July 2016 Viewing Diary

The Great Gatsby (2013; d. Baz Luhrmann)
Watched 3 times. Never written about it before. I think there’s a genius in it.

The Great Gatsby (1974; d. Jack Clayton)
Never written about it before. I DON’T think there’s a genius in this one.

Supernatural, Season 2, Episode 23, “All Hell Breaks Loose, Part II” (2007; d. Kim Manners)
Preparing for next re-cap. Season 2 finale!

The Great Gatsby (2013; d. Baz Luhrmann)
Watched again. Hmmm. I wonder if maybe … I might be working on something.

The 25th Hour (2002; d. Spike Lee)
What a brilliant film. A “9/11 film”. Filmed when New York City was still reeling from what had happened. Yes, all of America was reeling, but it was different for us here, with the smoke rising from downtown, and the dusty trucks roaring up and down the Avenues carrying debris away from the gigantic hole downtown. This movie isn’t about 9/11. But it feels like what New York felt like in those days … because it was filmed in those days. Brilliant performances too.

Supernatural, Season 11, Episode 23, “Alpha and Omega” (2016; d. Philip Sgriccia)
I forced myself to re-visit the disastrous last three episodes of the last season. It was even worse the second time, because I had critical distance and could actually attempt to examine how it all fell apart. It’s shocking, actually.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958; d. Richard Brooks)
I returned home after seeing the play done in the Berkshire Theatre Festival, and felt the desire to re-visit the film.

Advise and Consent (1962; d. Otto Preminger)
It’s been a long time. With our current presidential “campaign” (sorry, quotes are necessary in this case), the film – a wonderful and complex and honest look at the political process, and the compromises, and the cutthroat nature of it all – was a welcome tonic. Also, Charles Laughton’s final film.

Compulsion (1959; d. Richard Fleischer)
Watched 3 times. Hm. Maybe I might be … working on something? Dean Stockwell! Orson Welles! The Leopold and Loeb story. I love Stockwell’s intense wound-up-tight and yet fragile performance in this.

Supernatural, Season 11, Episode 21, “All In the Family” (2016; d. Thomas Wright)
WHAT have you done with SAM. Because I don’t know WHO that guy is. So tone-deaf. So unbelievably tone-deaf. The whole thing … Ack. No. I don’t care about ANY of those people and why are they clogging up the screen in the three final episodes? Makes no sense.

Supernatural, Season 11, Episode 13, “Love Hurts” (2016; d. Philip Sgriccia)
To refresh myself, I went back to one of the Season 11 episodes I love … but it just highlighted how much the season tumbled off the cliff as though a bridge collapsed at the last second. The final confession of Dean about “deepest desire” … how compelling and bizarre it all was … and how it came to …. nothing. Oh, hi Chuck. Why don’t you take over the whole damn series? Amara wants Dean so she can get to Chuck? Wow, what a cop-out.

Home Alone (1990; d. Chris Columbus)
My niece and nephew are obsessssssssed. Watched with them when I was home. I don’t think I’ve seen it since I first saw it in a movie theatre and was amazed at how I still knew practically every scene and dialogue. It was so much fun watching my niece and nephew watching it. They’re so cartoon-oriented. I guess most kids are – especially now. This – and Princess Bride, which I gave my niece for her birthday – are the only movies starring real live humans that have caught their attention.

Terriers all 13 episodes (2010)
Oh my God, I love this one-season series and I can’t thank Jessie enough for recommending it. It’s streaming on Netflix, just FYI. After seeing Michael Raymond-James as “Brick” in the production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in the Berkshires, I thought: “Man, I have to catch up on what else he’s done.” Yes, True Blood, AND he played Paul Revere in a TV movie or something like that, but then Jessie said her favorite M-R-J was Terriers. Raymond-James and Donal Logue star as unlicensed off-the-grid private investigators, living and working in Ocean Beach, a beach town near San Diego (I think? It felt a lot like Venice Beach.) There’s a season-long Arc about a shady real estate developer up to no good, and then there are one-off “cases” (like, neither of these guys have any business investigating cases, since they are not real PIs) … but it’s really about their relationship (as well as each guy’s relationship with the woman in his life). Really in-depth-full stuff, AND a beautiful example of a male friendship that is open, honest, and quite tender actually. Highly recommended. I watched it all in the space of 36 hours. I recommend Noel Murray’s wonderful re-caps on The A.V. Club as well as (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) the comments section. Everyone loves the series so much, and everyone has excellent observations.

Don’t Think Twice (2016; d. Mike Birbiglia)
Loved it. Reviewed for Rogerebert.com.

The Legend of Tarzan (2016; d. David Yates)
Absolutely loved every second. Beautiful film. Epic and emotional. Good performances.

Little Men (2016; d. Ira Sachs)
Opens this Friday. Will be reviewing for Rogerebert.com. The follow-up to the extraordinary Love Is Strange (which I also reviewed for Rogerebert.com.)

Into the Spiral (2015; d. Konrad Aksinowicz)
Wonderful film. I moderated the QA with the two lead actors at a recent screening (its first in the US) at the Tribeca Film Center.

The Bachelorette, Season 12 in its entirety
I got hooked after reading one of Ali Barthwell’s laugh-out-loud funny re-caps on Vulture. One episode and I was hooked. Clearly. Finale next week. But I lost interest the second she sent Chase home. Oh, Jo Jo, no.

Quitters (2016; d. Noah Pritzker)
Reviewed for Rogerebert.com.

Disorder (2015; d. Alice Winocour)
Wow. Will be reviewing for Rogerebert.com so I won’t say anything else. It opens in 2 weeks. Directed by the co-writer for the amazing Mustang.

The Bachelor, Season 16 (2014)
Was recommended to me as peak reality TV especially Courtney. Courtney was a terrible human being (as quoted by my sister), and a great reality TV villain. Maybe the best. She wrote a book about it. Skipped around in this one. One of the most awkward kisses I’ve ever seen with one of the contestants. I almost turned it off. Poor girl. She seemed to think men like it when women take charge – and yes, they do on occasion – but not like THAT. She also kept saying to the camera, “I am prude.” No, honey. The phrase is: “I am A prude.” OR you could say “I am prudish.” Not “I am prude.”

The Bachelor, Season 18, (2014)
My friend Nate who dominated in the FB thread about these shows recommended Juan Pablo, due to the sheer craziness of it all. Juan Pablo is a DREADFUL person. Worst boyfriend ever. And you could SEE the women ignore their intuition and ignore the red flags, which was painful to watch, because most of us have been there. Andi calling him out on his bullshit was extremely satisfying.

The Bachelor, Season 20, (2015)
I got interested in Jo Jo’s journey as a contestant, because of course I did, so I skipped around in Season 20, watching her in action. I wanted to get a further line on her, what she seemed to want, etc. To try to understand why Robby – ROBBY – made it as far as he did. (And yes, people, I KNOW the whole thing is manufactured. I KNOW. But I find the whole thing entertaining as well as interesting in a sociological and practically anthropological and zoological way.)

Blue Crush (2002; d. John Stockwell)
I wrote about this favorite for the Favorite Uplifting Movies piece on Rogerebert.com and it made me hunger to re-visit it. Yup. Still works.

Supernatural, Season 9, Episode 7, “Bad Boys” (2013; d. Kevin Parks)
A favorite.

Supernatural, Season 9, Episode 8, “The Purge” (2014; d. Philip Sgriccia)
Another favorite. That final scene. I’m never “over” it. It’s so good.

Love & Mercy (2015; d. Bill Pohlad)
My God, I love this movie.

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112 Responses to July 2016 Viewing Diary

  1. Helena says:

    By all that’s holy, Sheila, do not make me relive those last three SPN episodes.

    • sheila says:

      I hear you!

      It’s actually really interesting in terms of story-structure. Not fun for sure, and baffling for double sure – but looking at nuts and bolts (especially when they so CLEARLY show) can often reveal a lot. I always have to ask WHY didn’t this work. This trio of episodes is so uncharacteristically bad that I find them pulling me into their black-hole-magnetic-force with a kind of awe-inspiring dread and fascination.

    • Barb says:

      I’very decided not to react until I get the DVD set and can binge the season through. I do want to see if the threads leading to the finale are there early on – I suspect they are, but I also think that backstage turmoil and network interference may have played a big part in the ending we got. What executive wants to be responsible for killing God, after all?

      • sheila says:

        // I do want to see if the threads leading to the finale are there early on //

        For me, they weren’t. The thread that was there – for sure – is the Dean/Amara one. Her rage at God? Sure. That was there – but they prioritized Dean’s reaction to her – and the whole series started with that intense moment they had.

        To then suddenly shift all of that – 20 episodes of it – onto a Dr. Phil episode that doesn’t even involve Dean … it’s truly strange.

        But let me know what you think after you re-watch.

        I wish the network had interfered MORE, actually. If it’s chaos on the set, and lack of leadership, then that’s what the network is for! I know JA and JP stepped up – as they’ve done before – re-writing scenes they didn’t like, etc. – but there’s only so much they can do.

        Clearly everyone was freaking out. You can see it onscreen.

        • Barb says:

          //Clearly everyone was freaking out. You can see it onscreen.// I agree. I know you don’t like convention stories (I watch far too many of those videos, ask my kids!) but I did see one of the Asylum Con this year, in which JA is talking about the finale and says something like, “I know you guys will forgive us.” He was kidding, I think, but this was before the show had aired!

          By the by, my kid and I are up to season 5 in our rewatch, and his reactions have been very interesting. He thinks they should have said yes right off the bat! I’m raising either an extremely cynical pragmatist, or possibly an evil genius. We’ve had heated discussions over it. :-) On the other hand, so far I think “Fallen Idols” is his favorite, even though he had never heard of James Dean, and had only a vague idea of who Paris Hilton is–I guess that’s a testament to the solidity of the idea? Or just that he prefers the funny episodes.

          • sheila says:

            Barb – hahahaha It’s not that I don’t like them! You’re so sweet, though. It’s just that I do like to try to analyze what’s onscreen as best as I can – without knowing backstage stories. This one, though, I did hear thru the various SPN grapevines that JA and JP were fully aware of the issues (how could they not be??)

            // in which JA is talking about the finale and says something like, “I know you guys will forgive us.” //

            That’s amazing. If it were any other show that had a super high-profile – like Mad Men or something – a comment like that would have made headlines!!

            I love hearing about your son’s progression. It’s so great!!

            Well, now he knows about James Dean!! (and Gandhi? hahahaha Gandhi attacking Sam is one of the most ridiculous and hilarious things the show has ever done. Also, Dean: stop making fun of Gandhi’s clothes. And Lincoln’s hat!!)

            AND there really is something weird about that car – as I’m sure you know. There were all these weird stories about its history and the violence that came to people who drove that thing. Back in high school when I first discovered James Dean I got so so into all of that mythology and believed it wholeheartedly.

            So when I saw that car – even before Dean’s name was said – my heart skipped a beat. I know that car!!! (Clearly the James Dean estate didn’t allow his image to be used in the episode. Bummer.)

          • sheila says:

            I prefer the funny episodes too!

            It was Phantom Traveler that hooked me because it made me laugh!

          • Helena says:

            Barb, is this the one who spotted JP on Gilmore Girls one time, pointed at the screen and kinda croaked like a boy possessed ‘PAAADDAAALLEECKIIII’

            or was this just a dream I had?

          • Paula says:

            //an extremely cynical pragmatist, or possibly an evil genius// Barb, ha! They’re both of those rolled into one. Same with mine who stopped binge watching with me at start of s4. Couldn’t stand myth arc stuff and would pick it all apart (same with TXF and Fringe).

          • Barb says:

            Helena-You didn’t dream it. That was my other son.

            Sheila-I’ll have to show him that article on Little Bastard! I knew about the curse, but I actually didn’t know that the car had disappeared until I saw that episode. (I liked the episode much better myself this time. I think on my initial viewing, I got excited over the prospect of James Dean’s ghost, so I was disappointed when it veered into the wax museum story.) I enjoyed his reaction to it–he loved Dean’s reaction to the car, and was in hysterics over Lincoln. As soon as he saw the figure of Gandhi, he said, “Yep, Gandhi’s going to kill someone.”

          • sheila says:

            // “Yep, Gandhi’s going to kill someone.” //


          • sheila says:

            and I know, I was SO hoping for a ghost of James Dean. All we got was the blurry reflection in the chrome bumper on the car – with Jimmy in his red jacket from “Rebel.”

            And that was it!

            The episode is so silly I enjoy it for that reason. And Paris Hilton going crazy ninja was super entertaining. I think she actually has a pretty good sense of humor about herself.

            (The fact that she let Sofia Coppola film “The Bling Ring” in her actual house – where there are actually throw pillows with her own face on it – tells me that Paris Hilton is totally in on the joke. )

          • Barb says:

            Paula! So glad to hear that there are other evil geniuses out there! How old is yours? Maybe it’s mostly an age thing?

  2. Looking forward to what you’re ‘working on’ for the Luhrmann film of Gatsby. In three words, I loved it.

    • sheila says:

      Me too! My piece is actually done and passed in – but it was super fun – have always wanted to write about it, and Leo, in particular.

      Glad to hear you loved it too, Steve!

      • sheila says:

        It’s one of Leo’s best performances, that’s for sure – with a couple of emotional moments unrivaled in his career (screw The Revenant – although I loved the movie).

        Plus, the Fitzgerald-ness of it all.

        People who called it “over the top” (and there were many) can’t have understood the book. At all.

        Anyway, not sure when the piece will go live – will provide a link when it does!

        • sheila says:

          I also watched the Alan Ladd one – or, I had seen that one before (it’s pretty hard to track down). I love Alan Ladd, and he’s very good – as he usually is (I especially love the scene where Nick organized a reunion in his own home and Gatsby is climbing the walls as the time approaches for Daisy to arrive: Ladd is lovely and vulnerable there.)

          But the Jazz Age setting is missing. So important to the feel of the times, its insanity and delusion and “hope”. The very unique mood in a society when everyone is inside a speculative financial bubble.

        • In short, the ’20s roared, as they should and did, for Leo and Luhrmann. They had afternoon tea for the Redford version.

          • sheila says:

            So true! And you have zoomed in on the whole point of my piece!

            Except for a couple of flappers dancing behind a tent, everyone just lolled about in 1974.

            My French teacher in high school was an extra at one of those parties in the 1974 movie – and so when we watched it in class during our “Gatsby” reading, we had to pause it to look for him. He came into the class to point himself out – in a tux. Big tall handsome Irish man. (It was filmed in Newport! AND I had my senior prom IN Gatsby’s “house.” Rosecliff Mansion!


            But agree: the 1974 movie was a snooze. Karen Black was great – and I think Mia Farrow was way way closer to the brittle silliness of the character Fitzgerald wrote (I am not a Carey Mulligan fan – although something about her nonentity-ness onscreen worked in Luhrmann’s film – because – to me – it really pointed up how doomed Gatsby was AND how much of a fantasist he really was.)

          • sheila says:

            Would love to hear your thoughts on Farrow/Mulligan! I didn’t really get into that in my essay. I was more Leo-focused.

          • I didn’t warm to Mulligan either, but I see what you’re saying about her nonentity-ness and Gatsby. I’d like to see silly Daisy with an automatic Southern belle charm (Zelda-ish of course). I barely remember the 1974 movie. It was so antiseptic.

          • sheila says:

            // I’d like to see silly Daisy with an automatic Southern belle charm //

            Exactly! She’s a tease – and silly and adorable – and floats with the wind of whoever is paying attention to her. She probably loves knowing Gatsby is out there yearning for her, not realizing how cruel that is.

            But she has no substance – I think Nick refers to her at the end of the book as “careless”. Pretty brutal.

            Mia Farrow was too obviously New-York-high-strung, and Carey Mulligan is just a moist lump onscreen.

            So far we have not had a good Daisy. Who would be a good Daisy?

            Allison Pill was wonderful as Zelda in Midnight in Paris because you could see how much FUN she was – alongside how troubled she was.

  3. mutecypher says:

    Yes to The Legend of Tarzan.

    I’m on the sixth episode of Terriers, and also on the seventh season of Sons of Anarchy – so there’s the good Donal Logue and the vile, manipulative, vengeance-obsessed Donal Logue. Wow, it’s called acting.

    Thanks for taking one for the team and confirming the suckiness of the end of season 11 SPN. I am just too prude to re-watch.

    Now I’m just waiting for HP and The Cursed Child to show up in the mail. That jumps to the top of the reading file.

    • sheila says:

      // I am just too prude to re-watch. //

      Okay that made me laugh out loud.

    • sheila says:

      Yeah, Logue is real real good.

      I love him as a kind and sad man. I love him in a romantic bittersweet situation. And I love him as mentor to his scrappy sidekick. It’s a great relationship – I wish it had gone to 2 seasons but I’m so happy we have what we have!

      Donal Logue’s sister is excellent in it too!

      • sheila says:

        (and talk about good acting. There is nothing – NOTHING – that Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof has in common with the character in Terriers. Zero. Zip. Nada. And it feels like MRJ was born to play BOTH roles.)

      • mutecypher says:

        /Donal Logue’s sister is excellent in it too!/

        She is. I haven’t seen the full series, so I don’t know how her arc plays out, but she made a real character – not just weird savant that spits out plot-pushing science stuff.

        /I love him as a kind and sad man./

        He has a great deal of sadness in his character in SoA as well – along with the horror.

        • sheila says:

          Yeah, she’s wonderful – she sticks around – as do the two women in the men’s lives. I love how we come into the mens’ lives with relationships already in progress. They’re grown-ups (as much of a mess as they are). The romances here aren’t “OMG I met a hot girl and we’re hot and heavy” – it’s further on down the line, giving a nice worn-comfortable feeling to the series.

          I just love it so much. The cases are interesting and funny but the relationships are the most important thing!

      • Barb says:

        Started watching Terriers, too – it’s been on my list for quite a while, but you and Jessie spurred me to action. Just up to the second or third episode, the one with the two hugs. Wow.

        Haven’t seen Tarzan, yet, but there was a trailer for Suicide Squad before the Star Trek movie (went to that yesterday) and for all the hype about Jared Leto, it looks like Margot Robbie might just walk away with that flick entirely!

        • sheila says:

          // Just up to the second or third episode, the one with the two hugs. //

          Dammit, now I’m not remembering – could you remind me?

          So excited other people are watching it too. It’s a gem!

          • Barb says:

            When Logue’s character decides to buy his ex’s house. The first hug is in a flashback, to the day they moved in. The second is present day, after a kind but distant conversation between them. His face is so happy, content and, maybe, grateful in the first scene. In the second she stays stiff, and you can see he wants that hug for old time’s sake and because he still loves her, but he has to settle for this halfway, unwanted attempt. A heartbreaker.

          • sheila says:

            Oh God, yes!!!

            Heartbreaking. He needs to let her GO, man.

          • sheila says:

            I also loved that she was not turned into a villain – nor was her fiance. I couldn’t help it, though – every time I looked at her fiance, I heard Lili Taylor singing, “Joe LIES. When he CRIES.”

        • Jessie says:

          Terriers represent! This is awesome!

    • sheila says:

      I was pleasantly surprised by every aspect of Tarazan – especially the fact that it was so emotional! Imagine how badly that whole damn thing could have gone.

      It had some real weight to it somehow.

      And I loved all of the animals and how they were respected (by the film, I mean, not just Tarzan/Jane) – and not anthropomorphized. But they had emotions and gestures that show their feelings – and we all know this from watching animals. When they’re freaked out, when they’re pissed, when they’re relaxed. I loved that part of it especially. They weren’t cute-sied up. They were still wild animals.

      • mutecypher says:

        In Kay Redfield Jamison’s Exuberance she interviews and describes an elephant researcher, and how emotionally involved the researcher is with the elephants – and their emotional lives. If you’ve seen of Jane Goodall’s chimp documentary, you see that those animals have rich (and terrible, like biker-gang terrible) emotional lives. I liked the respect shown for their lives also. The animals were animals, but with their emotional lives highlighted. I loved the lioness rubbing against Tarzan, just like a gigantic version of my cat.

        And Tarzan loves Jane, and Jane loves Tarzan – that has to be the emotional core of any Tarzan movie. They got that with the movie. I loved that Margot Robbie’s Jane was resourceful without becoming jungle steampunk about it. I had no interest in Suicide Squad before, but after LoT I may see it just for her (and I do like Harley Quinn anyway).

        • sheila says:

          Oh, the elephant scene was one of my favorite scenes. Incredible creatures.

          Margot Robbie is super-funny in Wolf of Wall Street (I totally believed she was from the Bronx since she was a total unknown to me at that point – she was like Cathy Moriarty in Raging Bull – and then I was stunned to learn that she’s not even American) and I loved her ridiculous cameo in The Big Short. And yeah, here, I believed she was a total nature-girl. Casually gorgeous and zero stress when she’s in her element. I loved them perched in the tree in their clothes, having a talk.

  4. Wren Collins says:

    Oh, Sheila, those last episodes.

    To be fair- I did like the finale. At least- I liked that Sam and Dean were recognisably /Sam and Dean/ in it. Didn’t much care for the Chuck/Amara stuff. But, my God, the preceding two. I can only hope that this isn’t what next season’ll look like. Surely they /must/ realise what a fiasco this was.

    • sheila says:

      Yeah, I loved the Chuck/Metatron episode in the music club. That was a lot of fun. Not sure I’m crazy about Chuck as God – although I always kinda felt that that’s who he was, especially when he showed up in that final shot of Fan Fiction.

      But come ON. He’s been gone for YEARS. Who gives a shit about Chuck at this point? Why are you handing over the entire season-wide Arc to him in the final hour – when you have these two gorgeous hunk-a leading men who have been emoting for 22 episodes straight about their pain/angst/deepest-desires, and etc.?

      We don’t need a METAPHOR for a sibling relationship in the last 3 episodes – we need an actual sibling relationship!

      I had forgotten about the travesty that was Sam springing on Dean that he was going to take on the Mark of Cain. And we – their precious audience – had been left out of that conversation. (I am sure that scene was written, and I would bet they even filmed it – but with the mess of that episode, it got chopped because nobody knew what the hell they were doing.)

      It reminds me of the Curious Case of Steve Blass – a major league pitcher – known for suddenly “forgetting” how to throw in the middle of a game (and despite a year of training and psychoanalysis and all the rest – he never got it back)- such a notorious case that the phenomenon is actually named after him – and pitchers are haunted by Steve Blass – it is their worst nightmare.

      I wrote a whole piece about him – and one quote kind of sums it up – this is Steve Blass talking – he basically forgot how to throw mid-game (and never “got it back”):

      I was totally unnerved. You can’t imagine the feeling that you suddenly have no idea what you’re doing out there. You have no business being there, performing that way as a major-league pitcher. It was kind of scary.”

      Anyway. That’s what those 3 episodes feel like. Like suddenly everyone forgot how to do what they CLEARLY know how to do – and knew how to do, like, the week before. It’s very strange.

      I actually recommend watching the couple episodes leading up and then into the debacle. It actually is kind of illuminating about 1. how good/easy the rest of the show usually is, even the clinkers and 2. where the hell they might have gone wrong. You can FEEL it happening.

      I’m a critic. I need to study these things so I can understand them because there’s always a reason why. Nobody sets OUT to make anything bad!

      And I know JA and JP tried to save the ship from sinking – but there’s really only so much you can do. I’m sure there was a huge post-mortem following the season close so everyone could figure out – blame who they needed to blame (including themselves) – and pick up the pieces determined to do better.

      • Wren Collins says:

        Funnily enough your reply has made me more hopeful. I’m preserving a sense of optimism. Dabb’s a good writer, after all- & Singer’s been with the show forever- so SPN should be in good hands. And it does seem like everything just went out of the window- possibly due to the fact that there wasn’t a showrunner (and my God, you can tell, you can TELL).

        & yeah- the fact that the rest of the season was so good and perceptive makes those last ones just trippy. They’d been doing so well!

        • sheila says:

          // makes those last ones just trippy. //

          I know!!

          Season 11 was so so strong (I still think it was really strong, even though it de-railed.) A couple of episodes that quickly joined the ranks of some of my favorite eps! And “Baby” is a masterpiece, and innovative as hell (it feels like something you would do in a FIRST season, to pound your chest and announce how awesome you are as a show. To see it in Season 11 is just … love it so much. They all really give a shit.)

          These people are all so gifted and care so much about the show that I’m sure AS they were filming it they were like, “This blows.”

          In 11 seasons, the show has never felt like that – not even during the truncated writers-strike season! So yeah – total anomaly – trippy, as you say.

          Robert Singer is great because his ultimate concern is for that main relationship – and the humanization of every character onscreen – you can feel it in his episodes.

          But something that went THAT wrong can’t be “tweaked” – it was a conceptual issue and they seemed to have written themselves into a corner with Dean and Amara – but often the best stuff comes when they write themselves into a corner! Dean’s a Demon – huge corner. Sam’s dead. Huge corner. So they seemed to skip away from what that bond really seemed to be saying – something that we all seemed to feel – I keep thinking about “Into the Mystic” – and what that episode FELT like, and how illuminating it was about Dean and Sam – as almost-middle-aged single guys now – sorry to say but they are! And then the strong woman thing that was going on through this entire season. God, the women! There were so many great women in this season. And not Rowena – I’m sick of her. But Jodie and Donna and Alex and Claire. Nobody a damsel in distress. And then the women in Into the Mystic. All the women in “Baby” – the one-offs, the one-night-stands, the valet parking girl – it was the women who saved the guys by leaving stuff behind in the car – I don’t know, there was something very very exciting afoot, intensified by the Dean-Amara smoochy-eyes thing going on. Maybe not even romantically – maybe all along it was leading back to Mary, you know? And how that is unfinished business, and impacting their relationship with women – or (more intriguingly) how they see the soft parts of themselves – and what will happen to the soft parts if they allow Mary to be complex – or if she re-enters the scene in another form – Mary is their past and what happens if she suddenly comes into the present again – there’s a lot of Woman Stuff going on in Season 11, and I loved it.

          I thought it was all SUPER strong and VERY mysterious – unlike, say, The Leviathan – your typical “bad” who is then vanquished in the last second. This one felt different.

          I’m really sorry the Amara thing fizzled. I loved her (#1) and loved the weird-ness in Dean about her. A real Achilles heel – so strong that he actually admitted to it.

          But alas, not meant to be. I’m still not quite over it. Chuck?? Who CARES, guys? I love Chuck but I’m not THAT sentimental for him that I want to see him all tubercular for three episodes and steal away the momentum of Dean’s interpretive-dance-Greek-mask-abstract relationship with Amara.

          But yeah, I think we can all take comfort in the fact that they KNOW – and probably feel worse than we do. It’s one hour a week to us, to them it’s their whole lives.

          So yeah. Let’s get it together, Vancouver. We have faith in you!

          • Wren Collins says:

            Yes- it was so strong and so bizarre. (Actually I agree- it’s overall a great season despite the wtf-ness of those last episodes.) Just thinking of Baby- an episode all about what goes on between the big nasty plot arcs- it was so thoughtful. I don’t think Baby would have been as good as it was if it had come any earlier. Like what you said about Into The Mystic- these guys are both well into their thirties! They need to find a way to sustain what they have! & for me the season did that so well.

            I loved what they did with Chuck in Don’t Call Me Shurley. After that? Didn’t care. Like, at all. You want to kill God? Sure, go ahead. You’re supposed to mind about stuff like that. It was like they just ran out of road for him post-Shurley.

            The Amara thing was awesome- yes, all those ladies!- & so sinister. Really felt like something was coming. & running alongside the Sam/Lucifer thing at the start of the season? That was awesome. I loved that. It was so nasty. & then they seemed to completely forget about the Sam/Lucifer thing- and the Dean/Amara thing, like you say, went absolutely nowhere- like, what?

            Too many writers leaving at once, methinks.

            Not quite over it yet either. But I’m getting there. *crosses fingers for Vancouver*

          • sheila says:

            agreed in re: Baby.

            And for me – the way that was filmed – and this might just be me – but it felt like the Impala WAS God. Like: literally. Watching over them, their home, their peace – always there, a sentient being.

            Touched on lightly – not hammered home (the way I felt Chuck as God was hammered home.) There was something truly mysterious about it – and huge – the brothers talking about God and their dreams and their parents in the car – beautiful!! They don’t talk like that in the BUNKER. It’s the car where all the good shit happens, where relationships really happen. And where – when women enter the picture – they leave stuff behind that helps save the day. And they are never to be seen again but their legacy is … Life. Continuing. Really profound, I thought.

            And the necklace. Another God-totem. Which was closed up beautifully in Fan Fiction – so when it was resurrected here – I felt “Meh.” A mis-fire. Because what was EMOTIONAL then became ACTUAL – because what was important in the necklace was NOT the necklace but what it represented.

            So yeah, I’m with you. Chuck. The show has set us up to have contempt for God – and God let all this horrible shit happen – and now – suddenly – because he looks like Chuck, we’re supposed to care about his relationship with his sister?

            SPN (in my opinion) has a hard time sustaining mystery. It’s like the Men of Letters – who were so mysterious – and then end up looking like a corporate boardroom with rules and minutes taken and all the rest. We’ve discussed this before – how somehow – with this team – the mysterious is then neatened up and systemitized – so that we have a Corporate Heaven and a Royal Court Hierarchical Hell – and everyone is bored out of their minds. Angels started out as ferocious wild creatures – who knew shit we can never know – and now they’re just … power-jostlers. Zachariah (whom I love) was the beginning of the end of the mysterious Angels – and that was the Joke about his character, that really worked. “Wouldn’t it be funny if Zachariah were a middle-manager type?”

            So then that one joke became the entire atmosphere in Heaven. And all the mystery was lost!

            it seems to be a “thing” with this team. There’s a collective suspicion of systems and human organizations – that’s for sure. But then somehow every supernatural gathering of supernatural entities ends up looking like an Amway meeting where everyone is dressed alike. It’s strange.

            Amara brought in strange-ness and unknowability again. Also because she’s a woman – with boobs and everything – pressing out of her dress … In this macho atmosphere, there’s always been something about the women they know that bring out other things – stuff we don’t get to see elsewhere. Unchartered territory.

            Same with Dee Wallace and the other hunter in Into the Mystic!! The softness – and yet the tough-ness – the humanity of those women – they weren’t just “badass” people (I’m sick of women being called “badass” and I know I have participated in it but now I’ve stopped. I don’t like it. Because then it means that women aren’t allowed to be human and flawed and make mistakes and be selfish – no, we have to be “badasses” – we don’t get to run the gamut like men do. We always have to be strong and competent and AWESOME. Zzzzzzz.) But anyway: those two women had LIVES, and PASTS, and fascinating back-stories – and they both were smart enough to look at Sam and Dean like the Eye-Candy that they are – but it was so friendly somehow – I truly hope we see both of them again.

            I don’t know, the more I watch that episode the more it stands out. I can’t think of another episode quite like it.

            // alongside the Sam/Lucifer thing at the start of the season? That was awesome. I loved that. It was so nasty. //

            Yeah, that’s another thing. HUGE missed opportunity, HUGE ball dropped. Seemed to go away when Lucifer entered Castiel – because they needed to give Misha Collins something to do – and suddenly all of the electricity went out of that conflict.

            And Sam was left with nothing to do after that. JP was aware of this and tried to “react” to Lucifer appropriately, taking into consideration their past together – but without a director/writing staff prioritizing things like close-ups – or even good blocking – then how can that continuity even exist? JP doesn’t decide where to place the camera.

            anyway. Yeah. Bummer.

          • sheila says:

            // You want to kill God? Sure, go ahead. You’re supposed to mind about stuff like that. //


            I know!!

          • Wren Collins says:

            Yes, they do seem to have a problem keeping things -mysterious-. I mean, look at episodes like Form & Void, or O Brother Where Art Thou- the large-arc stuff was so sinister. I think they lost a lot of the sinister-ness on the Lucifer/Sam side of things when they had him possess Castiel- I love Misha, but he just doesn’t have the same menace as Pelligrino, I don’t think. & then there was that awful scene with Crowley cleaning the floor with a toothbrush- like, wtf? I don’t want to see that. I want to see Sam’s horrible half-formed red-lit Hell-visions. (Well, I don’t, but that’s kinda the point.) & similarly with Amara- that whole weird connection with Dean suddenly written off. The tone was so glaringly out of whack- whereas for the first half of the season throughout the large-arc episodes, they had it down.

            At least they left the Cage to be sinister down there in the depths of Hell. I’ll take what I can get.

          • sheila says:

            // I want to see Sam’s horrible half-formed red-lit Hell-visions. //

            I’m totally with you on that. I remember how thrilled (in our sick way) we were when the “cage” came back – and the possibility of Sam re-visiting that trauma (because we are masochists) – but not only that, the show understood its own continuity. Its own backstory – AND the emotional weight that we out HERE put on that stuff. (Similar to how they understood the importance of the necklace and Dean dropping it in the trash can – which is why when it resolved in Fan Fiction it was SO satisfying.)

            So Sam having visions of the cage was like; “Oh wow. They too realize that Hell is a big snooze-fest – and what about Dean screaming over the fiery void when he went to Hell – and Sam’s soul being eviscerated in an unseen cage – ” and it gave me hope.

            If I’m let down by the Dean/Amara thing going nowhere, then the Sam/Lucifer thing vanishing – after such a strong opening in the early half of the season –

            Maybe they had too many balls in the air and – like you said – nobody steering the ship near the end. But seasons are planned out in advance – they don’t know HOW they will get there but they know WHERE they are going to go (in general) – so it’s all rather strange. Like, nobody said, “Uhm … guys? What about Sam and Lucifer? Are we gonna … follow up with that … or … should we just do another scene with Rowena tippy-toeing through the corridors?”

            And then Billie, too. SUCH a strong start. and then … poof. All the threats for nothing. Or – they just didn’t have her come in with her End-Game – what was set up so clearly in the first couple of episodes!

            The writers needed a flow-chart, man!

          • Jessie says:

            Don’t put this one on Vancouver! This was all LA, baby!

          • sheila says:

            I would love an un-official “behind the scenes” featurette to appear, where we get to hear everyone in Vancouver – from the set decorators to the actors to the craft services people – saying shit like, “What the HELL is happening.”

          • sheila says:

            Because you KNOW they ALL were!!

    • sheila says:

      // At least- I liked that Sam and Dean were recognisably /Sam and Dean/ in it. //

      I agree – and there were some very good moments. Hard to recover from the two episodes previous – whoo-boy!!

      • Paula says:

        //There were so many great women in this season// this is so true in even the smallest parts this season, like the lesbian couple in Safe House. Normal family dynamics, concern over their child, a couple that really loved each other, and a DIY mom doing the reno work herself. Sometimes the victims are just caricatures but I loved these women.

        Not to mention, the normalization of same-sex couples like this on network tv makes my heart happy. It wasn’t a focus of the story, it wasn’t a source of drama – it was just part of who they were. Sort of like Deputy Jenna in the first few episodes. Blink and you would have missed that Jenna’s first kiss was a girl.

        • sheila says:

          And the gay hunter couple! Even more radical – two little boys openly discussing one of the kids’ crushes on another boy, and it was no big deal.

          SPN has come a long way.

          Plus women “Men of Letters.” (I love that the name is still Men of Letters. Just doesn’t have the same epic ring as “People of Letters.”)

          I really liked Deputy Jenna and – like a fool – got attached to her immediately and hoped I would see more of her. Silly Sheila. This is SPN we’re talking about. I also loved the vibe between her and Dean and how Dean clocked immediately that she was brand-new at her job. No words even needed to be said!

          Also, having Dee Wallace – an elderly women – being all hot-to-trot and sexy and not ashamed of being sexual – and not having the show make FUN of her for still having sexual feelings or from expressing her crush on Dean. (Compare to the old lady who hit on Sam in the ghost ship episode. I mean, that was played for comedy – but making fun of old people is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel. Dean’s comment MADE that scene: “You smell like sex.” hahaha)

          But when do we ever get to see old ladies like the one we saw in Into the Mystic? It just made me so happy! AND that she totally bonded with the younger woman – and was totally not a damsel in distress in any way. She was terrified but she saw a ghost once and she was ready to do what needed to be done. AND that Dean was not at all put off by her crush. He was drawn to her. Yes, shy about her basically making a joke about touching his dick – ha!! – but honestly, that’s a human reaction. “Please don’t touch my genitals while we’re sitting here waiting for a banshee and my brother is across the room. Thank you.” But he was open to her and I still think a hook-up would be a possibility there. Why the hell not. I just loved that.

  5. Terriers actually was filmed in OB and San Diego (I live in Escondido, about 30 miles away, and much of it looked familiar). Such a great series. I love Donal L. too–did you ever see The Tao of Steve?

    I watch Cat every now and then just to see Burl Ives in that basement scene.

    • sheila says:

      Wow, Jincy – cool! I just love the vibe of that town – and the beach location – and the beach-y feel. Not exactly Rhode Island-beach-y feel – but a beach town is a beach town!

      I also love the 3 computer hackers in Terriers who live in a van on the beach – who can bug any room any time – and are also very familiar characvters in any beach town. Over-educated maybe, with nothing to do but sit around, and that’s all they WANT to do because hey – it’s a beach town!

      I didn’t see The Tao of Steve – and now I feel like I need to watch Sons of Anarchy for more Donal Logue!

      and yeah – that basement scene is so good! It would have been amazing to see him do that role in the original B-way production too. Such a great character!

      • Jessie says:

        Ha ha I gotta say that “tech trio” are my LEAST FAVOURITE thing about the show. They make me cringe. No human being talks like that! Especially not overidle overeducated white boys – those references are nowhere near obscure enough for anyone like that to feel impressed with himself!

        • sheila says:

          hahaha I recognize the type from my own beach town. Skateboarding-surfing-stoner-techie-math-nerds who somehow DIDN’T go to MIT – or they got accepted and then decided to defer (5 years ago) because they can’t seem to drag themselves away from the forgiving rhythms of the beach town.

          They were a bit too obvious a nod to the Lone Gunmen from the X-Files – like, there were 3 of them. First of all. And they weren’t as entertaining as the Lone Gunmen so they suffer in comparison. Also, how about throw a girl into the mix? Come on, I know you can do it!! There is zero reason to not have a girl-hacker hanging out in that van too, wearing a bikini underneath her Replacements T-shirt.

  6. mutecypher says:

    In Sons of Anarchy, Donal shows up in late in season 5, going on to most of season 6, just FYI. I’d recommend starting to watch it for Charlie Hunnam, I know you’ve seen him in Crimson Peak and Pacific Rim (I read that a sequel is in the works!). He doesn’t do JA-level comic stuff, but being open and vulnerable and loving and lethal… dude rocks. And there are copious man-hugs per episode. Did you talk about him any with Guillermo del Toro? – he’s cast the guy twice.

    And Katey Sagal is Lady MacBeth on steroids (well, estrogen).

    • sheila says:

      Charlie Hunnam is incredible. I totally agree with you about his talent and his open-ness. Yes, GDT loves him! We discussed him on the plane and he said, “I just fucking love the guy.”

      He may have said “I just fucking love the fucking guy.” :)

    • sheila says:

      So I should start from the beginning of Sons of Anarchy though.

      • mutecypher says:

        You could start at nearly any point, I think the “previously on Sons of Anarchy” setups do a good job of reminding you of plot points and relationships, but it really is a great show. If you wanted to start with Donal, you could probably start in episode 12 of season 5 – that sets up the event that brings him on stage. I actually started watching the series around that point and then I’ve went back to the beginning earlier in the summer (I hadn’t seen the first 4 seasons). I haven’t watched all of season 7 yet.

        The violence can overwhelm (well, my delicate sensitivities) and so I can’t watch 6 episodes in a night. There are a couple of X-files alumni (Mitch Pileggi and Annabeth Gish – season 7 only) as well.

        • sheila says:

          Cool – thanks!

        • Lyrie says:

          Sons of Anarchy, YES! I binge-watched it last summer – I basically started watching it because I wanted to see shiny motorcycles, because I am subtle and deep that way.
          The characters are beautiful, the cast is very, very good, it is very good drama. And the motorcycles really are shiny and beautiful (it makes up for the few things I find really cringy). Beautiful, especially some shots in the last seasons that looked like Hopper paintings. Americana.

          I was so confused to find Mitch Pileggi so hot in that show – if you watch some of it, you’ll get why.

          Lots, LOTS of Deadwood alumni, too.

          A few weeks ago I thought I’d just re-watch the pilot. I am now watching the 3rd season.

  7. Paula says:

    Home Alone! I remember my son’s obsession with this too (we ended up buying versions 1, 2 and 3 in the discount dvd bin for him). Wait until they see Spy Kids. He loved those movies so much. I actually kind of enjoyed them too.

    • sheila says:

      My niece has to close her eyes when he runs up the basement steps, opens the door, and there are the two criminals standing right there. It’s too scary for her.

      And I have to close my eyes with all the scenes involving the brother’s “pet” and I don’t even want to talk about it anymore.

  8. Helena says:


    //Preparing for next re-cap. Season 2 finale!//

    Wait, WHHHAAATTTT!!!

    • sheila says:

      You know, it takes me forever!! I’ve been pitching stories to more outlets and they all said Yes at the same time. I am not complaining! But it’s been one huge piece after another – and August is the same way.

      But yes, I am working on it in dribs and drabs. And I am using a quote from Francis Bacon as my launching-off point. Because THAT makes sense!!

      • Helena says:

        Which one, though?

        • Helena says:

          Oh, and congrats on all the yeses to your pitches!

        • sheila says:

          “There is no excellent beauty, that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.”

          • Helena says:

            “The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.”

            the other Francis Bacon

          • Jessie says:

            -Pope Innocent X

            (Bacon is such an SPN tragic, so much fan art.)

          • sheila says:

            So true!

          • Jessie says:

            It really is! In terms of purely personal response, what gets to me about Bacon’s work aligns crazy-close with what gets to me about SPN: the loss of self, the multiplicity of self, the loss of bodily integrity, the porousness of the material body; the inescapable presence of meat, of violence; cages, containment, and catastrophic sex; ambiguous and fraught and eroticised masculine relationships; and intensity of feeling that exists beyond verbal and emotional expression.

            Of course that’s only one part of my reaction to SPN and Bacon doesn’t really provide the other side of the coin which is exploring how all that might also be redemptive or joyous, which SPN somehow finds ways to hint towards. But those are the themes I find myself helplessly returning to in my, shall we say, unauthorized novelisations of the show. In terms of other art, for me Brian Eno’s Driving Me Backwards is in the exact same space (particularly season 9), and the Australian band The Drones, which I feel is basically the SPN house band.

            In case you can’t tell I love it.

          • mutecypher says:

            You probably know, Poe misquotes Bacon in Ligeia as saying “There is no exquisite beauty … without some strangeness in the proportion.” That’s where I first came across this. I kinda like Poe’s misquote better – but he says (or his unreliable narrator says) that he’s quoting Bacon. Maybe the misquote is another sign of his unreliability.

            Poe even begins the story with a quote from Joseph Glanvill that appears made up. The same way Stendhal made up quotes to begin the chapters of The Red and The Black. I guess that was a thing back in the 1830’s.

            At any rate, I anxiously await the recap!

          • Helena says:

            // the loss of self, the multiplicity of self, the loss of bodily integrity, the porousness of the material body; the inescapable presence of meat, of violence; cages, containment, and catastrophic sex; ambiguous and fraught and eroticised masculine relationships; and intensity of feeling that exists beyond verbal and emotional expression.//

            I hope the scriptwriters for season 12 read this, Jessie, and remind themselves what SPN is about, because in that sentence is everything that the final 3 eps of Season 11 threw under the bus.

          • sheila says:

            A guy in my class at the Actors Studio wrote a short little one-man show about Francis Bacon – he did it up on this big stage, and he had the audience sit on the stage – with the big red velvet curtain down. We were all enclosed in this dark space, surrounded by red velvet. And he used just a ghost-light – so it actually looked (at times) like a Francis Bacon painting.

            God, it was 20 years ago and I still remember it – there were times, too, as he spoke – when he would – very naturally, it all happened in the flow – as he spoke – end up in “poses” that were from Bacon’s paintings.

            It was really rather brilliant.

          • sheila says:

            // Bacon’s work aligns crazy-close with what gets to me about SPN: the loss of self, the multiplicity of self, the loss of bodily integrity, the porousness of the material body; the inescapable presence of meat, of violence; cages, containment, and catastrophic sex; ambiguous and fraught and eroticised masculine relationships; and intensity of feeling that exists beyond verbal and emotional expression. //

            This is beautiful. I hadn’t quite put that into words but it goes along at least with what I’ve been thinking about with Part II of AHBL. The beauty is so extreme that to me it is indistinguishable from pain. This is one of Manners’ stylistic things – and no other director quite matches him in that regard.

            But in the series as a whole – in terms of themes – I see all that too.

            // Bacon doesn’t really provide the other side of the coin which is exploring how all that might also be redemptive or joyous, which SPN somehow finds ways to hint towards. //

            Without the possibility of joyousness, SPN would not be what it is and I would not be watching. That – for me – has been the most revelatory thing about it.

          • sheila says:

            Jessie – I don’t know The Drones – now I need to check them out. Why are they the house band? Could you elaborate? I love this idea!

            And I love thinking about Driving Me Backwards and SPN – wow. Season 9! I’m listening to it right now.

          • Helena says:

            //God, it was 20 years ago and I still remember it – //

            I would never have forgotten this.

            A while ago there was a huge Bacon exhibition which I visited with high hopes. But I was disappointed, not by the work, but because of the lack of a proper atmosphere in which to enjoy it – it was all bright lights, noise and thronging crowd. I couldn’t wait to get out. I think Bacon’s work should always be displayed in old tents like Victorian circus booths as per the Elephant Man film, the work lit by gaslight or low watt bare electric bulbs, obscured by moth-eaten velvet curtains damp with the tears of corrupted chorines, the smell of damp and decay like a filthy hand over your mouth. As you progress through the labyrinthine space, candlestick held aloft like a crucifix to ward off a vampire, scenes of increasing of horror and torment are revealed. Finally, you realise what you are seeing are not paintings, but mirrors. You leave, breathless, feeling irreparably scarred, sullied, complicit, at a crossroads. Standing in the street amid the swirling fog which the gaslight can barely penetrate, you hesitate, uncertain whether to head for the nearest church to seek absolution for a mortal sin you have yet to commit, or the nearest bar to seek the wracked oblivion of the Green Fairy.

            (Yes, I have been watching Penny Dreadful.)

          • sheila says:


            Yes, I agree. Bright lights, jostling throng, is not the right atmosphere at all.

            I always wondered what happened to that actor who put together that one-man show. He looked like Ed Harris. If Ed Harris were haunted by ghosts. The whole thing ended with him sprawled on a bed, almost naked, his head flopped over the side of the bed, facing us – so he was upside down. He looked totally like a Francis Bacon painting – especially since the only light was that bare bulb, and all around him was the red velvet of the curtain.

            None of us could even BREATHE.

            And, like, 20 people saw the damn thing. If that. It was a class project!

            I love artists.

          • Jessie says:

            Helena —
            in that sentence is everything that the final 3 eps of Season 11 threw under the bus.
            Thank you and yes — definitely not enough catastrophic sex in those episodes.

            What was going on in that exhibition?! Why would they do that?! Your Penny D exhibition otoh…that doesn’t even need the Bacon.

            Sheila —
            That show sounds sounds absolutely incredible — no wonder you remembered it.

            The beauty is so extreme that to me it is indistinguishable from pain.
            I know exactly what you mean and it gets to mutecypher’s very apt misquote of exquisite, where the pain is almost part of the pleasure. I am so excited to talk about it when the time comes.

            Without the possibility of joyousness, SPN would not be what it is and I would not be watching. That – for me – has been the most revelatory thing about it.
            That sense of joyousness or — it’s hard to articulate — presence in negation — that feels really radical to me.

            Driving Me Backwards is such a greaaaaaaaaaaaaatttttt song!!!!

            The Drones as the SPN house band:
            ha ha I said this kind of flippantly, thinking particularly of these electrifying lyrics from Another Rousing Chorus You Idiots!!!: “Come pour it in, pour it in/ You will never be full/ And you will never be free.”

            And remembering that this is only one of the emotional realms or genres that SPN draws on for its various potencies — there’s not a lot of humour here, most obviously, which even the Eno track manages — but this band also captures these feelings of emotional intensity (to the point of melodrama) that’s kind of highly literate and referential but extremely messy. Lyrically they’re very Australian but the sparse dark dangerous land/frontier features heavily, full of death and loneliness and consequences.

            Sonically they’re driven by Liddiard’s vocals and guitar that always seem right on the point of dissolution, of collapse — it’s exquisite, it hurts — and I guess that’s really the essential correspondence for me. They are an ecstatic experience, live.

          • Helena says:

            //Ed Harris were haunted by ghosts. //

            I need Haunted Ed Harris in my life right now.

          • mutecypher says:

            Jessie –

            Shark Fin Blues just kicked me in the ass. Thanks for pointing them out!

          • Jessie says:

            oh my god, right?! It’s one of my favourites. So glad you like it!

          • sheila says:

            // definitely not enough catastrophic sex in those episodes. //

            In general, there’s not enough catastrophic sex in the series, but yes, those 3 eps were particularly egregious. Like I want to see Crowley and Chuck slumped in chairs for 3 hours. Come ON.

            and yeah, the pain IS the pleasure. ?? I know that sensation when I feel it – and it’s usually connected with beautiful art – mostly in songs and paintings – since music/painting is somehow removed from the constriction of language – ?? I don’t know – a melody or a painting can strike deeper than mere description. And so there’s that painful ache – and the pain does not distract from the beauty, it is part of how the beauty operates.

            I’m sure many articulate people have discussed this phenomenon throughout our history as a human race on this planet – and I should probably do some more digging on that score.

            There’s also the beauty in martyrdom – which is political – most of the time. You know: what is worth dying for? I just finished a wonderful biography of Thomas Meagher – an Irish patriot/poet (they usually go together) – who had this extraordinary life – sentenced to die in Ireland for his part in a failed uprising in 1848 during the famine – then sent to Tasmania on a prison ship for lifelong exile – he then escaped off of the island (nearly impossible to do but he did it) and went to America where he was hailed by the Irish diaspora (millions upon millions who had fled the famine) as a hero – and he then became a general of the “Irish brigade” (which he had organized) and they fought in the Civil War – with HORRENDOUS losses – they were decimated. These Irishmen fought for a country that – at that point – HATED Irish and Catholics so much so that they were seen as sub-human. Many Irish were like, “Why are we fighting for these people? Let’s go back to Ireland and fight the British, for real this time.”

            Meagher then went on to become governor of the Montana territory, before dying under extremely mysterious circumstances. Suicide? Murder?

            I don’t know if every culture is in love with martyrdom – it seems that that is the territory of oppressed people.

            You could fill a library with poems and songs and books and paintings that show Ireland’s love affair with martyrdom. The pain is indistinguishable from the beauty. The sad patriotic songs – like “Four Green Fields” – where pain and loss is PART of what it means to be Irish – and therefore it is beautiful.

            It’s silly (I realize) to connect these real-world serious things to Dean Winchester – but I think the story already taps into those things, floating around free-form in the atmosphere. The story utilizes those epic tales of heroes and last-stands and beautiful stand-offs and brave martyrs – as an underlying context – you can’t help but make those connections. Or, I can’t. I might not have if I hadn’t just finished the Meagher biography.

          • Jessie says:

            okay, like a month late (please forgive, it’s been a month of intensive deadlines and then intensive naps and I am just now rejoining polite society) but this hanging thread has bugged at me because to be honest I don’t know the answer. Thinking back to what I know of the philosophy of art and aesthetics, pain and the beautiful are generally connected via the sublime; for Romantics in particular, pain exists because the sublime actually carries existential or physical threat. It cannot be a component of the feeling-response to beauty because beauty is always assumed to bring pleasure.

            For people less concerned with beauty and more with art as fiction or expression, negative emotions are also a puzzle that is typically solved with a really kind of dull analytic approach that ignores aesthetics and tries to rationalise why people might “paradoxically” seek out art that prompts negative emotions (is it “training”? Is it compensated intellectually or cathartically or by some other pleasure? Are we all just so bored that any feeling is better than nothing?). Again this presupposes that pain is always a negative and is opposed experientally to pleasure. It tends to amount in a cost-benefit analysis where people argue over definitions of cost and benefit.

            I am sure too that there must be very smart people and artists who have talked about this pain-pleasure response to beauty, but that’s what I know of the philosophy. Just totally doesn’t apply to the aesthetic-emotional experience of watching something like That Shot in AHBL2. I will have to keep an eye out!

            I’ll admit I never really connected any modern political sense of martyrdom to DW! But that’s a great story about Meagher and you’re right that all these things swim about within and around the show (particularly once religious annihilation rears its head). I think…it’s a complicated mix of self-negation and assertion of self. His acts often wipe himself out or substitute another for himself while at the same time staking a personal claim on that other. It is, well, one of the great gifts of the show — it is messy! painful! beautiful!

          • sheila says:

            Jessie – wow, this is fascinating. We need to return to this. I need to pull out Edmund Burke’s essay The Sublime and the Beautiful – I have it somewhere. I had to read it in college for some class – art history, maybe? He addresses all of this beautifully.

            // Again this presupposes that pain is always a negative and is opposed experientally to pleasure. It tends to amount in a cost-benefit analysis where people argue over definitions of cost and benefit.//

            So true. I see that happen all the time in film criticism – this may not be exactly what we’re talking about – but the whole “This film is not good because I cannot ‘relate’ to the lead character” or “This film is not good because no one is likable” thing seems to apply. The definition of good art is not “I like the characters” or “It makes me feel good.”

            Although, who am I, to say what the definition of good art is.

            It seems to me that it’s better not to be prescriptive about these things, though. A movie can be good and still not have any “relatable” characters. As long as you want to watch them. It doesn’t mean that movies that DO feature likable characters aren’t good art.

            It’s the rejection of the negative that gets me. This is an extremely human thing – nobody wants to feel pain. But maybe avoidance of pain in real-life makes us drawn to it in art – because then we get that catharsis, we tap into something that we NEED to tap into. Art has many different functions.

          • Jessie says:

            Burke is definitely a key figure in the development of the sublime. These guys — Burke, Hume, Kant, Schopenhauer — were obsessed with understanding the nature of aesthetic/emotional response through taxonomising and delineating all varieties of it and relating them to some moral or social quality and process of reason. I tend to find it relentless and exhausting — my brain just doesn’t work that way — so I would love to hear your thoughts on the Burke essay. I think it may still be reliant on that distinction between the beautiful (art, small things in nature that bring pleasure) and the sublime (natural wonders that invoke terror or awe; in art it tends to be Wanderer Above The Sea of Fog stuff).

            As for a response to beauty that includes pain — I’m not sure. Beauty is so much more complicated than pleasure or aesthetic or moral reason. The kind of beauty that you often talk about with respect to JA/SPN, Marilyn, CaryG, Alain, all your work on this blog that connects beauty inextricably to all sorts of stuff including pleasure. Or the way Tolkien (drawing of course from mythology) talks about his elvish men and women in which physical beauty translates into actual degrees of power: Galadriel of the sun, Arwen of the evening, Luthien who defeats the vassals of Morgoth through her extreme beauty and powers of song and dance, “more strange and fair / than sylphine maidens of the Air”.

            I was just talking about this “I can’t relate” thing with a friend last night! Like what does that even mean? We were talking about it in terms of the political obligation for excluded categories of people (queers) to make themselves “relatable” to the mainstream — gays, they’re just like you! What kind of failure of imagination is occurring here? Why does “relate” always end up meaning “they are likeable and normal and I am likeable and normal”? It kills difference and diversity. I saw Bad Moms recently and its beige-blanket smothering of “relatability” sank the movie despite Hahn’s best efforts to keep it alive; cf Bad Santa which had no such impulse. We ought to acknowledge the beast within if we want to be true to “relatability”! (But you’re also so right about prescriptivism — I also saw Pot O’ Gold the other day and Jimmy Stewart is so NICE and GOOBY, he kills me.)

          • Jessie says:

            Whoops, in reference to your work I meant repulsion instead of pleasure.

  9. Tabaqui says:

    Because the caption to this Dean image *instantly* made me think of you…..

  10. sheila says:

    Jessie – taking it down here, that thread was getting unwieldy.

    Love all of your thoughts!

    // We were talking about it in terms of the political obligation for excluded categories of people (queers) to make themselves “relatable” to the mainstream — gays, they’re just like you! What kind of failure of imagination is occurring here? //

    I know. So true. I love what you say about “relatable” – which then means that if someone is … unpleasant … or a little bit “mad” … or selfish … or does bad things … then it’s a “bad” representation of the group. I understand why these concerns exist. Sidney Poitier turned down many many roles because he only wanted to play positive role models – since he was the only black male movie star at the time who was a leading man. He felt the weight of that.

    Times are different now. But this conversation continues.

    A friend and I were actually talking just yesterday (the day before?) – about the whole “we need more strong female characters onscreen” – which drives me crazy a little bit. How about we need more female characters who are recognizably human – including flaws and vulnerabilities and assholish qualities and selfish qualities. I don’t care so much if women are strong – I want them to be complex – and not disposable – and not reduced to body parts. I get that to some degree those concerns are because we don’t see enough capable strong women onscreen (and I actually disagree with that. These people need to see more movies and stop judging blockbusters as the Be-all end-all of the cultural conversation.)

    Gena Rowlands did not play strong relatable characters. She played nut-bags and tough girls who did crazy things and stupid things and incomprehensible things. She is a great great actress and I’d take her “persona” over the more “relatable” ones any day.

    I just want women to be allowed to be PEOPLE. And to be a person means you make mistakes, you don’t do your best, you suck sometimes … and on and on. And then of course sometimes that’s not called for in a movie – you know, Marilyn Monroe rarely played recognizable human beings. She played the embodiment of … her Marilyn Monroe-ness. It may have sucked for her – and she wanted to play real people – but I can’t imagine a world without Marilyn Monroe! But at the same time Marilyn was working, you’ve got Anne Bancroft and Julie Harris and Geraldine Page and Vivien Leigh and on and on playing real women, complex women … so even if it didn’t exactly balance out, it wasn’t like there was only one Female Image out there in the world.

    I get nervous when I see people who think of art as Instructive. Or it needs to teach the right lesson. As though the audience isn’t smart enough to realize that you shouldn’t watch Taxi Driver and approve of his behavior. But that’s not the director’s concern. (and that’s probably a bad example because John Hinckley WAS inspired by that movie to pull a Travis Bickle.) But it’s a great film. Once it’s out there in the world, you can’t control how it will come across. The Beatles have no responsibility for the fact that Charles Manson listened to the white album and thought it said: “Please go kill a bunch of strangers so that you can start a race war.” You know?

    It’s a tough thing, because of course art instructs too. But I like complexity – where people get to be complex – and no, not necessarily relatable.

    anyway, very interesting conversation – I have not seen Bad Moms – I love all of those actresses so I am bummed to hear it didn’t work for you. I’ll catch up with it eventually.

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