A MIST OPPORTUNITY:

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Confession time.  We were super psyched for the TV series version of The Mist.  The original novel by horror-maestro Stephen King was a slice of small-town literary creepola and the 2007 movie version scripted and lensed by the one and only Frank Darabont is both wonderfully atmospheric and appropriately bleak.  So how could they screw up a TV remake which would give the story space not only to sketch out its characters but the time to let the slow burn thrills breathe and mutate?

 

How indeed.

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Because somehow, and it makes us sad just to say it, but somehow the makers have managed it.

They botched almost the whole thing end to end.

And honestly, the word gutted doesn’t quite cover it.

 

There were clues this might happen of course.

The directing duties were split from the off between eight different people, no one single person taking on the bulk of the visual work; never letting this beast have a single coherent vision.

The writing element was also unfortunately fractured in a similar way- albeit with Stephen King himself involved in each of the episodes, though not enough it would seem to give the show a solid sense of internal logic.

 

The cracks were there from the very beginning if only we’d paid attention.

 

And then the lights went down and they quickly turned into chasms; offering viewers mis-step after mis-step.

 

You want examples?  Sure.

 

How about these beauts…

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Well, first off, the main plot point for the introduction (and the series as a whole), the single event that sets up most of the conflict for the season is way too delicate of a subject to handle without care.  We’re talking about the non-consensual/rape storyline, of course.  Now, done delicately this could have been an important indictment of modern America, tackling an issue that is red-hot and incredibly prescient right now- the intricacies of consent.  But the cliched ways the narrative (and townsfolk) immediately cast aspersions on the female target of the alleged assault goes straight to promoting the act of victim-blaming in a way that shows no nuance or social intelligence.

 

To pose the question, ‘was she raped at all’ as a central tenet of the series and to allow the surrounding characters to do awful things to Alex because there’s a chance she may be lying about the assault just leaves a nasty taste in the mouth, speaking as a viewer.  It’s a point of view that is way too prevalent in the media/right wing press at this current time and to openly back that idea with a television narrative just seems massively inappropriate.

 

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the main family of the show are quite possibly some of the most uninteresting, bland characters you will come across in either film or television.  Legit; they are the human embodiment of the word meh- their struggles (a ‘bad girl’ past that won’t go away, the nice guy who feels like he isn’t ‘man’ enough for his wife, their blonde pouting teenager who doesn’t get on with her too strict Mom) vanilla to the point of causing brain freeze.

 

And to add insult to injury, the characters who do manage to capture the interest (Mia, Mrs Raven, the Sheriff) are then booted off screen to make time for the Blahest of family drama which is simply infuriating.  Inner darkness is key to this story.  And the Copeland family have a severe shortage.

Ok, taking a breath.

 

Pwwwwww.

 

Breathing in white light… breathing out dark smoke.

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To be completely impartial, we can’t deny there are moments that shine briefly.  Mrs Raven’s exhibitionist stroll outside with the Priest for example.  The fate of Moth-Boy as we like to call him.  Mia’s tete-a-tete with her dead Mother.  Hell, the twist on the religious aspect of the book, even skirts fascinating once or twice.

 

But the problem is that everything else about the show drags it back down into the land of the crass.  Adrian’s character might have been worthwhile until a few episodes in when his true self is revealed.   The scene which leads him into a bathroom with a homophobic jock who’s hiding his own gay urges has just been done to death.  Y’all need to stop saying that homophobia is the result of latent homosexual feelings.  Seriously, it’s reductionist and stupid. And it gets worse.  Somehow the writers thought it would be a great idea to have Adrian respond to a vicious beating by kissing his attacker and forcing him to confront those ‘supposed gay feelings.’  Not only does this promote the idea that gay men are predatory, hypersexual and totally ok with dubious consent issues, it blatantly exacerbates the public’s imaginary fear that bathrooms are not a safe space for cis-het people.  That they can’t go in there for fear of being pinned up against a wall by a gay guy who understands your secret desires.

The whole scene was just plain wrong.

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And then there’s the internal logic of the show.

Obviously, you could argue that the series doesn’t have to have everything worked out after one season, doesn’t have to show its cards so early on and there would be some truth to that.  However, purely in terms of the intrinsic physics of the mysterious mist, there seem to be some huge unavoidable gaps in logic.  The physiological impact we get- that it interacts with the mind and body of person it’s touching and creates monsters from their own psyche/personal fears.  That is a sound premise, and actually kind of captivating.  And as a force of nature, using worthless ‘bad’ people as incubators for making new species of insects and creatures makes some kind of sense too.  Taking something destructive and turning them into a force of creation.  Cool.  That works for us.

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But then the writers decide to throw in a mishmash of other aspects, allowing the mist’s attacks to break these set rules.  Sometimes it coalesces to become a kind of Harry Potter-esque Dementor sucking the life from children and teenagers at will.  Other times, the insects are already present and swarm over people, creating nothing only taking life.  And then on other occasions it creates dark copies of people, allowing them passage through the fog but tormenting them just for kicks when it feels like it.  There’s just no consistency.  Nothing to hold fast to.

Anything seems possible and when anything is possible, nothing feels real.

 

We could go on and on but you get the point.

The explanations for the Big Bad’s behaviour (at least at this point) just don’t hold water.

 

 

So, you see why we were so hugely disappointed with the show given our initial expectations.

It had a great concept, a built-in audience even, courtesy of the book and movie and proceeded to throw cheap drama at the narrative, miring it in broken logic and cliched conflict.

 

We’d like to say that if a second series is made we’ll give it a second chance to fix some of these problems but right now, honestly, we’re not feeling that generous.

 

Guess we’ll see about that when the Gods of Renewing TV make their decision.

 

Until then, we’ll be silently weeping in a corner somewhere and distracting ourselves with large bags of rainbow drops.

 

Or a typical Saturday night around these parts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE BEGUILED? PERHAPS THEY SHOULD HAVE CALLED IT THE SOMNAMBULIST INSTEAD…

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So last night we tripped along to our local flea pit to see The Beguiled, the latest release from Sofia Coppola- winner of Best Director at Cannes 2017 festival for this very offering.

Having heard only good things about the film, having read the way other figures like Tarantino have championed its vision, our expectations were high- the trailer promising an evening of languid scenery and tense claustrophobia set against a backdrop of the American Civil War.

What’s not to like, right?

We settled in then, for an evocative ride full of stifling tension and strains of desire.

That however was not what we experienced.

Not even close.

Because sad to say, this film was just plain awful.

Man, you have no idea.

Beginning with a beautiful shot of an untamed Southern Grove, all dappled lighting and fruitful decadence, the scene really leads you into the story, its lack of incidental music (other than a child’s slightly sinister singing) making the whole thing haunting and tranquil.

So far so good.

Except…

Except that’s when a horribly wounded Oirish Colin Farrell rocks up and everything starts to go down-hill quicker than a cheese wheel in Gloucester.

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That first scene that so impressed with its hazy impressionistic quality, we came to realise was going to be copied and repeated for the entirety of the film.  It’s not hard to guess that the intention behind these verdant landscapes was is to create a sense of a long and repressive numbed era where desires found themselves buried faster than new recruits in the army.

And intellectually that aim makes sense.  But instead of feeling repressive the whole thing felt stultifying instead.  Ponderous in its intent.  Languorous when there should be some sense of life or threat.  And that together with no discernible pacing of any kind, with moments linked purely by brief communal scenes, the film quickly descended into a series of impressionistic paintings populated by inscrutable, unlikeable women.

The best way to explain how boring this was to watch is to ask you guys a question.

Do y’all remember that scene in Roald Dahl’s The Witches where tiny Norwegian moppet Erica gets trapped inside the painting by one of the afore-mentioned baddies and her friend can’t get her out?  Despite all their best efforts they’re unable to free her from that prison and end up simply watching Erica age and grow old behind that oil and canvas?  That was what watching The Beguiled; years passing by with us trapped there in our seats wanting nothing more than to free its characters from the confines they were so miserably caught up in.  Alas though we don’t have that kind of power either and so found ourselves forced to endure its full tedious 93-minute run all the way through.

And the characters, Jesus.  Don’t get us started on those.

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This is meant to be a character study, after all isn’t it?  It can be little else given the suffocating individual location and Coppola’s strict refusal to leave this setting.  So, one must presume that the interest lies in the human and moral conflicts of those trapped there.

But despite a creditable cast of players, the truth is that each one of them is hamstrung by a lack of backstory, a lack of any self-expression other than a constipated visage and a tight necked gown.  Farrell is charming enough we guess until he loses his shit in the most ridiculous breakdown you’ll see for some months.  Nicole Kidman is staid and serious as the matriarch of the manor, Kirsten Dunst awkward and unflatteringly miserable.  Elle Fanning for her part was cringingly coy whenever she tried to be alluring (also trigger warning for some dubious consent issues) while the other girls were amorphous and to be quite frank indistinguishable from one another.  It was a surprise to find that they even had names attached in the credits actually.  And spending time with this motley crew of unhappy vixens was so draining that we came out of the cinema feeling flat and miserable ourselves which let’s face it, is never a good thing.

Thinking about it The Beguiled could really take some inspiration from Jordan Scott’s Cracks (2009) which managed to create a suitably claustrophobic location while never skimping on the character traits that set its schoolgirls apart when jealousies and tensions began to arise.  This movie however seems to be of the opinion that snide comments and micro-aggressions a compelling tale make, which is a huge cinematic misstep.  And surprising from the director of great films like Melancholia and The Virgin Suicides at that.

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There are dramatic scenes of course (and we use that word strictly in its filmmaking technical sense.)  But the gruesome nature of the injury detail Coppola uses to up the ante is far too jarring when placed against the torpid overall atmosphere.  And the violence that ensues when tensions boil over was just plain laughable (we didn’t ROFLMAO  or pilot a ROFLcopter but there were points where we actually LOLed and we weren’t the only ones in the audience.)  These scenes were even worse than the endlessly dreary ones in retrospect; unexpected, badly thought out and obvious in their intention to inject some much-needed tragedy into proceedings.

This all sounds incredibly harsh but genuinely when those credits had gone up neither of us watching had any idea what the message of the film was supposed to be buried under all that nubile longing.

That men are cads, charming or not and are singularly unable to keep from getting their horn on when women and girls are in the vicinity?

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That women’s natural instinct is to please men?  That regardless of who they are, their collective sin-stinct tells them to put on a show for any male they come across, acting like a bunch of preening peacocks for the reward of his attention?

That his attention is the only thing that gives their lives meaning?

That’s not very feminist and was actually quite off putting to consider.  And probably the part that bothered us the most in hindsight.  Having no distinguishable message is poor.  Having one that inexplicably links female’s desires to male attention is just plain crass.

So, yeah in case you couldn’t tell we pretty much hated this movie.

It was boring and draining and irritating in its meaning.

And that’s fine you know- there is always joy to be had in experiencing something that makes your skin prickle and your ire burn.

But…and this is important too so take note.

PSA ALERT: As fully paid up, banner waving supporters of any women who manage to make their way in the male dominated world of cinema, we’re also worried that this lemon of a film doesn’t get used as an example to stop other female writer-directors from getting financing. We’re concerned that critics and viewers will use this as an example of the ‘feminine vision’ where crinoline and sexual frustration are all they have to offer in terms of content and put paid to any new female artists coming up through the ranks.  Male film makers produce cinematic turds on a freaking production line and are allowed to make more without taking a fatal hit to their career so women should be given the same chance.

So, there’s that too.  Just something to think about.

 

Anyways we feel a lot better getting this off our tightly corseted chests.

Come say hi on Twitter- @Heligena or @cosmicpixie

And tet us know if you felt the same- we can set up a support group or something with high tea and Annie’s special mushrooms.

Peace y’all.

 

 

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Cover Up Those Insecurities-

Our mind has been on music lately.

Oh, don’t worry, movies will always have our hearts but music it seems has our soul to balance things out.  Now originally, we were going to post a list of the albums we’ve been listening to over the last few weeks and what we happened to be doing while they soothed our savage beast but this morning a song came on shuffle on our iPhone that totally changed that plan.  Not because it was an old favourite, not because it took us back to a time when gym knickers and Highland Toffees were a thing.  But purely because it was a cover of a track that was executed so badly, so absolutely horrendously that a small part of our spirit (one of the few we haven’t transferred into a Horcrux yet) withered quickly and died.

You know the feeling, right?  The intro that starts so familiarly, where you get all gee-ed up for that refrain you know so well and then…a bin bag full of wtf gets pushed against your lughole blocking out everything but that crooning succubus stealing the life from your body.  And it’s so godawful that you can’t bring yourself to switch the thing off.

Yeah, you know the feeling.

Anyway, in a complete change of plan we’ve decided to give you guys a list of the five cover versions assaulting our ears lately, the five versions of songs that we will never be able unhear in the hopes that you young plucklings can recognise and avoid their insidious clutches.

So, to get straight into it, this rundown of absolute ear-bleeding stinkers begins with…

 

1)      The Days of Pearly Spencer- Marc Almond (specifically Live at the Lokerse Feesten 2000) :

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The Days of Pearly Spencer is a class tune let’s get that out of the way first off.  Irish musician David McWilliams who wrote and performed the original tune gave the thing a country gravitas and almost documentary feel, allowing listeners to get an insight into the rundown areas of his hometown of Ballymena.  It also contains sweeping orchestral backing and a totally unique chorus sound apparently achieved by recording McWilliam’s vocals through a telephone close to the studio.  It’s an oddity and a gem.

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Marc Almond’s cover however is…not.  Overlaying any sense of seriousness or social conscience with showmanship and breathy superficiality, Almond turns the thing into a total frothy pop monstrosity.  The strings section he employs sound like they are all on LSD (possible), the electro sound is discordant with the lyrics and his choice to add in an additional verse to make the song more optimistic totally undercuts its entire point.  He basically takes the thing and retools it for the vapid, brainless masses for whom morality is an afterthought.

Words really can’t express how much this cover makes us want to gouge our own anvil and stirrups out.  The race is almost run, Marc? It’s well past mate.  Well past.

 

 

2)      Crazy In Love- Snow Patrol:

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Uh oh uh oh uh oh uh oh oh no no….is correct.

Everyone knows the original, you couldn’t escape it- all chinchilla fur and urban glamorousness.  Sampling Are You My Woman (Tell Me So), a song from the early 1970’s, Beyonce and Jay-Z’s collaboration is a slice of fried R&B gold, complete with blaring fanfares and horn riffs.  But have you happened to stumble across the cover recorded by Snow Patrol during a BBC session with Zane Lowe?

Be grateful if the answer is no.

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Because heavy on the bass and drums, with all melody surgically removed, this dear readers is a total atrocity.  We should all be glad that the bass almost drowns out the vocals in the chorus of this version.  What it seems impossible to be glad about is SP’s choice to drop their usual upbeat sincere sound for a kind of grimy sinister come-on, guaranteed to make your skin crawl right off your bones and go set up home somewhere else.

Seriously, these Irish good guys absolutely murder the Beyonce classic.  And the rap?!  Jay-Z’s awesome stream of consciousness section?  The rap performed by Snow Patrol we have no doubt will be playing on repeat when the time comes to head downstairs and enter purgatory.  There’s no way that isn’t waiting for us in the eternal steam room once we’ve shuffled off this mortal coil.  And yes, before you ask the thought of that does fill us with dread.  As it should.

It really should.

 

3)      Fortunate Son- U2:

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FFS.

Really, who doesn’t love this Anti War movement anthem, a masterclass in rock from Creedance Clearwater Revival released in 1969.  It’s basically the totem of America’s counter culture and revolt.   Opening with the guitar riff to end all guitar riffs, and laid down with riotous vocals (courtesy of patriot John Fogerty)  Fortunate Son is a piece of vinyl imbued with historical and musical significance and a damn good ride all the way through.

Then cut to 1991.

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And U2 stomping on the airwaves coast to coast. That they would even have the cajones to cover this American protest song, this searing indictment of the nepotism and insidious politics of the Vietnam War is bad enough.  But then Bono is the king of remonstration, the self-proclaimed messiah of dissent so it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise we suppose.  None of that excuses the end result of this cover though.  With guitar riffs stripped of all their violent power and turned into some kind of wilting ethereal presence, the main vocals lay on top coming across as less angry than playful and totally insincere.  All the smugness and conceit the band have been accused of back in the day are on full display in this track and we can only compare listening to it to bathing in a river where an outlet pipe is spewing out effluence further upstream.  It makes your skin tingle.  Then blister.  And finally, just slip off your bones.  God it’s horrible.

In all seriousness, don’t listen to it y’all.  We know you’re tempted now.  But just don’t.

You’ll regret it.

Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

 

 

4)      The Times They Are A Changin’-Phil Collins

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Influenced by Celtic ballads, Bob Dylan’s classic 1964 song (and album of the same name actually) was written to try and influence the politicians and people of the time.  It was designed to get people to sit up and stand up for their beliefs.  It was…always has been a song of purpose and so it shouldn’t come as much of a shock that since its release it’s been covered by almost everyone and their dog; by anyone trying their darndest to make a difference.

There was always a high chance then that someone would, in their attempts to be political and socially conscious, slay this beast of a tune.  The road to good intentions, you know.

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Enter Phil (not literally, ew.)

Oh, Phil of the land of Collins.  We love you we really do.  You gave us dancing gorillas and a whole Tarzan album when precisely no-one was asking for that.  But damn, you wrecked this cover, man.  You wrecked it good.

How to describe it though?  With only a solo piano playing at the opening, it quickly becomes clear that this version of the song isn’t going to have the authority of its predecessor.  And in fact the longer it goes on the more powerless and weak it feels, sad to say.  Even with the introduction of a beat to jig things along, events continue to go downhill.

The vocals are way too light and airy- too smooth, leaving the the track devoid of any rage or conscience and it kind of makes you wonder if Phil asked to cover this as part of some lame attempt to replicate the social angst of tracks like ‘Another Day in Paradise’ or ‘Both Sides of the Story.’

And as soon as the guitar comes in?  You guessed it.  There’s no hard thrum, instead it’s all eighties Springsteen teen strumming.  Everything just sounds too clean shaven, too ‘of course I’ll shake your hand,’ to sing honestly about spitting in the eye of progress.

And a cut to the bridge, with its own celtic elements (read: bagpipes) takes influences and makes them blatant when they were never supposed to be so overt.  It’s just all too obvious, too easy listening you know?

Giving us chills in all the wrong ways.

 

5)      Mirrors- Ellie Goulding (BBC sessions Live Lounge 2013)

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Justin Trousersnake gives good pop.  You can’t deny it and this particular track that blasted into the charts in 2013, apparently inspired by his grandparents marriage was no flash in the pan- offering up bold vocals and an unusual depth of production from people like Timbaland and J-Roc.  It kind of rocks if you ask us in a catchy-Summer anthem way.

It seems it kind of rocks if you ask Ellie Goulding too because she decided to record a cover version during her Live Lounge session the same year.

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Which was a ‘Big Mistake.  Huge’- As Vivian Ward might say.  Because Goulding’s version is just embarrassing to listen to.  Sorry Ellie.  The range of notes contained in the tune immediately make her voice sound tremulous and stretched.  Also, the number of the words in some of the verses seem to push her just that bit too far and she struggles to get them all out within the framework of the tempo; a rookie mistake when singing live.  For some reason, the song just doesn’t seem to fit with a British accent either.  Who knew?  We sure didn’t but then we would probably have done a practice run before recording it live.  We like to think so at least.

The fact that Goulding decides to throw in way too many fluctuations at the end of sentences will never disguise that failing no matter how hard she tries.  The harmonies of the backing vocalists are ok to be fair but ultimately, overall, she just kind of fades in comparison with them.  There’s no romance, no conviction here- that’s the main issue.  Just throwaway sentiment all being told.  It’s really quite cringe making and as a disclaimer we would recommend that no-one self-harms by giving this track a chance.

If she asks, Don’t keep your eyes on her.  Just don’t do it.

No good will come of it.  Trust us we know these things.

So, there it is.  The top five covers we’ve heard recently that made us curl into ourselves and re-evaluate our life choices.  Please feel free to hit us up with your own suggestions on terrible covers, we’d love to hear them…

The suggestions that is.  The songs not so much.

Lessons have been learned.  This has been an educational and cathartic post today.

And we don’t plan on relapsing anytime soon.

 

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BOOK REVIEW CORNER SPECIAL: The Handmaid’s Tale

Hey hey party people.  With the first episode of The Handmaid’s Tale showing tonight courtesy of the wonderful Channel 4, we’ve been raiding our archives again to find our original review of the book back when we first read it.

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This one comes to you direct from the summer of 2001, a simpler world, when we studied the books as part of Twentieth Century Feminist Literature at good old Uni, so we should start by giving props to our course co-ordinator for being ahead of her time with this Canadian literary choice.   As a fan of the novel, we’ve got high hopes for the series, not just for its overwhelmingly positive critical reception but also for its casting nouse and incredible looking production values.  But only time will tell on these things.

 

Anyway here’s what we thought when we first stumbled across The Handmaid’s Tale.

Let us know if you felt the same….

 

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JUNE 2001:

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Attwood

This was a tough sell at first glance.  Not for its concept (which is equal parts horrifying and mesmerising) or for its author (Marg is a living legend y’all.)  But because it contains two stylistic traits that I have always disliked- a first person narrative and an overwhelmingly passive female narrator.  Having always found first person points of view either self-centred and/or irritating, that did make me hesitate in reading this, I’m not going to lie.  And the addition of such a benign protagonist just intensified that sense of reluctance.

We were always taught that a narrator who speaks directly to you, has to be one of two things- relatable or likeable.  If they aren’t we were told, then the reader won’t connect with them, will feel for the most part like they are being lectured.  Like they are being talked at, not to.  In regards to that idea, I’m not entirely sure which camp Offred belongs to actually.  She has a dash of likeability underneath her inaction but it’s certainly not enough to be truly amiable or admirable.  And her relatability, microscopic rebellions aside, is tenuous at best.  She’s an oddity really, which I suppose is exactly what made her perfect fodder for our syllabus.

Leaving characters flaws alone for a moment, this is a powerhouse of a novel no question though. 

It’s brutal.  Prescient.

And its oppressive, stultifying atmosphere is crafted with absolute and horrifying precision.

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As a fan of etymology, Attwood’s digressions and Offred’s fascinations with wordplay are also an absolute intellectual treat although I’m sure some will find them distracting; or worse, elitist.

You have to give the author kudos too for employing an impressionistic, stream-of-consciousness style in this novel.  Are the incomplete recollections and vague intuitions of the main character maddening?  You bet your ass they are.  They are in fact, not just frustrating, they are actively discouraging and they prick at your skin every time your brain screams for more- more solid information, more reveals.  But therein lies their power boys and girls- they put us, the reader unapologetically in the main character’s (Hell, any character’s) place, offering tantalising glimpses of a bigger picture without ever fully relieving their/our curiosity.  That narrative technique piecemeal as it is, mirrors the fragmented nature of human memory, mirrors its cast’s sense of incompleteness.  And while that may be frustrating on a cellular level, it is also a master stroke of literary style.  Because just like Offred we find ourselves waiting eagerly for tales of Moira, of Offred’s mother, of Luke even- for tales of daring in amongst a sea of routine and tiny micro-aggressions.  We want riots, we want danger just like Offred but all we get are moments.  Brief sensations.  And most of those have in-built reliability issues- are questionably true at best.  We wade through the pages, as our Handmaid wades through the hours on the clock.

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To be fair, a consequence of this narrative decision is undoubtedly that The Handmaid’s Tale is not an easy read.  Or even an enjoyable one in the usual sense of the world.  I’m sure many will struggle with it or even give up on the book before the end.  I can understand why.

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However, while it’s not an easy read it is an IMPORTANT one guys, not just for the fact that every stylistic and authorial decision is so self-assured, so carefully thought out.  It is important for its warnings about theocratic thinking.  Its warnings on patriarchal rule and the natural slide between democracy and dictatorship.  This may be classified as Dystopian Fiction but there’s a sense underneath everything here, that this awful scenario could all too easily happen given political trends recently.  This novel then, is a silent alarm.  A cautionary account, like all good fairy tales.  And if a world made entirely of emptiness and disillusionment like the one Attwood conveys so perfectly is a possible future for us then we need to do something about that.  Now.

I’m not talking marches and lawsuits.  I’m talking platforms and social change.  We need to make ourselves heard more than ever.  That’s the duty Margaret Attwood places on us as readers of this book.  And I for one am willing to heed the call.

I think.

 

CONCLUSION:  Visionary, verbose and very very frightening

MARKS: 8.5 out of 10.

N.B. Oh and if anyone can get through the scene where Offred has to lie on The Commander’s Wife in order to be impregnated (The Ceremony as it’s disaffectionately known) without cringing or closing the book for a second then you have problems, friend.  Goddamn you have problems.

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So, there it is, our thoughts as a somewhat precocious Lit student (sorry about that 😊.)

As we said previously, we’ll all have to wait for tonight to see if the show does the book justice but anyone who wants to get in touch with us with what they thought of the novel or the show once its aired, please do.

We’d love to get your take on this…

 

Blessed be the fruit…

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BOOK REVIEW CORNER SPECIAL:

Given the recent explosion of new TV series based on classic books we in our infinite wisdom decided to raid our archives for some of the original book reviews we wrote way back in the mists of time when we first came across some of these literary offerings.  And guess what we dug up from February 2012?

American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

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 How apt, right?!  Especially with the series premiering on Amazon Prime Video this week in the UK.  Only one episode has been released so far and we duly checked it out.  The good news guys, is that it seems promising- drenched as it is in neon gore and peppered with sly machinations.  The opening credits are suitably nightmarish and mesmerising and everyone involved seems to be going for it acting-wise so even though it’s early to say, we actually have high hopes for the show to be honest.

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Anyway, in homage, we’re posting our original book review below for your viewing pleasure.  Maybe it’ll encourage you to give the show a look.  Or maybe you’ll read this and think nah man, that’s not my bag.  Either way, this is what we thought when we read the source material.

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Therefore sit back and enjoy…

FEBRUARY 2012:

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

So, if you’ve ever found yourself wondering what you would get if you kidnapped a geneticist and forced them to cross breed-Cormac McCarthy’s The Road with a Las Vegas stranger who had a strange otherworldly sense of humour hiding under all that trashy loungewear you might just come up with something like American Gods.

And if we wanted to coin a phrase for this genre (and if the patent office asks, it’s all ours ya dig) we’d say it was a Bleak Frontier-Epic, although that sounds a little too po-faced for what is essentially also a populist page turner.

Do you know what it was that really made this such an enjoyable read, leaving aside all the labels and soundbites that instinctively follow this book and its author?  It was the inclusiveness of Gaiman’s writing- the generosity behind it.  He never once panders to the audience.  He’s quite happy to hint at mythologies and allude to deities on almost every page but he also never explicitly tells you who these characters are supposed to be.  As a result half the fun of this tale can be found in taking the time to try and narrow down the ones you think you know.  The ones you think you recognise.  It’s a form of trust that really made us warm to Gaiman from the very first page.

The author’s genius isn’t purely down to his benevolence though.  It’s also due to the fact that the novelist is intelligent enough to realise that the human incarnations of these Gods (with their weariness and obvious frailties) are much more interesting subjects than a bunch of untouchable, omnipotent beings floating about up in some distant netherworld.

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If we had to level any criticism at the novel (and its fairly difficult to be honest) we would admit that there were a few chapters in the middle of the story that lost a bit of their focus and urgency.  But in the end, the tautness of the pacing and the intricacy of the wordplay between the characters kept this from being any kind of major problem.  The inclusion of refreshing little asides in amongst the narrative (our favourite being the slave girl and the pregnant colonial girl from Blighty) also swept us right past any unintentional drops in pace.

It seems like a solid bet that all of these things are part of the reason that the book has been hot property in the TV industry.  It’s absolutely ripe for visual production with its vivid scenery and the episodic nature of the plot seems like a perfect fit for any conscientious screenwriter.

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All we can say for sure though is that we will definitely be watching if it ever makes it to the small screen.  It may not live up to the show-reel we have filed away in our heads (our disturbing and messed up heads) but any chance to revisit the world of the son of Odin is well worth the time.

CONCLUSION: A masterclass in the shabby chic of showmanship

MARKS: 8 out of 10.

 

It seems even five years ago it was no secret that the television vultures were circling this book like prey!  We don’t know why it took so long to finally make it to the screen but as we said, we’re pretty glad it did.

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We’ll be watching it avidly that’s for sure.

Comparing and contrasting with the version in our head.

And now that you’ve read our thoughts on the book…how about you?

 

Are you willing to give this lurid, rapacious beast a go?

 

Let us know if you do…

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S is for….

Superfly for a white guy?

 

Nope.  Because this isn’t 1998 and we are definitely not a bunch of unadorned women in the buffola.

 

S then is for sidestep.  Because for this article we’ve decided to move briefly away from comics and movies to take a look at other forms of media that are just as awesome and that have been tickling our old lugholes in the most delightful of ways.

 

Also in a strange confluence of events, all the things we’ve enjoyed recently seem to begin with the letter S so there’s that too.  The universe is telling us to bring these things together.  To bring them to your attention.  And who are we to argue with the Great Beyond.  So listed below are five things we’ve been overwhelmingly impressed by and that we’d like to share with those of you that appreciate talent, regardless of the medium…

 

Hold on to your hats then guys because here’s number one….

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  1. S-TOWN (podcast, iTunes) – or as listeners to this incredible podcast will know it, SHIT TOWN, to give it its full name. To get the negatives out of the way this Podcast has been accused by one article (published by Rolling Stone of all places) of whitewashing the story of this town, of failing its black listeners but to be honest that seems a little unfair to us.  Since the real story at the heart of S-Town didn’t reveal itself to host Brian Reed until long after he had gone down to Alabama, he really couldn’t have actively whitewashed the plot if he wanted to.  Hell, he didn’t even choose the narrative, the narrative basically chose him so we don’t put much stock in that particular criticism; sorry Rolling Stone.  Some others we’ve seen have also accused the podcast of being way too male centric.  s town 3But honestly knowing now what we know about its central character, the inimitable John. B. McLemore, and his unusual proclivities we sincerely doubt he would have been anywhere near as open or honest with a female journalist that came to visit so we’d also advise you to take that indictment with a grain of salt too.  However, leaving all that pessimism aside if you are looking for a tragic and heart-warming podcast that ends up in a place you never saw coming, that is the absolute definition of unpredictable then give this one a go.  Oh and if you don’t cry at episode three then no offense, then you are dead inside.  s town 1We have to add that caveat.  For legal reasons, you understand.

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  1. Sarah Kendall’s Australian Trilogy (BBC Radio 4 iPlayer)– to be fair, we hadn’t heard of this female comedian before and we basically listened to this on a recommendation from a friend who works for the BBC. But what a recommendation it was!  Because this three part series (each episode roughly an hour long) is hilarious storytelling at its best- real, heart-breaking, witty and due to the fact that each instalment ends with a line that will punch you in the gut (and rewrite everything you just heard), it’s quite unforgettable too.  sarah kendall 2 Seriously, this is a narrative delivered with a unique voice at its centre, something the BBC hasn’t always excelled in offering lately.  So if you’ve ever wanted to listen to a unique snapshot of small town life in the land of Oz then this stand up show is right up your alley.  And given Kendall’s previous (it turns out she has performed solo shows at the Edinburgh Fringe festival and pops up regularly on BBC2 and BBC4 comedy programmes), you can expect more wonderful narrative theatrics from her in the future.  Which we are more than excited about.

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  1. Swerve (Webseries, YouTube)– once again we have to say, Canada (and Skeleton Key films) has managed to drop a thought provoking and mesmerising webseries in our collective laps with little to no fanfare. Directed with flair (on a pretty tiny budget) by J S Armstrong and acted impeccably by a trio of women (Sharon Belle, Emily Amatalo and Kat Inokai) this is a fascinating look at three random lives that become inexplicably intertwined by an impromptu visit to an isolated cabin in the woods. swerve 3 Currently crowdfunding for a season 2 (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/swerveseries-season-two-going-home-youtube-series#/) with a number of new actors/characters announced should it reach its goal, this series is refreshing in its use of a female voiceover/narration and intriguing both in its visuals and plotting.  For our part, we were mesmerised by its stripped down script and hints at darker themes.  swerve 1We get the feeling there is more quality to come.  And so if the idea of a webseries focusing on a group of lost women intrigues you as much as it does us, then check this out post haste.  You’ll thank us in the long run.

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  1. Serial (podcast, iTunes)– Yes, we know you’ve probably heard of this one given that its already dropped two series to critical acclaim and no we haven’t been paid by the producers who make both Serial and S-Town. We wish.  But we had to put it on the list you see because goddamn is it well made.  Looking into a different legal case each season (Season 1: Adnan Syed’s arrest for the murder of Hae Min Lee in Baltimore 1999, Season 2: Pfc Bowe Bergdahl’s desertion from his military post in Afghanistan and subsequent capture by the Taliban in 2009) this podcast combines wonderful music, an incredibly likeable and discerning host in Sarah Koenig and a languid expansive approach to these stories to make their telling both inexplicable and mesmerising. serial 2 The fact that there are also extra behind-the-scenes details to unearth online for those of you who want (and need) more shows just how collaborative and welcoming the makers are.  And because the series is so well researched and open-minded and its production is run with such consummate skill and passion, this podcast deserves every accolade it gets.  We are currently waiting on tenterhooks for season three to be released y’all.  And we don’t even know what tenterhooks are.  But we’re on them.  We are so on them.

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  1. California Bloodlines by John Stewart (Spotify)- it seems weird to recommend an album to you as number five, we know. But since this collection of songs has a narrative at its core and offers up a look into a small piece of American history we kind of feel justified in placing it on this list. Truth be told, Stewart is a massively underrated figure in the American Folk/Pop music scene.  After a great career with the Kingston Trio he struck out on his own and recorded this masterpiece of an album in 1968 with Capitol Records.  Of course Trio fans at the time didn’t know what to make of it but in terms of musical ability this album is a slice of fried gold. john stewart 2 And if that isn’t enough to convince you then maybe the fact that this is the same guy who penned tracks ‘Daydream Believer’( for the Monkees) and ‘Gold’ (which was covered by Stevie Nicks)  will give you a nudge in his direction.  You won’t regret it.  We certainly didn’t. His mellow folksy tones provide the perfect languorous background to your day.  And if they don’t, we’ll give you your money back.*

 

Disclaimer- *we will definitely not give you any money back.  Sorry.*

 

Anyways, these are the five recommendations we have for you this month from the downtime  moments in our crazy lives.  Let us know if you manage to check any of them out or if you’ve already given them a try.  The first to comment gets a mystery prize…^

 

Disclaimer- ^we also have no mystery prizes.  Oops.^

 

 

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GRAPHIC NOVELS YOU SHOULD READ/SHOULD BE MADE INTO MOVIES RIGHT-FREAKING-NOW…

We’re sorry to say that the cover illustrations for this YA party-noir graphic novel oversold it somewhat.

 poseurs cover

To its credit, it does contain some cool stripped down visuals, and a series of scenes where the two main female leads compete to wear the most outlandish costumes possible does make proceedings visually interesting for a time.  But to be honest the fact that the cast of characters are in general massively privileged and unsympathetic undercuts any originality the book might have had.  And with an overarching plot that is just plain predictable the combination of these two factors pushes this into the mediocre category by the end.

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That sounds harsh we know.

 

But the problem is that Poseurs just doesn’t feel as satirical as it would like to be.  Don’t get us wrong, Mac’s dialogue (a kind of hybrid Hollywood language all of its own) is entertaining.  But beneath the wit and the veneer there are no dark revelations to be found on the plight of America’s aimless youth here.  There are no insights into today’s celebrity obsessed culture.  Simply a succession of ludicrous plot twists that destroy any sense of authenticity that might have given the novel a grounding in real life.  Jenna’s leading Mac on also felt distinctly anti-feminist to us, which needless to say was a massive turn off.

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In a nutshell, everything felt as if it were described using strokes that were way too broad to be knowing.  Which doesn’t mean it wasn’t diverting at times but did make things feel kind of unexceptional in a world brimming with talented GN artists and writers.  Perhaps we expected more insight from a journalist/author like Deborah Vankin with such an impressive resume under her belt (think long standing Arts and Culture writer for the highly esteemed Los Angeles Times.)  Something more than glib repartee and attempts at breaking the fourth wall that felt gimmicky and snide rather than fresh or innovative.

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Maybe the fault lies with our expectations then.

But all in all, Poseurs was a disappointing read and in desperate need of input from someone who understands the history of teen angst.  Thinking about it, someone like Damian Chazelle or Will Gluck could definitely turn this into a successful TV or movie enterprise for sure, possessing as they do an ear and an eye for young adult nuance.  But as it stands, Poseurs languishes as a distinctly average offering in the Graphic Novel genre, sad to say.

 

There we said it.

Don’t hate us.

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