2013.03.18: It was a dark and stormy … afternoon

Sunday celebration, Monday rotation, and various and sundry.


What do you do on the 17th of March? If it’s 2012 you get some good and frequently (but not exclusively) Irish beer from the best beer store in town (or, in this case, across the river), and you drink it while watching the ‘Leprechaun’ movies, or at least as many as you can handle. If it’s 2013 you return to that watering hole, get different beers, and find different movies to watch.

And you have pizza.

A nice pizza margherita with the right balance of sauce, cheese, and crust to let each facet shine.

And then you watch “Legion”, which is not based upon the Brandon Sanderson novella or the William Peter Blatty (of “Exorcist” fame) novel (1983), though in tone it’s probably more like the latter than the former. It’s a waste of a perfectly good cast — by which I mean Dennis Quaid, Charles S.Dutton, Paul Bettany, and Tyrese Gibson. The person in charge of casting the film put less effort into anchoring it with well-known (in some way or another) women, though Adrianne Palicki has had a significant television career and Kate Walsh is known from ‘Grey’s Anatomy’. Did I mention that we get professional villain Kevin Durand and Doug “they rarely let me speak” Jones to boot?

Seriously overqualified for such a cinematic turd.

I prefer reimagining the entire movie as a three-act (or similar) stageplay set in a diner in the dessert. We’d have to jettison Michael’s original fall to earth and encounter with the police, but that’s no great loss, and there’s really no reason — except the desire to film an incomprehensible action sequence in order to justify the film’s budget — to put the characters on the road at the end. If it’s a three-act text, then I want the first to be quite realistic, the second surrealistic, and the third chaotic nearly to the point of anarchy. The tones of two and three could be swapped. Perhaps. Or maybe surreal, anarchic, and mundane is the proper approach and order. As the movie wants to maintain its religious overtones — not worthy of being labeled a discussion or even rhapsody –, I’d treat the first act as human vs. human testing and trials and disappointment, the second as a perceived tested/challenged-by-god narrative, and the third actually as the testing of the faith of the so-called angels.

The movie as presented has all sorts of failings. Bettany’s Michael wants us to believe that Jeep (Lucas Black) is the most important character, but he’s also the least interesting in nearly every way … as portrayed. He’s hinted at as a kind of ‘innocent’, but in that case he needs to be a character ‘full of grace’ who intersects everyone else’s story without having too much of one of his own. The notion that the human characters would become more mundane, self-reflective, and grounded as the events around them spiral out of control — anchoring their humanity in monolog and dialog — is an artistic conceit the movie could have used, but it fails to emulsify portention and pretention as it progresses and instead blandly bloats its way to the predetermined finish line. And its message? This is a movie for the gun-crazy right-wing, tea partying fundy crowd. It’s a soulless spiritual rip-off of ‘Terminator’.

And then we turned to “Daybreakers”, which I’d seen once before.

It makes much more sense narratively than the underachieving mess that is “Legion”. Seriously, though, I think Ms. S. and I both would happily watch a ham-off between Willem “Mr. Experimental Theatre” Dafoe and Sam “Anything for a paycheck, even though because of Jurassic Park I’ll never have to work again” Neill. Have you seen “Possession”? Have you enjoyed the fruit loopy acid trip that is “Happy Town”?

Hello? “Event Horizon”.

Ethan Hawke is the low-key sane one in this production.

And he’s a vampire.

You’re welcome.


How do we return to ‘rotation’ after that?

With “A Single Blade of Grass” (‘Millennium’) and “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (‘X-Files’), the latter making us think that perhaps we never left Sunday evening.

“A Single Blade of Grass” marks another episode with no regulars but Frank Black making an appearance; it also provides us with more of the direction season 2 is taking … more religion, less profiling and solving of ‘normal’ cases, and more Bobby Darin. Frank’s gift makes a stronger return, but less as advanced intuition and more as a psychic power; he’s also moved beyond questioning the existence of evil and more into examining its manifestations.

Saturday we enjoyed “Monster”, which turned the ritual abuse, town-wide panic phenomenon around a bit. It brought in Kristen Cloke, last seen as Mulder’s Civil War Soul Mate in ‘The X-Files’, this time as Scully to Frank Black’s Mulder. We called it early on: it was obvious that the little girl was our source of ‘evil’, but here there was much less investigation into the nature of that than we would have had in season one. Is she an “Omen”-esque Demien figure? What the episode goes out of its way to do is disrupt the idea that — in the way Catherine would have helped process in season one as a social worker — the child’s behavior could be explained by her past, by genetics, by a family situation or social ills; there was nothing ‘causal’ to latch onto. We get a bit more ‘mythology’, too, while we’re at it, as the girl seems to end up — just before the credits roll — in a Millennium Group affiliated foster home. And in terms of Frank’s own narrative, as in “Beware of the Dog”, the broader story relates to his family and marital difficulties.

“A Single Blade of Grass”, as does “Monster”, disrupts rationality. On the one hand a kind of overarching mytho-historical explanation is given, though the idea of a ‘lost’ and ‘scattered’ fifth Iroquois tribe reminds perhaps too closely of a 13th (or similar) tribe of Israel, especially given the apocalyptic — and apocryphal — connections. But on the other, while a claim is made that through the centuries of being lost/scattered traditions and knowledge were ‘maintained’ — meaning the rituals and prophecies –, Frank suggests that a “Jurassic Park” worthy instance of memetic rather than genetic mis-engineering has taken place. In Sam Neill’s JP, missing dinosaur genes were replaced — with unexpected consequences following! — by frog DNA; here lost knowledge was supplemented and blanks were filled in with borrowed myths and symbols. Prophecies became self-fulfilling. Causality was inverted.

And then several buffalo ran down the street.

Followed by clowns.

The end.

In a way “The Post-Modern Prometheus” is the perfect companion to “Monster”, even though as we go along episode by episode in each season it lines up with “A Single Blade of Grass”. Why “Monster”? Both have the small-town vibe, both have story-telling at their hearts — nursery rhymes in one, “Frankenstein” and comic books in the other –, both are so clearly products — children! — of the 90s, and both have their monsters. In contrast what we watched with “Monster” was “Detour”, one of the last great scary-ish monster of the week episodes featuring a pop culture crypto-zoology creature. We’d already had the Jersey Devil, and last season we had the chupacabra … now it was the Mothman’s turn, though the episode managed to link our monster(s) to the fountain of youth, Ponce de Leon, and predators culling their strongest opposition. It seems like a synthesis of our Jersey Devil episode, our Loch Ness Monster episode, the ‘Predator’ franchise, and even our way-back-when eco-terrorism-meets-prehistoric-mites episode.


What to do with all the blackeye peas?

I like them cooked up with diced onion, butter, and hot sauce. They make a great side. But this evening I suppose a take on pasta e fagioli is in order. Instead of cannellini beans or borlotti beans and elbow macaroni or similar, I’ll use the cowpeas and probably some penne or mini-penne, which we still have a good deal of in the cupboards. Add some tomatoes, maybe some spinach … what’s not to like?

See also:

Aside: Ah, I remember 2006-2007, when in a blog I’d often remark on my neighbors, Cheryl and what’s-his-name, their fights and her tears, and so on. The house was 125 years old and the walls were thin. I left that behind.

Until now.

I do not know the name of our neighbor upstairs. There’s an old guy behind us; he as a dog or two and a lady friend or such who comes over to help take said dogs for a walk once or twice a day. He’s the maintainer of a ragged cat we’ve labeled Fatty McOrange Fat. Said neighbor is quiet. On one side we have a shared wall with another apartment and hear nothing. But from above? The ceiling is thin. It’s as if she’s constantly performing sets of burpees and in between bowling with some sort of lane she installed, except there are no pins … just a hallway along which a ball bounces. But in recent days it’s not been a ball; I think it’s a bouncing, energetic child.

Is there a trampoline up there? We hear the metallic whine of springs from time to time; that could be a mattress. I like to think it’s just a young nephew or such staying for a few days, and then things will return to normal; if not, a visit to the management may be in order.

It’s Monday night; ‘The Following’ is on. And I’m vey happy that I’ve given up on it. It’s the kind of incompetent that makes ‘The Killing’ look like an award-winning feat of scripting and dramaturgy. I’m still waiting for it to be revealed that it was Kevin Bacon all along … that he’s the mastermind … and until that happens, the show is not worth returning to.

And now back to Schiller.

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