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Saturday, July 7, 2018

Links and Updates

We're definitely in the middle of winter here in New Zealand, and it's depressing to wake up and see condensation inside and grey skies outside. I honestly think it has an effect on my moods, so hopefully things will brighten up when full-time work comes to an end (yes, it means less money – but I'll finally have time to write again!)
I've finally almost caught up with all the DC/CW shows, having just finished season two of Legends of Tomorrow. That means I only have the latest seasons of LegendsArrow and The Flash to go! But as ever, there are so many shows to watch, and waiting in the wings is season two of Jessica JonesLuke Cage and The Handmaid's Tale – though that last one is tough. I'm not sure I can stomach watching it in the dead of winter.
It also seems to be the time for third seasons, what with HumansInto the BadlandsVersailles and – till recently – Supergirl all airing their third outings, and I've got my eye on the Making a Murderer documentary (still on a crime-spree after American Crime Story) and Voltron: Legendary Defender (especially after the excitement of the sixth season).
Movie-wise, the buzz is all about Ant-Man and the Wasp at the moment, but I'm still hoping to see Ocean's Eight with mum for her birthday. Gotta get on that...
And as for my To Be Read pile, it's all about the pre-teen mysteries! I'm churning through Helen Moss's Adventure Island series, which bear more than a few resemblances to Enid Blyton's The Famous Five, with Jordan Stratford's Wollstonecraft Detective Agency and Robin Stevens's Murder Most Unladylike books coming up, both (as you might have guessed) being period mystery stories featuring girl detectives.  

Friday, July 6, 2018

Faerie Tale Theatre: Jack and the Beanstalk

Yikes, I keep forgetting to write up these posts! Can you believe that the original plan was to do one episode of Faerie Tale Theatre per month?
Well, in any case Shelley Duvall's take on Jack and the Beanstalk is pretty rote, despite how creative she's getting in her introductions:
As with most takes on the old story, Jack is a bit of a nincompoop, but one whose lack of intelligence ends up being his strongest asset when he keeps going back to the giant's house for more and more treasure despite only barely escaping death each time.
Duvall adds two new twists to the proceedings: the first that the old man who sells the magic beans to Jack for the dried-up cow is also the old woman who greets him at the top of the beanstalk, giving him some important advice on how to proceed (well, an old woman or a guy in drag – it's not actually made very clear. Heck, the story doesn't even explain why he wants to help Jack in the first place. Deeply eccentric family friend, maybe?)
The second is that the giant's castle and all its treasures were originally the property of Jack's father – he was murdered by the giant, leading to his wife (somehow) completely forgetting the circumstances of his death, something she struggles to remember throughout the course of the story.
This means of course, that Jack isn't actually stealing from the giant, just reclaiming what's already his. In cutting down the beanstalk and sending the giant to his doom, he's simply avenging his father's death.
I'm not sure how I feel about it actually. Both Once Upon a Time (second season) and the 2001 miniseries Jack and the Beanstalk: The True Story played around with the boy/giant dynamic, each one casting Jack into the role of villain, but here it feels like the story is trying to have its cake and eat it too.
Naturally, this Jack doesn't know he's reclaiming his own property till the end of the story, so when he tells his mother that he "found" the coins, harp and hen that lays golden eggs, it's a blatant lie. And an unnecessary one. Guys, there's nothing wrong with stealing stuff from a villain who admits to burning houses, pillaging villages and eating human beings! Jack doesn't have to be white-washed or retconned in order to keep him the archetypal trickster-hero/wise fool.
Am I overthinking this? Of course I am. Let's get to the funny stuff:

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Woman of the Month: Sara Lance

Sara Lance from Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow
From the moment Caity Lotz's Sara first appeared on Arrow (well, after a brief glimpse in the pilot episode during which she was played by another actress entirely) it was obvious she was going to be a big deal.
When she was insultingly killed off in the premiere of season three, there was enough outcry that her imminent resurrection was only a matter of time. And by the time she took centre stage in Legends of Tomorrow, forging a redemption arc that naturally developed into a captaincy, she was the undisputed lead of the ensemble.
Watching her arc unfold across the course of two shows is a lesson in organic storytelling and logical decision making – in a way, it's this cross-show flexibility that's stopped her character from stagnating or back-pedalling in a manner similar to what Oliver, Barry and Kara have gone through.
When we first see Sara in the present day, she's an assassin trying to escape her dark past, ashamed of what she's become and quietly trying to make amends without revealing herself to her family. Her re-entry to Starling City is a thing of beauty: leaping to the rescue of Roy Harper and silently beating attackers with her bo staff before disappearing into the night, the echo of a canary cry in the air. It gave me chills, and it was in this season she came to terms with her past and reconciled with Laurel, finding a new path not as a killer but a saviour.
Then of course – the fridging. Shot multiple times with arrows by a brainwashed Thea working under Malcolm Merlyn's control before falling off a building and onto a garbage skip in front of her horrified sister... what the fuck were they thinking?? I've no idea if the showrunners decided to reverse this creative decision based on the outraged reception from audiences or whether it was always the plan to resurrect her with the Lazarus Pit, but the fact it happened at all still leaves a bad aftertaste.
Not helping is that her return to life isn't given any of the attention it deserves. You'd think that such a traumatic experience – one that leaves her in a feral, soulless state – would warrant more than just a couple of episodes in which Laurel and Quentin grapple with the moral implications of her continued existence. Instead her soul is returned within the space of a single episode, and any psychological ramifications her death may have had on Sara herself simply aren’t explored at all.
But it gets better.
Sure, involvement in the League of Assassins and resurrection via a mystical Lazarus Pit aren't exactly everyday occurrences, but Sara's life takes a turn for the even stranger when she's recruited  onto the Waverider, a time-travelling ship tasked with fixing aberrations in the time-line and hunting down immortal despots obsessed with reincarnating hawk-goddesses.
All things considered, it's the second season of Legends of Tomorrow that finds its feet and elevates Sara to the role she's clearly destined for: that of captain and team leader. The show is even smart enough to allow Martin Stein a test-drive before he concedes that Sara's unique abilities and experiences make her a natural successor to Rip Hunter. She alone can make the tough calls while still being emotionally available to the people she's giving orders to.
There's so much to unpack when it comes to Sara Lance: her leadership role, her redemption arc, her sexuality, her relationship to her sister, her training as an assassin (are we ever going to get flashbacks?), her history with Nyssa al Ghul – she's easily the most complex of all the CW superheroines, and a particular advantage that Caity Lotz brings to the table is her personal agility and fighting skills. Watching her fight is like watching a dance; not surprising given her background.
But what really sticks in my mind when I think of Sara Lance? She's just effortlessly cool, and that's still a rare thing with female characters.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Reading/Watching Log #30

It's been an assortment of films, comics, shows and books this month: a Gothic classic, a light-hearted fairy tale, a Scandinavian horror, two red-headed warrior women, a lost Jedi, plenty of superheroes, and two crime dramas based on real events.
Pretty much everything has been of great quality, particularly in their variety of female characters and the treatment of evil within the narrative. It might seem ridiculous for me to compare the villain of Tangled with that of American Crime Story, but both are similar in that they provide sympathetic backstories for their antagonists while refusing to glamourize them or let them off the hook for their crimes.
There's a much bigger and more complex post brewing on my feelings about how villains have recently been portrayed in the media, but for now it's refreshing to discover that what I'm watching allows for moral ambiguity and nuance without sacrificing the dignity or humanity of victims.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Standing Tall #23

This giraffe was located at Doris Lusk Park, an appropriate site given that it heavily featured harakeke, the flax bushes which grow heavily in Christchurch's swamplands. Thus its name: Harakeke. Depicted is some of the wildlife that lives amidst the plant, as well as its distinctive red flowers growing up the giraffe's neck.
Painted in oil by Justine Ottey, a local artist, it was the first giraffe we visited on this particular outing, and so set the high benchmark for the rest of the day.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Xena Warrior Princess: Hooves and Harlots, The Black Wolf, Greeks Bearing Gifts

My rewatch begins to heat up a little, with one really good episode, and two that might be more mediocre than not, but still have some solid scenes amidst the dross.
It's clear at this early stage that the writers are still figuring out Xena's backstory – at this point the working theory is that she went off the rails about a decade ago, but has plenty of friends from before that time who can call on her for help in times of trouble. It's a far cry from what we'll see later on, in which Xena is little more than a feral animal during her conquistador years.
Still, all three involve strong, interesting female guest-stars, and the arrival of the Amazons in particular introduces an important recurring culture within the mythos of the show.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Events: Armageddon

So, I attended my very first Comic Con (though as we call it in New Zealand: Armageddon). Even having watched these things on-line for so many years, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, but having wandered Horncastle Arena for the day, I think the best way to describe the whole thing is as a huge indoor marketplace that sells very specialized geek merchandise.