctor, casting aside her own value as an individual human being even though the Doctor’s patronised her, lied to her, and cheated her of an opportunity to truly live.
The Doctor takes advantage of an effective reset button to keep Clara from the truth in ‘Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS,’ for example, skipping back in time to avoid the ramifications of an uncomfortable and complicated conversation where he tries to figure out who Clara is and how she accomplishes the impossible. He also, of course, evades some vicious salvagers in the process, but at the same time, he doesn’t tell Clara what happened and seems to have no interest in volunteering information to her.
On the contrary, he spends a lot of time acting as though he’s much more capable and important than she is, dismissing her despite the fact that she’s demonstrated her grit on a number of occasions (let’s face it, she’s died many more times than the Doctor has, and without the benefit of regeneration). It’s ‘easy mode’ on the TARDIS for her, and don’t ask questions, girl, because your job is simply to be a companion awed by the Doctor’s presence.
This is a show where a nearly 30-year-old woman is still a girl, and where women are sacrificial cannonfodder provided to feed the story and make the world safer for the Doctor. When are we going to get a companion who truly lives and leaves on her own terms? The closest we’ve gotten is Martha, except that she, like so many other of his female companions, is hopelessly in love with him and that becomes the catalyst for her departure: hardly the sign of an independent woman making choices for herself, but rather the mark of yet another pulled under the Doctor’s spell.
Moffat didn’t just insult women this season: he also made dull television, and that’s simply unforgivable. In a sluggish season that went effectively nowhere, none of his characters developed, nothing changed, and above all, nothing showed us that Moffat has rethought his views on women in society.
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