May 2015 Viewing Diary

The X-Files, Season 2 Episode 20 “Humbug” (1995; d. Kim Manners). Mulder and Scully investigate murders among circus-folk. Laugh-out-loud funny, especially Mulder in the fun-house, sliding out of the wall, gun drawn.

The X-Files, Season 2 Episode 22 “The Calusari” (1995; d. Michael Vejar).
In the “creepy kid” tradition of cinema, mixed with the mysterious terrifying rituals of The Roma, transplanted to Virginia. Because of course.

The X-Files, Season 2 Episode 22 “F. Emasculata” (1995; d. Rob Bowman).
Extremely disgusting plot involving exploding pustules. Stop it.

The X-Files, Season 2 Episode 23 “Soft Light” (1995; d. James A. Contner).
The first X-Files episode to be written by Vince Gilligan! Wonderful performance from Tony Shalhoub.

The X-Files, Season 2 Episode 24 “Our Town” (1995; d. Rob Bowman).
Cannibalism focused on a chicken processing plant. Very gross. Great locations (in general, the show has superb locations. There are, of course, some “sets” but for the most part they are out and about in the world, giving the illusion of a road-show, when, of course, it’s all filmed in and around Vancouver. Shades of Supernatural, which pulls off a similar feat. Also similar to Supernatural: honestly, I don’t care about the plot. The mythology is interesting. But what is compelling to me is 1. The cinematography/look-feel of the show and 2. The relationships between the two characters which gives new meaning to the term “slow burn.” These people have the patience of Job. But I love that dynamic.

The X-Files, Season 2 Episode 25 “ Anasazi” (1995; d. R.W. Goodwin).
Season finale of Season 2. I watched this one in a batch of episodes with my partner-in-crime Keith. Even with my new gig at the Times, we are trying to make time for more binge-watching, only this time on the weekends. It’s been so fun, since he is a Super Fan. It’s like watching the episodes with my own personal DVD commentary or Guide Book. (Not that he talks through the episode. No, he gets wrapped up in it. But that if I have a question, we can Pause and discuss ad nauseum.) This episode was developed by creator Chris Carter and David Duchovny, who got a Story Credit on this one. Extremely exciting. Some sort of aircraft is found buried in Anasazi ruins (and Keith informed me that all of the rocks in said canyon were painted red – since I had asked: “Where the hell did they film this?”) Things begin to dovetail in a personal way, involving Mulder’s dad, the vile Smoking Man, and the various summer homes of the Mulder family scattered about New England. Then there’s a box-car filled with dead aliens. Plus Navahos. And helicopters.

The X-Files, Season 3 Episode 1 “The Blessing Way” (1995; d. R.W. Goodwin).
Shit’s getting personal now. Scully finds an implant in her neck. These plot-points will blossom, horribly, seasons later. Mulder is near death and floats in and out of hallucinations in a Navaho sweat-lodge with a medicine doctor. He floats through the universe, etc. It’s profound and emotional. There’s now a “Syndicate,” holed up on 46th Street in NYC, running the show, and keeping the Smoking Man on his toes. Scully deals with the ramifications of her disappearance. I love Gillian Anderson’s acting. This is a woman, a grown woman, not a girl. And Anderson was still in her 20s, but there’s something old-school about her. Not for her the extended adolescence of many young women. She is an adult.

The X-Files, Season 3 Episode 2 “Paper Clip” (1995; d. R.W. Goodwin).
Amazing! Thrilling!

Bravetown. (2015; d. Daniel Duran).
I really enjoyed this movie. Reviewed it for The Dissolve.

The X-Files, Season 3 Episode 3 “D.P.O.” (1995; d. Kim Manners).
I’ve had a rough couple of months. As any binge-watcher will understand, continuing on with the “binge”, in times of stress, is often a life-line. It’s comforting, it’s an escape. It’s strangely stable in an unstable world. I love art as escape. There’s been enough “real life” in March and April to fill up my quota. I’ve been very sick. Things get real simple when you’re sick. You are forced to pare down. “D.P.O. is super-fun because it features Jack Black and Giovanni Ribisi, first of all. At first they seem to be in cahoots, but slowly, Jack Black’s character reveals that he has a moral compass, he knows when to put on the brakes. I love him so much. Giovanni Ribisi’s character basically BECOMES lightning.

L’Avventura (1960; d. Michelangelo Antonioni).
A creepy favorite. These people are all so detached and gorgeous. Connection is not really possible. Monica Vitti is amazing, and her hair is even more so. I first saw L’Avventura in high school and felt dismay that I could never get my hair to look that thick and that casually glamorous.

The X-Files, Season 3 Episode 4 “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (1995; d. David Nutter).
It’s fun to see all the Supernatural names, David Nutter and Kim Manners and Steven Williams and John Shiban and all the rest. “Clyde Bruckman” has now become a favorite, along with “Humbug”. Peter Boyle stars in an extremely touching performance. I miss Peter Boyle. And any episode that references Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper are Okay by me. There’s also an auto-erotic asphyxiation joke, which is also Good News in my book. A couple of great scenes between Gillian Anderson and Peter Boyle. Darin Morgan won an Emmy for the script of this episode, and Peter Boyle won the Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor. Well-deserved.

Under the Skin of the City (2001; d. Rakhshan Bani-E’temad).
I can’t believe I have never seen this film before. It’s incredible. Directed by Iran’s most famous female film director, she who takes on controversial issues, class and gender issues, politics – all of which swirl in the mix of Under the Skin of the City. Portrait of a family in flux, under a lot of stress. Fantastic drama. Gritty. Realistic.

The X-Files, Season 3 Episode 5 “The List” (1995; d. David Nutter).
Featuring the wonderful character actor J.T. Walsh (we went to the same university! He came back to talk to us hopeful acting students and basically said, “Good luck. You’re gonna need it.” He also said he wished he didn’t have to work for money, and could do more Shakespeare. He seemed like a very nice, if sad, man. He made an impression.) “The List” features many nasty scenes with maggots. Too many bugs, in general, on X-Files.

The X-Files, Season 3 Episode 6 “2Shy” (1995; d. David Nutter).
The frightening specter of “meeting someone from the Internet” looms in “2Shy” as these sad pudgy single women bite the dust when they try to date. Timothy Carhart was great.

The X-Files, Season 3 Episode 7 “The Walk” (1995; d. Rob Bowman).
Written by John Shiban! Shiban said he was inspired by the 1950 film The Men (starring Marlon Brando – it was his film debut, Jack Webb, Teresa Wright), which shows the struggles of war vets on returning home to civilian life. Taking place mostly in a VA hospital, it involves “astral projection,” because why not.

The X-Files, Season 3 Episode 8 “Oubliette” (1995; d. Kim Manners).
Like Supernatural, The X-Files has an extremely strong Look. Kim Manners did not create the series, and The X-Files was always dark and glamorous, but Manners helped solidify (and elevate) that style. There are some closeups in his episodes that rival Rembrandt. Velvet-black shadows, with half of Gillian Anderson’s face visible, the light picking out the blue of her eyes, making them blaze. He’s a master, and his style is like a fingerprint. The X-Files is elegant and somber, dark and grim (but it is flexible enough to be slapstick as well, something I really appreciate.) The episode involves a little girl kidnapped in a creepy man’s basement.

The X-Files, Season 3 Episode 9 “Nisei” (1995; d. R.W. Goodwin).
There’s a “mystery train”, all right, carrying Japanese scientists doing secret experiments on alien bodies. There are some amazing sequences here. Mulder jumping onto a moving train. It’s all quite elaborate. Part 1.

The X-Files, Season 3 Episode 10 “731” (1995; d. Rob Bowman).
Part 2, continued from “Nisei.” Another mythology episode. Love X’s role here, and love Steven Williams.

The X-Files, Season 3 Episode 11 “Revelations” (1995; d. David Nutter).
“Revelations” was fascinating, psychologically. Scully is drawn back into her Catholic faith. Mulder, who always chides her for not having an open mind about his various supernatural theories, suddenly becomes skeptical of the hocus-pocus of faith, highlighting a hypocrisy in him that hadn’t been there before. It’s like their roles reversed. He is always saying to her, “Why can’t you at least consider the possibility …” Here, it is HE who is unable to do that. Great relationship episode.

The X-Files, Season 3 Episode 12 “War of the Coprophages” (1996; d. Kim Manners).
Now. Cockroach infestation notwithstanding (HORRIFYING), this episode is really funny, really subtle, with great behavior. Slapstick screwball. Mulder on a case, calling Scully repeatedly, who is seen sitting at home, eating ice cream, reading a book. “Who died now?” she deadpans into the phone. Mulder befriends an entomologist named Bambi. And Scully cannot eye-roll hard enough. “Bambi? Her name is Bambi?” Favorite moment: Scully arrives to help out on the scene, finding chaos and looting in a local store. She stands by the cash register, looking at the carnage, and says into the phone to Mulder, “Mulder, this town is insane.” One of my favorite episodes so far.

Supernatural, Season 10 Episode 21 “Dark Dynasty” (2015; d. Robert Singer).
Devastating. But also frustrating (Castiel’s inability to referee. Nope. This is the “hapless adorable goofball Castiel” that his fan-base seems to adore and I find unconvincing and undramatic.) Small nitpick aside, the episode was harrowing and upsetting and I’m still in denial. For me, the season really ended here. Everything stopped.

The X-Files, Season 2, Episode 7, “3” (1994; d. David Nutter)
While Scully was abducted and MIA, Mulder tries to take his mind off things by working a vampire case and fucking a vampire. Good for him. I had somehow missed this one the first time through so looped back to catch it.

A Bronx Tale (1993; d. Robert De Niro)
It’s been A Bronx Tale couple of months.
1. It played at Ebertfest and Chazz Palminteri was in attendance.
2. Matt Seitz and I (with his girlfriend and his two kids) trucked out to Queens to see Chazz Palminteri perform A Bronx Tale live. It was an unforgettable experience and made me want to see the movie AGAIN, even though I had just seen it. It’s amazing how little De Niro had to change for the film. The entire script is up there on the screen. De Niro was smart enough to know he didn’t need to touch it too much, or “open it up” or anything like that.

Starred Up (2013; d. David Mackenzie).
I had somehow missed this on its first release. It was the first moment when people were like, “Jack O’Connell. Now … who is that?” He’s since gone on to star in ’71 as well as Angelina Jolie’s film Unbroken. I’m not sure he has the star-power of, say, a Russell Crowe, but he gives a fine and very upsetting performance in Starred Up, as a kid tossed into a maximum-security prison, even though he is still a teenager. He has been “starred up”, meaning the prisons for juveniles can no longer deal with him. You can see why. He is fearless and extremely violent. His father, played by Ben Mendelsohn (extraordinary performance) is also in prison and has been so for years. He’s a Top Dog in prison. There is no father-son bonding, because the two really have no relationship. Meanwhile, there’s a controversial “therapy group” designed by a psychologist who believes he has found some ways to combat violent tendencies. (The script, by Jonathan Asser, is based on his own work in that area.) Starred Up is not a touchy-feely film. It is brutal and ruthless. The pain these men feel (most of them having been abused themselves as kids) is irrelevant, mainly because their pain has been turned so completely into rage and violence. It’s a cycle. There is no “lesson” here, no “and they all hugged and learned something.” Jack O’Connell is unforgettable, a pit bull of activity and bravado. You watch some of the scenes unfold and you think, “Someone MUST be getting hurt in that melee, right?” The film plays without subtitles since it takes place in England, but it is a challenge to understand what everyone is saying, the accents and lingo are so thick and impenetrable. But the story is clear nonetheless. Highly recommend it.

The Film Critic (2013; d. Hernán Guerschuny).
Hernán Guerschuny is a famous Argentinian film critic, and the Film Critic is his directorial debut (he also wrote the script). It’s a funny spoof, actually, of the film critic who hates all films … but it’s also pretty thin. Kind of a one-trick pony. I reviewed for

The X-Files , Season 3, Episode 13, “Syzygy” (1996; d. Rob Bowman)
Apparently some fans did not like how this episode portrayed Mulder and Scully in a negative light. Oh, silly silly fans. The negative portrayal was in service to the plot. And it made for major humor. Teenage girls somehow tap into a planetary alignment that makes everyone misbehave and snipe and get irritable. The second Mulder and Scully enter the town they start to bicker – not their vibe at all – which should be their first clue that something supernatural is going on. (Similar to the first “Trickster” episode in Supernatural.) Ryan Reynolds has a small part in the teaser opening! I loved Mulder and Scully bickering, and arguing. And Mulder getting roped into a sexual situation, which Scully busts him on. The look on her face. Supremely entertaining.

The X-Files , Season 3, Episode 14, “Grotesque” (1996; d. Kim Manners)
Gargoyles come to life. Mulder starting to lose it. Their bond is now unbreakable, so when they start to doubt one another, it’s extremely painful. This is one of the positive byproducts of the incredibly “slow burn.” You become invested in them as a team. You want it to last forever. You ache for them to just fucking KISS already. There’s a lot of nuance in the characters, mainly because of the talent of Duchovny and Anderson. Scully could easily be a persnickety nag, the “wet blanket” usually given to females. But Anderson doesn’t play it that way. She keeps her cool, she’s rational, she backs up her assertions with science, she needs to – that’s her job. It’s a difficult role, in that way, because it could have been humorlessly one-note. It’s not at all.

The X-Files , Season 3, Episode 15, “Piper Maru” (1996; d. Rob Bowman)
Black oil, welcome to the world. A mythology episode, with Scully getting more and more agitated about the stalled investigation into her sister’s murder.

Animals (2015; d. Collin Schiffli)
Drug addicts living in Chicago. There is a lot that is good in Animals. I reviewed for

The X-Files , Season 3, Episode 16, “Apocrypha” (1996; d. Kim Manners)
Alex Krycek is a wonderful villain, and Nicholas Lea does an excellent job in the role. More mythology, including a wonderful sequence in an “abandoned” missile silo in North Dakota.

The X-Files , Season 3, Episode 17, “Pusher” (1996; d. Rob Bowman)
The Russian roulette scene was extraordinary.

The Fast and the Furious (2001; d. Rob Cohen)
It’s difficult to express my love for these movies. They’re another grand escape and I’ll be re-watching all of them. It’s completely egalitarian in a really sneaky way (diverse cast, women are human beings and equal players – it doesn’t have a “Boys do the Important Stuff, Girls Wait on the Sidelines” vibe, as you may expect). Paul Walker is wonderful, and the whole “white boy has to prove himself to those who are not white” thing is here, just put out there at the get-go, and treated with humor and lots of banter. It’s so refreshing. He’s the outsider. The racing scenes are exhilarating, without that frenzy-of-quick-cuts thing meant to “put you in the action” but which is actually a lazy choice, designed to hide the fact that the sequence has no visual coherence. In Fast and the Furious you always know where you are in time and space. So it’s great for gearheads, but I love especially the community created, the “second family” thing, the family you choose.

Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 22, “The Prisoner” (2015; d. Thomas Wright)
Not crazy about The Stynes. They’re all too good-looking and generic. They’re escapees from the failed Bloodlines crossover series. I can’t tell them apart. This is not Supernatural‘s style and it’s disheartening to see them cave. Why do they all have to look alike? Clean-cut Abercrombie & Fitch models? No reason except lack of imagination.

Close-Up (1990; d. Abbas Kiarostami)
I think it’s a masterpiece. If you haven’t seen it, all I can say is: Do so. And make sure to read some essays on it (but do so afterwards). Kiarostami is interested in reality and artifice, and has no compunction about saying something is true when it is not, or when it is created. To him, the created “thing” takes on a life of its own. This is true in all of his films – I mean, Certified Copy is all about that (Incredible film): if what you are looking at is a perfect copy of the real thing (a forgery of the Mona Lisa, for example), will you know the difference? Is there a difference? Close-Up is unbelievable. I saw it in the theatres on its first release. I was living in Philadelphia at the time. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before. It still is.

The X-Files , Season 3, Episode 18, “Teso dos Bichos” (1996; d. Kim Manners)
Killer cats on the loose! Look out! So stupid!

Two Lovers (2008; d. James Gray)
I have no idea why I never saw this film before. I love everyone involved. Joaquin Phoenix is wonderful, and so is Gwyneth Paltrow as his troubled party-girl neighbor. Elias Koteas (one of my favorite character actors) plays the high-powered married lawyer, carrying on a relationship with Gwyneth Paltrow’s character. Joaquin Phoenix’s character is bipolar, prone to suicide attempts. He lives in Brighton Beach (I think? One of those primarily Jewish New York neighborhoods) with his parents (Isabella Rossellini and Moni Moshanov). His dad owns a dry-cleaning store. He works there. He spends a summer or so having two relationships, one with a nice Jewish girl, set up by their parents, and one with the wild-child across the way. It sounds trite and cliched. It is not. This is a wonderful and deep film about a very specific group of people.

The X-Files , Season 3, Episode 19, “Hell Money” (1996; d. Tucker Gates)
Very disturbing world created: a secret lottery where men sell their body parts. Lucy Liu shows up! And the gorgeous B.D. Wong plays Mulder and Scully’s police-liaison with the Chinatown underworld.

The X-Files , Season 3, Episode 20, “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space'” (1996; d. Rob Bowman)
Brilliant. Cannot get enough. Watched this one with Keith and had him rewind it multiple times. Charles Nelson Reilly. Hilarious. The guy in the flashbacks, which are narrated by Scully, who refuses to swear as she tells the story. So the guy in the flashback is forced to say stuff like, “Where the bleep is the suspect?” Roaring. Loved this episode. Love silliness.

The X-Files , Season 3, Episode 21, “Avatar” (1996; d. James Charleston)
Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi, beloved of Supernatural fans) takes center stage. We also get to see him semi-nude and the man is CUT. What a bod. Meanwhile, the show is relatively sexless, especially when you consider the two leads resist kissing/declaring themselves … and seem to have minimal to zero sex lives. I own that I have a dirty mind, and all I want is to see Mulder and Scully have sex – with each other would be great, but with other people would be fine too. But the show doesn’t show me that. Instead, I get Walter Skinner fucking a prostitute in a very hot (for the show anyway) sex scene. Funny and tricky, sort of a “Gotcha! I know what’s on your mind so here it is” thing. I love Walter Skinner. Great character.

The X-Files , Season 3, Episode 22, “Quagmire” (1996; d. Kim Manners)
Mulder and Scully travel to a lake in George to investigate a Loch Ness monster-like creature. Poor Scully takes her dog on the trip. The dog is named Queequeg, which has multiple layers of meaning. There’s a great scene where Mulder and Scully are stranded on a rock in the middle of the lake in the middle of the night. They talk. Really well-written scene (Kim Newton + Rob Bowman) and gorgeously played by Duchovny and Anderson.

The X-Files , Season 3, Episode 23, “Wetwired” (1996; d. Rob Bowman)
One of those great episodes that is, ostensibly, about a supernatural phenomenon – but then becomes about Identity itself. And Scully and Mulder get wrapped up in it, Scully especially, who descends into psychosis, thinking Mulder is up to no good, betraying her. Another episode where the relationship/bond is strengthened.

The X-Files , Season 3, Episode 24, “Talitha Cumi” (1996; d. R.W. Goodwin)
Season finale! Some really important plot-points introduced, one which I never saw coming. Figured it out immediately. Was shocked. Glanced over at Keith, who felt me looking at him, and closed his eyes, nodding, like, “Yup.”

The X-Files , Season 4, Episode 1, “Herrenvolk” (1996; d. R.W. Goodwin)
Goodbye, Mr. X! See you on Supernatural, eventually! Very imaginative episode. Identical children, who don’t speak, working on a farm. Yeah, cause that’s reassuring.

The X-Files , Season 4, Episode 2, “Home” (1996; d. Tucker Gates)
So disturbing that it caused an upset with the network, who forced some sound edits on the episode, as well as a “There are some images in the following episode that may be disturbing to some viewers” warning. Keith had given me the background, and I thought, “How bad can it be?” We watched the first scene (the original, before the forced edits) and I thought, “Oh. Yup. It’s pretty bad.” A mind-fuck of an episode. The Peacock family makes The Benders look like Ozzie and Harriet.

Raise the Red Lantern (1991; d. Yimou Zhang).
Another one I somehow missed. 1991 was a bad year. I was driving across the country with my boyfriend for a good chunk of it. Unforgettable images. Those lanterns. That beautiful and claustrophobic compound. Gong Li. The ending is devastating. Gorgeous and upsetting film.

River of No Return (1954; d. Otto Preminger).
Robert Mitchum, Marilyn Monroe, on a wild raft. This film includes my favorite Marilyn Monroe number, “File My Claim” (unfortunately removed from Youtube). Gorgeous cinematography, and there are some scenes where Mitchum and Monroe clearly are the ones out there on that raft, which helps add to the verisimilitude of the whole thing. She’s lovely in it. They, of course, squabble throughout. She’s sweet and worldly at the same time, and is heart-achingly gorgeous, in her blue jeans, and long blonde braid. Playing her guitar against the mountains. He’s so lithe for such a big man, so sexy. Clearly meant to be seen in a huge theatre, on a huge screen. I own this one. My flat-screen TV, big as it is, just doesn’t quite allow for the scope that must be there in theaters.

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974; d. Martin Scorsese)
Haven’t seen this one in a while. I had forgotten how funny so much of it is. The dynamic between Ellen Burstyn and her son! The scene when he is basically tormenting her by telling her a “joke,” but he’s 11 years old, so he doesn’t know how to tell a joke, and it goes on … and on … and on … and on … and she’s driving the car, so she is trapped, and the scene ends with her literally dissolving into tears. It’s hilarious. Great cameo from Harvey Keitel. Kris Kristofferson is to die for. I recommend listening to the commentary track, too. Diane Ladd is wonderful and tells a story on the commentary track of Gena Rowlands coming up to her at a party or something and saying, “I’m going to nominate you for an Oscar for that.” Oh, Gena, I love you and your generosity. Diane Ladd had not thought of it as an Oscar-contender role (she thought it was too small). But she’s so important to the film. Wonderful movie. Messy 1970s movie.

The X-Files , Season 4, Episode 3, “Teliko” (1996; d. James Charleston)
Carl Lumbly is excellent as the social worker helping West African immigrants assimilate. He has the right mixture of bureaucratic exhaustion and a sense of protectiveness towards his clients.

Mad Men, Season 7, Episode 8 “Severance” (2015; d. Scott Hornbacher)
Playing catch-up. I love the show. I thought the final stretch of episodes were a beautiful and strange wrapping-up. My preference is to sit with things, ponder them, turn them over, think about them … without having to articulate a damn thing. At least not right away. I’m a slow processor. Of course I was aware of everyone talking about Mad Men constantly but I tuned much of it out.

Mad Men, Season 7, Episode 9 “New Business” (2015; d. Michael Uppendahl)
Oh, Megan. With your ambition and your hilarious bickering French family. How great has Julia Ormond been in the role of Megan’s mother? I love that performance so much.

Mad Men, Season 7, Episode 10 “The Forecast” (2015; d. Jennifer Getzinger)
Madison McLaughlin, Krissy from Supernatural, shows up, as a friend of Sally Draper’s who puts the move on Don Draper, and it’s pretty gross. I feel so protective of Joan. It’s a problem. I want everything to be Rainbows for her. She’s a tough cookie, though. She can handle herself.

Mad Men, Season 7, Episode 11 “Time & Life” (2015; d. Jared Harris)
Some interesting developments. The company being absorbed into McCann. Decisions need to be made. And, will wonders never cease, Pete and Trudy appear to be re-connecting. I love both of those actors so much.

Mad Men, Season 7, Episode 12 “Lost Horizon” (2015; d. Phil Abraham)
Oh, Don, what are you doing. Oh, Don, don’t ever change. The scenes of Joan dealing with the sexual harassment and being shut out of the new company are super-upsetting, such a step back from all the progress made. It’s not going to be a good fit for her. Peggy is torn. Peggy is awesome. Peggy’s office is not ready at the new place. She waits around in the old office, getting more and more pissed at the dis. This leads to her star-entrance into the new place, cigarette dangling, pornographic framed painting under her arm.

Mad Men, Season 7, Episode 13 “Milk & Honey Route” (2015; d. Matthew Weiner)
Oh, Don. Keep on running. What would it be like to be Don Draper? What a fascinating character. Seriously. And Betty. My God, Betty.

Mad Men, Season 7, Episode 14 “Person to Person” (2015; d. Matthew Weiner)
Stan has always been one of my favorite characters. I always thought they would make a good pair, and I am glad Weiner et al agreed. Not that it’s a “happy ending” but it’s as happy as the show has ever gotten. Thought the whole thing was brilliant and strange, all of a piece, a perfect ending to the Arc. Don is an ad man. I did not see the ending as cynical at all. I saw it as a re-assertion of its original principles. People change. But they never change entirely. And beware anyone who tells you different. They’re probably up to no good.

Love at First Fight (2015; d. Thomas Cailley).
Adorable French rom-com. I reviewed for

Skeleton Twins (2014; d. Craig Johnson).
Loved it when I saw it in the theatre. Now I own it. And I still love it.

The X-Files , Season 4, Episode 4, “Unruhe” (1996; d. Rob Bowman)
The normally unflappable Scully got very rattled during the episode and, frankly, so did I. Pruitt Taylor Vince plays the psychopath. The stilts freaked me out. The “howlers” freaked me out. Very disturbing episode, extremely effective.

Results (2015; d. Andrew Bujalski)
I’m a fan of Bujalski’s work. I think he’s quite interesting. His latest, starring Guy Pearce, Kevin Corrigan, and Cobey Smulders, is a rom-com. Very bizarre and entertaining. I reviewed for

Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 23, “Brother’s Keeper” (2015; d. Phil Sgriccia)
A pretty underwhelming finale. But I thought the season as a whole was very strong.

The X-Files , Season 4, Episode 5, “The Field Where I Died” (1996; d. Rob Bowman)
Mulder is apparently the reincarnation of a Civil War soldier. He has a very emotional monologue where he “remembers” and the camera is right up in his grill. Somehow not that effective. Left me kind of cold for some reason, although Duchovny did a lovely job.

The X-Files , Season 4, Episode 6, “Sanguinarium” (1996; d. Kim Manners)
O-Lan Jones is excellent. If you are afraid of going under anesthesia (which I am), the episode is a nightmare.

The X-Files , Season 4, Episode 7, “Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man” (1996; d. James Wong)
Weaving together all of the varying strands of mythology and mystery. A fun episode. I love the Lone Gunmen. Can I join?

The X-Files , Season 4, Episode 8, “Tunguska” (1996; d. Kim Manners)
This episode is NUTS. Mulder ends up in a freakin’ Russian gulag. Was someone on the writing staff reading The Gulag Archipelago? One would hope so. The episodes where Mulder and Scully are somehow separated have a great tension in them, similar to what happens in Supernatural with the brothers. It’s great when the characters are in sync, working together – but none of that would be effective without those stretches of separation.

The X-Files , Season 4, Episode 9, “Terma” (1996; d. Rob Bowman)
Part 2 of Mulder’s Gulag Archipelago Experience.

The X-Files , Season 4, Episode 10, “Paper Hearts” (1996; d. Rob Bowman)
The great Tom Noonan is a guest star. What a wonderful actor (and director. And writer.)

The X-Files , Season 4, Episode 11, “El Mundo Gira” (1997; d. Rob Bowman)
X-Files done in the style of … a Mexican soap opera? I guess fans didn’t like it all that much back in the day. I thought it was kind of hilarious. I mean, it was also taking on a serious topic – immigration and migrant workers, etc. – but all done in an overheated soap opera style. Written by John Shiban.

The X-Files , Season 4, Episode 12, “Leonard Betts” (1997; d. Rob Bowman)
The wonderful Paul McCrane guest stars. McCrane, of course, has gone on to wide fame (heh heh) in E.R., but to me he will always … ALWAYS … be Montgomery from Fame. “Leonard Betts” is tremendously important in the series as a whole, one of those episodes with a gigantic reveal in the last moment. Keith said it was in this moment that he knew how hooked he really was (back in the day, I mean, during its initial run). REALLY well done.

The X-Files , Season 4, Episode 13, “Never Again” (1997; d. Rob Bowman)
Hot. Just hot. I’ll need some alone-time with this episode. AND. While Scully is getting a tattoo and hooking up with some random guy … Mulder is vacationing at Graceland. He calls her from The Jungle Room. The Jungle Room! Wearing big Elvis sunglasses. In reality, you cannot walk INTO the Jungle Room the way Mulder does, but I have to say – it was a pretty good replica of what that insane and awesome room is like. The stone wall, the monkey statue, the whole thing. Mulder has one week of vacation a year and he goes to Graceland. It’s a spiritual quest for him. I know the feeling. Like, really well. Meanwhile, Scully is keeping secrets and getting tattoos.

The X-Files , Season 4, Episode 14, “Memento Mori” (1997; d. Rob Bowman)
Emotional. I don’t care that “cancer” is a cliche in television terms. It’s extremely effective here. Especially Mulder’s protective reaction.

Siberiade Parts 1 and 2. (1979; d. Andrei Konchalovsky)
It’s ultimately four parts, I still have to get through Parts 3 and 4. A gorgeous film, detailing the 20th century in Russia, as seen through a small village in Siberia. The 1905 Revolution. The next revolution in 1917. Both world wars. And apparently, Parts 3 and 4 takes us up to the present day. Konchalovsky uses newsreel footage (beautiful rousing stuff) as chapter markers, bringing us from one era to the next. Huge cataclysmic events happen in the big cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg, but the whole thing takes place in “Elan,” a tiny wooden village in the middle of the Siberian forest. Only a couple of families live there. We meet a couple of generations, through Parts 1 and 2, and I imagine that will continue. The cinematography is extraordinary. A “road” of logs stretching as far as the eye can see, through the dense forest. An ice-boat whirling around on the frozen lake. And characters you get to know. It’s a time-commitment, for sure, but so worth it.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015; d. George Miller)
So much fun I walked out of the theatre vibrating with pleasure.

The X-Files , Season 4, Episode 15, “Kaddish” (1997; d. Kim Manners)
Supernatural, too, had a “Golem” episode (one of my personal favorites: “These guys are psychopaths.”)

The X-Files , Season 4, Episode 16, “Unrequited” (1997; d. Michael Lange)
This episode has a really interesting concept: a “blind spot” where a person can be hidden from view. Add to that the Vietnam war, and a bunch of political campaigns where the FBI is on security detail … and you get a lot of tension.

The X-Files , Season 4, Episode 17, “Tempus Fugit” (1997; d. Rob Bowman)
A return of Max, from Season 1, I believe, an alien abductee who has now devoted his life to researching aliens. He’s got a big ol’ Target on his back. He is basically zipped out of a plane during an alien abduction. Mulder and Scully have to put together what happened. I like the “lost time” bit of the plot (people’s watches stopping). Joe Spano shows up, too. I have always liked him.

The X-Files , Season 4, Episode 18, “Max” (1997; d. Kim Manners)
Oh, Agent Pendrell! No!

The X-Files , Season 4, Episode 19, “Synchrony” (1997; d. James Charleston)
Time travel! Bodies going into deep freezes!

The X-Files , Season 4, Episode 20, “Small Potatoes” (1997; d. Cliff Bole)
So funny. So clever. With a great twist at the end: Mulder (who is not Mulder) showing up at Scully’s apartment, and getting her drunk, and making the moves on her. The real Mulder bursts in at the last minute and … then the two never discuss it! (“So … if I were to try to kiss you … you’d let me?”) These two! Patience of Job, like I said!! But really funny episode.

The Angel and the Badman (1947; d. James Edward Grant)
Not realizing that John Wayne’s birthday was a couple of days later, I popped this one in last weekend. I love the movie. I wasn’t going to write about it, but then when I realized it was John Wayne’s birthday, I had to say something about one of his gestures in the film. Wonderful romance.

The Father of My Children (2009; Mia Hansen-Løve).
I will be reviewing her new movie, Eden, so I am going back to review her earlier films. I really like her style. What is so interesting about The Father of My Children is that it is about a man who commits suicide (it’s not really a spoiler, it’s in all the descriptions of the film) – and instead of ending with the suicide, leaving us to imagine the devastation and chaos that that event caused in his family (he has a wife, and three young daughters) … the suicide happens about 3/4s of the way through. And then Hansen-Løve explores the aftermath. How a wife manages. How a 15-year-old girl manages. How a 10-year-old manages. How his business partners pick up the pieces. I really look forward to her latest. She’s a very human film-maker.

The X-Files , Season 4, Episode 21, “Zero Sum” (1997; d. Kim Manners)
Walter Skinner, what are you DOING?

The X-Files , Season 4, Episode 22, “Elegy” (1997; d. James Charleston)
I really enjoyed this episode, especially Scully’s journey within it, and her withholding stuff from Mulder. Her own fear of mortality, the dread inherent in that, Mulder’s worry about her (and trying not to be oppressive about it) … the two characters do NOT connect in “Elegy” and there’s a wonderful and tense honest-to-God fight scene that comes near the end. Again: only with a very slow burn do you get this sort of investment in the teeny tiny inner workings of a relationship. For me, it’s the glue of the story. Aliens Shmalians.

The X-Files , Season 4, Episode 23, “Demons” (1997; d. Kim Manners)
Good GOD, people, just TELL ME THE TRUTH ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED. Lots of excellent relationship-stuff in this episode, because the roles reverse: Scully has been sick and Mulder worried, and now Mulder is out of it and Scully has to take care of him. Good stuff. It all takes place in Rhode Island too. Which means … nothing … since the whole thing is filmed in Vancouver anyway, but I liked picturing the two characters roaming around my home state.

The X-Files , Season 4, Episode 24, “Gethsemane” (1997; d. R.W. Goodwin)
The plot thickens. Scully reports to a scary FBI committee that she now believes Mulder is a “victim” of a vast hoax. What? No! Then the episode takes us into a winter wonderland with a frozen alien, and non-human DNA is somehow involved, but an informer inserts himself into the action saying: “The entire alien abduction thing was a hoax perpetrated on the American people by the United States military to cover up their super-duper hocus-pocus war airplanes and blah blah blah …” But it does open up some doubt in Scully’s mind. Meanwhile, she gets random nosebleeds. And is thrown down the stairs. Like she needs this shit. And end season.

(Dis)Honesty – The Truth About Lies (2015; d. Yael Melamede)
Michele and I went to go see this in its final night at the IFC Center. It was fantastic. A documentary about dishonesty, and liars, and how lying works, and why we all do it. There are big liars (Bernie Madoff) and little liars (the rest of us schmucks who tell someone they look nice when they don’t, or whatever). How does this operate? If we understand it better, can we create new models in our society/culture to inhibit these kinds of lying impulses. We had a really good time. It sounds very dry and depressing but it is not at all. Entertaining. Funny, even.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015; d. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon).
It hasn’t been released yet. Reviewing for

The X-Files , Season 5, Episode 1, “Redux” (1997; d. R.W. Goodwin)
The two opening episodes of Season 5 KILLED me. Filled with emotion. Filled with tenderness. The show is normally so cool and abstract and deadpan. The emotion, then, when it comes, is visceral. Mulder touching Scully on her forehead: tremendously potent. Going to her bed in the middle of the night, as she sleeps, and sobbing, with his head nestled up next to her arm: Incredible.

The X-Files , Season 5, Episode 2, “Redux, Part 2” (1997; d. Kim Manners)
See above entry. Excellent two-episode arc, closing out a lot of problems that came up in Season 4.

The X-Files , Season 5, Episode 3, “Unusual Suspects” (1997; d. Kim Manners)
How the Lone Gunmen came to be. LOVE it.

Nightmare (2015; d. Rodney Ascher)
Documentary on sleep paralysis, brought to us from the director of Room 237, The ABCs of Death and Visions of Terror. It comes out this week and I’m reviewing for

The X-Files , Season 5, Episode 4, “Detour” (1997; d. Brett Dowler)
Anthony Rapp! I was in a class with him a million years ago. I love the squeaky-clean FBI agents on their way to a team-building retreat, and the eye-rolls of Scully and Mulder in the backseat. Some damn-near flirtatious repartee in the motel room. Wonderful scene, too, with the two of them in the woods at night. Mulder lying his head in her lap as she sings … “Jeremiah was a bull frog …” I love the red-headed local cop, too. I love the casting: she’s a big tall woman, with a long red mane, and there are times when she and Scully are alone in the bright-green thick forest, and the two red-heads against all that green? To die for.

The X-Files , Season 5, Episode 5, “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (1997; d. Chris Carter)
I’m in heaven. A black-and-white episode inspired by James Whale’s Frankenstein movies. Plus Cher songs? What? Gorgeously done. Heart-stopping final moment. Plus Cher singing all about Elvis. Too much for me.

The X-Files , Season 5, Episode 6, “Christmas Carol” (1997; d. Peter Markle)
Very emotional episode. Excellent work from Gillian Anderson. Hits too close to home right now.

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45 Responses to May 2015 Viewing Diary

  1. Helena says:

    Wow, another amazing list. I can see the time approaching when I will need to watch X files. It seems ineluctable.

    MONICA VITTI’S HAIR! It’s a force of nature, like the landscape of that island. She blows me away. Her hair I would kill for. Delon and Vitti together in L’Eclisse is a complete beauty overload.

    Starred Up. Must see this even though it looks super gruelling.

    The film about lies sounds very interesting indeed, will look out for it.

    • sheila says:

      I love that you love Vitti’s hair too. It’s not a “do,” it seems to just fall that way – it’s just spectacular!! I just don’t have that much hair to play with. It’s crushing.

      She’s amazing. That ISLAND. Those people!!

      Starred Up really is great. But I sure was glad it was over.

      And yeah: Dishonesty!! Really interesting. We had a blast, great conversation afterwards.

  2. bainer says:

    I’m so glad you’re a fan of the Fast and furious movies! I became a fan of Vin Diesel after “Pitch Black” and enjoyed the Fast and Furious movies for what they are, pure fun.

  3. Barb says:

    With Helena-The time is approaching for me to watch and re-watch X-Files. I was a casual fan, back in the day, but when the conspiracy elements overtook the plot I just got confused rather than enlightened, as much as I enjoyed the Smoking Man and Skinner playing out their mysterious roles. I lost the thread, and then the desire, to figure it all out! People tell me that it does make sense in the end, though, and your diary list is inspiring–not to mention all the Supernatural tie-ins and performances by people like Jack Black (who I love as well.)

    Binge-watching has certainly changed how I view tv, and my favorite shows are the ones that stand up to binging–not every program does. I’m still working on Gilmore Girls, but I’ve also got catching up to do with Justified, Game of Thrones and House of Cards’ 3rd season. And yes, it’s comfort food for the mind to be able to absorb these stories. (on that note, I hope you will be feeling better soon!)

    Can I add one movie that I’ve just watched? This weekend I finally saw The Babadook. Half of the film I watched on my tv while my husband and kids were traveling home from a family gathering. The 2nd half I watched after my 12-year-old had gone to bed, curled up on the couch and continuing the film on my laptop with my earbuds in so as to not let the “screaming people” keep him awake. Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you for the recommendation on your site. It was really incredible, atmospheric–and the ending was somehow both disturbing and emotionally satisfying at once. I don’t know if this is actually connected or just my own tangent, but the ending put me in mind of that Richard Matheson short story, “Born of Man and Woman,” the one that begins something like “this morning mother called me retch. You retch, she said.”

    Both this film and SPN have ventured into a disturbing area of motherhood with which I can empathize though I’ve never experienced it to this extreme. That feeling of isolation, and of needing just a few moments to yourself, moments which your children will not give you. The mother here being woken up continually by her son. The mom in the SPN episode with the changelings cowering in the bathroom while her not-child bangs on the door. It’s scary in part because it is an extreme example of something a lot of parents deal with.

    • sheila says:

      // but when the conspiracy elements overtook the plot I just got confused rather than enlightened, //

      Barb – you and me both. I get very confused! But thankfully there’s usually something else to focus on – their relationship, for one – which is the “glue” for me.

      And The Babadook!!! So excellent. This is what the horror genre can explore – the really good ones anyway – these primal fears and primal relationships – put under enormous stress. I thought she gave an absolutely incredible performance.

      // The mom in the SPN episode with the changelings cowering in the bathroom while her not-child bangs on the door. It’s scary in part because it is an extreme example of something a lot of parents deal with. //

      Right!! And there’s all this pressure to always be friendly and open and available. Having “me time” is seen as sinister – there’s all this guilt tripping going on. Very very disturbing.

      We Need to Talk About Kevin (the book more than the movie) is also all about that. It’s a mother who is basically bored by motherhood and can’t get past the feeling that her son is out to get her. It’s chilling.

  4. mutecypher says:

    All those great X-Files episodes…

    I loved Syzygy – “solve the mystery of the horny beast.” And they keep arguing even as they leave town after the big showdown. Bonding over Dr. Zaius quotes in War of the Copraphages. “Are you sure it wasn’t a girlie scream?” Mulder’s sensitivity to the auto-erotic asphyxiation comment, with his office desk drawer full of porn. Poor David Carradine and Michael Hutchence.

    What a great series. Episodes like E.B.E, and Tunguska, and Piper Maru – it’s writing and editing at such an amazing level to fit so much plot into 46 minutes with each scene being meaningful and memorable. With first-rate acting.

    I’m hoping that Gillian Anderson returns when Hannibal comes back later this week. I haven’t paid attention to know if she’s signed up. I’ve been making my way through her series The Fall. Very good.

    • Paula says:

      Mutecypher – She is. The song in this promo gives me air to breath.

    • sheila says:

      // Mulder’s sensitivity to the auto-erotic asphyxiation comment, with his office desk drawer full of porn. //

      Ha!! These are great character details.

      // it’s writing and editing at such an amazing level to fit so much plot into 46 minutes with each scene being meaningful and memorable. With first-rate acting. //

      I know !! You can really see how this show raised the bar for television as a whole – what it COULD look like. These are mini feature films, every week.

  5. Paula says:

    Making me nostalgic for X-Files. Introduction of Krycek. Disloyal mercenaries make for great storylines, and while he was evil in so many ways, I felt bad for him because he has no one else (but do sociopaths need others?) And the intro of The Lone Gunmen. Wish they could have met Frank Devereaux from Supernatural and had a few beer together while comparing video footage and debating aliens vs leviathans involvement (in a secure underground facility of course).

    • sheila says:

      Ha! Frank Devereaux is totally a lone gunmen! But he’s really “lone” !! He was so hilarious. Watching JA and JP deal with him was so great.

  6. Michelle says:

    I too must start watching the X-Files. I’ve seen a few over the years but was not a regular watcher. The summer of 2013 was a really rough one for me and towards the end of it I knew I wanted to find a show that I hadn’t watched yet…one that had a lot of seasons under the belt…and kind of escape for a bit. I had a list of “need to watch this someday” shows and Supernatural and X-Files were both at the top of the list. I ended up going with Supernatural and couldn’t escape once I got sucked in. However, I think it’s time to revisit that list!

    • sheila says:

      // I knew I wanted to find a show that I hadn’t watched yet…one that had a lot of seasons under the belt…and kind of escape for a bit. //

      I know just that feeling! That – and also the fact that X-Files is coming back – is what made me start watching. Especially since I’ve already watched all seasons of SPN probably 4 times through.

      Season 1 was good of X-Files – but it was the opening episodes of Season 2 when I knew I’d watch to the end. For me, the “hook” was there – you need that hook if you’re going to commit to a binge-watch!!

      • sheila says:

        And SPN and X-Files tap into similar pleasure-points for me – the dark glamorous Kim Manners look – the two main characters who are endlessly interesting – both alone and together.

        SPN is hot, though – while X-Files is “cool”. There’s an icy-cold burn to it – whereas SPN is far more hot emotionally, operatic and deep. Both vibes are entertaining and keep me watching – there’s tension inherent in both.

  7. Jaquandor says:

    Dammit, I gotta get back to X-Files. I hope you watched “Anasazi”, “The Blessing Way”, and “Paper Clip” back to back to back…taken together, they make a wonderful movie.

    On “Syzygy”: At cons after that one aired, fans would show up in t-shirts printed with “Sure. Fine. Whatever.”

    • sheila says:

      Jaquandor – Yes – I watched those episodes back to back. Keith said the same thing to me!!

      So good. A feature film, really.

  8. Patsyann says:

    I was a long-time watcher of the X-Files who faded out during the last couple of seasons, but “The Field Where I Died” stands out to me as my least favorite episode. I think it was that in a series about aliens, government conspiracies, leech men, clones, psychics, and everything else – this was the one episode that had me going “OH COME ON! That just wouldn’t happen!” I could not buy in to the idea that Mulder just stumbled into this place where he died in another life. (Wherefore art thou, suspension of disbelief?) And I remember the acting being kind of strained, but it’s been a long time. It’s just always baffled me that it seems to be a high point of the series for a lot of folks and I was beginning to think I was the only one who didn’t appreciate it. :P

    • sheila says:

      // this was the one episode that had me going “OH COME ON! That just wouldn’t happen!” //

      Ha!! Exactly! Like, I’ll buy the UFOs and aliens in a deep freeze – but Civil War reincarnation? Nope.

      There’s a long monologue he has – where he goes back to that former life – and the camera is up in his face – it’s a beautiful shot – and his acting is good – but the scene is so long that it ended up feeling self-indulgent to me. Like, come on, get on with it.

  9. Natalie says:

    I’m very much enjoying your take on the X-Files. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of Clyde Bruckman and Post-Modern Prometheus. (Side note: Jerry Springer was one of my local newscasters for most of my childhhod. One of the teachers at my high school lost her parents in a horrible train/car collision, and he gave the eulogy at their funeral, and was gracious and unobtrusive about it. To see what he has become still boggles my mind. At least he seems to have a sense of humor about his image, I guess.)

    F. Emasculata was, I think, the first X-Files episode I ever saw, and as such, it’s kind of amazing that I ever went back to the show. It’s probably the only episode that I absolutely refuse to watch again ever. (Well, except for all of season 9, but in my mind season 9 never happened ;-)

    • sheila says:

      Natalie – I’m having so much fun with it. Another marathon yesterday with Keith. We watched the last episode of Season 5 – then the first movie – GREAT – and then the first three episodes of Season 6.

      I loved “Triangle” – thought it was fantastic, and loved Gillian Anderson as the wise-cracking 40s dame on the ship. Also, that finally – finally – she got to wear a gown and we got to see her gorgeous body! She looked incredible. But thought that one was so much fun. And really enjoyed the first movie.

      I am so curious about Season 9. Like, no Duchovny in it?? How does THAT work??

      • Natalie says:

        // Like, no Duchovny in it?? How does THAT work??//

        That was only a part of my problem with the season, but it was a big part. Maybe if I went back now I would be able to appreciate the episodes in and of themselves without the arc, but I really have no desire to do that, and long before that season, for me, the show was really about Mulder and Scully’s relationship more than anything else. The monsters and aliens and conspiracies were secondary. So to have the show go on for another season without Mulder (and if I remember correctly, he literally was gone the entire season until the finale), just seemed unnecessary at best – and there were two things (which I will not spoil) that happened in the last season that I still just cannot forgive.

        Have you gotten to Rain King yet? It was a pretty polarizing episode, but it’s one of my absolute favorites and a go-to when I want to put on Netflix as I’m falling asleep.

        • sheila says:

          Watched Rain King yesterday!! LOVED IT. Every second of it. The meteorologist’s performance killed me and I thought the Rain King was absolutely fantastic – hilarious.

          Why was it polarizing?

          I loved how explicit it was about “repressed feelings” – explicitly making that connection with Mulder and Scully.

          • sheila says:

            I also loved the two-parter – Dreamland – with Michael McKean and Nora Dunn.

            And this ridiculous moment from Duchovny –


            I cannot stop laughing.

          • Natalie says:

            //explicitly making that connection with Mulder and Scully.//

            That was why it was polarizing. It was the most explicit the show had been about about the non-platonic nature of their relationship. Some fans didn’t appreciate it. I was an unabashed Mulder/Scully shipper, though, and that episode was like a gift from the gods for me. Just everything about it. So much fun. (There were also apparently complaints about continuity issues, but for an episode that fun, I could not have cared less about continuity.)

            And yes, Dreamland is also awesome! That Duck Soup mirror scene! Michael McKean hitting on Scully and calling her Dana and turning Mulder into a by-the-book agent. So funny.

  10. sheila says:

    // I was an unabashed Mulder/Scully shipper, though, and that episode was like a gift from the gods for me. //

    Oh yes. For me, that’s the heart/soul of the show. It was awesome! Victoria Jackson asking Scully, shocked, “You guys have never even kissed??”

    Continuity Shmontinuity. Scorsese doesn’t care about continuity – he picks the best take and could not care less if the guy’s shirt is unbuttoned in one and buttoned in another. He thinks that’s the least important part of any given scene – if a take is the best and it doesn’t “match” he uses the best take.

    The Mirror scene – yes!!! HILARIOUS.

  11. sheila says:

    and Mulder being SUCH a bad dad. So funny. And bad husband too – lying in his clothes in the living room with the porn channel on. Dying!

  12. Jessie says:

    When Chrissy appeared on Mad Men I felt like Nigel Tufnel with his collection of guitars. I was like Don, don’t you touch her. Don’t touch her, dont talk to her. You know what don’t even look at her.

    I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the kindness of a lot of the endings (except for Betty and Sally, brb crying for days). Go Joan! Go Peggy! Go Stan! Go Pete & Trudy!

    • sheila says:

      In re: Chrissy – hahaha I know. He held himself together. Apparently, he does have at least ONE boundary.

      Sally Draper. That child is such a fantastic actress – how her stepfather broke the news to her and she immediately put her hands over her ears??? What a brilliant spontaneous and heartbreaking gesture!!

      And Pete and Trudy, right? Who saw that coming?? I liked it. I liked how they suddenly found themselves allies again – through being parents. Which, of course, is how it should be. Pete somehow figured his shit out.

      And Joan as independent producer? YES.

      And Roger finding happiness (or something sort of close to it) with a woman his own age? I mean, who knows how long THAT will last, but I really liked that pairing.

      • sheila says:

        and I have many thoughts on Betty Draper, but I haven’t really been able to put them into words.

        In a way, she was the “heart” of the show to me – not because she was warm or engaging or anything like that – but because in her is the real critique of a patriarchal system. What it does to women, AND to the men who love them. She was a capable woman, with a mind, who never got a chance to really use it. She was expected to be satisfied in the domestic circle. And maybe she WAS – but … obviously not, considering how snappish and intense she was. There was a real tragedy in Betty Draper.

        I read on FB someone saying “The writers must not have liked January Jones, huh?” – which I thought a ridiculous argument.

        There was a POINT to Betty’s suffering – her wordless suffering that could only find an outlet through her weird egotism and her “acting out” – She was forced by the society she chose to live in into a child-like position. She was never a grown-up.

        Peggy was a grown-up. Joan was a grown-up. They took their chances out there in the chaos of the world. Betty didn’t.

        This is not a critique of a woman who stays home or chooses not to work. It’s a critique of the system ITSELF. Because the domestic life was not APPROPRIATE for someone like Betty – it made her edgy, antsy, bored, and irritable – and yet she did not have the imagination/courage/whatever to say, “You know what? Lemme go live in Greenwich Village and break some rules.” She was not that kind of person.

        Anyway, these are some initial thoughts. Betty was one of my favorite characters.

        • sheila says:

          But the way she handled the news of her cancer … the letter to Sally – she could trust Sally, as prickly as their relationship was – she knew she had raised a daughter who was as good as her word, who would do what her mother said, who would “have her back”. And put her in the right dress in the casket, and etc. (Tears.)

          She was so CAPABLE a woman, and died just as she was getting started. Betty might have become a fabulously free 50-something, 60-something – once her mothering/wifely duties had somewhat passed. She might have started to really LIVE.

        • Jessie says:

          I really struggled with Betty at the beginning — actually I really struggled with the show at the beginning, because I didn’t find Don’s infidelities particularly compelling, and I felt expected to find him intriguing and be seduced by the production design — but it kicked in for me when we heard more about her Hofstadt upbringing around the same time as Peggy and Joan started kicking it up a notch. John Hamm is extraordinary and I’ve really enjoyed where they’ve taken Don over the last few seasons and what they interrogate through him. But ladies (and Lane Price) really made the show for me. Peggy’s supreme awkwardness, Joan’s competence, Sally’s discoveries. Don sometimes feels more like a character than a person (I suppose that’s part of the point?) and I was very happy to watch him do things but I never really worried for him or desired anything for him (except to reach out and build on his relationships with Peggy, Joan and Sally). But the stuff with those women I took personally.

          And Betty who like you say has this burden of representation, who’s not acting out fabulous freedoms in a way that makes the audience relieved and comfortable, who has limitations and blindness and capabilities and a stiffness and chilly self-containment that makes her primary relationships heartbreaking — oh Henry! — but it’s just….the way she took that news at the end…and she went back to school. We had a death from cancer in our family around the same time as I watched those episodes so it was bound to ruin me but I just felt SO BAD for her. And I thought about how I didn’t really like her at the start and how she’s just living, flawed, in the world, and all the crap she’s been through, self- and other-inflicted. And yeah. Between her family, society, her husband, herself, she never really got a chance, but at the end she was trying. Heartbreaking.

          • sheila says:

            Jessie – yes, for me Don was just a dark shadow of nothingness compared to the vibrancy and weirdness of the Ladies. From Joan to Sally to Peggy to Betty. Don was always interesting in connection to the ladies he WASN’T fucking – because he had to kind of deal with them in a different way.

            // I never really worried for him or desired anything for him (except to reach out and build on his relationships with Peggy, Joan and Sally). But the stuff with those women I took personally. //

            Yes!! I feel exactly the same way!

            I have written before that although I don’t think I believe in reincarnation – I think a case could be made for it since I have such a strong attraction/revulsion to the cooped-up happy-homemaker Ideal of the 1950s. The Ideal of Womanhood that Sylvia Plath so much wanted to be, and then had to basically KILL in order to become herself. That was how strong the fantasy was in the culture!!

            I am not a homemaker type and I can totally see that I would be a Betty Draper type if I had found myself in that situation. And it’s like Death masquerading as Life. Or Julianne Moore in The Hours, making that horrible cake. And then committing suicide. Like … I can totally see myself in that scenario. There’s something DEADLY about it.

            Of course many women found their way, and they were tough cookies, and they found lives that suited them. That, to me, is what Mad Men was REALLY about. Don wasn’t even a catalyst at the end – he was just starring in his own melodrama – and maybe that was always true of him. But the women had the real fight.

            // who’s not acting out fabulous freedoms in a way that makes the audience relieved and comfortable, //

            YES. The show asked us to feel for Betty, and feeling for Betty was NOT EASY. But in her is the real critique of patriarchy. She is what Rebecca West talks about so much in her articles written in 1912, 1913 – the “parasite woman.” It’s not her fault. She was raised to be that way. And it was terrible. It trapped her, and it trapped the men who fell in love with her. the gender roles just don’t WORK in that way – it keeps people cooped up.

            and so just when she started to figure it out … Bam. It’s devastating.

            And Henry! yes! He really did do the best he could. He didn’t know WHAT he was doing half the time, but at least he tried to understand. Devastating.

        • Jessie says:

          What I’m trying to say is that I agree completely with your thoughts on Betty as a critique of patriarchy/the class system. It’s easy to love Joan and Peggy. It’s HARD to love Betty. I don’t think I quite do, in the same way. But now that the series has ended I feel a great upswelling of love for her, if that makes sense.

          Peggy and Joan (and inevitably Sally I am sure) found themselves having to act out confrontation with the system. But there are great rewards for existing within the system, and it comes at a great cost, and Betty showed us that, and in that sense she was a perfect mirror of Don, and she didn’t deserve the vitriol she got from “fans” of the show. She was so important to it.

          • sheila says:

            // But now that the series has ended I feel a great upswelling of love for her, if that makes sense. //

            It makes total sense.

            For me, with Betty – what her character says is: This is what women become when we limit them. Because Betty couldn’t even conceive of what she was missing out on. Life had duped her, right? She was taught from the cradle that her job was to be pretty and ingratiating and perfect and she would get the right husband and live the perfect life.

            She did all the right things. And yet still: there is no happily ever after. Marriage is still two people alone in a room together. Betty is not a grown-up. She is a child. That’s the thing I think january Jones captured so brilliantly. This is not a developed person – because she never HAD to develop herself. Men didn’t want that of her, and she didn’t even know that that might be required, eventually.

            // But there are great rewards for existing within the system, and it comes at a great cost, and Betty showed us that, and in that sense she was a perfect mirror of Don, and she didn’t deserve the vitriol she got from “fans” of the show. She was so important to it. //

            Yes. She was essential.

            My main thought in that final episode was: “Dammit, this is such a SHAME.”

          • Jessie says:

            Don was always interesting in connection to the ladies he WASN’T fucking – because he had to kind of deal with them in a different way.
            Yes! The breakdown of the Don-Joan relationship was devastating! I was so relieved when they had their moments in the last few episodes. And his relationships with Peggy and Sally, fuhgeddaboudit. There is a particular species of honesty he can only ever achieve when he’s talking to a woman he doesn’t sleep with.

            Death masquerading as Life.
            Gosh this is a potent way of putting it.

            he was just starring in his own melodrama
            This sums up Don perfectly! And Betty too, really!

            Dammit, this is such a SHAME
            My overwhelming feeling too, amidst the minor and major victories for the other characters. Sitting there in her kitchen smoking as Sally does the dishes — such a tragedy, part of me wondering if this this the most control she’s ever felt over her life and just being sucked into this abyss of NOT FAIR, you know, like, she coulda been somebody, etc etc.

          • sheila says:

            The Don-Joan relationship is KILLER. I am so so glad that it never tipped over into sex – and you think it might – because of who Don is – but it never did.

            And yeah – Don-Peggy. Like you say, fuggedaboutit. AWESOME.

            and yeah, that final moment with Betty. yes, we all make choices in life – but as her world was set up, her choices were limited because of her gender. And her class.

            Having children is a wonderful thing to do – but not at the expense of your entire life. So Betty doesn’t have pride in her children (not like a more well-rounded person would have) – she is jealous of them, jealous of their freedom … If they move away, who will she be then?

            Life has robbed her of fullness.

            and she is just starting to GET that when she gets the diagnosis.

            I mean, Betty is practically a political statement. A “the system sucks” statement. She herself wouldn’t see it that way – she’s still so much a part of the system.

            I loved when she reminded Sally: “I’ve had to fight for a lot of things.” Basically: don’t underestimate me. I’m strong.

            And she IS.

            So sad.

  13. Lyrie says:

    // The X-Files , Season 4, Episode 20, “Small Potatoes” //
    I just saw this episode. So great! So good to see Duchovny have so much fun! I like The X Files best when they’re being silly. In Supernatural or Buffy, for instance, the silly episodes are often my favorite too. But it’s even more important here because this show is soooooo serious. And for some reason, I just don’t care about the aliens, the conspiracy, all of that stuff. Actually, it’s the first time I care so little about the mythology of a show.
    I keep watching for episodes like this one, or the one with the cockroaches.

    And because… Are they EVER going to kiss?

    And because Gillian Anderson is mesmerizing.

    • sheila says:

      Lyrie – I know – this show really takes “slow burn” to insane lengths. These people have a superhuman capacity to repress their feelings.

      I think the conspiracy is interesting – but yeah, I’m in it for the interaction between Mulder and Scully. They’re both so good, and my God, are they both good-looking. It’s insanely pleasurable to just LOOK at those two.

      I like the silly episodes best, too.

  14. Lyrie says:

    // I think the conspiracy is interesting //
    I wanted to (believe) like it, but I’m just not interested. The only question that really bothers me is: Why, WHY would someone call their son Fox?

    • sheila says:

      I mean, I’m interested but don’t get me wrong: I could not summarize one SECOND of it. I can’t keep it straight in my mind. (Humorously – Gillian Anderson in an interview said the same thing – she didn’t pay attention to the mythology, she couldn’t follow it.)

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