17 – Zero Dark Thirty – Bigelow is fearless
18 – Heartburn – dated and diluted
19 – Safety Not Guaranteed – good till end
20 – Game Change – possibilities truly frightening
21 – Savages – captures siblings, disappointment
22 – Religulous – what you’d expect
23 – Tucker and Dale vs Evil – clever horror twist
24 – Identity Thief – slapstick done well
25 – Youth in Revolt – unlikable, unfunny, unsympathetic
26 – Cabaret – wish color held
27 – The Trip – just too British
28 – The Iron Lady – conservatives, alzheimers, conviction
17 – Zero Dark Thirty – Bigelow is fearless
At the eve of the ascension of Barnabas Collins, I’ve come to view Dark Shadows is one of the queerest television series in history. Now I’m beginning to better understand why I was obsessed by this morose soap opera at age four: I bore the imprint of what I saw on the screen. I was drawn to something I was incapable of recognizing or articulating -
- like Willie with Barnabas’s ring.
Smooth-talking extortionist Jason McGuire arrives in Collinsport looking to shake down Elizabeth Collins Stoddard for The Secret in the Basement, which has been alluded to since the series’ inception.
But wait, the seafaring Irishman has brought “a friend” along for the scheme, though it’s never clear why, at least not explicitly.
Hot-headed, horny Willie Loomis is the ne’er-do-well companion whose presence makes no sense – other than as the much younger rough-trade lover of the roguish McGuire.
Willie, in his original incarnation portrayed by James Hall, is introduced as a semi-Southern, James Dean-flavored catch of sea trash whose central appeal may well lie in his recklessness/lawlessness. Jean Genet would have been smitten, and so is Jason McGuire, charmingly played by Dennis Patrick.
Down at the Blue Whale, their sexual chemistry is melting the barstools:
Later, after Willie storms Collinwood and demands accommodation, with Jason sweet-talking Mrs. Johnson into setting him up in a room right next to his, the two appear borderline jubilant at spending the night together, with Jason’s Daddy role spelled right out for us by an eager Willie:
The coded relationship between seedy sailors Jason and Willie reveals another facet of queerness about Dark Shadows, this one rather sweet, though like so much of Dark Shadows and queer lore, destined for tragedy.
But on this Saint Patrick’s Day, I will remember only the love.
Louis Edmonds plays Roger Collins as such a catty queen that I have to wonder how much of his dialogue was written as such and how much was improvised. In one of the bonus interviews from the dvd collection, Diana Millay, who played his estranged and undead wife, stated that Edmonds was constantly missing his marks and forgetting lines, making up dialogue as the cameras rolled. Whatever the combination of factors, the resulting Roger Collins is an insufferably snobbish and bitchy queen of delightful proportions.
I’d rather deal with Barnabas and The Ghost of Josette than deal with this shit every day.
So I went into the early days of Dark Shadows believing that only with the arrival of Barnabas after some odd 200 episodes would the series go headlong into the occult and supernatural.
How can we not recognize Laura Collins, the Phoenix, who just by making crazy eyes can put commanding matriarchs into an inexplicable coma, send cars careening out of control, and slip her enemies into trances that involve some initial confusion expressed with head shaking like a wet dog drying itself off, some exaggerated staggering preferably on the staircase in the foyer, and calculated memory wipes on paranormal professors and cemetery caretakers!
Here is Laura Collins/The Phoenix, in action, as always, sitting by the fire, interrupted by Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, while attempting to do ill will with her powers.
Technically, Laura Collins is not Dark Shadows‘ first foray into the supernatural. The Ghost of Josette Collins has made a few superimposed, translucent, mute appearances, plus at least one mad, fluttering dash around The Old House, but it’s Laura Collins’ return to Collinwood that turns the series in a whole new, dark, batshit nutty direction. Rather than go for a standard custody battle, the writers opted for making the estranged wife into a bizarre undead character whose identity may or may not be the same as Laura Collins.
Even after a (fucking amazing) séance, a desecrated crypt, an unearthed grave, a disappearing body from the morgue, a murder committed through car possession, spellbinding amnesia, teleportation, a coma via telepathic suggestion, and an oft-repeated account of the Phoenix, the mythological Egyptian bird that bursts into flame and then arises from its own ashes, I am still unclear on who exactly came to visit Collinsport.
Was it Laura Collins? Is the Phoenix a separate being? Why two deaths by fire for one incarnation? Are Laura Murdoch Stockbridge and Laura Murdoch Radcliffe one and the same?
Why did she want David to burn up with her so badly? To keep her company until she would be reborn again? Does this mean that David is the reincarnation of the boy who momentarily possessed him during the second séance – the one held under Josette’s portrait in The Old House just after Dr. Guthrie’s murder?
Did Laura Collins have knowledge of her Phoenix fate during her life as Laura Collins, or did this consciousness only come to her after the initial fire – in Phoenix! – which left the original cadaver of Laura Collins?
I expect some of these questions will be answered when Diana Millay returns for the storylines set in the past. I also expect, in keeping with the mysterious tone of the series, that most of my questions will remain unanswered. Why would The Phoenix divulge any eternal secrets to mortals? But couldn’t she share a few revealing conversations with other undead entities? There will be plenty to choose from.
16 – Zero Dark Thirty – Bigelow was robbed
I know. Dude – I KNOW. One movie the whole month. And I didn’t even realize I’d forgotten to post my one measly movie from February until I just read Raul’s post where he acknowledges a January posting in March. Oh crap – it’s March!
I could blame the lousy Smarch weather. The storm that dumped on Raul earlier this week is now actually snowing one inch an hour today here. I could say I was busier with work. I have been busier and have had to manage my time more. But the real reason is happier, sappier and a real time hog but delightfully so.
I know, it’s March. I haven’t slacked off on my screen time. It’s been winter, after all. I just need to catch up with accounting for my hours.
Louis C.K. All Chewed Up: This is one of Mr. Lousy’s picks. I mostly enjoyed the stand-up, and it does make me appreciate his television show more. As much as he manages to offend, he usually turns his aim back on himself. (2008)
The Scalphunters: Where to begin? I can’t fathom a summary, so I’ll just run down the cast of this 1968 Sydney Pollack western. Burt Lancaster is an illiterate, hard-drinking fur trapper. Ossie Davis is a highly educated runaway slave finagling his way to Mexico. Telly Savalas is the hard-drinking leader of a band of outlaw scalphunters, and though they massacre Indians, I don’t believe there was scalping. Savalas wears a giant onesie pair of light pink underwear in most of the film. Shelley Winters plays his blowsy, hardscrabble hard-drinking whore companion in an outrageous blonde wig. Can I really ask for more in a cast? The film was slow, but the acting energetic throughout. One scene, involving Lancaster dumping something like peyote into a horses’ watering hole, did bring the film truly alive for about ten minutes. Otherwise, I was focused delightedly on the four leads getting drunk and screaming at one another.
Jane Eyre: British series from 1983. I confess that I’m mostly watching for Timothy Dalton, but I’m enjoying it. And I’m not close to finished, even in March. Mr. Rochester is being a complete dick. I must make a note to watch the ’96 Zefferelli version with Charlotte Gainsbourg and William Hurt; and then the ’11 Cary Fukunaga one with Michael Fassbender trying to overcome unattractive facial hair.
Marwencol: Documentary (2010) by Jeff Malmberg about a man, Mark Hogancamp, nearly beaten to death in a bar and left severely brain damaged. He pieces his life back together as he creates a make-believe Belgian town in World War II, while the audience puts their own pieces together as they are doled out to us. By the ending, I’m surprised and overjoyed.
¡I loved Marwencol!
Nikita: Still season two, still not as good as season one, though they managed to add a younger male lead who was neither bland nor repugnant. I’m enjoying some of the back story we’re getting, especially as it enhances rather than contradicts what came before. Alias, I’m looking at you.
Shut Up Little Man!: Maybe I’m the target audience for this 2011 documentary by Matthew Bate about the sordid lives of two San Francisco alcoholics whose existence seemed predicated on shouting hateful epithets at each other during almost every waking minute. Their terrified but clever slacker neighbors began taping them using a cassette deck, ushering in an era of underground fascination with the real life skid row characters of Peter and Raymond. I’m the target because I was part of the 1990s cassette phenomenon; my boyfriend from S.F. introduced me to the audio, and by the time I heard, “You giggle falsely!” as an invective, I was sold for life. Or so I thought.
It’s curious to see this now. I’m not so interested in what happened to Raymond and Peter. I assumed that they came to a sad end and they did. More fascinating was the story behind how the underground phenomenon was built, and how original fans now in their middle age look back and re-experience their window, or microphone, into the pathetic, grindingly joyless world of two degenerate, hardcore alcoholics. Not for all tastes or all moods.
How It’s Made: Science series about how shit gets made. I quit after one piece about aluminum foil, mainly because I had about seven questions they had to answer for me and failed in the short spot that they got. They need to give a science editor more say. Maybe I just started with the wrong episode. I do know that aluminum foil requires a lot of heat and gigantic rolls. There’s something I retained after two months.
The Brother from Another Planet: John Sayles’ 1984 castaway alien comedy/drama set in NYC with loads of racial overtones. The Brother, a mute Joe Morton, carries a lot of the film, observing and experiencing racial dynamics as an alien with the appearance of an African American man. The final minute or so pulls the story together with a single hand gesture – melding pun to analogy and history to future. This one was also rather slow, but a smart mix of heavy and light. It’s one that I’d watch again.
Archer: Still season two. I’m pacing myself as I could easily blow through an entire season on a self-imposed snowbound day. Like today.
The Sarah Silverman Program: Still the first season. It’s fun but a little cynical for me.
Mad Men: Season Three. Spellbinding as always. I fear I could watch an entire series just based on the relationship between Sally Draper and her doddering, angry, loving grandfather.
Reel Injun: This prompted me to select The Scalphunters (see above), which actually only used American Indians as bookends to the story. The 2009 documentary traces the depiction of Native Americans from silent films through the present day, capping it with a stunning segment from film made by a one of a new line of indigenous directors. The most bizarre part was about the actor who played the Indian who cried while beholding pollution in a series of environmental advertisements in the seventies. I recognized him as a professional Indian, which he passed himself off as throughout his career, even though he was born Sicilian! He gets a surprisingly sympathetic treatment in the film. We also get to hear from Sacheen Littlefeather. I’d really only heard about her accepting/refusing Brando’s Oscar. Now I got to hear her account of the event.
Elektra Luxx: Moments of inspired lunacy. Sebastian Gutierrez directs his girlfriend, Carla Gugino, as a former porn star, now pregnant and panicking. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the porn aficionado who provides some narrative cohesion through his highly entertaining porn vlog, which he apparently shoots in his mother’s attic. Gutierrez thanks Almodovar in the credits, so maybe envision Almodovar taking an interest in a multi-threaded story centered on a pregnant porn star and there you have it. This 2010 movie was preceded by the 2009 film Women in Trouble, also written by Gutierrez. I have that in the queue.
The Air I Breathe: Intolerable shit from 2007. According to imdb, director Jieho Lee went to Harvard Business School to appease his parents while he set his sights on becoming a film director. Mr. Lee should apply to a Fortune 500 company and never make another film ever again. I was drawn in by the cast, and while I did enjoy Forest Whitaker playing against type in the first of several segments, the story was simply so pretentious and the direction so heavy-handed that I had to cry mercy and switch it off. This means that I completely dodged the segment about a fading pop star – named Sorrow. Maybe to Sarah Michelle Gellar, this looked good on paper. But seriously, Sorrow? This should go on my Raúl Cries Uncle list because I just couldn’t go through with it. I’m not that strong.
February’s record will follow before long.
The tension between Burke Devlin and Roger Collins has been brewing since the first episode, and tonight it came to a glorious double-entendre head with a sexually charged drawing room confrontation.
Louis Edmonds plays Roger Collins as such a preening queen, I have to wonder about his face when he saw the lines for this scene, beholding the latest rewrites like a gift from God. As for Mitchell Ryan as Burke Devlin, he’s the perfect antithesis as the brooding alpha. Ryan’s constant on-set drunkenness may have fueled his alarmingly eager aggressiveness.
This whole thing screams hatefuck foreplay so hard it’s a wonder they didn’t get down to it right there, knocking over the brandy snifters and making a mess all over the Collins heirloom rug.
Also, please note Collinsport dreamboat Joe Haskell (Joel Crothers) in soft focus in the back of the room. He likes to watch.
Remember Gimme a Break!, the eighties sitcom starring Nell Carter? Raúl sure does, enough so that the split-second the actor who played the dad on the show, Dolph Sweet, turned up on Dark Shadows, an uproar broke out in the house. Uproar!
Also, shouldn’t the name Dolph Sweet be recycled for gay porn? As an homage, I mean.
Also, what real estate in my brain was holding the cast from Gimme a Break! in the holster, red hot for instantaneous and unwarranted retrieval , when I cannot remember my own license plate and recalling my land line number is iffy? Can I get someone to clean that shit up?
Here’s a bit from a local Alabama talk show in which Dolph Sweet and Nell Carter talk over clips of the pilot episode that do not resemble what my memory holds as the set and the kids from the actual series, which I’ll lay odds is an accurate image, because, let’s face it, my brain knows Gimme a Break! better than I’d ever feared.
1 – Freakonomics – Nerds make infotainment
2 – My Week with Marilyn – Redmayne bugs me
3 – Coco Before Chanel – Does Tatou age?
4 – Gaslight – suave manipulation handbook
5 – Little Women – was Jo happy?
6 – Elmer Gantry – is fervor faith?
7 – Garden State – bit too cute
8 – Contagion – hysterical hypochondriac fodder
9 – The Hobbit – I liked it!
10 – Hanna – Atonement director surprises
11 – Out of the Past – noir on overdrive
12 – Thor – Not too bad
13 – Captain America – surprisingly charming heroics
14 – Bottle Shock – tradition vs passion
15 – 2046 – couldn’t finish it
Yes you read that right. I could not finish 2046. It’s beautiful. And confusing. Maybe I’m too dumb to get it or maybe too impatient. Probably a little of both. Even though I really shouldn’t put a movie I didn’t finish on the list, I feel the number of times I tried to watch the damn thing merits a spot.
Bill Malloy has gone missing! Did Victoria Winters and Caroline Stoddard really see his corpse being battered against the rocks from the cliff above?
Roger Collins nervously and haughtily dismisses the body seen by Victoria and Caroline washing against the cliff at Widow’s Hill as seaweed or an old sail, the usual flotsam and jetsam.
His sister Elizabeth reminds him, “It’s not usually human.”
That’s Joan Bennett perfecting understatement in outrageous writing.