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Tag: American Horror Story

Lists the Season: The Almost But Not Quite of 2014

63e585fdbec5de61c1ec3b78d954db5fIt’s that time of the year again: lists, lists and more lists. Everyone’s counting down the best and worst 2014 had to offer in movies, TV, music, art and media and I’m no exception. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, who doesn’t like making lists? There were some great offerings this past year and as far as movies go; Boyhood, Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel were all brilliant. Television brought us great new shows like Fargo, True Detective and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. But for every delight like Louie’s violin duet we were also subjected to dreck like Oh Shenandoah. It was an unfortunate year for some really good shows that kind of lost their way, as well as some really dreadful things that got way too much traction. I’m going to focus this list on the Almost But Not Quites: things that didn’t quite gel, sometimes because their execution was a little off and others because they were just plain awful.

8. U2’s free album. I do feel the state of music is at an all time low right at the moment, but I was surprised by the vitriol unleashed by the internet when the biggest band on the planet tried to give them something for free. People were truly offended by this act. They felt violated; like someone had come into their homes uninvited, stayed too long and told a bunch of really boring stories. U2’s album suffered more from being hum-drum than being outright bad, and that I guess is the most unforgivable act of all.

97305c2b320d4709c79c2cdfa6e1eab87. American Horror Story: Freakshow. It pains me to write this, but our little horror soap-opera has gone off the rails. This season has no real cohesion, emotional center or satisfying endgame in sight. It feels like they’re making it up as they go. Unfortunately, AHS suffers from the same problem U2 does; their past accomplishments make their new ones feel sloppy and substandard. What happened to Twisty or Life on Mars? It started with promise and then just faltered. The only thing that could possibly redeem this season for me is if the final scene was literally the fat lady singing and then we would all know that it was mercifully over.

6.  Gone Girl. This movie made it onto a number of best-of lists and I’m a little confused as to why.This is probably the best example of Almost But Not Quite on this list. I reviewed the audio-book  a little earlier and came away with a lot of problems, none of which the movie solved.  The film did have some great ingredients like Rosamund Pike and David Fincher but didn’t wring out any real coherent insight. In the end, the premise is silly and the results too unbelievable.

5. House of Cards Season 2. Speaking of silly and unbelievable, enough said.

1D274907462463-fallon-seinfeld4. The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Jimmy Fallon is supposedly killing it right now as the new king of late night. I’ll hand it to him, he knows how to create social media buzz with short celebrity filled memes that have a life after 11:35, but I realized the other day; the reason he does so much game playing with his guests is because he’s a terrible interviewer. The games are there to fill the gaping hole that has been created. He talks as much about himself as he tries to create conversation. He seems nice enough, but when Colbert shows up next year, Jimmy’s in trouble.

3. The Strain. What started out compelling soon turned into well… a strain.

download2. The Newsroom. I am going to miss this show. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any more pretentious and condescending, they really outdid themselves on their final kick at the cat, and when I say cat – I mean social media and when I say kick -I mean whine incessantly at. Throw in a whole lot of sexism and romantic subplots that had the fizzling tension of a Who’s the Boss? episode and you have the show you love to hate.

1. The art of James Franco. I think the most obnoxious thing of 2014 was the ill conceived re-imagining of Cindy Sherman’s untitled film stills (see top of  postby Mr. James Franco. There are no words. In 2015, please leave the art making to the real artists.   

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Lists the Season: TV edition 2013

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It’s that wonderful time of the year again; when we organize our lives into easily readable bullet-ed points rating our experiences from good to bad. Who doesn’t love lists? Many of you reading this right now probably have a few lists on the go as we speak: presents to buy, food to make, movies to watch etc.. Last year I listed my favourite Christmas tunes. This year I contemplated listing movies, but since I only saw 12 Years a Slave and Blue Jasmine it would make for a  very short one. Both films are excellent by the way.

What I lacked in movie watching, I more than made up for in TV consumption. They say we are in the ‘new golden age’ of television. So much so, that it is hypothesized that TV entertainment may have enriched our standard of living. To add on to that, one seriously flawed outlook implies that no one can truly be considered poor when they are surrounded by so much rich distraction. Wow, who knew  TV wasn’t just  teaching us what to do in the case of a zombie apocalypse or how to be a functioning alcoholic at work but also trying to eliminate poverty? God bless us, every single one.

2013 was definitely a spoil of riches when it comes to TV entertainment. We had to say good-bye to some beloved characters and some not so beloved, as well as were introduced to a whole bevy of new ones. (Attention there may be Spoilers.)

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 10. Orange is the New Black garnered a lot of praise when it came out. It is a show I like but don’t love. It never graduated to binge watching. We would watch an episode or two and then forget about it for awhile. The high point for me is Tayrnn Manning’s portrayal of Tiffany Doggett. She does crazy well.

9. Treme / Boardwalk Empire HBO does TV well. I came up with a tie for number 9. Both shows are wonderful pastiches of unique times and places. Their settings are their protagonists, with many story lines running parallel to one another, sometimes never crossing and other times unexpectedly intersecting. Music is a key feature for both shows, delivering gems every episode.

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8. Broadchurch explores the fallout of a young boy’s murder on the inhabitants of a small seaside town. It is a classic who-done-it with multiple suspects and dead ends. They are remaking it for american TV, I just hope they get the emotional weight right.

7. Day of the Doctor The latest season of Dr. Who may not have been its strongest but all was forgiven with this year’s 50th anniversary special.

6. American Horror Story: Coven This season may not even be over yet but it has already made the list. It is experiencing its highest ratings ever and people are thoroughly hooked. On a show that out crazies itself every week I got two words: mellon baller. Yikes.

5. Shameless never gets enough love. William H Macy is in a word: without shame.

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4. House of Cards was definitely binge worthy. Kevin Spacey makes being bad look so good but it’s Robin Wright who can turn your heart to ice. I’m a little nervous after viewing the trailer for season 2. Francis looks like he is teetering into the dangerous and cartoonish ‘The Devil’s Advocate’s’  depiction of evil. Putting out candles with your fingers is never a good sign.

3. Game of Thrones  Two words: Red Wedding.

2. Mad MenFive wordsThe Desolation of Don Draper. 

TV Breaking Bad Gallery

1. Breaking Bad has gone on now to live in the Pantheon of all time greatest TV shows with The Sopranos and The Wire. Absolutely tremendous ride and one of the reasons we call it ‘the new golden age’.

Into the Labyrinth: American Horror Story Coven

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For every good television program, there are a thousand bad ones. For every new idea, there are a thousand recycled ones. Sacrifices need to be made on the alter of good taste in order for things to move forward. Some of these sacrifices are unnerving and painful to watch.  If you’ve been with American Horror Story from the beginning, then you’ve already seen your fair share of flinch worthy material. We’re entering the third season, and are now deep into the labyrinth of  nightmares and pain and lucky for us; the pain is delicious.

Many centuries ago on the Greek Isle of Crete,  King Minos suffered a moment of doubt and prayed to the Gods to show him a sign. Poseidon hearing his prayers sent forth the most beautiful white bull any human had ever set eyes on rising from the sea foam. Poseidon had planned for Minos to sacrifice it in a ceremony in his honour, but Minos had other plans. He substituted one of his own prize calves instead and kept the white bull for himself. Poseidon was not amused with the deception, so he decided to teach Minos a lesson. Poseidon bewitched Minos’ wife Pasipha to fall in love with the bull and she in her delusion employed the great architect Daedalus to construct a wooden bull decoy for her to climb into to fool her new love. The plan worked and the Minotaur was born.

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Minos found himself the foster father to a hideous monster. Daedalus was once again called and a labyrinth was built to house Minos’ problem child. The Minotaur was imprisoned but not forgotten, Minos arranged annual sacrifices by tyrannizing  nearby Athens who had to supply seven youths and seven maidens for the Minotaur to devour. On the tenth year of the sacrifice, the hero Theseus counted himself among the seven. On his arrival to Crete, Minos’ daughter Ariadne fell in love with the Athenian. She couldn’t bear to have her crush chomped by her half-brother, so she came up with a way to help him. She gave Theseus a ball of string and a sword and had him hide them near the entrance to the labyrinth. He used the sword to kill the Minotaur and the string to find his way back out of the maze. He swiftly left Crete, taking Ariadne with him, later abandoning her on a island while she slept. You can see his ship sailing away on the left side of Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne. Jerk.

Titian Bacchus and Ariadne 1520-1523

Titian Bacchus and Ariadne 1520-1523

Apparently, the Minotaur didn’t die that day in the labyrinth, but was resurrected at the hands of Madame LaLaurie (played by the tour de force that is Kathy Bates) in 1832 Louisiana. Bates’s character is based on a real woman who actually did unspeakable things to the people in her charge. According to AHS lore she was cursed for her atrocities with immortality and buried for 180 years by Marie Laveau -Voodoo witch played by Angela Bassett. Madame LaLaurie is dug up in modern day New Orleans and is quickly whisked off to the local finishing school for young witches. In the first two episodes of Coven we’ve been introduced to death by sex, franken-boyfriend, a homicidal child star, a human voodoo doll, Stevie Nicks and our good friend the Minotaur among other things.

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American Horror Story Coven is already deep into the labyrinth, how far you might ask? Who knows, I threw the string out seasons ago. I’ll go anywhere they want to lead me as long as Jessica Lange’s the tour guide. This show is so over the top it transcends both good and bad and has become its own thing.  AHS jumped the shark halfway through its season one opening credits. You don’t watch American Horror Story for the subtlety or what passes for substance these days, you watch it to see Jessica Lange chew through everything in her wake. (This season judging by the cast, she has some fine sparring partners to go toe to toe with.) I’ve been lost in this maze of Horror tropes, mixed messages, great one liners and paint yourself into a corner plot-lines for a few years now and have grown very fond of the monsters and dead ends I’ve found here.

Oh the Horror, the Horror

The over the top circus that is  American Horror Story tickles me to no end. I was thrilled this week when season 2 premiered; shifting gears with a whole new premise and story arch. Although we have moved from a modern day residential Californian neighbourhood to an asylum for the criminally insane circa 1964 all the elements that made the first season so compelling are still intact.    The thing I really like about A.H.S. is that it wears its influences on its sleeves. They have no problem with paying homage to or directly ripping off scenes from countless Horror films. In the season 2 premiere alone we see references to Fire in the Sky, Carrie, Silence of the Lambs and a not so subtle tip of the hat to A Clockwork Orange amongst others. It is obvious that the writers of the show are also huge fans of the genre.

When it comes to Horror I’m conflicted: I really love the themes and creativity that it reflects but I have no real interest in watching a whole movie nowadays. As a social barometer it is brilliant, the trends in Horror say so much about the times we live in.  Right now we are fascinated with the imminent  zombie apocalypse and the ghosts that we have lurking in our own homes. Horror’s job is to prey on our fears and what people fear most right now is the perceived instability of the economy and the breakdown of society that it may cause. The real estate crisis is the real evil presence that  has crept into our houses. Foreclosure becomes the poltergeist and the safety we once felt about the place we reside is shaken. People don’t feel safe in their own homes anymore and movies like Paranormal Activity, Insidious and Sinister all play on this to some level.

Another aspect that a movie  like Paranormal Activity addresses is our overwhelming fascination with documenting everything. Technology has come so far that everyone has the capability to film every waking and in the case of P.A. sleeping hour of the day. We have become addicted to the small screen and we may be dangerously close to losing the big picture. You don’t need to watch The Walking Dead to see zombies, just go to your local mall. Everywhere you look people are lumbering along, heads down, completely disengaged with their surroundings and enamored with their handheld devices. What happens when you put a bunch of zombies in a room together? Nothing; for a creature that is constantly surrounded by their peers they are horrible at socializing. What happens when you put a bunch of people around a table who all have cell phones? You do the math.

Horror is the perfect mirror that shows us our inner monsters and ridiculous attitudes. It allows us to safely exercise these demons with an adrenaline inducing jolt or spine chilling shiver. Where Horror lost me was the trend towards more jump scares and torture. I feel torture has very little social commentary or entertainment value. I’m not opposed to the odd bit of gore but in this everything’s been done/nothing’s shocking climate, I long for the days of the straight forward masked psychopath stalker of the seventies and eighties. Those movies were the perfect morality plays. They banked upon society’s irrational love/hate affair with youth. Teenagers were always up to no good. It seemed all they did was sneak off into the woods and get wasted and have sex. If this was the kind of conduct you would engage in, then you would obviously suffer some grizzly fate. Horror as moral compass, the contradiction is sublime.

These days television has picked up the Horror gauntlet in a new and refreshing way. Both American Horror Story and The Walking Dead are taking the genre into the realm of serial storytelling where characters and plots have time to grow and evolve over the course of a season. The story is the armature in which to build the scares around. After an engaging first season The Walking Dead nearly lost me during season 2. It devolved into one earnest conversation followed by an even more earnest conversation with every episode finishing with a shocking reveal. I hope season 3 has a little more to offer. American Horror Story: Asylum has definitely something to offer and that something is Jessica Lange. Her role may be new but her presence is always exhilarating. I would put her in the same league as Edie Falco; actors who can totally inhabit a character and then shed it to define a new persona. Jessica Lange’s Sister Jude  exudes both menace and pathos in equal measure. She is doing wrong in the name of right, oh the horror, the horror.