Thursday, May 31, 2007

Buffy Wednesday (30 May 2007)

After last week, where I still hadn't finished blogging by the time it was time to go over to tyranist's house, we Buffied a much more manageable two episodes.

Afterwards, we watched Battle Royale and both really enjoyed it.

I've been thinking that maybe I go into too much detail when talking about these episodes. After all, this is not an episode guide, and there are much better synopses out there, on sites official and unofficial. Sometimes I get carried away, but I'll try to be more brief from now on.

Need I mention that we have yet to see a bad episode since I've been blogging? And to be honest, there weren't any since season one. And who knows, those episodes might not have been half bad if I saw them again.

So, this week we saw "Helpless," which marked Buffy's eighteenth birthday. I think I've mentioned that I find it odd the way real time passes on the show. I don't know why they do it and I can't see how it could possibly make things better, but they're certainly unique in doing it. Me, I'd use the old high-school-takes-six-years trick that most teen-centric shows use. But what do I know; I once got fired from piano lessons.

Buffy finds herself losing her abilities as her eighteenth birthday appears, and before we suspect it's an unexplained plot device like in SPIDER-MAN 2, we find out that someone is injecting her with a kind of muscle relaxant to take away her abilities. Poor Buffy has to experience life in Sunnydale as a normal ninety-six pound girl*, and it's hard and scary.

The writer of this show was named David Fury. Can you imagine going through life with a name like David Fury? The way women would look at you when they hear you introduced, the way your professors would raise an eyebrow and say, "Yes, Mister Fury?", the intimidation your name alone would bring, the way your Uncle Nick would tell you about patrolling the skies and battling evil in a flying aircraft carrier? Maybe it was none of those things. Maybe it's a made up last name. I imagine it beats being named after an Eighties rock band, or an easy joke every time you want to play baseball. But wait, Buffy. I was talking about Buffy.

This episode introduced the head of the Watcher organisation, stuffy and academic. It also introduced a really personable vampire, he was quite unique and amusing in a feral, blood-thirsty way. He also takes about a thousand Polaroid pictures, which says about one million words about his personality.

This episode also featured the chap who would go on to play Lt. Malcolm Reed on "Star Trek: Enterprise," a show I am a big fan of, but was not as good as this one. He gets turned into a vampire.

We really get a lot of Giles-Buffy/father-daughter interaction in this episode and I was really diggin' it, but it all goes badly in the end. Don't it always?

Anyhow, we find out that Giles is the one who has been giving Buffy the drugs to make her weak, and that it's all part of a rite-of-passage Slayers have to go through: to confront and defeat a powerful vampire alone, using only their wits and no superpowers. Buffy takes this news (which Giles was not supposed to tell her) as an especially hurtful betrayal, and goes home, only to find her mother has been kidnapped by the vampires.

She goes to save her mother and confront the bloodsuckers, even though she is afraid and weak. She manages to trick her foe into drinking holy water, but Giles shows up and stakes the other one just in time. They seem to be reconciled, especially when the Head Watcher shows up and fires Giles for being too close to his student (being more of a father than a Watcher, is I believe how he puts it). Buffy celebrates her eighteenth birthday at home with her mother and friends. Good, good stuff.

Next, we had ourselves a Xander-centric episode in "The Zeppo." I was highly entertained by it, not only because Xander is my favourite character, but because they did something that should have been hopelessly obnoxious, but somehow it was uniquely adorable. Whoops, I need to up the manliness quotient in this review, otherwise the one person living in Guam who reads my blog will think less of me. Raw meat good, books bad.

In this episode, Xander realises that he has become somewhat useless to the group and uncool to everybody else. His still-embittered ex-girlfriend refers to him as the Zeppo of their merry band, and Xander never questions how somebody who looks and thinks like Cordelia Chase could know who Zeppo Marx was. He gets a car and falls in with a bad crowd, all the while missing out on Buffy and Company's most dangerous mission yet.

What's special about this show is that it's told from Xander's point of view, and as he is kept out of the loop, we miss most of what would normally be the A-story of female demons attempting to reopen the Hellmouth.

So Xander makes a new friend in Jack, a troublemaker in town with a nasty temper and no pulse. Just so happens that all his friends are undead too, students who met violent deaths and have been reanimated by Jack. They want to bake a cake, they claim, and coerce Xander into helping them steal supplies.

Meanwhile, the rest of the gang has their hands full preventing the end of the world. Whatever is going on with them, it's possible they won't live through it, and they make it clear they'd rather Xander not get in their way (though Willow does tell Xander she loves him, apparently convinced good's not gonna triumph over evil this time).

Xander abandons his flat-lining new friends and feeling worse than ever, sees Faith battling some demons. He plows his car into them and later gets to plow into Faith as well.** Good show, old boy.

Well, it turns out that the "cake" the deadfast club was planning on baking is actually a bomb they're setting underneath the high school, and Xander goes there to put a stop to it. He manages to defeat their whole group and confronts Jack as the bomb is counting down (meanwhile, the real superheroes are in the library trying to keep the Hellmouth closed and the pesky world from coming to an end). Xander keeps his cool, outpsyches Jack, and ends the episode with his groove back. None of the other characters are the wiser, having somehow beaten back the forces of evil (but not without their bruises) one more time. Especially Cordelia, who reminds Xander what a loser he is.*** This time, he takes it in stride.

My dog, this was a fine episode. If my groove ever reanimated itself and crawled out of the grave it slipped into sometime back in the Mesozoic Era, I'd hope to embrace life in the manner in which Xander Harris did on this show. Tyranist and I seldom say more than "Okay, time for you to get out of my house" when Buffy Wednesdays are done, but sometime, I'd like to take a minute to thank him for introducing me to this show. I can't imagine why I wasn't a fan of it when it was on the air, and I'll be hard-pressed to find another show like it when we're done watching them all.

I was also going to talk about "Fray," the comic book spin-off Joss Whedon created not too long ago, that I just read over the weekend, but I'll leave that for another day. I'm in a damn fine mood right now. If there really is somebody out there reading my words, I hope you're in one too, and that you have a life full of laughter and peace.

And do you have a sister?

Rish "The Crappo" Outfield

*I meant to say "a normal girl weighing seven stones," but it didn't sound as good.

**She needed to let off some steam, and grabbed Xander in a moment of animal lust (perhaps the imminent end of the world had something to do with it), but darned if that wouldn't be nice.

***May she go off like Erin Moran to do a damn spinoff show.

Friday, May 25, 2007

A Galaxy Not So Far Away

25 May 2007

A decade ago, for STAR WARS's twentieth anniversary, I wrote my very first STAR WARS essay. The internet was a lot younger then, and a hell of a lot smaller. There weren't such things as blogs, and as such, only about four people ever saw my essay, which I worked and reworked for the month leading up to the release of the STAR WARS SPECIAL EDITION.

A lot has happened in those ten years. I now shave regularly. I am now allergic to onions and carrots. I don't buy CDs anymore. I have credit cards and a dread cellphone and a car that goes over sixty miles per hour. I no longer harbour hopes of being an actor. I read less, write less, and watch less television. My life sucks, but in a different way from 1997.

I've had many dreams, and lived to see nearly every single one dashed on hard and jagged rocks.

The Prequels came and went, and I could talk about them. At length.

But maybe I should talk about that movie that's celebrating its thirtieth birthday, just for a minute, and just enough to touch on my feelings for it.

Man, I ate up those movies. I've spent more money on George Lucas's fantasy universe than I have on crack, porn, occult Nazi memorabilia, music, baseball cards, and Satanism combined.

STAR WARS has become so much more than a movie in the decades since it opened at a handful of theatres in 1977. Movies have changed in fundamental ways. The way films are made, marketed, distributed, and seen have evolved into a very different animal today, where they say now that a "theatrical release is just a preview for the DVD."

I haven't spent anything on Star Wars memorabilia lately, but the last thing I did buy was the book "The Making of Star Wars" by J.W. Rinzler. It was really interesting and shed light on the truly gargantuan struggles Lucas went through to get his film made. I had to admire the man when the shortsightedness of others threw countless roadblocks in the path of his vision, and he had to make the kind of compromises guaranteed to make him abandon directing. It was a testament to the hundreds of people who fought and brainstormed and innovated their way into a different world.

My grouchy old film teacher really despised Lucas's film, and often pointed out that people of my generation split film history not into "Silents and Talkies" or "Colour and Black & White," but into "Before STAR WARS and After STAR WARS." The book helped justify that, no matter what Lucas has done since then.

I love STAR WARS, EMPIRE, and JEDI. I'd like to say a lot more about them. But hey, it's May 25th, so I think I ought to post this before I miss the date. Maybe I'll come back and add recollections and thoughts and humourous asides and talk about how we went out to dinner Sunday night with my sister and her fiance and her fiance's kid was talking about how scary THE WIZARD OF OZ was, but that the Witch wasn't real but just a lady with makeup on and how nothing was real in the movies. And I pointed to a picture of R2-D2 and C-3PO and asked if he had seen that movie and if they were just ladies with makeup on, and he said, "No, those are really robots. All the stuff in STAR WARS is real."

We'll see what I manage in the days ahead.

Rish MTFBWY Outfield

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A New Golden Age of Horror

A little while ago, on the main page of the Horror Film Compendium, I posted a calendar of films coming out in 2007, inspired by the realisation that we were getting a theatrically released horror film every single week this year*. There was even one weekend we had THREE come out (one on Thursday and two on Friday). Excitedly, I turned to my friend tyranist and said, "Wow, we're experiencing a new Golden Age of Horror!"

My friend was kind enough not to roll his eyes. Or at least to wait until I'd left the room when he did it. But I've been shocked to see that the trend hasn't stopped since I made that statement. It's not even slowing down.

Oh, and your mother called. Your father just died. Sorry it slipped my mind.

This is an exciting time to be a Horror fan. Now, don't get me wrong: when I say
we're in a golden age, that doesn't mean that every film that comes out is a good one, or even worth seeing. Horror is a very subjective genre, and what one person considers a horror flick, someone else might consider a Thriller, or a Suspense Film, or a Mystery, or a Supernatural Action Film, or a Period Historical Bestiality Picture, or just plain Sci-Fi. But regardless of personal taste, there are so many outlets for films now: major theatrical releases, minor releases and film festivals, direct-to-DVD (which is a massive market today), direct-to-cable (like the Sci-Fi Channel or TNT), and even internet broadcasting, that you can see more than ever before. You could even argue that video games are a possible Horror market today.

In 2007, there's more of EVERY genre out there, in television, books, and movies.**
It's cheaper and easier to get movies made, seen, and distributed. It may not be easier to sell a script or find an outlet for your work, but there is definitely a hungry market out there, and that should provide a little hope for every would-be Wes Craven or John Carpenter.

Me, I've pretty much always wanted to be a filmmaker (or a storyteller, at least). I still do, though it seems a little less likely for me with each passing year. Still, of the circle I hung out with in college, several work in Hollywood in one capacity or another: one is the creator of two successful TV series, one is a film producer, one has an Emmy, one hosted his own TV show, one is a professional editor, one just directed his first feature film, another just directed his third, and one is an A-list film actor (I initially wrote "B-list," but I have to admit it, he's beyond that now). Boy, it's weird to be the least-successful guy around.***

But regardless of the personal Hell that is my life, it is great to be able to look at a theatre marquee, or New Releases list, or turn on the TV, and see brand new Horror here and on its way.

Through the years of creating and semi-maintaining the HFC, I've often looked fondly on the year 1981 as the best year to be a horror fan. It was then that my all-time favourite film came out, and it was then that the Slasher craze was at its peak. In fact, for a couple of years at least, 1981 was the year we had reviewed the most films from.**** But in spending a moment on the IMDB to see how many films under the keyword "Horror" came out in 2006, I was surprised. No less than one hundred films came up on the search, and the number's a lot higher if you count mini-series and installments of shows like "Masters of Horror" and "Nightmares and Dreamscapes." Even if only one out of four of those is any good, well, you've still got two dozen titles to check out when you've got the time.

And that's another thing we've talked about, tyranist and me. There's just too much
Horror coming out theatrically for two people to see, and more hitting video every Tuesday. It's overwhelming, but in a good way. In 2007, Pan's Labyrinth won a bunch of Oscars. Ghost Rider made over 115 million dollars in the U.S. alone. Disturbia was number one three weeks in a row. And Pirates o' the Caribbean 3 will make an ungodly amount when it opens in a few hours. As long as Horror is making money and/or generating positive attention for the studios (and the indies), then more will be made in 2008. And somewhere in there, the next modern classic is waiting to be discovered.

Horror junkies like me can count their blessings (or maybe "cursings" is more appropriate) to live in a time when Horror is more profitable, more prominent, and more available than any time since the advent of film, let alone the boom following Scream and the aforementioned Eighties Slasher craze. I know it can't last forever, but I'm enjoying this new golden age while it lasts.

Rish "Bronze Age" Outfield

April/May 2007

*Since the calendar will be gone soon, I guess I could list it here:
January: Primeval, El Laberinto del Fauno, The Hitcher remake, Blood and Chocolate

February: The Messengers, Hannibal Rising, Ghost Rider, The Abandoned, The Number 23

March: Zodiac, The Host, Premonition, Dead Silence, The Hills Have Eyes II

April: Grindhouse (Planet Terror/Death Proof), The Reaping, Disturbia, Vacancy, Rogue, Wind Chill

May: 28 Weeks Later..., Captivity, Severance, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Bug

June: Mr. Brooks, Day Watch, Rise: Blood Hunter, Hostel: Part II, Fido, Black Sheep

July: Joshua(?), The Strangers, 1408, Skinwalkers

**Oh yeah, with the exception of the Western.

***Then again, if people can look at me and say, "Well, at least I'm not THAT guy," then
hey, I've done my job.

****Now it's 2005, but with each year, it's harder and harder to see 1981 movies. I will try again, though.

Buffy Wednesday (23 May) Continued

When last we joined our intrepid heroes, two episodes had been watched, and then they watched two more. And ferret DNA had been mixed with mink DNA with disastrous results. So, next up was "Amends," something of an important episode, since Joss Whedon wrote and directed it.

It was an Angel show, sort of, and started to explain why he was back from "the demon dimension." I'm wondering why they don't just say Hell. Is it because that's too Judeo-Christian a concept? Is it because there is no God or Devil in the Buffy universe? Or is there a Hell and where Angel went was someplace different?

We begin, as may be the habit with Angel-centric episodes, in the long past, when Angel was Angelus, the mean-spiritedest of vampires. He was a busy little bee in his pre-soul days, and I have to admit that that fact makes him interesting to me.

Now he's back though, and he has been dreaming of his past sins. But maybe they're more than dreams, as he begins to see the spectres of those he's killed show up to torment him.

On the teenage front, we find out that Cordelia will still have nothing to do with Xander, but bitchily enough, she won't have anything to do with his friends either. Who used to be her friends. Didn't they?

But Oz doesn't stay mad at Willow for long. And who could? He proves himself to be understanding and forgiving and not at all like Doctor Evil his father.

Oh, and I almost forgot. It's Christmastime in Sunnydale! There's gift-giving and stocking-hanging and decorated trees, and Buffy and Joyce invite Faith over for Christmas Eve. Faith brushes it off 'cause she's so cool and has stuff she's gotta be and places she's gotta do.

Willow reminds everybody that she's Jewish, and though it's hard to be a Jew on Christmas (her friends won't let her join in any games), she does invite Oz over for a romantic night. But he once again remains the most sensitive of all boyfriends and tells her hymen to stay where it is. Awww.

Angel's memories and visions are driving him more than a little insane. In an awesome scene, Angel shows up at Giles's doorstep, asking for help. Giles, remembering what Angelus did to him (and to his ladylove), considers turning him away, but reluctantly allows him to enter and talks with him, trying to get to the root of his problem. Before that can happen, though, the spectre of Ms. Calendar steps from behind Giles (quite a chilling moment), and Angel flees.

Angel dreams that he and Buffy are in bed and he bites her. Oddly enough, Buffy shares the dream. His previous victims, Ms. Calendar among them, appear to tell Angel that he is evil--a monster--the suffering will go away if he just kills Buffy Summers.

Unfortunately for the surprise, Ms. Calendar's return was announced in the opening credits (which may be unavoidable, I'm not sure). She pretty much personifies the evil for the last half of the episode, standing in for the villain (both individual and concept) called The First.

Part of the crux of whether this episode works or not is our ability--okay, I'll say it, my ability--to feel sorry for Angel, and believe that his remorse for his past evil deeds (and potential future ones) is real, and overwhelmingly so. It's often hard for me to put aside my distaste for Angel and his perfect hair, but they have taken great strides in humbling him, in humanising him, and in, indeed, making him someone I can understand and like. At least a little. This episode really helped with that.

On Christmas Eve, Faith shows up at Buffy's house after all, but before any bonding can take place, Buffy has to take off to save Angel from The First's influence. She discovers where the First's priests are located and after a brief confrontation, rushes to find her former boyfriend.

Angel, unable to kill Buffy, has gone to a hill overlooking the town. He has decided the only way to win is to kill himself. It's a pretty good idea, really. Minutes before sunrise, Buffy finds him and they talk/argue/fight about Angel's current plight. He seems wholly convinced he needs to die and there's not anything she can say to change his mind.

But then it begins to snow. Perhaps it is a sign, but there's no sunrise forthcoming. Reconsidering, Angel shares some time with Buffy walking through the quiet town with snow falling all around them. The other characters also see the snow and feel peace/magic/wonder/joy/enlightenment.

Tyranist was not happy with the resolution of the episode. I thought it was kind of nice, but then, I lived in Southern California for years and understand their romanticised conception of falling snow. And hey, snow is really beautiful when it first falls, it's the days and weeks that follow that suck.

So yes, we watched a fourth show. I realise that I am very lucky to be able to see these episode for the first time this way. If you're not me, though, you are doubly-blessed, both because you don't have to shamble through life as me, and because you probably saw the episodes when they were new on the WB (or just-south-of-new on F/X) and got joy out of them way back then. And, yes, you're not me.

The last episode we saw was a Jane Espenson-written tale called "Gingerbread." In it, Joyce (Buffy's mom) goes on the vampire-hunting rounds with her daughter for the first time, and discovers the dead bodies of two children in the park. It really messes her up.

She comes to school and visits Buffy in front of her peers, still shaken by what she has witnessed. Determined to do something to prevent further tragedy, Joyce gathers the concerned parents of the town together in an attempt to protect their kids from the dangers of the occult and demonic influences . . . and slayers. The shit has been laid out and the fan has been turned on.

Amy the Witch from two previous episodes appears in this one. She and Willow, who is increasingly active in the use of witchcraft are worried about the townspeople's reactions. We meet Willow's mother among the parents organised against witchcraft, and find out that she's usually aloof and distracted, but is suddenly overprotective of her daughter and meddling in her life. People are whipping themselves into a frenzy over witches, the way they did in Salem and Oz and the Spanish Inquisition and anytime a new J.K. Rowling book comes out.

So, we find out that Hansel and Gretel are not only real . . . but evil.

When tyranist inferred that wicca and witchcraft were one in the same, I had to correct him, since I'd understood that wicca was more of a harmless worship of the earth's natural elemental forces and witchcraft was the practice of black magic and devilish spells. Of course, I was proven wrong when the episode said they were the same thing. Whoops. One day he's gonna be wrong and I just hope I'm there to see it.

And this bucket of bolts is never going to get us past that blockade.

It's somewhat hard to like the adults (save Giles) in Buffy's world. Generally, in kid- or teen-centric shows, adults are portrayed as oafs, obstacles, old-fashioned, or oblivious, and they have been all of these things at one time or another. Buffy's mom, for example, is often well-meaning but ineffectual, or interfering, but in "Gingerbread," she became Sheila Broflovski, a hysterical, self-righteous crusader for all that is holier-than-thou. Luckily, she was being manipulated by demons.

This episode also revealed that Buffy doesn't kill regular people (lucky Ted was a robot, huh?). But just like the Dr. No trailer said, I believe Buffy Summers should be able to kill when she chooses, where she chooses, and whom she chooses.

It would seem that the two dead children are actually a demon that stirs people up to go on witch hunts, and sure enough, lockers are opened up, accusations start to fly, and before too long, Willow, Amy, and Buffy are all tied to stakes with the library's occult literature, ready for burning.

Amy casts a spell which enables her to escape . . . by turning into a rat and scurrying off. Amazingly, Cordelia helps Giles rescue the girls and reveal the hideous demon for the innocent Aryan children it is. Er, the opposite of that. Oz and Xander arrive to save the day, but it's already been saved. Buffy manages to destroy the demon and all the adults return to normal, with no memory of the shenanigans they were up to in the name of responsible parenting.

I could say quite a bit about this show, but I think I say too much as it is. We were disturbed, shocked, and entertained by this, another dark ole episode, but when Buffy recommends they get one of those "wheel thingies" for Amy the Rat, tyranist and I laughed like the Japanese schoolgirls we both are deep down.

I love this show.

Rish "Joss Whedon Is My Master Now" Outfield

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

More Celebrity Deaths (May 23, 2007)

Just kidding, it's another Buffy Wednesday post.

The Captain and I had something of a disagreement about "Buffy" this week. I really want to watch as few episodes at a time as possible, and he feels quite the opposite. For me, watching only a single one last week was great, though I would prefer two. But when I arrived at tyranist's house, he had brought out his Holocaust calendar and had blacked out the square for last Wednesday, writing "Never Again" in block letters in the margins.

He wants to watch as many as we can, since it's fun right now, we're both really into the show, and since our time is limited (and he reminded me that we're not even halfway through the series). His attitude is logical and he may well be right, but I just wanted to stretch it out as loooooong as possible.

That's just something that I do. I'm sure I'll still be reading "Harry Potter and the Hiccoughing Pubic Lice" two weeks after I start it, because dammit, I'll only get one chance to read it for the first time.

So, we watched our normal two episodes of BTVS: "Lovers Walk" and "The Wish." And then tyranist convinced me to watch a third episode, "Amends." All three were good and I was satiated. But then tyranist insisted we watch a fourth, "Gingerbread." I refused and complained and pouted and tried to get him to listen to reason, but finally, the Captain decreed that either we'd watch it together or he'd just watch it by himself.

Perhaps he doesn't realise that I'm now going to be writing till the wee small hours of the morning, when the whole wide world is fast asleep. Damn you, tyranist. And damn you, Joss Whedon.

So, "Lovers Walk." A good title, and I can't figure out if there's a pun in there or not, but I'm okay with it either way. This episode gives us closure on pretty much every romantic relationship going, and hey, Spike's back too!

But Spike returns to Sunnydale a broken shell of a man. Seems that since last season, Drusilla dumped him down in Brazil (for a gooey demon, no less), and now he's a drunken sot, and a sad one too. Giles hightails it out of the episode (tyranist said, "Oh, Giles is off shooting a movie somewhere, so he couldn't make it" when Willow asked where he was), so he's gone for the moments when the gang would most need him.

Also, Buffy did well enough on her SATs to be able to go to any college she wants. Suddenly everyone's telling her she ought to take off and leave for greener pastures (except Angel, who still seems to harbour hopes that they'll live happily ever after). This may be the only show of the four we watched where Angel keeps his shirt on, but Buffy insists that the two of them are now just friends.*

Willow and Oz seem to be making some kind of romantic progress (he gets her a witch Pez dispenser, which shouldn't be as great as it is, but hey, it was pretty damn great), but she's still got that thing with Xander. I'm not really sure what that "thing" is, since it's clear it's not sex, but it seems to be more than just hitting each other with pillows and talking on the phone. Nevertheless, Willow thinks she should just cast the spell version of saltpeter on the two of them, so their attraction will go away once and for all.

Spike discovers Willow preparing her anti-love spell and kidnaps both her and Xander (who takes quite a knock to the head). Spike threatens Willow (rather villianously) into making a spell to make Drusilla love him again, but she requires more ingredients, and Spike leaves them locked in together.

Spike goes to Buffy's house and a grand humourous scene follows where Spike bemoans his broken heart to Joyce (over hot chocolate). When Angel shows up to rescue her, he can't enter the house because he hasn't been (re)invited. Spike enjoys this, and frankly, so do I. A moment later, Buffy arrives and she and Angel come close to staking Spike. He holds the location of their missing friends over them and convinces them to go off to get spell ingredients together.

Buffy and Angel make fun of Spike's pissing and moaning and he makes fun of the fact that they have loved each other (and sometimes hated each other) and are deluded enough to pretend they can be friends. And then, uh oh, a bunch of Spike's old vampire goons show up and want to kill him (I believe the mayor sent them). They fight, and Spike manipulates Buffy and Angel into fighting with him. Somewhere in the extended fray, Spike gets his mojo back and realises that moping isn't the way to get his lost love back . . . sadism, viciousness, and bloodletting is. He tells Buffy where her friends are and departs a new man.

Meanwhile, Oz and Cordelia figure out where Willow is because Oz can smell her (hey, it works for Wolverine, I can't complain if they use it here). Still imprisoned, Xander and Willow talk for a moment, then give in to the pressure of the situation plus their obvious desire for one another, and passionately make out . . . just as, you guessed it, Oz and Cordelia burst in to rescue them.

Predictable maybe, but what isn't predictable is that Cordelia storms off, falls through the floor, and is impaled on a pipe. We are then tricked into thinking Cordelia is dead, and when it's revealed that she isn't . . . well, for some reason tyranist and I laughed instead of becoming furious. Damn you again, Joss Whedon.

Oz won't talk to Willow, when Xander goes to the hospital to visit Cordelia, she tells Xander to leave her alone, and Buffy tells Angel she won't be seeing him anymore. Spike (and Harry Burns) was right, they can't be friends. Ain't love a very pregnant female dog?

Good episode, kids. But not quite as good as "The Wish," the show that follows.

This one was also written by Marti Noxon, and I guess, in a way, this was a Cordelia episode (we don't get many), though everyone gets a chance to shine for at least a moment or two. Cordelia gets out of the hospital and comes back to school and look, there's Cord's friend Harmony (Mercedes McNab), the bitch who only appears when we need someone so awful Cordelia looks like a saint by comparison. Apparently, it's all over the school that geeky Xander Harris dumped and humiliated Cordelia, and if there's anything Cord hates, it's not being able to do the dumping and humiliating herself.

When Buffy only makes the situation worse, Cordelia decides to blame her for all her troubles. We're introduced to a new girl, Anya, who is the only person Cordelia can confide in (the Captain was happy to see her, for some reason). She gives Cord a magical necklace, and when Cordelia wishes Buffy had never come to Sunnydale, Anya--now in demon form--declares the wish granted.

Perhaps the best act-out I've ever seen on television. And I've been watching TV since they called the Old Testament just "The Testament."

Well, suddenly Cordelia is in a Sunnydale significantly less colourful and less populated than it was before. The Master (the Big Baddie of season one) is still alive and is running the town, along with hordes of vampires. Chief among them are the dastardly duo of Xander and Willow, both vampiric and both really really dark characters. Especially Willow, who is all gothed and S&Med out and keeps Angel chained up as a sort of pet . . . if you're my cousin Jason and you torture your pets. Dude, I never would've believed Allyson Hannigan could've pulled it off, but she does. That is one damned talented red-head.

Unaware that there's a town curfew when the sun goes down, Cordelia runs into our lovely undead couple and asks them about Buffy. When Xandlow try to kill her, she is rescued by a team of vampire hunters, led by Giles (and Oz is among them).

Xandlow return to the Master and tell him what happened. He charges them with killing Cordelia, but is intrigued by the mention of Buffy.

Back at the library, Cordelia starts to explain to Giles what's happened, but she doesn't know what we know, and is confused. Before much more can be communicated, Xandlow arrive and, rather easily, kill Cordelia. Giles is helpless to watch. When he gets away, he calls Cleveland, where Buffy Summers is.

The Master, it turns out, has created a machine that sucks the blood out of humans factory-style, and is unveiling it that very night. Many of the townspeople have been herded into the factory, where they will be slaughtered like so much livestock. This is easily the darkest episode of the series so far. Is that why I liked it so much?**

Buffy does come to Sunnydale, but she is a harder, colder person than the one we knew, with an adorable scar across her lip. She rescues Giles and he tells her what he knows. She isn't too enthusiastic (we get the impression that Buffy would be a much less vibrant person without her friends and allies), but volunteers to kill the Master anyway.

She goes to the plant, frees Angel, and there is a massive battle. Oh, the humanity: Xander kills Angel, Buffy kills Xander in turn, Oz kills Willow . . . and the Master manages to kill Buffy. Evil, it appears, is most triumphant.

Giles, meanwhile, has pieced together Cordelia's story (including the necklace) and summons Anya, who is actually the demon Anyanka. He destroys the necklace/amulet, undoing the alternate universe. We are back where we started, with Cordelia making her wish. Anya, who has been transformed into a normal girl, is powerless, and no one knows that anything odd has occurred. Fade to black.

I hate saying it in every post, but this was the best show of the season. There was so much of interest going on, and moments both horrible and twistedly wonderful. They'll have to do a damn good job to top "The Wish" on my hit list. They are welcome to try, though, I don't mind.

And I think I'll end my post with that, good friends. I'll come back to the second half of our . . . sigh . . . quadruple feature very soon.

Rish Outfield

*Hey folks, angry bitter old lonely Rish here. Have you ever had a girl tell you she just wants to be friends? It really sucks. But have you ever found YOURSELF saying it? The world's a cruel and rotten place, and city life's a complete disgrace. It really gets me down.

**I'm reminded of one of my favourite episodes of "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "Yesterday's Enterprise," where an event in the past changes things, making the present a darker, bleaker, dangerouser place. Actually, there were a couple of "Next Gens" like that, like "Tapestry" and the one where Worf is bouncing between parallel universes . . . maybe that's called "Parallels." Dang, I ought to make tyranist watch that show sometime. At this rate, it would have to be around 2011.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Buffy Wednesday (16 May)

Tyranist and I only had time and energy for one "Buffy" episode this week, because I was sick and he was tired, and because we watched the Pang Brothers' The Eye beforehand. The episode was called "Revelations," and I'm happy to say that it was very, very good. Maybe the best show of the season so far.

To be brief, a demon shows up in Sunnydale around the same time a new Watcher comes to town (only the second one we've ever seen--third if you count Donald Sutherland), there to mentor Faith and belittle pretty much everyone else. She's played by Serena Scott Thomas, who I told tyranist was in the beginning of Goldeneye, but was actually in The World Is Not Enough, and is so straightlaced and stodgy, she makes Giles look like Willie Nelson. She's quite critical of him, his methods, and his library, and it's only natural that we immediately dislike her.

It turns out there's a mystical glove of great power buried in one of Sunnydale's cemeteries, and the episode features a four-pronged race to get it, the participants being Gwendolyn Post (the new Watcher), the Scooby Gang, Lagos the demon, and Angel.

Cordelia and Oz have nothing to do in this episode either, but everybody else does. Xander and Willow try to keep things platonic between them, but don't seem to be able to keep their hands off of each other (or lips, to be more specific). In other romantic news, Buffy and Angel have been seeing a lot of each other, and Xander happens to stumble upon them just as they kiss for the first time since Angel's resurrection/rebirth/return.

He does not take it well. We see more of his bitter and petty side in this episode, and just as I leaned over to tell tyranist that there's nothing the writers could do to make me dislike Xander, he expressed how unlikable Xander has become on the show. Ah well.

Xander cites Bad Angel's murder of Ms. Calender as an example of why the vampire is no good, but tyranist and I discussed it and we both agree that Xander had little to no connection with the teacher, and has simply hated Angel out of jealousy and spite since the beginning, being justified in his feelings when Angel went bad.

And it is strange, but the show is done well enough that I'm occasionally tempted to get on Angel's side and root for him to succeed. Then they take his shirt off and and have him do slow-motion yoga with Buffy and I'm reminded why I despised him in the first place.

The gang stage a sort of intervention, confronting Buffy with their knowledge of her deception. Buffy tries to explain her motivation, and only Willow (feeling guilty about keeping a secret of her own) manages to put a positive spin on the conversation.

Giles is supportive of Buffy's decision in public, but in private he reprimands her, reminding Buffy that Bad Angel tortured him for hours and that she has never had any respect for Giles as a person or a Watcher (which has to hurt, since half the episodes this season have been about somebody telling Buffy she's out of line or calling her on her failings). I have to admit that I had forgotten about Giles being tortured and I'm glad the show brought it up again.

So, the new watcher goes and talks to Faith at her motel room, and we see that she may be a good teacher after all. It was at this point when tyranist and I leaned over and began talking about whether the new watcher was a villain or not. She could have just been a character like Principal Snyder, who makes life difficult for our heroes, but is not a bad guy per se. Or she could've been brought in as a potential love interest for Giles. Or, like any number of new students, teachers, and authority figures, she might have been introduced just so they could kill her later on down the line. Still, something about her didn't seem right, and our suspicions were justified five minutes later when she clocks Giles over the head and goes off to get the glove for herself.

Xander and Faith have a little talk, where he lets her know Angel is bad news and that Buffy can't be trusted to do what's smart with him around (I think this is when tyranist was really starting to despise Xander, and I was seeing in him a cooler, handsomer, better-written Rish Wesley Outfield). Those two arrive at the library, finding Giles unconscious, and putting two and two together, Faith goes out to slay Angel the no-good vampire.

Meanwhile, Gwendolyn Post confronts Angel in his hideout. She doesn't realise that he isn't human, so he survives her attempt on his life. Just as he's about to pound her into the ground, Faith bursts in, sees the vampire attacking her watcher, and she joins the fray. Just as she's about to put an end to any potential "Angel" spin-offs, Buffy enters and stops her.

The two Slayers fight.

I don't know, I just expect Buffy to be able to take out just about anybody, since she has more experience (as a Slayer, that is), but Faith held her own. It was like one of those olde tyme comic book battles, where the two opponents are exactly evenly matched for some reason, and neither fanbase need get upset. Well, Faith has more meat on her bones, maybe that explains it.

Whilst they're tussling, Gwendolyn Post puts on the glove and shows her true evil colours. Lightning begins striking the glove, which she shoots at our heroes. Faith draws her fire as Buffy picks up a big piece of broken glass and throws it at Post, severing her gloved arm. Very cool. Another barrage of lightning rains down, consuming the evil watcher. The threat is gone.

We later learn that Mrs. Post was thrown out of the international Watcher organisation for dabbling with dark powers, and Faith learns that she can trust only herself. It was something of a downer ending, as Buffy tried to let her know she can always count on her, despite her occasional character flaws, but Faith dismisses her, preferring (it seems) to be alone. And that's what life is, a series of down endings.

This was a really good episode, folks. I chatted with tyranist about it, trying to determine if this was the best show of the year, or if that was "Anne," the season opener. My money's on this one.

So far.


Monday, May 14, 2007

14 May 2007

I saw myself in SPIDER-MAN 3 the other week. It's always interesting that you can work a twelve hour day (or longer) on a film, and not show up at all. In S3's case, I worked three days (not including my wardrobe fitting or the day I didn't get to go on set), and there I am for about one second.

I also glimpsed myself in FRACTURE when I saw it the other day, but was horrified by how fat I was. I was wearing my black suit, which I got when I could eat anything and not gain a pound, so it's not a shock that it's more than a little snug on me. What's worse, though, is that I've probably gained ten pounds since working on that film.

Ain't entropy great?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

10 May Buffyupdate

I don't much feel like writing a Buffy Wednesday blog today. I don't know why, exactly, except that I started a new job recently (that I hate) and am not struggling, exactly, but am having trouble adapting to it. Don't know why I would be more tired, since the new job is at the same place as the old one, and I don't get up any earlier than I used to, but I am tired. In fact, after tyranist and I watched the first "Buffy" episode, I suggested it might not be a bad idea to call it a night.

Of course that suggestion was ignored, but hey, I'm just the copilot.

Maybe I'll call tyranist Captain on this post.

So, we saw two installments, "Homecoming" and "Band Candy." For some reason, the phrase 'band candy' is funny to me. And to the Captain.

In "Homecoming," it's time for the big dance, which of course is being held at the Bronze, the dance club they've gone to pretty much every week since the show started. Since everyone's still paired off, it looks like Buffy and Scott will be going together, even though Scott may have his doubts. Cordelia has in her head that she is going to be prom queen, and is actively campaigning for the job. She's as conceited and bitchy as usual, and takes it just a little too far that Buffy decides to enter the "race" as well, just to show her up. Now the gang has to pick sides, and oddly enough, everybody except Faith (who barely appears in this episode) picks Cordelia's.

At the same time, there's a little gathering in Sunnydale, a group of hunters of different shapes and sizes (humans, vampires, Germans, and a demon), brought together by Mr. Trick from "Faith, Hope, and Trick" to participate in Slayerfest '98, a free-for-all foxhunt . . . with Buffy and Faith as the targets.

So, the gang arranges it so Buffy will end up in the limo with Cordelia instead of with Faith, and the two can work out their differences. Of course, Slayerfest '98 interferes with that. Buffy and Cordelia battle the hunters, defeating and/or evading them (and getting two to shoot each other), and get back to the Bronze just in time to find out who the prom queen is . . . it's a tie . . . and not them.

This episode also introduces Sunnydale's mayor (Harry Groener), a corrupt sort with all sorts of demonic and vampiric connections. Tyranist thinks that he may be our Big Baddie of the season, so it will be fun to find out.

This episode was pretty light (despite killing and yellow-skinned demons and German people), and the Captain was really happy to see the self-centered, bitchy Cordelia back. I'm of two minds, though. While I find her awfulness refreshing, we've seen the other side of her (like when she's alone with Xander) so often, that I have difficulty believing that she's as petty and shallow as she sometimes acts. And I do wonder, if she hates the gang and slaying and such, why she continues to hang out with them.

Note from 15 May:
Wow, I'm really suffering when it comes to writing this up. Usually I get right to work the next day, and finish it within one or two, but not this time. It may be next Buffy Wednesday before I finish posting about the last one.

"Band Candy" was the second episode we watched, and was written by Jane Espenson, who I knew from "Firefly," as well as the book of essays she edited about that short-lived series. In this show, the Sunnydale students are given candy to sell to generate money for the band, but that candy has been cursed (by the same man, Ethan Rayne, who cursed the costumes in last season's excellent "Halloween" show). It seems that any adult that eats the candy becomes addicted to it, and their minds regress to a less responsible, more impulsive, less reserved, more teenage state. It's all a plan by the mayor to allow vampires to run wild and unchecked, and to snatch some babies from the local hospital for use in a ritual sacrifice to a snake demon.

I know, I saw this same scenario on "The Andy Griffith Show" fifty-something years ago.

Interestingly enough, Buffy's mother Joyce and her surrogate father-figure Giles are both affected by the chocolate, and end up making trouble, making time, and making out.* Besides that, the loathsome yet lovable** Principal Snyder also reverts to teenagehood, becoming the geeky tag-along kid he must have been many years ago.

Also, Buffy is allowed to drive her mother's car for (apparently) the first time in this show. She also gets in a car accident (not her fault), which is easy for me to relate to, since I am the worst driver the world has ever known (I even ran over myself once . . . ask me about it sometime).

In the end, Buffy is able to get in there, save the babies, and kill the snake demon. Everything returns to normal, and the adults seem to have no memory of the previous day . . . though we do wonder if there will be ramifications in the weeks to come.

"Band Candy" was a very fun episode, if only to see a different side to the adults (I nearly said "grownups") on the show. I especially liked seeing Giles with a Brit teen mentality.

Besides introducing the character of the mayor, these two episodes saw the genesis of a romance (albeit covert) between Xander and Willow. I would've thought I'd be totally creeped out by those two getting together, but for some reason (maybe just the way it was handled), I wasn't. Tyranist--er, the Captain--found even more delight in this than I did, but then, he was also a much bigger fan of the Willow/Oz relationship than I was. Maybe he's just a bigger romance fan than me, or maybe, as much as I loathe to admit it, the spectre of Willow's impending Alternate Lifestyle Characterisation is constantly looming with her in the back of my mind.

Uh oh. Except perhaps for religion and race, there's no more delicate a topic than Sexuality, but I gotta bring it up. Knowing what will become of Willow in the seasons to come, I'm a bit skeptical every time she is paired off with a male character. If one subscribes to the People Are Born Gay side of the fence, then does that mean that Willow was always a lesbian, and her feelings for Xander (and Oz) are not genuine? Can it just be a passing thing, or a hormonal thing, or just that he was her first crush and she never considered looking at girls in that way before? For those who stand on the other side of the fence (People Are Made Gay By Circumstance), perhaps Willow is hurt, disappointed, or disillusioned with the men in her life, finding what she's looking for in girls rather than guys, and we'll see that natural progression. It's hard to say. There are, of course, those who theorise that All Girls Are Inherently Bi, so that simplifies the argument. I do look forward to finding out how this will happen, though I hope it's done in an organic way.

Darn, now I'm getting into it, I might as well get into it. I'm not gay myself, but there have been times, especially when I look at the ease with which those around me pair off, that I've wondered if I was gay, or should have been gay. From the conversations I've had with other guys, this is either really uncommon, or not something that men are willing to admit to. So who knows how typical my thoughts and feelings are on this subject?

I get along better with guys and am often baffled by female behaviour, but that seems normal. Who knows what it would have taken for me to . . . I don't know, become homo- rather than hetero-sexual , but if the People Are Born Gay camp is correct, then there's nothing that could have spun me in that direction. And hey, I like girls, I find myself attracted to them way more often and more strongly than I'd like, but I have less success with them than Stevie Wonder at an eye chart. Most people just make it look so easy, and even on "Buffy," where there seems to be more thought and care put into the human interactions than most shows, the romance is as easy as Sunday morning (or Paris Hilton on Saturday evening).

But all of this is a big tangent. The real truth of this show is, these are not real people; they are characters created by writers and actors, and all these (entertaining and interesting) turns with Willow are happening because they have not yet decided on (or even considered) turning her gay. So I'm ruminating for no reason.

Both episodes were good, but I don't think they were great. It was hard to write up this blog, and I hope next week's is far simpler.

Oh, and I'm not going to call tyranist "The Captain" anymore. A tyranist is easily a step up from a captain.

Rish "All Demons Are Inherently Bi" Outfield

*You know, I've got to apologise for that sentence. I thought it would be cute to use the word "making" three times, but I have no idea what making time is.

**Ditto on that. Sorry again.