Archive for Psychic

The Only Good Part of “True Blood” is the Title Sequence

Posted in Horror, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 18, 2008 by gothicusmaximus

As a function the aggressive viral marketing campaign that surrounds it, I can declare with reasonable confidence that most denizens of the civilized world are not only privy to the recent premiere of HBO’s newest drama True Blood, but have some familiarity with its premise, which involves a substantial population of vampires revealing itself to society at large and struggling for acceptance therein. As I do not presently have a subscription to the network on which this program airs, I was unable to view its first episode upon its initial airing September 7th, and thus was at a loss to answer the veritable maelstrom of inquires as to my opinion on regarding the show with which I was met the following day. I scarcely exaggerate in saying that anyone even vaguely aware that I exist approached me at some point in the past week and put forth a challenge to the effect of “Hey Gothicus Maximus, what’d ya think of True Blood?”, all, perhaps unconsciously, resolving to forgo the logically precedent question as to whether I’d even watched it. My 19th Century English Novel professor put forth a pronounced effort, after I had slept through his class, to engage me in conversation in order to solicit my thoughts. 

Were my reaction to such a circumstance equivalent to that of the average individual, I would likely pause for a period of no more than three seconds to lament that, at this time, when my professors have assigned to me more reading than I can complete while maintaining even the most piteous excuse for a social life, I am unable to devote any time to watching a vampire-themed soap opera, then forget the matter entirely, but, of course, I am, in all that I do, hideously far removed from the average individual. The petitions of my close friends, sworn foes, and vague acquaintances had engendered in me a twisted sensation that I had shirked some responsibility– people depended upon me to be ‘that vampire guy’, to have an excessively well-formed opinion on any media peripherally related to the un-dead on the day that media became available to the public, if not earlier, and in that capacity I disappointed them. Driven to amend my entirely chimerical failure, I eschewed my homework in order to undertake the considerable task of locating a recording of True Blood’s pilot in the annals of cyberspace, and, having done so, I am now able to articulate my thoughts: this show, if its general quality can be inferred based on its first episode, is pretty fucking bad.

In authoring drama, a playwright or screenwriter must choose between two means of delivering exposition regarding the present circumstances, personalities, pasts, and guarded secrets of his characters. The first, most commonly favored option is the use of compelling dialogue and dynamic action to introduce plot points and develop dramatis personae. The inexplicably less popular alternative, to which the minds behind True Blood have evidently committed themselves, is to make the protagonist telepathic.

True Blood is the story of Sookie Stackhouse, waitress in a sleazy bar and resident of a fictional Louisiana town, cursed to be constantly besieged by the thoughts of those around her. This is a particular burden because, as she lives below the Mason-Dixon line, everyone she encounters thinks in a thick southern drawl. The shameless caricatures of African Americans she counts among her friends even make a point to avoid proper grammar in their interior monologues, and to punctuate important cogitations with a ‘dayum’. Relief from the agony of ceaseless assault by relevant details regarding her supporting cast comes to Sookie in the form of a vampire named Bill, whose undead mind is inscrutable even to so titantically stupid a plot device as the waitress’ gift. Although the thoughts of every other man with whom she’s acquainted are limited to such musings as “God she’s so hot, god I want to touch her”, or “I need to protect her,” she decides to give the Nosferatu the benefit of the doubt, becoming attracted to him. I suppose her assumption that there’s more to Bill than there is to most men is a reasonable one, as we know that, in addition to sexual objects and the protection thereof, he also thinks about blood.

The vampire as a metaphor for mundane minorities is a mildly interesting proposition, and, surely, HBO realized this, but, somehow, from that realization the network drew the hideously malformed conclusion that a mildly interesting concept with some explicit sex scenes sprinkled over it was enough to constitute good television. I know not why, but for some reason beyond my grasp, I expected something of more merit from a program adapted from a series of romance novels whose protagonist’s name is Sookie Stackhouse. I expected more from my fellow television owners than to be contented with another entry in the virtually endless library of poorly realized romances that use supernatural motifs as a substitute for real depth. 

To afford some attention to a redeeming facet of the wholly disappointing experience that was the hour of time I dedicated to watching True Blood, I will note that the show has a theme song. This in itself pleases me, as I am vehemently opposed to the recent trend of hour dramas briefly flashing a title card in the viewer’s face before cutting to the first commercial break. I require a pastiche of stirring clips set to a rousing score if I’m to be rendered excited for the adventure that lies ahead, and True Blood satisfies this criteria marvelously, as its main titles are not only extant, but awesome. 

Tits! Snakes! Time-lapses of decaying wolf carcasses! I feel compelled to watch the show these precede. Hopefully that footage of roadkill will be reused for a more worthy series at some point within my lifetime. 

-Gothicus Maximus

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Review of a film about which only I and a number of fat lonely fangirls care, and about which no one should care: The X-Files: I Want To Believe

Posted in Films, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 25, 2008 by gothicusmaximus

I have, in at least two prior posts, professed my passionate hatred for the Francis Ford Coppola film Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and though that hatred broils within me now as fiercely as ever, I find that I can in no way  describe my feelings upon viewing The X-Files: I Want To Believe more effectively than I can through allusion to that object of my unadulterated revilement, particularly to the prologue sequence wherein Dracula returns from waging war in the name of the church to discover that his wife has committed suicide and thus been deemed condemned to damnation by ecclesiastical authority, this revelation prompting him to fly into a frenzy, scream “IS THIS MY REWARD FOR DEFENDING GOD’S CHURCH”, plunge his sword into a stone cross, and become a vampire. 

Chris Carter, is this my reward for 17 years of unflinching dedication to the franchise you created? I renounce The X-Files! I will rise from my death to avenge this disappointment with all the powers of darkness!

The subtitle of the New X-Files is resonates with a new poignancy in retrospect. The attitude I maintained in anticipation of this movie is most succinctly conveyed thusly: I wanted to believe it would be good. I wanted to believe that a script penned by some of the series’ most accomplished writers would contain compelling dialogue and engaging characters. I wanted to believe that Chris Carter would learn from the mistakes he rendered in his first effort to translate the show’s atmosphere to a feature film. I wanted to believe that production team would valiantly resist the compulsion to retread the very path that lead to the show’s decline in order to appease chubby, lonely fan girls. Even as negative reviews poured in like a torrent of truth surging forth from out there, I wanted to believe I could find some way to enjoy it. As Agent Mulder said once, “I wanted to believe, but the tools had been taken away. The X-Files had been shut down. They closed our eyes… our voices have been silenced…. our ears now deaf to the realms of extreme possibilities”. 

The question as to how this project went so horribly wrong is one that utterly baffles me. I feel as though any pubescent boy instructed to write a movie script about ‘two FBI agents who work together to solve cases judged unexplained by bureau proper- an eccentric whose sister’s abduction by mysterious forces when he was eight years old provokes him to obsessively pursue supernatural phenomena, and uncompromising skeptic who doggedly challenges her partner’s beliefs’ would produce a composition superior to The X-Files: I Want To Believe. Every component that made the television series fantastic was somehow excised from this installment in the saga. Mulder and Scully don’t investigate a crime but rather are dragged along, blathering about “the darkness in their lives” as other people do so. The case itself is barely even paranormal in its nature, to the extent that when Mulder demonstrates a belief that forces beyond mortal comprehension are at work, he isn’t chastised for ‘spookiness’ but rather respected for his legitimate opinion. Scully is too entrenched in an inane, trite, lifetime movie of the week worthy subplot involving a boy with a terminal illness to actually serve as her former partner’s foil. The convoluted mystery, involving a pederast who experiences psychic visions of his former victim’s attempts to perform illegal head transplants, is unraveled not by intuition or cunning on the part of any character, but rather by happenstance as Scully stumbles upon the seminal clue after conducting a google search on Stem Cell Research in hopes of aiding the ailing young man in whom she has become emotionally invested.  Even Mulder and Scully’s simmering sexual tension has vanished. With what does Chris Carter seek to fill the empty husk that remains once these elements are stripped away? A fuck-ton of fanservice and rapper-turned actor Xzibit.

I know that a number of people will enjoy this movie, and I know just what sort of people will comprise that number. Lonely, socially maladjusted, most probably obese women who only value the legacy of The X-Files insofar as they want its two central characters to fuck, who squeal rather than choke back vomit when Scully grumbles cutely about Mulder’s ‘scratchy beard’ on her face. These individuals don’t care that cuddling in bed and exchanging “I Love You”s mutilates the chemistry these characters previously shared, they care only about projecting their own sexual frustration onto fictional personages. When confronted with my perspective on the matter, people of this kind will likely allege that I’m opposed to ‘evolution of the characters’. That idea isn’t entirely wrong, especially if the characters evolve into shitty boring people whose show would have never been picked up in the first place. 

What would I have done were I at the helm of the new X-Files movie? I would have taken a page from mainstream American comic books and implemented a major fucking retcon, that is to say, for those unfamiliar with the term, I would have reorganized continuity entirely. Perhaps Chris Carter is so tremendously deluded as to believe that sensible people want his show’s last three seasons to be anything but entirely erased from history, but I am not so misguided. I would have put Mulder and Scully back in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in their cramped basement office, solving unexplained cases. One such case presents itself, Mulder thinks the supernatural is involved, Scully doesn’t. Maybe the perpetrator of the crimes turns out to be Satan, or a werewolf, or a genetic mutant who needs to extract livers in order to survive, or all three, I’m flexible as long as it actually possesses some of the palpable menace that head transplanters distinctly lack. Somehow, the simplicity of the formula I’ve just delineated alluded screenwriter Frank Spotnitz.

Don’t misunderstand me, this movie isn’t entirely without merit. It facilitates some excellent Xzibit jokes. At one point, Mulder asks Agent Xzibit to “get a car ready”. You couldn’t do better if you tried. 

-Gothicus Maximus