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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Arrow: The Man Under the Hood

To borrow a quote from Gandalf: "the board is set, the pieces are moving..." which is an appropriate summation for this episode, and the last episode, and quite possibly the next episode as well (I haven't seen it yet).
Though I can get a bit snarky in these reviews, I do enjoy Arrow (I wouldn't be writing about it if I didn't) and I'm in it for the long haul. That said, there's been some tripping up on the way to this season's finish line, and this episode in particular felt very "bitsy" in terms of what it was trying to do.
Which was to move things into position for the finale, deal with the fallout of the last episode's revelations, introduce two new characters for the spin-off, present the possibility of a mirakuru cure in the flashbacks, and bring back Roy. There's no thematic or narrative unity in any of those tasks, and as a result this episode felt like a checklist of things that had to be ticked off in order to proceed to the next one.
So, let's go through them all one by one.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Rewatch: The Tunnel: S01E01

The Tunnel: Sabotage is scheduled for early next year, so now seems as good a time as any to revisit the first series. Back in 2013 I made the decision not to watch the original Scandinavian drama Bron/Broen, partly because I didn't have time, and partly because I didn't want to watch two shows in quick succession that have virtually the same plot.

You probably know the setup by now: the dead body of a woman is found at the exact mid-point of the Eurotunnel, her head in France and her feet in Britain. Two sets of investigators are dispatched to the location: on the French side is Elise Wasserman (Clémence Poésy), a young Brigade Criminelle Captain with an Ambiguous Disorder (probably autism or Asperger's) that goes largely unmentioned, and on the British side is middle-aged Karl Roebuck (Stephan Dillane), an easy-going father of five children (to three different mothers, though he’s happily married to the third).
Yet when the time comes to move the body, it becomes apparent that they’re dealing with not one but two victims: the head and torso of the missing French MP has been severed at the waist, and the legs belong to a British prostitute that disappeared several months ago. Naturally, this forces the two sides to work together to track down the culprit.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Standing Tall #13

This giraffe is aptly named The Builder and is located where the Park Royal Hotel once stood. Now the site is called The Commons and serves as a welcome bit of green space in the middle of the city, though I have plenty of fond memories of the hotel: watching the Christmas Parade from its walls, riding up and down the glass elevator, and having bunch in its atrium with my aunt and sister.
Designed by artist Paulina Porebska, the giraffe is also apt in the sense it was sponsored by Harcourts, one of our real estate companies. I also think of it as a tribute to all the international rescue and construction workers that came to aid Christchurch in the clean-up effort.
The hard hat and fluorescent vest is familiar garb for any of the builders in the city, but I love the "skin" of the giraffe: a bright royal blue. Because why not? And it was a great contrast to the yellow. 
(In case you're wondering why I'm sticking my tongue out, it's because it was a hot day and I was wearing jeans. Not a good idea).




Saturday, November 21, 2015

Arrow: Deathstroke

I will get through this season, so help me!
This was a fairly pivotal episode, one in which secrets are revealed and agendas become clearer, though at the same time the main storyline was complete nonsense. In order to recruit a bunch of convicts being transferred to a newly rebuilt wing at Iron Heights, Slade stages a diversion that involves kidnapping Thea off the street, sending a live feed of her to the mayoral candidacy debate, and leading the police and Oliver on a merry dance around the city.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Links and Updates

The last time I made one of these posts, the full-length Star Wars trailer was released the very next day. I've been dying to talk about it ever since.
On a scale of one to ten on the "how much do you love Star Wars?" spectrum, I would place myself at about a seven. I enjoy the films (even the prequels) but have never read any of the supplementary material or watched The Clone Wars – I wouldn't even know where to start. The original trilogy wasn't what I would call an intrinsic or formative part of my childhood, as it wasn't until I was about ten or eleven years old that I watched them in their entirety (and for some reason I ended up seeing The Return of the Jedi first).
But I enjoy them immensely, am looking forward to sharing them with my nephew, and fully appreciate their importance in cinematic history.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Review: Crimson Peak

This may sound impossible, but Crimson Peak was nothing like what I expected, and yet exactly what I expected. All the promotional material would have you believe it's a Gothic Horror, a misconception so great that Guillermo del Toro felt compelled to take to Twitter and insist that it was a Gothic Romance.
This difference became clear to me within the first twenty minutes of the film, which spends more time on the budding courtship between Edith Cushing and Thomas Sharpe than it does any of the nightly spectres. As such, I was left with my paradoxical statement: that Crimson Peak wasn't what I initially expected, but once the ball started rolling I knew exactly how it would unfold.
SPOILERS

Monday, November 9, 2015

Downton Abbey: S06E08

Well, that was ... that.
I'll admit it, over the last two weeks I fell into something of a Mary/Branson vortex. Deep down I knew it was never going to happen, and I could understand the logic of it not happening, and I will continue to appreciate their platonic (and now explicit) love for each other, but I enjoyed their rapport so much this season that I let myself get caught up in the hope that Fellowes would pull a last minute switcheroo and surprise us all.
Nope.
In the lead-up to this episode the various ship manifestos strewn across the internet calmed me down a little (off-the-wall theorizing usually has the opposite effect on my expectations that such echo chambers usually create) and I've come to the conclusion that when it comes to plot, writers will throw all sorts of red herrings into the mix. But when it comes to shipping, what you see is what you get.
Which of course, is exactly why viewers often take the path less travelled (or the ship less sign-posted) when it comes to the relationships on their screen – they prefer the slow burn to the obvious route.
But I can live with that disappointment. What I'm really galled at is the way the long-simmering Edith/Mary feud was handled. Because I was confident it would play out far better than it was.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Review: Indian Summers

It's the easiest thing in the world to reach for Downton Abbey as the natural comparison to Indian Summers, though in fact it better serves as a contrast. Both are period pieces set within a decade of each other, both focus on two distinct classes of people, and both are preoccupied with capturing a particular time and place. But let's be honest – Downton Abbey is a love-letter to the past, giving the occasional hat-tip to sexism, racism and classism, but ultimately existing as tribute and homage to a bygone era.
Indian Summers is infinitely more critical about the period it portrays (India in 1932 during the waning years of the British Raj), ensuring that the class/racial tensions that exist between characters sits at the core of every one of its myriad plots. Unlike the more soap opera storylines of Downton Abbey, which could be transplanted into the modern era without much tweaking, Indian Summers is a story deeply entrenched in the events of history, with characters fundamentally shaped and changed by them.
The difference between the two shows is captured most clearly in the portrayal of Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith) and Cynthia Coffin (Julie Walters). Both are matriarchal figures, both are considerably powerful woman, and both are played by beloved British actresses. But whereas Violet Crawley is given few foibles in regards to her old-fashioned views (spouting classist, sexist, and – if not racist, than at least highly xenophobic – opinions) the narrative still adores her, inviting the audience to laugh affectionately at her harmless prejudices.
In sharp contrast, Cynthia Coffin is deconstructed within an inch of her life. Initially presented as a warm and friendly club-owner still mourning the death of her husband and displaying a motherly affection for one of our main characters, her layers are gradually peeled back across the course of the first season's ten episodes to reveal a racist, manipulative and extremely nasty individual.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Downton Abbey: S06E07

Let's play a game I like to call Take It Out Of Context.
A distraught woman stands in a darkened hall. A man watches her from the nearest doorway and then quickly approaches to clasp her hands. Both of them are on the verge of tears as he tells her: "You’re frightened of being hurt again. But let me tell you this, you will be hurt again, and so will I, because being hurt is part of being alive. But that is no reason to give up on the man who is right for you." Overcome, the woman breaks away and rushes upstairs, the man sadly watching her go.
They're lovers, obviously. Or at least on the verge of becoming so. Right?
Nope, it's Tom and Mary, once again proving that more emotion and vulnerability exists between the two of them than it does with any of the love interests they've ever had – including Matthew and Sybil. YEAH I SAID IT.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Woman of the Month: Sooni Dalal


Sooni Dalal from Indian Summers
I've been sitting on my review for Indian Summers for months now – I keep meaning to finish it, but other projects are forever cropping up and demanding my attention. But as it's currently airing on American television, I'll commit to completing it within the month - and as a reminder to myself, I've decided to make one of its many compelling female characters my choice for Woman of the Month.
What makes Sooni Dalal stand out is that she's the light in a story that's very much told in shades of grey. No one is wholly good or bad, and every character exists on a wide spectrum of virtuous to corrupt behaviour. The cruel are capable of great kindness, and the well-meaning can make horrendous mistakes.
Yet Sooni is someone the audience can truly trust, simply because she's the only character who isn't lying about who she is or what she wants. With the passion and idealism of youth, she's staunchly opposed to the rule of the British Raj and is highly critical of her older brother Aafrin's job as a clerk to the Private Secretary to the Viceroy of India. In many ways she operates as his shoulder-angel – if such angels were judgmental and temperamental little sisters.
She is often in over her head when it comes to her political beliefs (a stint in a jail call after attending a rally shows her the ugly side of civil disobedience), but no one can doubt the sincerity of her conviction. Yet at the same time she sits at a fascinating intersection of gender and politics, for though she fights for Indian independence, her father is quick to point out that the education with which she fights it is the result of British colonization.
She's outspoken and brash, and incidentally, quite lovely as well. But for now at least any romantic entanglements play no part in her story arc, and by the end of the show's first season she's been placed in a position (narratively speaking) that may well influence the course of her country's history.