September 2015 Viewing Diary

I got a pretty big writing assignment this past month, with a deadline of October 5. So I’ve been working hard, researching, as the below list will probably show. Not ready to talk about it yet, still working on the piece, but it’s been a really fun month. It’s the kind of research I love to do. September was all about film noir.

Band of Outsiders (1964; d. Jean-Luc Godard)
A favorite. Anna Karina is to die for. The dance in a cafe is the Stuff of Movie Magic. (Re-created, gorgeously, in the recent film – with the Godard-nod title Le Weekend.)

Innocents with Dirty Hands (1975; d. Claude Chabrol)
Chabrol is one of my favorite directors. I have a soft spot for any movie that features a French detective investigating a murder, and so Chabrol obviously fits the bill. Romy Schneider is one of the most beautiful women to ever appear onscreen. She’s breath-taking. The plot is nothing special (young sexually-alert wife plots with her young sexually-alert lover to kill her older impotent drunk husband) but it’s beautifully done. Melodramatic. Gorgeously shot. Rod Steiger is the drunk awful husband.

The Men Who Built America (2012; d. Patrick Reams, Ruan Magan)
Allison and I devoured this fascinating mini-series about the Tycoons of the American Industrial Revolution on our unbelievably relaxing weekend away. So relaxing that at times we just floated around in the pool on inflated orcas, and didn’t even speak. But we also watched the entire mini-series, stopping to discuss every 10 minutes.

Breathe (2015; d. Mélanie Laurent)
A really good film about two teenage girls. I reviewed for Roger Ebert. Mélanie Laurent is a French actress (she made an indelible impression as Shoshanna in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, and this is her second feature. She’s an excellent director.

The Beaches of Agnès (2008; d. Agnès Varda)
I saw this beautiful film on its initial release. Varda is a powerhouse, a true artist, and this film is an autobiographical exploration of her childhood. But with her brilliant style. The opening sequence, showing her, with her movie crew, setting up the “set” on the beach, with mirrors pointing different ways, is unbelievable. The IMAGES that she sets up, in a seemingly casual documentary-like way. You see her instructing her PAs, and then there are all these illusions created: she’s standing there, with the dunes behind her, but the mirrors are placed just so that it looks like the surf is about to overwhelm her. Profound personal film.

Big Jake (1971; d. George Sherman)
John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara reunited (in a small way, they only have a couple of scenes together) for Big Jake. She’s a fiery super-smart rich lady, who was once married to Big Jake, but he’s been gone a long long time. Eventually, their grandson is kidnapped by a murderous gang, and Big Jake sets out to find him, with his two estranged sons in tow. Lots of good family drama. Wayne had less than a decade left to live. He is strapping, stalwart, does many of his own stunts. He only had one lung. He AMAZES me.

The Visit (2015; d. M. Night Shyamalan)
So much fun. A blast. Haven’t said that about a Shyamalan film in a long long time. I reviewed for Roger Ebert.

Criminal Minds, Season 1, Episode 12 “What Fresh Hell” (2006; d. Adam Davidson)
A little girl is abducted in plain sight from a park. Was it her estranged father? Her parents divorced and it was BITTER. Why do I put myself through this show? Why do I like it so much? Mandy Patinkin is beyond great. It’s a deeply detailed and emotional performance. (He did so much research for the role, immersed himself in serial killer crime stuff, that it basically ruined his life, he couldn’t sleep – that’s why he left the show. I admire Patinkin a lot. I’m sure he can be a nightmare, with dedication like that, but it’s why he’s so good.)

Criminal Minds, Season 1, Episode 15 “Unfinished Business” (2006; J. Miller Tobin)
J. Miller Tobin from Supernatural! He directed “A Very Supernatural Christmas,” and for that alone he deserves an award. It’s funny to see Criminal Minds in its first season when it was finding its sea legs. The characters spout exposition at one another. People on the BAU team say stuff to each other like, “Arsonists are typically young white males, who are socially awkward and impotent.” If the show were realistic, the other team member would say, “Yeah. I know. I work here too.” Also, there are all these back-projected scenes where they theorize on who the killer is, and it’s very pretentious. I still like the show, God help me.

Girl on a Motorcycle (1968; d. Jack Cardiff)
Yeah, I think I covered this one here.

Tom Jones (1963; d. Tony Richardson)
Three of the actresses were nominated for Best Supporting. You can see why this film made Albert Finney a star. He’s very very funny. I like when he realizes his wrist is probably broken.

Fast Five (2011; d. Justin Lin)
Maybe my favorite in the franchise? Although who can choose. I love these movies so much and I think they’re more profound than perhaps they are given credit for. The films are about family, and doing the right thing (while being criminals, of course) – but it’s really about finding your own family.

Supernatural, Season 2, Episode 18, “Hollywood Babylon” (2007; d. Phil Sgriccia)
A re-watch for the re-cap which I finally finished.

Gilda (1946; d. Charles Vidor)
Glorious. Twisted. Sexy. Dark. The film that made Rita Hayworth not just a star, but a superstar. Her entrance alone announces her as a star (the empty screen, and then her rising, flipping her hair back).


People who haven’t even seen a Rita Hayworth movie know that image. But then there was also the little matter of taking off her glove.

Cover Girl (1944; d. Charles Vidor)
Another Charles Vidor film starring Rita Hayworth (I think they did five together). This was only 2 years before Gilda and stars Gene Kelly (his dance with himself in Cover Girl made HIM a superstar. Hayworth stars as a dancer in Gene Kelly’s theater who tries to break into modeling for the bigger bucks. Eve Arden plays a cynical wise-ass editorial assistant at a huge fashion magazine. The darkness and tough-ness that Hayworth brought out in Gilda is not evident here. She is sweet and funny and open. But it’s a perfect movie to watch to really understand just how radical a change Gilda was for her. She and Gene Kelly do a couple of great dances, but this one is my favorite.

Lilies of the Field (1963; d. Ralph Nelson)
Sidney Poitier was the first African-American to win a Best Actor Oscar, and it was for this role, Homer Smith, the drifter handy-man who ends up helping to build a chapel for an isolated group of nuns in the desert. It’s a beautiful performance, a real STAR performance. An easy and charismatic and funny leading man. No love interest or anything, although his slow-to-develop friendship with the Mother Superior (Lilia Skala – who was nominated for Best Supporting) is basically the “love story” of the film. He’s so good in it. It’s a beautiful movie.

Love Me or Leave Me (1955; d. Charles Vidor)
An excellent and tremendously upsetting film about a showgirl and her mobster boyfriend. It’s an abusive relationship. The film features two powerhouse performances from Doris Day and James Cagney. I wrote about it here.

Together Again (1944; d. Charles Vidor)
Hilarious film about a small-town mayor (Irene Dunne), carrying on her husband’s legacy in the most judgmental town in America. Into her life comes a European sculptor (of course), played by Charles Boyer. He is hired to create a new statue of her late husband. Mayhem ensues. She thought she had buried her heart forever.

Petulia (1968; d. Richard Lester)
A devastating and dark dark film. Brilliant. Starring Julie Christie and George C. Scott. It made me feel hopeless. 1968 again. The bloom of the 60s is already way WAY off the rose. Shirley Knight is excellent too. Richard Chamberlain is smooth and ruthless. Great film.

You’ll Never Get Rich (1941; d. Sidney Lansfield)
Fred Astaire admitted, practically under duress, near the end of his life, that Rita Hayworth was his favorite dance partner in all his career. He probably didn’t want to make Ginger mad. But you can see why in this film (they made two together). It wasn’t easy to hold your own with Fred Astaire. Rita meets him toe to toe.

Tonight and Every Night (1945; d. Victor Saville)
What a beautiful movie! Gorgeously shot. It’s based on the supposedly true story of a theatre in London that never missed a show during the entirety of the second World War. The show must go on. Perhaps silly, when you consider the gas chambers, I grant that, but the film shows the gutsiness and toughness of the British people who refuse to let their lives be dominated by the Blitz or anything else. They WOULD have their musical comedies. BEAUTIFULLY shot in Technicolor, with the blackouts, and the flames of the bombs in the distance. Rita Hayworth plays a show-girl who falls in love with an officer. Lots of wonderful dance numbers. Surprisingly moving.

The Master (2012; d. Paul Thomas Anderson)
What a film. It gets better with each viewing. I’ll never get to the bottom of it.

Theodora Goes Wild (1936; d. Richard Boleslawski)
A very entertaining film, awkwardly directed by Boleslawski), about a prim and proper small-town girl (Irene Dunne), overrun by her two maiden aunts, terrified of doing anything to rock the boat. She is old before her time. HOWEVER, she has secretly written a book under a pseudonym that has taken the world by storm. It’s a breathless bodice-ripping romance. She makes secret trips to New York to meet with her publisher. She doesn’t want anyone to know who she is. Into the action strolls a wonderfully sexy Melvyn Douglas, who tracks her down, and insinuates himself into her life, against her wishes. He will blow her cover! But suddenly, with this random guy, she starts having … oh my God … real FUN. The town is scandalized. And etc. I love Irene Dunne.

99 Homes (2015; d. Ramin Bahrani)
Excellent film starring Michael Shannon, Andrew Garfield and Laura Dern. I reviewed it for Roger Ebert.

Gilda (1946; d. Charles Vidor)
Second viewing, this time with the commentary track by Richard Schickel. Hmmm. What COULD I be working on.

The VIPs (1963; d. Anthony Asquith)
What a ponderous bore! A clear vehicle for Elizabeth Taylor (who is ravishing) and Richard Burton (ditto), it’s an “ensemble” drama about the various people trapped in the VIP lounge at an airport in England, their plane grounded due to fog. Everyone has something at stake. The plane MUST go off on schedule or ELSE! Taylor is running away playboy Louis Jourdan, escaping from her husband (Burton) who has the AUDACITY to buy her jewels. She is BORED with the jewels! Maggie Smith gives the best performance, in my opinion, as the devoted secretary to an Australian tractor magnate – only of course she is secretly in love with him. Margaret Rutherford was nominated for her performance as the dowdy ditzy old Duchess, who can’t afford to live on her gigantic Downton Abbey property anymore. Anyway, it’s all tremendously silly.

Taxi (2015; d. Jafar Panahi)
One of the best films of the year. I reviewed it here.

Chop Shop (2007; d. Ramin Bahrani)
This was the Ramin Bahrani film that got the focused attention of Roger Ebert, who reviewed it favorably, and THEN put it on his Great Movies list. Roger’s support meant so much to Bahrani that his latest film, 99 Homes, is dedicated to Roger. Chop Shop, about a little off-the-grid Latino boy working in a “chop shop” (i.e. auto-body shop) in Brooklyn, is a phenomenal film. Filmed with no fuss, but with utter specificity too, you are immersed into the world of the auto-body shop, and the “fortunes” of this little 11-year-old boy who does not go to school, there is no expectation that he WOULD go to school, and he has set himself up as his protector of his older sister. The two of them live in a tiny room at the back of the chop-shop. See this film.

Badlands (1973; d. Terrence Malick)
One of my favorite films of all time.

Out of the Past (1947; d. Jacques Tourneur)
As deep as the ocean. Stylish, sexy (the rain!), dark. Jane Greer as the perfect femme fatale, luring Robert Mitchum into her web. Mitchum, always sexy in a lazy confident way, is never sexier than in the moment when the two of them lie on the beach at night, clinging to one another, and she is protesting her innocence about something. She says to him, “You believe me, don’t you?” He growls, “Baby, I don’t care” and attacks her. It’s a famous line, of course, but watching him DO it is still radical. It’s Pure Sex.

The Big Heat (1953; d. Fritz Lang)
So so good. Peak noir. Crooked cops, threatened domesticity, paranoia, tough dames in distress. Glenn Ford and Jocelyn Brando (Marlon’s sister) only have a couple of scenes together to “suggest” a happy marriage/home-life. They do so beautifully. It’s essential. And sorry, with all the violence and explicit gore onscreen today, there is nothing – NOTHING – more violent than Gloria Grahame getting a pot of hot coffee thrown in her face – off-camera. Lee Marvin is terrifying. Shivers. Great great film.

Human Desire (1954; d. Fritz Lang)
Another Glenn Ford-Gloria Grahame pairing, with interesting twists on it – not a repeat of The Big Heat. Ford plays a returning war vet, who works the railroads. He gets sucked into the marital drama of a recently-fired guy who has married a much younger hot-to-trot dame (Grahame). She appears to be a damsel in distress. LOOK OUT.

The Asphalt Jungle (1950; d. John Huston)
Marilyn Monroe is usually on the cover of the DVD but she’s only in a couple of scenes (and she’s great). Huston gave her a pretty big break here, and she was always grateful for it (she spoke about it during the filming of another Huston-helmed film, The Misfits). It’s 1950, so the cops here are still portrayed as good, as the “thin blue line.” (Notice how that mood shifts, alarmingly, by The Big Heat when EVERYONE is dirty.) It’s a nasty little world. Sterling Hayden is great (so sexy) as the “heavy” who has only one goal: make enough money to be able to go home to the farm where he grew up, in Kentucky. There’s an excellent and tense bank-robbery sequence, stolen almost shot for shot by Jean-Pierre Melville in Le Cercle Rouge.)

Laura (1944; d. Otto Preminger)
A classic. Dana Andrews is one of my favorites. I’ve been meaning to write a post about the long one-shot of him wandering around Laura’s apartment, the shot that ends with him falling into the armchair, in a swoon of obsession and sexual desire. It’s filmed with the typical Otto Preminger style: floating complex camera moves. But it’s the ACTING of Stevens that makes that camera move WORK. It’s an example of collaboration. I’ll get to that post someday.

Murder, My Sweet (1944; d. Edward Dmytryk)
Dick Powell plays Philip Marlowe, getting sucked into a dark world he cannot understand. Everyone has secrets. There are even some surreal Vertigo-ish touches, from Marlowe’s point of view, when he is attacked, or when he is tied up and injected with something (awful) … we see Powell floating down a dark spiral into nothingness. A really dark film.

3:10 to Yuma (1957; d. Delmer Daves)
Everyone is phenomenal in this. Van Heflin, as the downtrodden farmer, worried about his family, unable to act, or make a bold move, even though his sons and his wife look to him for that. Glenn Ford plays the psychopath leader of the gang, who preys on Van Heflin’s emasculation. Their scenes together (and there are so many: this could practically be a stage play) are superb. They build … and build … and build. And the ending! Yes. Of course it would end that way.

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006; d. Guillermo del Toro)

Bad For Each Other (1953; d. Irving Rapper)
Charlton Heston plays a veteran who comes home to his coal-mining village to set up shop as a doctor. But uh-oh, Lizabeth Scott (who just died) enters his life, and she is a spoiled rich woman who lulls him to sleep, basically, with her luxury. He takes a job as a pill-dispenser for silly ladies who visit him on a weekly basis (basically because they have crushes on him.) Lizabeth Scott would co-star opposite Elvis a mere 4 years later. The coal mining scenes are amazing. Arthur Franz only has a couple of scenes but he almost walks away with the picture, due to his charm, openness, and naturalism.

The Glass Wall (1953; d. Maxwell Shane)
What a fascinating and totally weird movie. HIGHLY recommended. Vittorio Gassman takes it to another operatic level. He is unbelievable, quivering with sensitivity, and passion. He has a scene in an empty conference room in the United Nations that is … both ridiculous and incredibly moving. Gloria Grahame, again, as the grubby little dame who befriends him. VERY interesting film, and really hard-hitting about America’s tough immigration laws. Robin Raymond is unbelievable as the stripper (with two kids at home), the child of immigrants, who also encounters Gassman on the streets and tries to help. She only has two scenes, really. She kills it.

Supernatural, Season 2, Episode 18, “Hollywood Babylon” (2007; d. Phil Sgriccia)
I had to watch it AGAIN in order to get that re-cap done. Oh, what I do for you people. (Kidding. It was a fun “break” in my research.)

Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 15, “The Things They Carried” (2015; d. John Badham)
2. Today, coincidentally, is Tim O’Brien’s birthday, he who wrote the amazing book called The Things They Carried, excerpt here. In regards to the Supernatural episode, I appreciated the focus on the struggles of soldiers returning from Iraq. More should be done to help these people. Volunteer at a VA – or there are all kinds of organizations designed to help these veterans. (It’s my chosen “charity” to be involved in, so it hits close to home.) The whole sweat-lodge thing is both homoerotic and disgusting. That WORM. Going from mouth to mouth. My God. The style is more Criminal Minds (that horrifying opening) than Supernatural, but Badham is already a proven entity, so I got into it. I liked Cole’s focus on Dean as the most delicious thing he’d ever seen in his life. Yes.

Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 16, “Paint It Black” (2015; d. John F. Showalter)
I had high hopes for the episode based on the title alone. My favorite Rolling Stones song. But this has to be a contender for the worst Supernatural episode in its history. Those flashbacks to Florence. The romance-novel vibe, the bad painting supposed to be a masterpiece, the pirate-shirt. Embarrassing. Nuns exploding out of each other’s backsides as though they’ve eaten bad tacos from the Vatican. The only thing I really liked was the tiny red necklace on the gerbil. It made me laugh then, it makes me laugh now. This episode is so insane that it feels deliberate, but I don’t think it was. I think somehow they knew this one was a stinker, and they shouldered through it the best they could. But the image of the costume designer creating a teeny-tiny red necklace identical to the human-sized necklace is hilarious.

Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 17, “Inside Man” (2015; d. Rashaad Ernesto Green)
Bobby. Too much. Too much emotion seeing him again.

Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 18, “The Book of the Damned” (2015; d. P.J. Pesce)
Robbie Thompson always brings something interesting to his episodes. The Castiel-Metatron scenes are great. Metatron freaking out about the pancakes, resulting in explosive diarrhea, that Castiel then has to clean up. “Let’s never speak of that again.” The library shattering with Castiel’s power (that great moving shot of the aisle of books bursting off the shelves), and the spreading of his frayed wings. Now THAT’S more like it. Welcome back, Castiel. No more three-bean-surprise. We are introduced to the L.L. Bean models of the Stein family. The thing about the “mark” that I don’t really like is that … what. It just makes Dean into a rage-boy? When he kills vamps? Uhm, yeah, but he’s always like that. So … this is just a little bit worse then? It’s not like Sam being so ruined by the “trials” that he will die. I mean, it’s the same situation, but somehow the “mark” and its consequences don’t have the same reverb. JA is playing the hell out of it. But to me it represents a lack of imagination. The big show-down with Cain is a perfect example. They finally meet and the result is …. a fist fight. Kind of a let-down. But that final sequence: laughing over pizza, Sam watching Dean … is emotional. This is Supernatural doing “sentiment” (as opposed to sentimentality, fine line) really really well.

The Forbidden Room (2015; d. Guy Maddin)
My friend Kim Morgan was story editor on this film, wrote quite a bit of it, and appears in a couple of scenes. She’s also in one of the posters, like an image from out of a dream.


I saw it at a press screening yesterday and ran into an old friend (name-drop), Kurt Loder. He and Allison actually joined my family on vacation many summers ago. Great memory. A very funny experience from that whole time was when a group of us went to go see Gigli, which was getting the worst reviews we had ever seen in our lives. We HAD to go check it out. It was me, Allison, Kurt, and a couple of others. We were the only ones in the movie theatre. And yes, Gigli was as bad as as everyone said. It was great to see him yesterday and we sat together. I’ll have more to say about The Forbidden Room. It’s unlike anything else and it’s beautiful and funny and surreal. Any movie with Udo Kier is worth seeing. Unforgettable collage of images. Charlotte Rampling. And more. Proud of Kim.

This Gun for Hire (1942; d. Frank Tuttle)
One of my favorite movies. So paranoid. And political. With Alan Ladd in his phenomenal debut as the assassin. Jean-Paul Melville’s La Samourai is an unofficial remake, minus all the political stuff and minus the assassin’s backstory. Veronica Lake is so great, a mix of tough street-smart dame and sympathetic soft woman. But always tough. Her audition scene, a mix of song and magic, is effortlessly charming. Robert Preston has a thankless role as her cop boyfriend. Alan Ladd’s performance is a deadpan masterpiece. When he calls out to the cops, “That girl is my friend!” (speaking of Lake), I want to weep. When she is tender with him, he can’t bear it. “Take your hands off me.” He doesn’t say that because he’s not into her or because he doesn’t trust her. He says it because her tender touch actually hurts him. She is the only friend he’s ever had. The only human friend anyway: he loves the kitten who shows up at his window. But humans? He’s too damaged for that. Until her. Great great character.

Lady in the Lake (1947; d. Robert Montgomery)
Based on a Raymond Chandler book, the wonderful Robert Montgomery plays Philip Marlowe, private detective, but also directs. The radical thing about Lady in the Lake is that it is all filmed from Marlowe’s perspective. The camera IS Marlowe. Long long takes, as he walks into rooms (unseen), turns his head, etc. When he smokes a cigarette, smoke billows up in front of the camera. Audrey Totter plays the “Dame” in the film: can we trust her? Yes? No? The only time you see Robert Montgomery in the film is when he looks in the mirror. Really well done. Not my favorite film, but a lot of fun.

Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 19, “The Werther Project” (2015; d. Stefan Pleszczynski)
Good to see Benny again, but it’s chilling how Dean’s subconscious turns Benny into the inner voice seducing him to suicide. (Not to be too personal, but suicidal ideation often works like that. Or it feels like that: people pushing you to end it all. They love you. They want you to “rest.”) Brenda Bakke is fantastic as Suzie, holed up in her house. Her pain and her tough-ness and her terror are palpable. Also, good to see Purgatory again for no other reason than the colors go dark and monochromatic. FINALLY. The flashback of the Men of Letters is especially annoying. That scene takes place in the past: why is it so technicolor-bright? Not a sensitive choice at all. It should be dark, stark, noir-ish ominous. The “suits” in “Hollywood Babylon” have won.

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159 Responses to September 2015 Viewing Diary

  1. Wren Collins says:

    Sheila, I’m sorry, but the crown of Worst SPN Episode In History HAS to go to Bugs. There’s just no contest. And at least Paint It Black had that confession scene.

    • sheila says:

      Yes, you’re right. And the confession scene is great – I bet that was the first thing written and then they created all that ridiculous-ness around it. I love his first eye-roll over how hard it is to be unfaithful. But then the confession goes somewhere else. Nice.

      And Bugs, yes. With the shortest night in the history of the human race!!!

      Although it did give us Dean as Hamlet, so that’s something.

      • Wren Collins says:

        //I bet that was the first thing written and then they created all that ridiculous-ness around it.//
        Exactly! And you know- it’s so awful- the picture that all the websites seem to use on their SPN recaps is a shot of Sam and Dean from Paint It Black.

        To be perfectly fair, I do always laugh at Dean in the steam shower and the terrifying real estate lady (she and the guy saying ‘We accept homeowners of any race, religion, colour… or sexuality’ always gets me.)
        But the shortest night. Like- the fuck? Clearly everyone was anxious to get the episode OVER already.
        Do you know the story about Kim Manners and the bees?

        That said- the only episode that I WILL NOT rewatch is Bloodlines. I just hate it. I find it paper-thin. It’s not at all like a SPN episode. Even Bugs had the Supernatural vibe.

        • sheila says:

          Oh yeah, let’s all just pretend Bloodlines never happened.

          So frustrating too that they chose that episode to do a commentary track for – I get that they wanted the show to succeed – nobody wants a show to fail – but it’s a waste of a commentary!

          • Wren Collins says:

            Oh gosh. Yes. Though I was very glad to find that Mummy’s Little Helper had a commentary track. I love that episode- Misha directed it. And Blade Runners had the other commentary; SUCH a good episode, with Crowley’s hysterical junkie behaviour and Sam and Dean circling round him shouting at him to man up.

            Also- there’s already a show called Bloodline. I get the impression that it’s rather uninteresting. But Bloodlines felt how I imagine Vampire Diaries to be. And just- how is it that there’s five monster families running Chicago- and no-one, not Ellen, Rufus, Bobby, John, etc- knew about it??? Like- what? And ‘Ellis’ having the same background as Sam? Yeah, no.

    • Jessie says:

      I won’t have it said! Bugs is silly and dumb in places but even when it’s silly and dumb it’s never BORING like Paint it Black. Bugs also has the advantage of being part of the slow S1 striptease where every episode we learn just…a..little…bit…more…about..the…guys. Also JA punches JP in the dick. It has a lot going for it.

      • Paula says:

        The dick punch totally redeems Bugs. Where’s the honorable mention for Route 666? I will watch Bugs in a heartbeat over Route 666 and Bloodlines.

        • sheila says:

          I actually like Route 666. And yes, Bugs has its redeeming moments (Dean commenting about blowing his brains out if he had to live in suburbia, Dean with towel on his head at the door).

          And neither of them are embarrassing like Paint it Black is. Those Florence flashbacks. The pirate shirt. whyyyyyyyyyy

          Bloodlines, to me, doesn’t count. It was a hopeful pilot for another series. I won’t ever watch it again!

  2. Wren Collins says:

    I actually kind of love The Werther Project- but the MoL scene is garish and annoying. It reminds me of the Samelia flashbacks. But on the other hand there’s a RESEARCH MONTAGE with great music. And gorgeous otherworldly Purgatory flashbacks. And Rowena. Etc.

    Also- love Book Of The Damned. The MUSIC. Thin Lizzy! The Who! And the Castiel stuff is- to me at least- easily the most interesting he’s been since, oh, early Season Nine? The bit where he got his grace back is just… it reminds me of Season Four Cas.

    • sheila says:

      Yeah, that grace scene was wonderful. And he figured it out through a quote from Don Quixote. And those raggedy wings … heart-crack.

      Also, with Men of Letters: it’s weird – maybe understandable: Supernatural seems to have a natural aversion to any kind of organized community. There is no such thing as a natural “group” – every group devolves into bureaucracy. Heaven. Season 10 Hell. and Men of Letters – who first showed up as a bunch of radicals, sneaking around … and then suddenly, in Werther Project – they’re identical men at a long table, all dressed alike.

      For me, it didn’t fit. I would have liked to see a ton more diversity there – that Men of Letters come from all walks of life. Yes, all men, but still.

      There’s some lack of imagination going on there – or maybe it’s just the group-think of a certain writer’s staff. Heaven, which was once wild and scary, turns into a rigid bureaucracy. Hell, which was once totally uncontrollable, is now a bored eye-roll court. and Men of Letters are dressed like extras in a 1950s movie about office work.

      Kind of interesting – maybe it’s a critique of how humans, in general, act badly once they solidify into groups. It immediately becomes a power struggle. Hunters are the exception – individuals. You never see hunters sitting at a long table, having some committee meeting.

      • Helena says:

        Also film crews may be another exception. There’s all sorts in there, including one hell of a PA.

        • sheila says:

          Yes – many random environments are portrayed as eccentric and specific.

          But if they were recurring “environments” they might solidify into something bureaucratic – which happens with all these other environments. Seems to be the way things go. Or maybe it’s just supernaturally-based groups that become these weird 1950s office scenes of conformity. Purgatory’s an exception.

          I think it lacks imagination, frankly. They don’t even seem to know they’re doing it.

          • Jessie says:

            It’s hinting this way with the Grand Coven business too, which I DO NOT WANT. Whether it’s on purpose or not I think they really need to course correct.

            I think the show is deeply skeptical of any group with more than like four people in it. And very ambivalent about the concept of family. And is also worried about people going solo. Here’s how I understand it when I’m being charitable:

            In the first five seasons social organisation fell into three categories: civilian (good/bad/innocent/neutral, feat. women and children); loose, suspicious, isolated networks of grizzled horse-trader hunters; and autocratic patriarchal families/cults. Even the monsters/heaven/hell fell into those categories. Everything felt organic and unpredictable. Everything lived in the shadows.

            When we lost God and Lucifer but kept the idea of good and evil SIDES suddenly this whole obsession with structure came into the show. Fathers needed to be replaced. Standard monsters got the best of it, they just gained the concept of Alphas. Angels and demons responded/continue to respond to the power vacuum with pathological and often dull power struggles. Leviathan brought in corporate structures and died when the head was cut off. The Men of Letters was conceived of in explicit opposition to our renegade libertarian hunters. Maybe they can build a nice bunker but they — and all these other bureaucracies — don’t have the flex to adapt. They can’t survive, and didn’t.

            Through all of this stride Our Two Heroes trying to work out something lateral, flexible, forgiving.

          • sheila says:

            Jessie – this analysis of the draw towards “organization” and how it’s shifted over the seasons – the obsession with structure – is AMAZING.

            You have clocked it.

            Yes, you’re right – the Grand Coven, too, is tending towards bureaucracy. Again, maybe that’s an irresistible human drive – people like to be organized, people want to be subservient to a Leader (in general: in times of chaos, Leaders arise) – but it definitely makes the “bad” side predictable, as you say – and even worse, dull.

            Crowley, such a beautiful villain, reduced to throwing darts at a minion. Maybe there’s some “comment” there about the “banality of evil” – but honestly, a whole damn season of Crowley being bored? On what universe is that good story-telling? It’s a clear indicator that Crowley has out-lived his usefulness in the story. Same with Cas, who seems to be kept around because of fan love of him – not because he has any organic part in the story anymore. At least give Cas something to DO. I have mixed feelings about Cas’ domestic drama in Season 10 – but I actually like those episodes (once Hannah departed) – especially once Cas became a valid angel again. He seemed weird again, “other,” clueless – and unpredictable. Of course what happens when he meets the Gregory angel? Fist-fight. We just saw Castiel DESTROY a library getting his grace back. Isn’t there a more dramatic option?

            The emotions/psychology of our two fearless leads is so strong it counter-weights all of this. It makes it sound like I’m nit-picking – but I think these are serious structural flaws.

            I’m not in it for the plot, though – I’m in it for those emotions.

            But especially watching Season 10 – a really uneven season (which I actually appreciate – I like the mess of it) – I feel that draw towards bureaucracy – it seems to happen without everyone on board even realizing it. (The Stein family structure, etc.)

            It’d be nice to get some wild-card villains again. Rowena is one. She’s outside any set-up structure. Same with Abaddon, who was a “big bad” on her own tear. She USED bureaucracy to get what she wanted, but she was too ferocious to be hemmed in by any structure.

          • sheila says:

            One hopeful thing (??) about the so-called “Darkness” is that it doesn’t look like THAT could organize itself into corporate America, ever.

            Although who knows, the SPN writers might find a way! :)

          • Jessie says:

            I love your thoughts Sheila! Yes, Abbadon and Rowena were great wild cards although even they were drawn into the muck — Abbadon had some rally-the-troops-speeches, Rowena the grand coven business. But it feels PERSONAL with them which makes a difference. Those women also have a ton more charisma than 99% of the other people we’re talking about so that helps.

            The darkness — I said last season that we should just wait for the darkness to infect or inhabit a bunch of white dudes in suits, I was JOKING, I TAKE IT BACK UNIVERSE.

      • Wren Collins says:

        Yeah, it’s very weird. Frankly I don’t think it would annoy me nearly as much if it weren’t for a fact that the bureaucracy scenes are always very flat and bright and icky. Like- you remember the gorgeous black-and-white flashbacks in S9’s Slumber Party, with the two eccentric MoLs? Loved that.

        Interesting point about the hunters in contrast to the angels, demons etc. Like, surely it can’t be accidental? Or does the show just have a deep, deep hatred of bureaucrats?

        By the way- random aside- I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on The Prisoner and Brother’s Keeper.

        • sheila says:

          // Or does the show just have a deep, deep hatred of bureaucrats? //

          I think that’s it. It feels like “groupthink” again on the part of the writers staff. Maybe as a contrast to Dean and Sam’s individuality.

          But there are so many different options. Why couldn’t Hell be a decadent whorehouse? Or a train rattling through some alternate universe (like Snowpiercer – a really really good film!) Why couldn’t Heaven be a New-Age hippie-dippie Ashram – with brainwashed hippie angels – a place that could generate a kind of ferocity (like Manson did out of a similar vibe) – instead of corporate America? Always always with the corporate America?

          There’s a real lack of imagination here – they’re phoning it in. Maybe the real issue is that Heaven and Hell no longer have a real place in the story.

          • Wren Collins says:

            //brainwashed hippie angels//
            Hahahahaha. But I see what you mean.

            Honestly- I think they just need to take a break from the Heaven and Hell stuff. Keep it peripheral for a season or so. Maybe they could come back eventually with a fresh approach, but give it a rest for now.

          • Wren Collins says:

            //One hopeful thing (??) about the so-called “Darkness” is that it doesn’t look like THAT could organize itself into corporate America, ever. //

            Hehe. From what I’ve seen thus far? No sign of it. I have high hopes, actually, despite the shitty name.

      • Barb says:

        One thing about that Men of Letters scene, it’s a recreation rather than a flashback, right? It’s taking place in Sam’s head, really, as he listens to the tape–he of the lemon-yellow memories of Amelia. I thought, when I saw it, that they were going for something like this:

        • Barb says:

          Continuing the link of the MoL flashbacks to movie styles, then, the 1930’s Men in Slumber Party, were following true to the style of cinema and acting from that time period, perhaps? I’m thinking of “The Thin Man”, for some reason, though I’m not positive that it parallels correctly.

        • sheila says:

          Nice! Yeah, it was reminiscent of the Eliot Ness episode – those colors were insanely bright, too – so maybe that’s where they were coming from. A sense of old-fashioned glamour. I don’t know – it was the identical suits that got me, really. and if something is taking place in the past, a dark event you’re trying to make sense of – then why is it so damn bright??

  3. When you get the chance (I can’t imagine when that will be), I hope you watch the final (I guess) season of Hannibal. It’s phenomenal.

    • sheila says:

      Jincy – I’m so far behind with that one – but I have heard it’s incredible!!

      • Wren Collins says:

        There are Hannibal people on this blog? *is excited* I’m STILL on Season Two…

        • Paula says:

          Wren – I’m a huge Hannibal fan! Still getting through S3. Gillian Anderson as Bedelia is fantastic in S3 when you get there.

          • Wren Collins says:

            Gillian Anderson’s Hannibal’s psychiatrist where I am right now. SPN people keep cropping up- there was Mairin from the mental hospital as Abigail, Katherine Isabelle (Ava) as the lady whose brother seems to be trying to feed her to pigs, etc.
            Love Gillian Anderson- she’s in Bleak House as Lady Dedlock, too. Have you seen The X-Files?

          • Paula says:

            The actor who played Rafael was in it too. That voice and those eyes. Also the actor who was one of the main Leviathans (the demo expert who breaks Deans leg? Why can I remember his name?) The cross over is crazy.

          • Lyrie says:

            I must be the only person Hannibal bored to death. :( I wanted to like it!

          • Jessie says:

            Hannibal is filled to the brim with unholy-gorgeous people (I am actually glad Gina Torres and Gillian A, who both blaze like chilly galaxies, didn’t share a scene, I wouldn’t have been able to take it) and it doesn’t feel fake in the same way that gorgeous people on network television usually feel fake. Beauty in Hannibal is seduction and death. Vulgarity is ugliness and subject to harsh penalties. Beauty in the face of a person (as opposed to a plate of antipasto or a mural made out of people) signals a threat to the self. If you find someone gorgeous in Hannibal they want something from you and they will use their beauty to get it and that will feel RIGHT to you, and they will have your best interests at heart.

            And yet — it’s only when you can see through the glamour to the essential thingness of things that you can see true beauty. This is Hannibal’s lesson to Will. That the show is capable of rendering what we would typically call repulsive, beautiful – it’s a remarkable achievement.

            And yet and yet — we can’t fully buy into this last seduction and think ourselves so clever for exposing the hypocrisy of glamour because Hannibal is a FUCKING ASSHOLE.

            In this way I think Hannibal as a bit of a side effect refutes the childish cynicism that a lot of young men in particular puff themselves up defensively with.

        • sheila says:

          Jessie is a HUGE Hannibal fan – the way she talks about it is addictive. The visual stuff.

          • Wren Collins says:

            I’m not surprised- the show is gorgeous- it reminds me of Sherlock in the visual respect.

          • Jessie says:

            WHy i AM a huge Hannibal fan!

            If it tempts anyone any further Supernatural and Hannibal have similar concerns about the psychic consequences of violence, and the separation between surface and depth/appearance and reality. Who will you turn to, if we’re all essentially meat? Who will you be? If you choose empathy or love, are they not, functionally, lies generally agreed upon? Will your murder husband call you on, or your brother-wife call you back?

            A fan recently made this marvelous video which gets into these themes a bit, and contains the FUNNEST, toe-tappingest editing I’ve seen in ages. It’s a good reflection of how Hannibal mines dark, dark shit for humour. Contains shots from all three seasons but not so spoilerly out of context and doesn’t touch the last run of episodes. Will make you hope Hugh Dancy has a good ENT guy.

          • mutecypher says:

            “When life becomes maddeningly polite, think about me.” – Hannibal Lector.

            What an inspiration the series was.

            “I got places to go, people to cook.” – mutecypher

            A grotesque thing of beauty is a perverse joy forever.

          • Jessie says:

            wire my jaw shut, please…

            And more, as I’ve implied, these questions and concerns play out in the bodies and souls of Will and Dean (Sam has a different set of questions). And this is where, to add to the discussion upthread, I think the Mark of Cain makes its coin and it’s why I like it. What is it to be a tool of violence? How much of that is intrinsic and how much is external? Can you use it/yourself for good? And what are you left with? I could write five different fics that answer these questions five different ways — that’s the power of Supernatural (Hannibal for all its baroque flourish is more contained and coherent, less permissive and fecund).

            mutecypher, I LOVE that Hannibal line!

          • Jessie says:

            Does Sam have a different set of questions? Beware the glib parenthesis. The issue of his essential corruption functions along the same lines as Dean’s essential violence, but it’s in ebb as Dean’s is in ascendancy.

            Anyway. Stai zitta!

          • mutecypher says:

            Jessie, I’ve added that line to things to consider while in annoying meetings. That, and put the Dead Kennedy’s “Holiday In Cambodia” on the headphones. It’s more vicious than Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” – though “the dead lay in pools of maroon below” can have a salubrious piquancy.

          • mutecypher says:

            Jessie, I’ve added that line to things to consider while in annoying meetings. That, and put the Dead Kennedy’s “Holiday In Cambodia” on the headphones. It’s more vicious than Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” – though “the dead lay in pools of maroon below” can have a salubrious piquancy.

          • mutecypher says:

            What mutecypher said.

          • Paula says:

            Jessie – Love your thoughts about Will and Dean as parallels, because I immediately went to Will and Sam when I watched S1. Intrinsic love of knowledge, personal aversion to flash but acceptance of it in those we love and respect (in my mind Dean and Jack were more parallels), dealing with the physical pain (because sweaty sick Will and trials Sam were brothers from another mother) and DOGS. SO MANY DOGS.

            Yet now I read this //What is it to be a tool of violence?// and see it, especially S2 Will and Dean. I would add to that list their vulnerability to predators who approach them with reason that hides their true nature (Gordon and Hannibal). Two men who see through people everyday and yet both missed the greatest threat at their side. this is a great discussion.

            And yes on the visuals! I hate cooking and yet am so drawn to scenes of Hannibal’s meal prep and table layout each week. Luscious and sexual.

          • Jessie says:

            omg Paula, DOGS! ha ha ha. I can just imagine Sam hoarding dogs like Will. And great observation with the trusted man of reason parallel!

          • Paula says:

            Winchester & Graham Dog Rescue Center. With a pair of partner desks facing each other, Sam writing treatises on wendigos and Will writing about narcissistic personality disorder in serial killers, all in a comfortable silence. *sigh* Well, a girl can dream.

          • Jessie says:

            mutecypher — we have very different approaches, I use Kate Bush’s Sunset for meeting loin-girding, it takes me to an otherplace where peace and happiness is possible…

            mutecypher — we have very different approaches, I use Kate Bush’s Sunset for meeting loin-girding, it takes me to an otherplace where peace and happiness is possible…

            Paula — a girl can write it so another girl can read it!

  4. Helena says:

    The Windmill! It never closed! Say The Windmill now either you’ll get a blank look or you’ll think of their legendary nude tableaux – that was what the The Windmill was really (in)famous for, well into the 1960s. Apparently nudity was ok as long as there was no movement (movement=obscenity), hence the fabulous ‘The Windmill Girls’ would be presented as stock still nude tableaux (actually more often than not tastefully covered with frills, fans, feathers and whatnot, and moving props). And interspersed with that were the music hall acts, many of whom would later speak very fondly of their early days with the Windmill Girls.

    • sheila says:

      Oh my gosh, Helena, bless you for this background!! Thank you!! I didn’t even go to look it up!! – this is amazing. “We Never Closed.”

      Have you seen the film? It’s a great portrayal of the grit and humor of British people – filmed lusciously – plus with dance numbers, and feathered show-girls hanging out next to elderly audience members in the basement while the bombs rained down, cracking jokes and being brave. It’s great stuff.

      • sheila says:

        Here’s a great dance number from it – an audition by a young working-class guy who only knows how to improvise (supposedly). But he becomes part of the show family.

        • sheila says:

          and Rita being brave and patriotic and inspiring.

          • Helena says:

            Well, I am TOTALLY up for a bit of Rita so this film sounds right up my alley. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t reflect the reality of The Windmill, however :-). I think there was a much more recent film, Mrs Henderson Presents ??? with Judy Dench, which was about the Windmill and closerto its reality. Anyway, if you have a moment read the Wikipedia entry about The Windmill – totally worth the 5 bucks.

            I think Rebecca West would have approved of the Windmill.

          • sheila says:

            I immediately looked up The Windmill and read the whole thing when you mentioned it. What an amazing story!

            and Rebecca West DEFINITELY would have approved. Even in the midst of war, we MUST have our show-girls.

            It is definitely a romanticized version of the real story – but the Technicolor (all dark blues and golds) is to die for.

            Incidentally – the woman who played the Judi Dench part in Tonight and Every Night (seen up in that first clip) is Florence Bates – mainly known for her role in Rebecca. Florence Bates was my friend Rachel’s great-grandmother, and her story is even more phenomenal than you could even imagine:


            I Googled “Windmill Girls” and got all kinds of great images – thank you so much!

  5. Paula says:

    Sheila – Did you hear that Aisha Tyler is joining cast of Criminal Minds? I might have to tune in again because I love her.

    //no more three bean surprise// hahaha. As Dean would say, “Gun. Mouth. Now.”

    The Werther Project was a highlight this season. Really sucked you into their two fantasy worlds. Still didn’t the hint about Sam’s until the end. Good comment about MoL flashbacks and color. No consistency to the other flashback they showed in B&W.

    • Wren Collins says:

      Aside from the MoL flashback, I loved TWP. The Js nailed it, but then they always do.

    • sheila says:

      I hadn’t heard that, Paula! I have lost track of Criminal Minds – it’s been on so long -but I do love those first 4 seasons.

      Gun. Mouth. Now. HA.

      // Still didn’t the hint about Sam’s until the end. //

      I know! That was great.

      I always love when Supernatural indulges us in a visualization of their interior worlds. I always get excited.

  6. Lyrie says:


  7. Wren Collins says:

    //Really sad commentary on his internal head space.//
    Yeah, I think that was why I found the episode as a whole so compelling. Book Of The Damned and The Werther Project seemed kind of in tandem as an investigation of precisely what is festering away in Sam’s giant brain. And I love that- because of course he was in the dark about the show’s entire plot for half the previous season- and while the Gadreel arc was really well done, it was nice to feel that Sam was- as I think I’ve mentioned to Sheila before- fully ‘present’ again.

  8. mutecypher says:

    Yes to Pan’s Labyrinth. When Guillermo del Toro was attached to The Hobbit … I had such high hopes. And then we got Legolas as Super Mario (which I enjoyed, philistine that I am). His Hellboy II was so imaginative – I loved his Forest Spirit almost as much as Miyazaki’s.

    I’m really looking forward to Crimson Peak.

    • mutecypher says:

      I mean, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam, Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Jim Beaver (frack yeah!). And GdT.

    • Paula says:

      Hellboy II. I thought I was the only one that loved that movie. Every time it’s on, I have to watch the ending with those strangely geared golden soldiers. The fight scene is confusing and overwhelming but so strangely fascinating and beautiful, and then GdT drops Ron Perlman in the middle of all of it like a big red anchor.

      • mutecypher says:

        The shadow puppets that tell the story of the wars between the humans and the magical creatures; Prince Nuada declaring war on us ignorant, grasping humans; Abe and Hellboy getting shit-faced listening to Barry Manilow(!); the troll market; the Angel of Death…

        *happy sigh*

    • sheila says:

      Yes, I’ll be reviewing Crimson Peak for Roger Ebert so I thought I’d watch it again. Love the movie.

      • sheila says:

        also need to re-watch Hellboy II (which I also love – yay!) and Pacific Rim. Just to refresh my mind.

        The trailers for Crimson Peak are awesome – but we’ll see!

        • mutecypher says:

          Yes, I’m hoping it’s not Winter’s Tale.

          And wahoo you get to review this! Two things to look forward to.

          • sheila says:

            Yeah I’m really looking forward to it. I love all those actors and love the director.

            You never know … but still, looking forward to it!

  9. Lyrie says:

    OK. Now I feel like an idiot for not liking Hannibal.

    • mutecypher says:

      Maybe it just hit you at the wrong time. I mentioned being turned off by the horrible murder at the end of season 6 of Sons of Anarchy.

      Or maybe it’s just not your cup of viscous fluid. “Have you ever seen blood in the moonlight, Will? It appears quite black.”

      • Lyrie says:

        It might be too sophisticated for me. All this gorgeous people in pretty clothes in classy places talk-talk-talking just bored me. And I have a problem with some of the actors (not Gina Torres, whom I love). I watched the whole first season. I really wanted to love it.

  10. Natalie says:

    I love The Werther Project. Aside from Fan Fiction, it’s probably my favorite episode of the season. (Well, and Ask Jeeves, which I still kind of feel like was a personal letter to me, at least in part.) But the way I connected with The Werther Project is so personal to me that I almost can’t even write about it. I don’t mean that it’s too private – I mean that I can’t distance myself from it enough to have the necessary perspective to gather my thoughts into something coherent. It all ties in with mental illness and chronic physical illness and the distinction between the two and suicide and resilience. I see Dean and the Mark as a metaphor for chronic physical illness – realizing that there may come a time when the illness goes too far and he will lose too much of himself to go on, and he has considered the possibility of what will need to be done at that time, but he’s not there yet. And Sam (and subconscious-Rowena) is the metaphor for mental illness, that little nagging, lying voice of depression that is so insidious that you don’t even realize how deep and dark it’s taken you. Like I said, I’m not entirely able to be coherent on this episode, but I had some very strong Dean identification going on when I first watched it.

    • sheila says:

      Natalie – I love your thoughts on this episode! They echo mine but I hadn’t been able to put them into such coherent words.

      I think it was great to make that death-wish explicit – not just Dean killing vamps by himself and being bad-ass – but his quiet interior life where he is actually considering suicide. Something Dean has always seemed so against. Benny (fake Benny – again with the fake not being a lie, but being truer than true) knows this. Dean’s realization that the real Benny would never encourage him along those lines is another indicator of Dean’s amazing moral fortitude – kind of akin to him stabbing himself to “wake himself up” in the djinn episode coming up in Season 2. Like, he’s brave, he resists the fantasy.

      But that fantasy is SO REAL.

      I agree with you that that is a very profound episode – not because of the plot points of the Men of Letters or the box or anything else – but what it reveals about psychology. Like “Dream a Little Dream.” Dean can be so cloistered up within himself. We need these “fake” fantasy moments to really see what he’s dealing with.

      But thank you for your thoughts on that episode.

      • Lyrie says:

        Yeah, Natalie, I LOVE the Werther Project too. I only refer to “BennyBennyBennyBenny” because the rest is almost – almost – too much for me to handle, honestly. Like, ouch. And, all joke aside, the fact that Benny is the one making suicide so seductive… Too much for the Lyrie. I’ll keep being silly and talk about the blue blue eyes, thank you very much.

  11. Melanie says:

    I have never liked Cole so TTTC was ehhh. I had a terrible unexplained rash when I was 8 months pregnant. The military docs kept asking me if my husband had been in Iraq (Gulf War I) so I’m a little creeped out by the thought of bringing something sinister home. It turned out to be a hormonal thing in my case, but it happens for real!

  12. Melanie says:

    As for Paint it Black, Wren is right that the confessional scene was redeeming. I loved the shadow of the wicker screen with the holes on Fean’s face. Dean so rarely voices his inner turmoil. It was as if we had to be on the other side of the screen, too.

  13. Melanie says:

    IM and TBoD – great to see Bobby again, but I am just so annoyed by Sam’s deceitfulness with Dean. Sam obviously needs Bobby’s wise counsel. Also agree with earlier observations of the white box heaven. Creativity not required obviously. On one trip to heaven they had to follow a road which kept changing – a track set, a postcard, etc. And I much preferred Crowley in the Malibu mansion where we first met him. Agree they should stick to earth and give H&H a break. Library scene was awesome. Yea! DonQuixote! I also agree with Sheila that the MOC was just not what it could have been. In an earlier episode Sam talked to Dean about maybe the answer needed to come from a powerful force inside of him. I had such hopes that it would be resolved by strength of character rather than dark magic and lies. In “Faith” Sam comments that how could the preacher’s wife cross that line into such dark magic. Oh, Sam! But yes, laughing over their pizza – their little family holding onto some good times that we desperately want for them.

    • sheila says:

      I think the Mark works best when it is a symbol. That’s when it’s really profound. For me, it’s a symbol of both Masculinity and also Mortality – and how these things pull on Dean, and always have. Be a MAN … etc. As the grunt in the Winchester family, he always thought he knew how to do that, what that meant – but there’s always that insecurity (uhm, Frontierland). The Mark calls to him – to let go of that insecurity about Masculinity – and BE it. Or at least a version of it, the WORST version of Masculinity.

      Unfortunately, it comes out in fist-fights, etc. But that symbolic resonance is always there – far more powerful than what it represents in the “plot.” Supernatural, ironically, is not the strongest when it comes to plot. But emotions? They kick ass.

      • Lyrie says:

        Yeah, the first time Cain and the Mark are introduced, Cain is such a horrible monster that we don’t even see him, just the (Nazi?) soldiers shitting their pants. And then, a whole house is filled with some terrible red light. Where did that go?
        Thankfully, as silly as the MoC plot gets (it does get a little silly, right?), the show has amazing actors who pull it off and make us forget “details.”

        • sheila says:

          and I just watched the Stein Family episode – with Dean killing them all – and THAT – plus the scene in the bunker – shows the Mark in operation. For me, that was some cold cold shit – exacerbated of course by Charlie’s death – but that Dean seemed actually “other” – his whole behavior. (JA has always been doing that – it’s the PLOT that doesn’t live up to it. The sort of swoon of surrender you’d see on JA’s face when he picked up the blade, the awareness of his forearm, the “lost little boy” look after massacring all those criminals – I don’t maintain episode names, but you know the one I mean. JA elevated the Mark to something else. A personality shift – the mental illness thing Natalie brought up – the draw of taking your own life, the siren call of it. )

      • Melanie says:

        Yes, the Js totally bring it home no matter what the writers throw at them. As for the mark, I would have liked it to have been that both/and you wrote about on the HB recap. Sure for Cain it was a curse that twisted him, but it was originally meant as a symbol of protection, consequences too, but also forgiveness – so both curse and path to redemption. Dean believed the curse, that he deserved to be a demon as self punishment for failing to kill Metatron. Failure is his greatest fear and self loathing. The mark magnified all those things in himself that he fears and loathes – rage, losing control, failure, insecurity, coldness, especially the coldness of killing without feeling anything – a fine line to walk for a hunter. The both/and mark would also have the power to magnify his strengths becoming a path to some self forgiveness and redemption for Dean. Well not completely because there goes our lovely, damaged Dean, but I could even see him living with a bit of it down deep, but pushing up now and again – consequences we all have to live with them. OK. That’s my little hiatus fanfiction.

  14. Melanie says:

    TWP was very good. I confess that I did not understand that Rowena was part of the suicide curse until I ran it back and saw her disappear in smoke. Always a pleasure to see Benny! He is the true friend that Dean has never had before or since (broTP?) Don’t hate me, but Cass has been a crap friend. Yeah, Men of Letters, no wonder Abbadon wanted to smite them! Sam continues behind Dean’s back. I want to smite him. Is this the episode that ends with “Behind Blue Eyes”. That was one of the best music cues along with ” Renegade” and “Ground Control to Major Tom”.

    • Paula says:

      Behind Blue Eyes was a great fantastic music cue behind the “family” pizza party. God, all those moments really stand out.

      Sam’s deceit comes from a place of experience. He knows Dean will say he’s fine and he will remove/protect Sam at any cost (S9 finale where he is hit over the head and left at the side of road while Dean faces Metatron alone. And Dean wonders why Sam would lie to him.) Sam’s issue in S10 is that he was jumping the gun, envisioning where they would end up. Sure, Dean didn’t look so bad in the moment and he only went rage-boy a few times (we discussed this at length in other threads and I think I’m in the minority on Sam and deceit here) but when you look at their joint experience, denial never ends well. Sam and his big weasel brain know what the first steps on this road look like, and he’s calculating the odds and thinking of possible outcomes, and coming to the conclusion that you need to take action today or die tomorrow.

      • Melanie says:

        Paula, I get justifying Sam’s actions. I also don’t have a problem with his determination to fight for Dean, but I wish he had manned-up and done it to his face. Was he scared – the whole Cain/Abel thing? Even better is when they each let go of their need to control the situation and show their confidence and trust in each other to do what needs doing. Example Swan Song. Dean finally let go and trusted Sam to put Lucifer back in the cage. What made it work ultimately was Dean’s being there to back his brother up so Sam could get control and do what he needed to do not just for greater good, but for his own redemption. I feel that if Sam and Cass had truly been there to support Dean he would have been able to overcome.

        • sheila says:

          Dean has been just as bad (if not worse) in going behind his brother’s back.

          These things create conflict. Emotional conflict. If it was just the two of them supporting each other all the time it would be predictable and we’d lose that tension. So when they DO let each other go – it’s amazingly emotional because it’s hard for them. These guys lie to each other all the time, and call it love, call it protection. They don’t know any other way – even when they say to each other constantly: “We have to be together on this” or “This NEVER turns out well when we do this to each other”. Cas and Charlie both are like, “Oh my God, Sam, you guys are doing this again? This never works.”

          The tragic flaw in their relationship.

          S10 feels like the end of that particular road to me. There was way too much peripheral commenting on it (see Cas and Charlie above) – like they all knew this was well-trod ground.


          // He is the true friend that Dean has never had before or since (broTP?) //

          … turned into the sinister imaginary friend hissing in your ear to go for it, kill yourself. With friends like that who needs enemies etc. Very upsetting.

          • Melanie says:

            What ultimately saved Dean was that he knew Benny would never be that. I thought it was a twisted, but beautiful testament to true friendship.

          • sheila says:


            But the fact remains: that is some dark dark shit. Sinister as hell.

          • Barb says:

            I read an interview with Ben Edlund–sometime during season 8?–in which he summed up the patterns of lies=protection succinctly: the boys “lie to each other because their father taught them that the truth was a dangerous thing.”

          • Jessie says:


      • sheila says:

        Yeah, this S10 deceit from Sam was interesting because it WAS so familiar. Like: this is what these guys DO. even though it NEVER turns out well.

        I thought it was effective mainly because it gave Sam some ACTION. and it also placed the burden of worry on DEAN, as opposed to the other way around (which was the normal structure of other seasons.) I liked Sam trying to “step up” even though Dean kept saying “I’m fine” and then “I’m fine” turned to “Don’t bother.”

        It all comes down again to self-worth, right? I’m looking forward to re-capping Season 3, a favorite – because it takes Dean half a season to even admit that he wants to live. It’s hard for him to “step up” on his own behalf. That is an incredibly consistent arc – and we get to see it in a much more fully blossomed way in Season 10 – because Dean’s issues are much worse by that point, he’s much more damaged.

        So I liked a re-visit to that Season 3 feeling – of Sam racing against the clock to help his brother – Dean resisting the whole time until finally admitting that yes, he needs help, and etc and etc.

        But I’m not sure another season could withstand this particular dynamic. Like – it’s run its course. I wonder how other people feel about that.

        Hell, I’d watch these guys write out a grocery list. I’m not complaining. But it seems like there may be other possibilities out there that would be equally interesting.

        • Lyrie says:

          // But I’m not sure another season could withstand this particular dynamic. Like – it’s run its course. I wonder how other people feel about that. //
          It was great to see that re-explored, because their reflexes have not changed much, but they have. They’re older. They’ve lost so much since season 3. They’ve also probably come some kind of peace with who they are and what they do, though. So the stakes were not the same.

          // But it seems like there may be other possibilities out there that would be equally interesting. //
          They’ve become more open with each other. Great. Maybe, just maybe it’s time to, oh, you know, have relationships with say… other people?
          I’m not saying this because I want some romance. It’s not like they’re going to settle down and have a nice family. They’ve tried that. I don’t see how that could work. But hell, the world is probably full of hunter-ladies or other fuck ups like them. I’d like to see them try. And accept that, yes, Dean, sometimes, Sam hits a dog. (and Dean hits a vampire. Or whatever. You know what I mean.)

          • sheila says:

            Yeah, I agree – seeing them come over the same ground again, only this time with way more miles on them, was interesting.

            Since they keep killing off beloved regulars (dammit!) – they still need to have some way of bringing other people into Sam and Dean’s world. And who’s left? Crowley? Cas? Pretty slim pickins. There’s nobody human left in their world.

            It definitely would be interesting to go back into that territory – either with friendships, or love, or – hell – just being by themselves. Good lord, Sam wants to go to a movie in Wichita and they have to have this big serious conversation about it. You know? There was that old moment with Sam secretly looking up college applications, etc. The fan resistance to these kinds of developments – I get it – but come on, it’s getting ridiculous. These weird things bring tension. EXPLORE them. Or maybe that’s the real point – it’s all been explored enough. Now’s the time for some kind of breakthrough.

            I mean, that weird moment when Dean said to Sam, “You got a woman you’re not telling me about?” and Sam being all, “No! I swear!”

            There is unfinished business in that kind of conversation and situation – these guys have not figured it out, and can barely discuss it without being totally weird on both sides. Maybe the characters have put it to rest – but I don’t think so.

            They seem so worn out at this point. Which is pretty great. It leaves them open to all kinds of other possibilities.

            anyhoo, looking forward to S11 either way.

          • Paula says:

            //yes, Dean, sometimes, Sam hits a dog. (and Dean hits a vampire. Or whatever.// hahahahaha

        • Melanie says:

          You’re right, Sheila. Sensitive, supportive brothers do not make for entertaining TV. I wish I had felt that season 3 vibe! I kept hearing Sam and Cass say things to Dean like, “What did you do?” The tone was sooo shaming. Dean likely feels shame from Dad although I don’t like to think of John as a bad parent (I’m in the minority on that one) and Sam indirectly shamed Dean when he ran away to college. I don’t enjoy watching them treat each other like that. Is that my baggage? Maybe.

          As for new possibilities and new faces, I say bring it on. I’m not one opposed to relationships. I said once before a little love triangle could bring some fun times. Or a person of faith, not a phony, might shake things up and provide some point/counterpoint. I loved the character of Layla in “Faith”. What if she didn’t die from that brain tumor – no spells, no faith healers, no medical explanation? Could be interesting. As you said pretty much everyone else is dead. Where’s that grocery list…

          • Lyrie says:

            // Where’s that grocery list… //
            Left in a pocket of a pair of jeans Sam was washing in The Monster At The End of That Book.

            (sorry. already gone.)

      • sheila says:

        and yeah, sorry, this is also in response to Paula:

        when you talk about Sam and his deceit and being in the minority – what do you mean? Like, you can see his reasons?

        I can too – just wondering what you meant.

        I think this sort of loops in with my feelings about the Mark – by the end of the season, obviously, the Mark has really ruined him and eradicated his personality – but up until that point, he seemed just slightly more testy, had bad dreams, hustled some college students at pool, you know, the usual. Maybe a bit worse because he took the kid’s watch. But still, only a bit worse. I mean, how awful would it have been if the “Mark” had effected him so much that he DIDN’T go out and play miniature golf with Claire – but instead got drunk with her? Took her to a club? Really something Dean would never ever do. Something unforgivable, WAY “off.” (I love the miniature golf scene dearly – but still – just an example).

        I get that fans wouldn’t like that. But fans don’t always know what’s best, in my opinion. They can be very very conservative.

        Sam did some HORRIBLE SHIT when he was sneaking around with Ruby. I’d like to have seen more of that with Dean.

        • Paula says:

          Sam and deceit. This is a big jar of pickles, isn’t it? Situations where Sam is lying seem to draw more ire and frustration from fans than when Dean lies. As you say, they both have done terrible things with lying to each other so I think the scales are well balanced on who’s done shitty things to each other. (I’m definitely on board with it being played out at this point and feel like Kevin, Charlie and Cas in saying, “get over it, guys”.)

          But it does fascinate me that Sam draws more vitriol. I hear it during conversations with friends, online discussions, twitter comments. I almost had a knock-down brawl with my niece in a public restaurant (she was 24 so I was not harassing a child, ha) about Sam lying in S4 as a direct result of his impotence to save Dean in S3. At one point, she stood up from the table and said “how can you defend him?!” and huffed off to the bathroom. My brother (and the people around us) were sooooo confused. “Are we still talking about a TV show?” “Shut up, I need a cocktail.”

          Why is that? Why do Sam’s lies seem to hit a nerve with people and Dean’s lies make more sense, are more acceptable? I think it is because Sam doesn’t have the same transparency as Dean. Transparency, wearing your heart on your sleeve, can be trusted but being opaque? It makes people uneasy even though it is likely an emotional defense mechanism.

          • Lyrie says:

            // But it does fascinate me that Sam draws more vitriol. //
            It does? Wow, I did not know that. The thing with your niece… Intense! :)

            // Why is that? Why do Sam’s lies seem to hit a nerve with people and Dean’s lies make more sense, are more acceptable? //
            Isn’t that the Dean-poor-honey-we-want-him-to-become-a-gay-barista part of the fandom? I’m super confused. Like you said: they both did super shitty things to each other.

          • Paula says:

            //Isn’t that the Dean-poor-honey-we-want-him-to-become-a-gay-barista part of the fandom?// haha, of course there is the flip side of that fandom that wants to roll Sam up in blankets and give him hot chocolate. I’m all for sentimentality but really “the boys” are men in their 30s.

            Am I the only one that hears that type of Sam feedback?

          • sheila says:

            // Dean-poor-honey-we-want-him-to-become-a-gay-barista //


          • sheila says:

            This is all very interesting. I’m not sure what to think about it.

            I haven’t heard the Sam vitriol along these lines but granted, I haven’t really been listening. There was that one woman who used to comment here who was so anti-Sam that she seemed to have a difficult time participating in the conversations here. I actually felt bad. All she wanted in the world was for Dean to be happy and Sam was in Dean’s way, as she saw it. I tried to say to her – “But … this is a drama. Drama needs conflict. Yes?” Nobody hounded her – there were no arguments – everyone was nice – and she eventually stopped commenting – but she definitely felt like Sam was a villain – literally – and how dare he do anything to upset Dean?

            Now I just cannot see the show that way. It’s the Sam and Dean Show. Not the Dean Show.

            This maybe goes back to the “either/or” thing. So if you lurve Dean, then that must mean Sam is bad. It’s the only context in which some people know how to operate (and, to be fair, a lot of entertainment IS “either/or” – so that’s what everyone is used to.)

            Honestly, I think Dean has done worse shit than Sam. And more compulsively, and more sneakily. And HE doesn’t have the excuse of demon blood coursing through his veins. Doesn’t mean I don’t love the character of Dean. Jeez. But I don’t feel PROTECTIVE of him – I don’t feel the need to protect him from other characters in his own fictional life – that kind of response just baffles me. I know we’ve talked about this before. Like, he’s not my brother, or my husband, or whatever – he’s a fictional character – I don’t feel like if someone insults him I need to throw DOWN. (There was that one Tumblr post where someone wrote off Bobby, entirely, because of he called Dean “princess.” This person haaaaaaaated Bobby for that. I have no time for that kind of “fan.”)

            Maybe I see so much of it in the film criticism world too – the “well, none of these people are likable, therefore it is a bad movie” brand of criticism. UGH. “Likable” is the most milquetoast term possible.

            We LOVE these guys. And often, both of them behave atrociously. And with good intentions. Which makes it even more fucked up. Drama! Operating as it should!

          • Paula says:

            //“Likable” is the most milquetoast term possible. // Amen sister.

            //because of he called Dean “princess.” This person haaaaaaaated Bobby for that.// well hell, this is why I loved Bobby.

            Either/Or mentality. So true. If someone has that, they are almost always immovable in their opinion. I forget that and end up in these discussions where I argue shades of grey in a black and white world, when I should walk away.

          • Lyrie says:

            // There was that one Tumblr post where someone wrote off Bobby, entirely, because of he called Dean “princess.”//

            Oh, for fuck’s sake!
            Isn’t this the kind of person who, in real life, prefers the soft-spoken people rather than the honest ones? People who confuse a sugary tone with kindness bore me (and usually don’t like me very much anyway).
            Fuck “likable.” There are so many more interesting things to be – whether you’re a real person or a fictional character.
            I mean, Charlie is highly likable, and I love her. But I love Bobby, Rufus, Demon Dean, bitchy Sam, whiny Kevin, etc…

            // of course there is the flip side of that fandom that wants to roll Sam up in blankets and give him hot chocolate. I’m all for sentimentality but really “the boys” are men in their 30s. //
            Right, the “boys”. That expression amuses me so much. Dean is 37!
            I loved how often in season 10 they were called “old.”

          • Melanie says:

            I don’t agree with it, but I understand the disappointment in Sam when he lies. I went to Florida for spring break a million yrs ago in college with a big group of girls. One girl had a biting sense of humor, but everyone was targeted equally. So I was drinking hurricanes and playing at smoking a cigarette which I had never done and she was really making fun of me. I was laughing too because I knew I was being stupid. Then another girl, my best friend there, started in on me. I went to bed crying and we’ve never really come back from that. This relates because Dean openly confesses to being a near professional liar and he constantly lies to get his way. Sam on the other hand is not comfortable with lying even to get out of a jam. So when Sam lies it hurts more. I was devastated when Sam was telling Claire about credit card fraud. I don’t see that as acceptance of his life. I want Sam to fight that til his dying breath, because that’s who he is, he’s not Dean.

          • sheila says:

            Lyrie – ha, love that quote on Einstein – very a propos!

            It’s like reading a biography where the writer feels PROTECTIVE of his subject. I read a bio on Lewis Carroll that was like that. It was NOT good – it requires a bit more distance. People are flawed, people are messed up – don’t try to make excuses for them or dismiss criticism – but try to understand WHY these people do what they do.

            Huge pet peeve with biographies – where the writer is TOO close to the topic and feels defensive about it.

            I think that Einstein quote encapsulates it.

          • sheila says:

            Melanie – really interesting take – thanks!

          • Lyrie says:

            // So when Sam lies it hurts more. I was devastated when Sam was telling Claire about credit card fraud. I don’t see that as acceptance of his life. //
            Wow, Melanie, I had never thought about that perspective! I was delighted to see him initiate Claire. But I think I understand what you mean. It’s a testament to the show that we can all put so many different things behind what we see. Fascinating.

        • Paula says:

          //It all comes down again to self-worth, right?// And here’s the root of it all.

    • sheila says:

      That Behind Blue Eyes cue was awesome. and then the Willie Nelson “blue eyes” song, which made me cry. That ep aired on Nelson’s 80th birthday – loved that small nod to the icon of Americana, road-houses, gas ‘n’ sips and wide open spaces.

      • Melanie says:

        Oh, yeah, Willie! Which ep was that? I can hear it, but can’t picture it. Another thing they get so right in this show is the music!

        • sheila says:

          I’m so bad with episode names! The one with Claire finding her Mum. That GORGEOUS scene at sunrise at the end – the lighting! and Willie coming on as Claire got into the cab. Castiel a lonely figure in the distance.

          Forget it. I was a mess.

          (Love Willie Nelson. Lian Lunson, a good FB friend of mine and fellow Elvis nut – our main bond – is a director – her first film as a director was about Willie Nelson – she also directed a doc about Leonard Cohen and a couple others, very good concert films – she’s wonderful, I highly recommend her films! But anyway, her latest film is called Waiting for the Miracle to Come and it stars Willie Nelson and Charlotte Rampling. It was filmed on Nelson’s property down in Texas. I literally cannot wait for this film.)

        • Wren Collins says:

          That was Angel Heart. 10×20.

      • Paula says:

        So many of these but I also love “Goodbye Stranger” when Cas heads out on the Greybound bus with the angel tablet and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” from Meta Fiction. Robbie Thompson talked about how he wanted that song so badly for the scene and it’s so full of melancholy, hitting the perfect note to end the ep.

  15. Lyrie says:

    My God, Sheila, we completely hijacked your post with SPN!

  16. Melanie says:

    Yes 2 more perfect choices of music!

  17. //And sorry, with all the violence and explicit gore onscreen today, there is nothing – NOTHING – more violent than Gloria Grahame getting a pot of hot coffee thrown in her face – off-camera.//

    1) I just wanted to pitch in and second this opinion. I saw this with a college crowd in the late eighties which probably consisted of most of the same kids who had been hooting at Psycho (affectionately, of course, but still) a few weeks before and the shock was visceral, unlike anything I’ve experienced in a theater before or since…Always more terrifying, what you don’t see. Also a truly great acting moment from GG because she has to sell it like it really happened, without any visual aids…and she does.

    2) I also wanted to prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that it isn’t necessary to have seen Supernatural to participate in a Sheila thread!!! (lol)

    • sheila says:

      NJ –

      That hot coffee moment. I love to hear the reaction in a theatre! Her scream is like a wild animal’s. Off-screen. soooooooo violent.

      and thanks for jumping in. Ha. I didn’t ONLY see Supernatural episodes this month, after all.

    • sheila says:

      I saw a lot of Gloria Grahame this month – I love her so much. It’s great to see how different she is in whatever role she’s cast in. People tend to think of her as a “type” but that’s not true at all. Granted, she could never play “rich” – not with that voice. But she got so much variety into her roles.

      The Big Heat – she’s a pawn among dangerous violent men. She tries to comfort herself by going shopping, but still, everyone is mean to her. She is trapped. She tries to help herself. She “befriends” Glenn Ford and he actually treats her like a person who has value and worth. She tries to have sex with him because she thinks that’s all she’s good for. He stops her. He knows it would be taking advantage of her. She is upset (because that’s all she’s good for) but then she understands … Oh. He’s my friend. He’s not like every other man I’ve ever met in my life (including – probably – her father). And when she’s really in trouble, he’s the only one she goes to. Those final scenes – him telling her about his wife – bring tears to my eyes. Incredibly touching character.

      Human Desire: a similar character, but this one is a master manipulator. She’s also a bit of a pawn – her husband beats her – but she looks at Glenn Ford like, “Maybe this guy is enough of a dupe to get me out of here. Let me use him.” She’s treacherous – not because she’s evil but because she’s trapped.

      And then The Glass Wall – which I actually had never seen before. It’s really good! She plays a broke young woman in NYC who can’t make rent, steals other people’s food off their tables in restaurants, and can’t find another job. (She lost her job because her appendix burst and she had to go to the hospital. They fired her.) She lives in a terrible little apartment with a suspicious landlady – and the landlady’s son comes up to her room and tries to rape her every day. She has some line like, “Every day I gotta wrestle with this guy.” But she can’t move because she’s behind in rent and she has no money. Into her life comes this runaway immigrant, wanted by the cops, who is gentle and thinks she’s wonderful and doesn’t understand why she would put up with being treated like she’s worthless. This woman isn’t “up to” anything – she’s not scheming or conniving. She’s caring and gentle, but also totally at the end of her rope.

      Three TOTALLY different characters. All with that Gloria Grahame voice that could never be mistaken for anyone else’s – but she’s a great example of those actors who have a certain “persona” and is able to work WITHIN that persona to find all kinds of variety.

    • sheila says:

      and then she’s a pure villain in Sudden Fear.

      and terrific as the person who makes the mistake of becoming Humphrey Bogart’s girlfriend in In a Lonely Place – only to realize too late how obsessive and desperate he is. She’s just a regular person in that, a regular woman who dates the wrong guy.

      she was so great.

      • Amen to all you say…She’s one of those who is greatly appreciated but still “underrated” because, as you say, there’s that tendency to think she’s always the same character when nothing could be further from the truth. She’s also one of those very rare actors who, without being quite a major star, manage to make at least some piece of every movie completely hers. As in, if you say, “It’s a Gloria Grahame movie,” every film buff knows what you mean, but then you get down to the actual CHARACTERS she plays and they are very, very different and she gives each one exactly what it needs.

        Oh, and I need to put The Glass Wall in the queue. That’s one I haven’t seen…and there’s no thrill quite like hearing about a Gloria Grahame movie I haven’t seen!

  18. Helena says:

    Oh, and much as I love SPN can I chip in about 99 Homes?

    I’ve not seen anything by that director but only heard good things. And there were many good things about 99 Homes, including Michael Shannon’s performance, which was both repulsive and incredibly alluring. All the scenes of eviction and the processes involved, the coopting of the police, worked really well. They were terrifying, they got over the fear, the shame, the sense of personal disaster being played out again and again over America.

    The film was very good at outlining the chicanery and hypocrisy of the financial institutions and business and how they together manipulate things permanently for their own benefit, at the cost of ruining other people’s lives. It was frightening to see how ignorant, unprotected and vulnerable those homeowners were. For many many people seeing this it would have been like a real-life horror story playing out – if it hasn’t happened to you then possibly it has happened to people you know or communities you know.

    So I felt a bit bad for thinking the film itself, as a film, was not that great. Partly because I could see – and I’ll try not to get too spoilery here – that big confrontation/climax/moment of truth coming from a long way away and by that time it had also hit a lot of expected beats right on queue. It made me think about films which deal with difficult real life subject matter, and how the ones which stayed with me longest are the ones which hold off, refuse the expected or even hoped-for ending and leave things open, rather than engineer the film’s climax into a screaming match, or ‘moment of redemption’. Wierdly it made me think of the Bicycle Thieves which I’d watched not that long ago. The way the ‘happy ending’ is refused, the way you know it’s an impossibility with something like 10 minutes of the film still to go, yet you spend that time hoping for a miracle to drop out of the sky – that lack of closure is immensely powerful – the whole film stayed with me, not just the ending, and I thought about it for a long time afterwards.

    Endings, to paraphrase the Prophet Chuck … endings are hard. And I look forward to digging out more from Bahrani because there were plenty of really good things about this film to intrigue me about his work in general.

    • sheila says:

      Helena – I agree with your criticism of the ending. I didn’t want to be spoilery in my review – but it was that “race against the clock” ending that felt false to me. After so much truth – the “oh so he’s the guy you’re going to have to evict” thing felt commonplace, and yes, you could see it coming from miles away.

      It’s weird – when you see his other movies (I recommend them all!) – this is SUCH a shift for him. He’s stretching, taking risks. I think that’s part of what we’re seeing – an artist shifting the game a bit for himself, introducing challenges he’d never faced before. This is the first movie he’s directed that has famous actors in it, for one. His other movies are small dramas, with one or two people. So this is a huge leap in another direction. (He spoke about it at Ebertfest.) So I think that part of it – Bahrani challenging himself – is why the film’s ending is what it is. Endings are hard. And this is unlike anything else he has ever attempted.

      If you see his other movies – his main style is most reminiscent of that great sequence where Garfield goes door to door, offering “cash for keys.” Those people at the doors – they don’t seem like actors – but they are SO REAL. Bahrani works with regular people with no acting experience, mostly.

      Anyway, so glad you saw it!

      Chop Shop is the one that got the attention of Roger Ebert. I think you’ll really like that one.

      • sheila says:

        // The way the ‘happy ending’ is refused, //

        It really takes a bold bold person to refuse that happy ending. Films are sometimes ruined because the director is unable to refuse.

        I don’t think 99 Homes is ruined, by any means. But “Rick Carver” (Shannon) is just a symbol. Taking him down won’t mean the system is saved, or integrity is saved. It’s a much larger systemic issue (which I thought Shannon played great in his monologue about his roots and what the housing bubble/crash did to his career). The SYSTEM is the villain – not Rick Carver. So that part of the ending didn’t work for me either.

        • Helena says:

          //I don’t think 99 Homes is ruined, by any means.//

          There’s 3/4 of an excellent and original movie there, definitely.

        • sheila says:

          and the “confession” in the very last moment didn’t work for me (although Garfield played the hell out of it). Like I said, the situation is much worse than just taking down one bad guy.

          That thriller aspect – that Bahrani really wanted to explore stylistically – led him down some pretty dark paths and when he got to the dead-end he seemed to want to find a way out. That humanist thing I mentioned in my review. But in this, there really was no way out.

          Still, thought it was great overall. For such a young (ish) filmmaker too.

  19. Wren Collins says:

    Sheila, I just watched Pan’s Labyrinth- been meaning to for ages and your post pushed me to at last. Absolutely wonderful. Can’t wait for Crimson Peak to come out in the UK now.

    • sheila says:

      Isn’t it wonderful? So upsetting, a real gritty fairy tale – and I loved the inclusion of the real-life politics – a Spanish director using the background of that conflict to tell his tale.

      That young actress was just amazing.

      She ate the grape!! She couldn’t help it!

      • Wren Collins says:

        Amazing. Yes to the young actress- she was utterly convincing. The Pale Man scene was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen- with the eyes on his hands- oh my god. I kept thinking she’d turn around and he’d be gone. His initial lack of movement was just as nasty as when he did start moving. Ick.

        And the psychopathic fascist stepfather. I was unaware of the film being anything but an innocuous fantasy- so the scene where he killed the man with a bottle took me totally by surprise. What an awful brutal scene. But the detail with the watch, too.

        And my god, those visuals. In places it reminded me a bit of Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland. Makes sense- I think Burton would definitely have seen the film.

  20. Jessie says:

    How do you think the Mangold 3:10 to Yuma (it’s such a great title! It sounds like a code) compares? I enjoyed it, I hadn’t seen the original so the interpersonal stuff was fresh and interesting to me (and Dallas Roberts!) but I was kind of like…I wish this whole thing was actually Ben Foster just being fabulous and vicious in that jacket.

    • sheila says:

      I actually haven’t seen it – and now I need to. (I really like Mangold. Have you seen his first film “Heavy”? Doesn’t seem to get much chatter but I really like it. Debbie Harry? Being brilliant and pouring beers in a dive? Come on!)

      There’s a homoerotic seduction thing going on in the original – with Glenn Ford whispering confidentially to Van Heflin about emasculation, and how he (Ford) can help him with that. “Be a man … come on … you can do it … you know you want to…” Ford is a psychopath but with these weird tender moments – sleeping with the barmaid a mere 20 minutes after meeting her – and whaddya know, she falls in love with him. So he’s not really using her – he’s expressing his own softness, something he can’t do as an outlaw. Very very weird. That softness appears to be genuine. The character is destabilized almost immediately by that soft tender sexual encounter.

      I wonder how they ended the remake? You can tell me.

      The ending of the original is strangely valedictory. Maybe an assertion of masculinity – or, at least, bringing broken masculinity back together – emasculation vanishing, the two sides (uhm Black Hat White Hat?) suddenly melded together again, making man whole.

      Not didactic though – just a strangely triumphant feeling – with the wife on the carriage waving at her husband, thrilled for him that he has re-claimed what he lost (only with a man. So …..)

      Ah, the 1950s with its obsession with Freudian analysis.

      • Let’s just say the remake ended very, very differently. I’ll quote Elmore Leonard…Paraphrasing slightly but I’m about to do this film (the original) for a blogathon so I’ve been paying attention to the subject lately:

        “It didn’t make any sense what they did so I asked the screenwriters why they changed everything. They said ‘Well that’s what the director wanted so that’s they way we wrote it. It didn’t make any sense to us either.'”

        So just please know that it’s real, real different than the original (which Leonard liked a lot). And that none of the writers involved thought it made sense. Lots of good actors though.

        • sheila says:


          Now I need to see it.

          I like how it suddenly becomes this weird dark buddy picture – with homosexual undertones – and it’s only through that that Van Heflin can return to the wife. Kind of Howard Hawks-ish, although Hawks didn’t “do” wives in his films.

      • Jessie says:

        I didn’t know about Heavy, thanks for bringing it to my attention! Pruitt T-V has always shone when I’ve seen him on Deadwood (his relationship with Jane is SO FUNNY), Justified and House.

        Nondisposable Johnny has seen it more recently than I so I’ll “what he said” but there is a similar concern with restoring masculinity in your own eyes and the eyes of your family (in this case Bale’s son more than his wife). A similar homoerotic thing going on between Crowe and Bale — an unexpected space for understanding opening up that is oddly tender or protective — but it’s with Foster who is like screechingly obsessed with Crowe where I find the most queer fun.

        • Interestingly enough, Richard Jaeckel’s relationship to Ford in the original has that element in it, though it’s more subdued. It’s still present enough to make you understand why Ford might not mind all that much if his second in command ended up dead…and why Jaeckel is an even bigger threat to Van Heflin than Ford is!…Incidentally, thanks for the thread, Jessie. It’s giving me plenty of food for thought.

          • Jessie says:

            Thanks be to you, NJ, and Sheila — loved reading your thoughts so I get around to seeing it. Wow! Wow! What the hell is Glen Ford doing?! He was amazing. Makes me wonder if Walton Goggins drew on this performance a little for Boyd Crowder.

            (that hiding behind his shoulder thing — I am sure I have seen them shoot (sigh) Dean W like that)

            The remake is waaaaay more involved. I really liked the simplicity of this one. I did find everything with the wife and sons kind of hilarious. Thrashing her arm away at the end while the train huffs and puffs, maybe into a tunnel or something haha.

          • Jessie says:

            Also, all y’all had to say was that they spend half an hour hanging out in the BRIDAL SUITE with pictures of naked ladies hanging all over the walls. Don’t bury the lede guys.

          • sheila says:

            Jessie – awesome, so thrilled you saw it!! And the screen grabs!

            Yes, those shots of barmaid and Ford leaning into each other – soooooooo erotic.

            // Thrashing her arm away at the end while the train huffs and puffs, maybe into a tunnel or something haha. //


            and the two men go off together!

            Bridal suite!! How could I miss it! (also shades of SPN, come to think of it. Doesn’t Dean bring Castiel into the bridal suite? Or was it the other way around?)

            And the LENGTH that they are in there. It’s like a two-person one-act. You could honestly cut out the rest of it (although I’d miss the scene with the barmaid) and that whole section would tell the whole story.

            and Y’all are killing me – I need to see the remake YESTERDAY so I can catch up. It’s on the Netflix queue!

          • sheila says:

            Also, and this makes me happy:

            This is in regards to “Gilda” (which, clearly, I have been writing a lot about recently – not to give it all away, but got a huge writing assignment about it from elsewhere):

            Not sure if you’ve seen it – but in it, the bombshell Gilda is caught between two men – one of whom was played by Glenn Ford, deliciously neurotic and sexually tormented. But the main story of the film is that Glenn Ford’s character Johnny – who was once lovers with Gilda – is more loyal to Gilda’s creepy new husband than to Gilda. And the same is true of the husband with Johnny.

            The husband is a creepy guy who carries around a cane, which has a long sword hidden in it – so he is always carrying a weapon. He refers to it as his “little friend.” Uhm….In one scene, the husband asks Johnny to meet him back at his house to discuss something. “Wait for me there, Johnny. I need both my little friends tonight.”

            Gilda is a pawn – caught between what is so clearly a homoerotic relationship between these two men. There’s one scene where the two men slowly ascend the staircase towards the bedroom. Yes, that’s where Gilda’s husband keeps his safe and he wants to show the combination to Glenn Ford – but the implications are undeniable.

            It’s quite explicit. And – this made me happy – years later Glenn Ford was asked about this aspect of the film. A lot of times you wonder if these old dogs understood all this queer-cinema-stuff going on in the movies they made. Like Bogart and Rains walking off at the end of Casablanca.

            Anyway, Glenn Ford said that yeah, they understood that part of the story, that the story is REALLY a love story between two men, and both actors were explicitly playing it.

            For 1946, that’s pretty enlightened and bold. I really appreciate his honesty – AND I think he was tuned into the homoerotic stuff, knew that he had to “bring” that to these tough guy roles, and he did.

            The way he lies on that bed in 3:10 to Yuma, practically presenting himself to Van Heflin.

            The story works on that surface level – but the swirling emotions beneath it – about being a man, and all that – is the real motor of it.

  21. Ah yes, it works on so many levels and so very rarely gets the credit it truly deserves. So glad also, Jessie, that you got to watch it so quickly…Now, per Sheila’s comments, I’m realizing it’s been way-y-y-y too long since I saw Gilda!

    Interesting on the Ben Wade/Boyd Crowder comparison, likely very valid since we have Elmore Leonard to thank for both characters (though obviously the actors had major input as well)….You might even go one further and say the Raylan/Boyd relationship is Dan Evans/Ben Wade updated and carried to greater extremes, etc….But for now, I have to just sit back and absorb what I have learned…And wait for Sheila to see the remake!

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