Damnit are there no reasonably well-known horror movies of the 1980s left that have not yet been remade or sequelified? I feel like The Thing was the last one and that remake was seriously underwhelming (digital Thing, not nearly so squicky--maybe it's scary in 3D?), even with Mary Elizabeth Winstead going all Ripley.

[community profile] ante_up_losers is live! There are about 40 new stories in the exchange and scramble (treat) collections. I ended up finishing my assignment (somehow one of the longest stories I've ever posted, no really how did that happen? and probably never going to be as popular as the one I wrote last year) and four treats for different recipients (all below 1000 words each, mostly nearer the lower end of the rating scale, exhibiting a range of moods and 'ships but mostly talky gen fluff, one crossover that I am maybe not-so-casually considering expanding, to the point of checking [community profile] fandomcalendar for Big Bang events that I could count it towards); you can try to identify them, if you want, before the reveal on Tuesday.

Anyway, continuing from last post, trying vainly to show some fucking restraint damnit, more opinions about media!


Captain America: The First Avenger vs. X-Men: First Class . . . it kind of pains me to say this, feels like a betrayal of my historical intra-Marvel fannish affiliations, but the former is a much, much better movie than the latter, and I honestly kind of love it. It kind of took me by surprise, because until I saw that movie I really could not give half a shit about Captain America in any medium or context, and now I cannot wait for The Avengers (of course that's not all down to Cap, the other groundwork movies have done their appetite-whetting job too, but there's a not insignificant amount of "Steeeeeeeeve ♥_♥ " going on when I look at teasers and anticipatory fanworks). I'm not sure which is chicken, between me getting uncharacteristically fond of Captain America and me quietly becoming the second kind of person (the first kind is People Who Don't Care about Chris Evans), and which the egg, but something either hatched or got laid because I just watched a terrible romcom because Evans was in it and so was Ari Graynor and even though he played the kind of person that I would cross the street to stab in the face I found his performance kind of adorbulant (don't worry about me, I'll get over this). There's more to it than that, though, and a lot of it's concisely illustrated in how well it stands up next to the disappointment of XMFC: it's a more attentive period movie (for all the cheap fun XMFC had with the 60s thing in some scenes, a lot of dialogue and wardrobe/character design choices were inconsistent), a better classic hero-origin story (not always my thing but damnit they made it work), argably better on race & gender not!fail (I think fewer significant women and characters of colour and passes Bechdel by a toothskin technicality, but those that are there are better employed/done-by in terms of not being arbitrarily objectified, sidelined, killed off, or villainized [I know, in the moral landscape of X-Menland, the Brotherhood are not necessarily evil or unsympathetic, but.]), even somehow less endemically nationalistic/America-centric, it felt to me--amazing, given the names, reputations, and settings of the respective stories/franchises--and more intensely affecting. I don't want to rag on XMFC too much because it does contain some pretty people and some strong performances (with some overlap between) and some fun or memorable scenes and it has understandably inspired a slew of excellent fanworks, and I certainly don't want to sound like I'm smearing or shaming anyone for preferring XMFC, I just . . . found it kinda weak, and no credit to the X-Men name (last tangent: I think there's material for an awesome XMFC vid to Spirit of the West's "Political", but Avengersverse films should make an equally good or better vid to "I've Been Asleep for a Long Long Time" by Hey Rosetta, and I doubt I've the skill yet to make either).

The Muppets: cute, but not a great film in itself and kind of strange in ways that cannot be explained by Muppet logic alone. Obvious recruitment tool for people not adequately acquainted with the Muppets in their better days; never approaches the glory of yore but if it gets people checking out the back-catalogue (the original series was amazing, as were some of the earlier feature films--at least The Muppet Movie and The Muppets Take Manhattan, and of course I have a soft spot for the literary adaptations from my childhood--and I cannot believe that there are people on this continent who've never heard of them), and some good jokes and nostalgia-triggers for the rest of us. Impressive for representing all of the most popular American comedy television franchises of the moment, at least briefly. Provides probably a more direct view into Jason Segel's brain than you could ever, ever want, yet also shadowed by the inscrutable whims of the Disney funding behemoth, so it's hard to know who to blame for the bits that at best just don't work and at worst give you the screaming rage of FAIL (in particular, the Moopets. Ye gawds how I hate the Moopets. Making "scary" [pierced, racialized, gender non-normative] evil mirrors to the good Muppets as villains is not only the worst kind of diversity representation, it also obscures and undermines the positive representation of diversity and nonconformity exemplified the giddy profusion of weirdness the Muppets have always offered. Miss Poogy, especially--even if she's not 'supposed' to be a trans woman or a drag queen, she presents 'failed femininity' as threatening and repulsive: not a good message, and more a major backslide in Miss Piggy's character history to an antagonistic role and monstrous enactment of aggressive sexuality, greed, and OTT, deviant femininity, rather than a celebration of how Piggy has developed and become an empowering figure for many of the same reasons she used to be a foil and laughingstock). Only one really good original song (though that one is hella catchy) but some good use of licensed music (chief advantage of having the Disney funding behemoth breathing down your neck, copyright is effectively no obstacle). Meh.

Of course it could never hold a candle to A Muppet Family Christmas (BEST. EVER.), the 1987 special that had all major Henson Studios franchises (Muppets, Sesame Street, and Fraggles) converging on Fozzie's mother's farmhouse for heartwarming revelry and a guest appearance by Henson himself (if any of you haven't seen it lemme know and I'll upload an .avi--it is by far my favourite 'holiday' special of any kind, and apparently left a number of major, I think mostly positive, impressions in my squishy young brainmeats).


Oh, I could go on forever here, but I'm going to try to be good and limit myself to one creative unit that you really do want to listen to: Spring Breakup, the artistic partnership of my long-beloved Kim Barlow (words, voice, banjo) and Mathias Kom, the stable (for certain values of stable) nucleus of the Burning Hell (words, voice, guitar, ukulele, looking a bit like a baby Nick Offerman), combining their particular brands of twisted musical genius to make pretty noises about relationships and the end thereof (every song is inspired by an actual breakup; to learn more about this project watch this educational video). It's actually kind of hard to describe--the project overall is sort of bittersweet oddball acoustic folk, but individual songs range dramatically in mood and style, especially on their second record It's Not You, It's Me, from deliciously agonizingly melancholic to sweetly and hilariously kooky. That's probably not helpful without illustration, so here's a five-track sampler with just a few of my many favourite songs, specifically:
"Never Eat Alone", about trying to channel all those leftover ring-of-fire feelings into something creative
love for you
all the things that I could do with this big old love for you
I'm a cannonball

"Unprincipled", very possibly the greatest song in the world, about a teacher-student relationship and showcasing Spring Breakup's stunningly brilliant songwriting and elegantly crafted duets
I'll miss you like Jesus / I'll miss you like sin
when I'm hanging around in detention again /
when we read about the Franklin expedition /
I'll miss you when I'm learning looooong division

"I Never", an achingly sad yet touchingly funny musical voicemail goodbye/apology letter recounting the failings of an ex who's just received a grim prognosis [warning for self-harm/suicide]
call me morbid but my sense of regret is as clich├ęd and permanent as a barbed-wire armband tattoo
and I'm using that ink to finish this list of the things I never did do

"You Don't Need a Heart" is a delicate little ditty about an unnecessary organ that would make a pretty sweet Brown Betty!verse Fringe vid
cut loose that aorta, it's just sorta a tentacle, useless as ventricles now that you're free
you don't need a heart to feel love
you don't need a heart to feel love
and heartless is as heartless does

"Humminah" is a spoken-word + omnichord version of one of Kim's most perfect songs, with non-genderswapped vocals by Mathias
I wrote him a letter that said, "how can you be nearly asleep in my arms in the bathtub at night and the next day you act like you don't even know me?"

Also, while I'm sharing, have two more songs, both from Christine Fellows' latest-but-one record, Nevertheless: "Cruel Jim", which I forgot to mention last post would make a really beautiful Silence-from-the-outside Nurse.Fighter.Boy vid, and "Nevertheless" because it is a never-fail pick-me-up song and don't we all need more of those.


Fringe: Finally caught up with aired episodes early in the fourth season, and glad I did. Still good, still keeping the weirdness fresh, still providing pretty good character drama, and still one of the least disappointingly feminist sci-fi shows I've seen in years. Last night's episode was pretty good. I love how Alt!livia especially twists Mirrorverse convention, and oh, ALT!STRID! ♥

Misfits: Diss. Uh. Pointing. I don't blame Robert Sheehan's departure from the show for this season's decline; Rudy did a good enough job of replacing Nathan as The Most Embarrassing One and at the levels of overall tone and quotidian character voices and reactions the show still delivered pretty gratifyingly on the first two seasons' promise, but what the fuck happened to the characters and continuity in between those structural levels? Was not impressed by the new powers, honestly--they got a few moments out of Kelly's and the episode that focused on Curtis' and his experiences as Mel was praiseworthy, definitely the strongest of the season, and I think a really clever and admirable way of making viewers think about sexism and rape culture and their participation in it without being at all preachy (and I'm sad that they had to give away that power--especially in such a stupidly implausible way--because Kehinde Fadipe was awesome and I want to see more of her), but Alisha's and Simon's new powers? Effectively useless, because they didn't bloody use them. And what the hell, Nazi episode--I suppose you were just as inevitable as the zombie episode in your own way, but that is not the way you should have happened because that is NOT how Curtis' old power worked and that just generally didn't make any sense. I like that Curtis and Kelly got to do more, this season, but I don't like how much of Kelly's expanded role was in service to Seth's manpain and I don't like that Alisha did basically fuck all; if Antonia Thomas was going to leave the show anyway she could have done so sooner and in a way that did more justice to the character (and what the hell is going on with that? Simon's going back in time this way technically fits the circumstances of Superhoodie's arrival but not the spirit of his mission as he explained it to Alisha in series 2 and again just doesn't make sense for the characters--closed death loop, what the fucking fuck, that's not romantic, it's stupid). Also what the hell, why does nobody remember Nikki? At least in the Mel episode, Curtis should have mentioned Nikki. Basically, I am pissed that this show too has gone the teeth-gnashing way of Heroes (started so promising, turned so shit), and in about the same number of episodes though stretched over a longer time period, and wondering whether all 'suddenly superheroes in an otherwise normal-ish world' shows are inherently doomed to the same failure.

Parks and Recreation: Bless! I love all the characters and their little faces, each in their own special way. Every episode is like hugs and candy.


Arctic Air, new precious of the CBC, is definitely still finding its feet but the set-up shows a lot of promise and I hope it'll get the chance to find a following (your mission, should you choose to accept it) and to earn their loyalty. Centred around a small airline in Yellowknife, NWT, it stars Adam Beach (one of the dozen-odd First Nations actors who take turns appearing in everything Aboriginal-related on both sides of the border and one of the even fewer who sometimes gets roles not specifically written for First Nations actors) as Bobby Martin, son of one of the founders of Arctic Air, who returns to Yellowknife somewhat reluctantly after leaving to find success in Vancouver as a venture capitalist; Kevin McNulty as the owner of the airline Mel Ivarson; and Pascale Hutton as his daughter Krista, one of the airline's managers and leading pilots. It also features an ambitiously large supporting cast, nearly half of them First Nations, including BSG alumni Michael Hogan and Kandyse McClure, Lorne Cardinal (Davis from Corner Gas, weird to see him being serious again), and some other faces you might recognize from Anything Filmed in Canada. I hope they'll finish introducing new faces soon and get into some meatier character stories and multi-episode arcs before they run out of nailbiter-of-the-week disasters because yes, the Far North setting does present a unique range of environmental and social hazards, but the list is finite and it feels gimmicky when I don't yet care about the characters (although it does amuse me to play bingo with the bridge from Veda Hille's "Tuktoyaktuk Hymn"--"sudden storms, guns that jam, alcohol, late spring break-up/ thin ice, rogue bear, engine failure, engine failure, engine failure"--and yes I know that Tuktoyaktuk is about as much farther west and even more north from Yellowknife as Winnipeg is from Toronto, the North is that freaking huge), and also because some of the established and potential character relationships look really fun to explore. Besides wanting the show to be good and to do well because of that, I really want its success to encourage more shows on major network(s) that not only employ good balances of women (near gender parity, among characters listed on CBC website) and actors of colour, but that actively engage with social and environmental issues directly in the way that this one promised in its pilot. Yellowknife is a smart setting for stories like that, given the current boom-phase extractive industries situation and the demographics (one of the only jurisdictions in Canada where Aboriginal people outnumber non-Aboriginals) and the fact that for many (southern, urban) Canadians (let alone people in other countries for whom the subject doesn't even make the social studies curriculum) the North is this vague, romantic, blurrily barren frontier off there somewhere, that is if they think about it at all (I'm hardly better--never been farther than Churchill and that was a family trip ~18 years ago, and it hasn't been a major academic focus, but compared to many Torontonians I've met I'm an expert, coming as I do from the deep bush/frozen wasteland of southern Manitoba). Anyway: promising characters and themes, and should be appealing to, for example, due South fans interested in the continuing adventures of Fraser & friends in the Territories today (first person to write that crossover gets a dozen homemade ninjabread cookies!); at the very least, I hope the show itself lasts longer than the ads flashing Beach and Hutton's pretty faces from half the billboards in town.

I'm even more excited about Bomb Girls, about women working in a munitions factory in Toronto during WWII, and very disappointed to discover that it's only a six-part mini-series (hoping for renewal at this point, though we'll see what next week's conclusion brings). Leaders of the ensemble cast introduced in the first episode include Lorna (Meg Tilly), shift matron at Victory Munitions, with two sons overseas and a grown daughter Sheila (Natasha Greenblatt) working at the hospital; Gladys (Jodi Balfour), a grocery heiress engaged to an American businessman, who defies her family by working at the factory and then deceives them by leaving her job in the office to work on the floor with the other Blue Shift girls; Kate aka Marion (Charlotte Hegele), a musically gifted girl running away from her street preacher father; Betty (Ali Liebert, Nikki the bartender on Harper's Island), a tough and 'different' prairie girl and a leader at the factory; Marco (Antonio Cupo), the factory's charming materials controller; Vera (Anastasia Phillips), a flirty worker who's injured on the floor (it's kinda gruesome) late in the first episode and spends the rest of the series in hospital facing/fearing the consequences of her disfigurement; and Bob (Peter Outerbridge, if you haven't heard of him I haven't heard of you), Lorna's husband, a bitter veteran of the first war, paraplegic and living with PTSD. Most of the major character conflicts and canon relationships (e.g., my favourites: trouser-wearing Betty's protective interest in innocent Kate; Lorna's xenophobic suspicion of Italian-born Marco giving way to attraction while she and Bob drift apart; Gladys having her privilege called by the other workers while also shaking things up with her boldness and eventually making friends) are set up by the end of the first episode and proceed more or less predictably from there, but I'm pretty satisfied with the execution and there have been some pleasant surprises. I was a little miffed at the casting of the first episodes (all White but for Tilly and she's playing a White character, and although the vehement anti-Italian sentiment was interesting historically it's now only allegorical racism and doesn't count the same) but the third episode introduces Jim Codrington as Leon, a factory worker and jazz musician and a source of inspiration for Kate and irritation for Betty, bringing the treatment of race closer in line with the already (I think) thoughtful and nuanced explorations of disability, class, and especially of sexuality and gender in the program (there's room for improvement, of course, but less than with a lot other media productions). The production looks good, to my admittedly not-an-expert-on-the-era eye--I saw one garden that looked too modern but otherwise the period setting is well-maintained visually (plus I'm pretty sure I handled some of those wardrobe items while working on that documentation job) and in dialogue, though the effort to tackle social injustices in a historically relevant way does lead to some potentially triggering words and gestures and there are a few scary scenes. Basically, it is a pleasingly complicated and well-constructed period drama with a strong cast and a whole lot of multi-dimensional women characters, and I want more of it.

House of Lies is slick and smart with an outstanding cast (Don Cheadle, Kristen Bell, Ben Schwartz, Glynn Turman, Richard Schiff, etc.) and lots of fun and informative fourth-wall breaking, and it's at least as crass and shock-hungry as Misfits. Marty Kaan (Cheadle) leads a team of management consultants, who are kind of like a Mirrorverse version of the crews of thieves of Leverage and Hustle and so on in that they are smooth operators who jet around and use a variety of devious social hacking tactics to achieve their goals and move enormous sums of money, only these folks are, like, neutral evil (they work for the corporations but mostly for themselves and they have a flexible interest in the law) instead of chaotic good. I find it by turns delightful and repulsive yet so far engrossing. The characters are such slimeballs, even/especially to each other, and yet I kind of love them--Marty is cavalierly amoral and keeps making the same mistakes (like angry-banging his even sleazier ex-wife Monica) yet he's also impressively cool and caring for a TV dad and has a kinda beautiful relationship with his happily gender nonconforming 10-year-old kid Roscoe; Jeannie (Bell) is like what Veronica Mars could have been, all grown up in a universe where she gave up her crime-solving dreams or possibly it was Keith who left her with Lianne or maybe Lilly never died and she grew up popular and miserable; Clyde (Schwartz) is basically Jean-Ralphio only . . . I was going to say "slightly more restrained", except it's more that he's competent--same goals, more success; and Doug (Josh Lawson) could be a really good person if he found a different line of work. It's also really, really kinky, though not consistently kink-positive--like, the second episode starts with Marty and ex-wife Monica having rough sex in a restaurant bathroom with breathplay until they both safeword, and has a really special Clyde/Doug roleplayed seduction scene that ends, as many things do, with Doug's humiliation and then of course there's Marty and Jeannie having dinner with a client and his wife, that leads to Marty doing all kinds of things with the wife in her dungeon while the husband rubs and sucks Jeannie's feet and they both enjoy it in the moment but swear each other to silence after, and the episode makes a running gag out of Clyde badgering Doug about "hooking up with a tranny". If you watch only one aired-to-date episode of this show, whether to join me in my Mirrorverse crossover delusion (Rhodey and Veronica and Jean-Ralphio, oh my), make it number 4 (the San Francisco episode where Marty takes Roscoe to work with him on a case with a precocious software billionaire, Doug fails at being George Clooney, Jeannie hooks up with and has kind of a nifty switchy D/s vibe with soulful folksinger!Nick Stahl [cheating on her secret fiance], Roscoe bonds with Doug, Marty flips out at Monica's voicemail for neglecting Roscoe--there's still some fat-shaming and a prison rape joke and a lot of drug use, but the heart-to-asshole ratio is unusually high), and steer well clear of number 5 (Utah, just don't go there).

Stay tuned for Festivids recs, if you, y'know, care.
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