Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Angel S5: Eps 13, 14, 15

5.13 Why We Fight
5.14 Smile Time
5.15 A Hole in the World


For my lengthy analyses of these episodes, follow along in Once Bitten.

While last week's episodes were stellar, THIS is the week I've been waiting for. Because after "Why We Fight," we're treated to the single funniest Angel episode of all time, followed by the single saddest. Only a Joss Whedon show could take you on such highs and such lows. First we get "Smile Time," an episode that didn't just elicit laughter from me, but full-bodied guffaws. I mean, the PUPPET is brooding, for goodness sakes. HILARIOUS. Oh, how I love that little puppet man. And Spike's response? Sends me into giggle fits every time I see it.

And then... the laughter is over. For Wesley has FINALLY been united with his true love, only to have her ripped from him in the most horrible way.



"There's a hole in the world. Feels like we ought to have known."

I remember interviewing Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof, separately, and both talked about how difficult those final scenes of Fred were to film. Apparently they begged Joss to do the episode, and he wasn't originally slated to, but he eventually got things switched around, and then pushed both Alexis and Amy to the ends of what they could handle, making them do the scene over and over again until it was so utterly painful to watch. And of course, that's when Joss is happily finished. Could anyone but Joss have written this scene?:

FRED
Will you kiss me?

Wesley kisses Fred on the lips tenderly and passionately.

FRED
(pulls back, looks down)
Would you have loved me?

WESLEY
I've loved you since I've known you. No, that's not—I think maybe even before.

FRED
(leans her forehead against his)
I'm so sorry.

WESLEY
No, no, no.

FRED
(chokes on her coughs, crying)
I need you to talk to my parents. They have to know I wasn't scared, that it was quick. That I wasn't scared.
(starts convulsing)
Oh, God.

WESLEY
(grabs her, looks into her eyes)
You have to fight. You don't have to talk, just concentrate on fighting. Just hold on.

FRED
(holding onto Wes's shoulders, looks into his eyes, quivering)
I'm not scared. I'm not scared. I'm not scared.
(her grip softens, she can't hold herself up)
Please, Wesley, why can't I stay?
(she goes still as Wes holds her in his arms)

WESLEY
(looks at her limp body in his arms)
Please...
(hugs her)
Please...


I will never forget the first time I saw this episode. When Wesley first takes Fred back to her place and she asks him to read to her, I quickly looked at my husband and said that if I came down to my final moments and could have any book read to me, it would be Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess.

And then... that's exactly what he's reading to her a few moments later. I've never had a moment of television feel like it was speaking directly -- and only -- to me, like that one did. I began crying right there, and didn't stop until long after the episode had ended.

Goodbye, Fred. And for anyone who thinks losing Fred is the deepest pain Wesley could ever feel, keep watching.

Spoiler Forum: Angel S5, Eps 13, 14, 15

For all the wibbly wobbly, spoiley woiley Angel stuff. (Yes, I've been watching too much Doctor Who.)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Ferris Bueller's Second Day Off

So. Awesome. Last week a video of a middle-aged Ferris Bueller opening the curtains and saying, "How can I handle work on a day like today?" went viral, with people suggesting it was the beginning of an extended commercial that would appear during the Super Bowl. For what product? Turns out... Honda. And despite the tagline at the end touting the full video would be out on February 5, apparently Honda was so excited by the pre-buzz they put it out early. And here it is. LOVE this.

"Broderick... Broderick..."

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Once Upon a Time: "7:15 AM" and "Food of the Poisonous Tree"

I feel like I start every blog with an apology these days, but this week has been a particular whirlwind, and I've sort of taken the week off. Hence nothing on Once Upon a Time, Alcatraz, or Fringe (the Angel posts were something I did altogether at the beginning of January and just post-dated them to go live one at a time). I've been out of town for part of this week, and then returned home and my husband went away (we actually just missed each other at the airport) so it's been a very busy week for me.

But this afternoon I sat down and caught up on Once Upon a Time with my daughter (she hadn't seen the Hansel and Gretel one, so I showed her, and at the beginning I said, "I can't figure out why the shopkeeper who busts Henry is sneezing like that's significant, yet they never say why..." and no sooner were the words out of my mouth than I realized, "It's Sneezy!" How did I not catch that the first time around?)

We both loved "7:15 AM." It's the first time we watched one together where I hadn't seen it in advance (I like to vet them first) and so both of us were chanting, "Kiss him... kiss him..." every time Mary saw David, and when they finally DID kiss, we were cheering like hopeless romantics on the couch. You know, I've said this before, but for as much as we all loved the mysteries and science of Lost, every time there was a tragically romantic scene on that show (think Penny and Desmond) I was head over heels in love with the show. It just hits you in a different spot. We can follow all the twists and turns of Season 6, but nothing touched me like Ab Aeterno, where we saw Richard Alpert's backstory. The Constant was a mindbending work of genius, but my favourite part was the phone call at the end.

So watching this episode was so much fun, so joyful, and so rewarding because of how much heart it had, I truly loved it. We were both excited to see Red in the other world (that's the first time we've seen her over there) and can I just say that without the Amy Winehouse hair and makeup, she's quite beautiful. And Stealthy the dwarf! As soon as Grumpy said, "Stealthy!" I thought, "Uh oh... that's not one we know..." To think, Snow White was almost living with eight of them. Seven always did seem like a strange number.

But then there's that stranger in town. That mysterious, writerly stranger. As soon as he opened his wooden box to reveal an old manual typewriter, I was smitten. A man who carries a typewriter everywhere with him? Swoon...

Which brings us to this week's episode, and WHY is that guy here? How could someone outside have found out about Storybrooke? He's somehow obtained Henry's book, and he's not of the world of Storybrooke, yet seems to know something about the other world. Emma escaped that world as a baby; is it possible someone else escaped it, too? Is there another portal in another story where he perhaps made it out of the fairytale land before the curse was enacted, but he was given some memory of it? Something has brought this man here, and he seems to have glommed onto Henry right away.

In the other world, we watch a replay of Aladdin, one of my kids' favourite films. This genie runs through all the same rules as Robin Williams' genie does, though much quicker and with less pizzazz and rhyming. (I would have loved to see him break out into, "You ain't never had a friend like me!") And just as [spoiler alert for the one person who hasn't seen it] Aladdin grants his final wish to the genie by freeing him, this king does the same thing.

This, of course, is a much darker story. This genie doesn't grab a travel bag, honk the king's nose and head off to great adventures, but sticks around and becomes part of a much larger master plan. He tells the king when he first meets him that he's granted 1001 wishes, and watched 1001 of them go wrong, and that happens again here. First, the king frees him, and in doing so secures his own death. Second, he wishes that the third wish could be transferred to the genie, and thus allows the genie to make the horrible mistake with the third wish, trapping himself in something much worse than a gold lamp. It was a fantastic story, melding together two parts, and I didn't see any of that coming.

As Sidney and Emma work together in Storybrooke to "find who [the mayor] really is], looking for the crack in the mirror, as they put it, once again we're being tricked into thinking this is Sidney finding revenge in this world (albeit subconsciously) for what happened to him in the fairytale world, but instead he's as much in the thrall of the queen here as he is there (notice above the Mayor's door it says MAGISTER, which sounds a lot like MAJESTY, a nice touch). I love that the breakfast finer doubles as a pub -- there are no nighttime bars in Storybrooke (is there a curfew there or something?) It seems that while the Mayor sleeps, NOTHING happens.

But back over in the fairytale world, I was very intrigued by the pain the Queen was in (even if some of it was put on). It was a hint of why stepmothers are always evil in the books -- maybe they didn't want to be, but they could never live up to the perfection of the first wife. They lived under the constant judgment of their husband, who married them out of convenience so they could be around in bed and to help raise a child, and when their husband died, they finally were free, and had very little sympathy for this rugrat who was the apple of their husband's eye, and who clearly paid them no attention (did Snow actually have any relationship with her stepmother? She doesn't seem to think anything her father says is out of line as he's addressing her at his birthday party). We're to believe the king is benevolent, but he says thoughtless things in front of a crowd, doesn't notice his wife's presence, and READS HER DIARY. (??) Which, of course, we know she meant for him to read, but still... I loved the little details of this episode, like the genie *almost* eating the apple but not (is the tree poisonous?) or the skeleton key of the queen's literally being a skeleton key, complete with skull (does the mayor's key ring open every little lock in the kingdom?)

I think this show is getting better and better every week.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Ecstacy of Breaking Bad

Thanks to Ensley Guffey for directing me to this AMAZING tribute video to the first 4 seasons of Breaking Bad (warning: you must have seen everything so far, for there are spoilers right up to the end of S4). Incidentally, Ensley and his wife Dale will be penning a Breaking Bad book for release in 2013! Watch this space for more information.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Angel S5: Eps 10, 11, 12

5.10 Soul Purpose
5.11 Damage
5.12 You're Welcome


For my lengthy analyses of these episodes, follow along in Once Bitten.

"Soul Purpose" and "Damage" are both good episodes, but thank the writers for "You're Welcome." For all of us who were immensely upset with the way Cordelia's character ended in S4, this gave her the send-off she deserved (and by the way, she looks FANTASTIC). We not only followed her through four seasons of Angel, but three seasons of Buffy before that, and her character arc deserved much better than to become some pseudo-incestuous mommy end of Connor's Oedipal issues. I remember crying for ages after the end of the episode, and it still chokes me up.

Next week: Two episodes that are a big part of why we babble incessantly about our love of S5.
5.13 Why We Fight
5.14 Smile Time ♥♥♥
5.15 A Hole in the World ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Spoiler Forum: Angel S5, Eps 10, 11, 12

And here is the place where you can discuss this week's episodes in light of the rest of S5 of Angel.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fringe: Enemy of My Enemy

The message hidden in the commercial break glyphs on tonight's episode of Fringe was DEATH. Pretty ominous... But while I've enjoyed so much of this season (as you can tell from my posts every week) I must admit, as I hinted at last week with the multi-verses that have been built up this season, I'm starting to feel a detachment from it. I didn't realize it at first, but two things triggered that realization.

1. People have begun the "Will there be a season 5?" chatter now that it's the new year and we know many networks begin making their decisions in February and March. I thought, season 5? We were damn lucky to get season 4, and most of us were surprised we got a season 3. I just assumed all along that this was the final season and the writers were going to wrap things up. Apparently that's exactly what they're planning to do, and if FOX picks it up for a fifth season they'll keep something open so they can go in a new direction. But I'm thinking a fifth season will be one too many. I want them to wind it down and come up with a hell of a finisher this year. EW quoted someone from FOX saying that if the show remains this expensive, they simply can't afford it. Fans think otherwise, and want it to continue. But my reaction was different.

2. Olivia about to go through the portal and Peter shouting into his walkie that she'll die if it closes. Last year, I would have been on the edge of my seat. This week I thought, "Yeah, but... if she dies you'll just go to another universe and find the other Olivia who's still alive because you were always in her life and she's not this Olivia."

I don't KNOW who this Olivia is. I just don't feel like I know who anyone is except Peter anymore. These aren't the characters I've grown to love for the past three years. I was very intrigued by the premise earlier in season 4, but this week I noticed that Anna Torv, when playing Olivia, is using a similar swagger that she uses for Alt-Olivia. Last year she was able to separate the two (AND play a version of Leonard Nimoy) with very subtle differences. She could play Olivia and Alt-Olivia. She could play Alt-Olivia pretending to be Olivia, and vice versa. Her performance was staggering. But this year, Olivia isn't our Olivia. She SHOULD be, since Olivia only met Peter a few years ago, and therefore should be a similar person to the one we knew. But she has too many elements of Alt-Olivia, like Torv has forgotten the way she originally played the role.

I really liked the scene between Walter and the alternate world version of his wife. But that wasn't our Walter, who still had Peter, who was broken but back together and loved that boy more than anything. This was a different Walter. I wished I could have seen that scene with our Walter. (That sad, I adored the line, "You should know that your mother was a wonderful woman. Every version of her.") I was happy when this Walter showed up to see Peter, because now maybe he'll start to feel more like ours. But he really isn't.

What I did love about this episode was the two universes working TOGETHER against a common enemy, instead of against one another. There's so much potential with that idea I don't even know where to begin. Too bad neither universe remembers Peter...

And the "Nina, WHAT?!" moment was undercut by me thinking, Which Nina is this? It's getting near impossible to keep track of everything. I feel like I need a whiteboard permanently attached to the wall.

Don't get me wrong, this is still a show I look forward to week after week. But my emotional investment is slipping away, and that worries me. What I've always loved about Fringe is that it's sci-fi that favours love and the power of the human heart over science and technology. But this season? It's about science, technology, cleverness, and a bunch of people who look like the ones I love, but aren't really them.

So I guess I just have to sit back and continue to love Seth Gabel. Which, to be honest, is not a difficult thing to do.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Alcatraz

As mentioned in the previous post, I wanted to post something on Alcatraz on Monday night, but I've been very sick this week. Sadly, I didn't even watch it on Monday night. You know things are bad when... but I finally got to watch both episodes last night, and I'm happy to say, I was absolutely hooked about 20 minutes in. Lost ended in May 2010, and since then we Losties -- who just won't let it go -- have been searching for the new Lost. Is it Person of Interest? It's got the numbers and the Abrams stamp and Michael Emerson... no, it's not Person of Interest. Is it Once Upon a Time? Created by Kitsis and Horowitz, it's full of little Lost references and numbers, and the fairytale stories serve as the flashbacks from Lost. Perhaps, but it's really its own show, quite removed from the more reality-based Lost.

And now we get Alcatraz. Produced by Abrams, directed and executive produced by Jack Bender, with several Lost writers on board, starring our beloved Jorge Garcia, this show's first episode (called "Pilot"... sound familiar?) features a supernatural event that happens on an island, where the survivors of a particular accident have time traveled to re-emerge in the real world and through flashbacks we find out who they are. They're being hunted and watched by people in a secret organization. All set against the instantly recognizable score by Michael Giacchino. And did I mention the lead survivor's name is Jack?

Oh, and it's brilliant. Compelling writing, a great ensemble cast, Giacchino's screechy violins that take us to every climactic break, twists we didn't see coming, backstories that fill in who these people are, and fast-paced direction. Oh my gosh, I think I've found my new Lost.

Now, being the spoilerphobe that I am, this is what I knew about Alcatraz: It was about Alcatraz. It starred Jorge Garcia as a comic-book store guy with some sort of expertise the cops could use. (I didn't even know exactly what that expertise was.) JJ Abrams produced it. Sam Neill was in it. And... that concludes what Nikki knew. So I was coming to this absolutely cold, knowing nothing, and they were going to have to pull me in. And they did so, IMMEDIATELY. I love the sci-fi element of it, the X-Files feel of the underground replica of Alcatraz where Hauser keeps his captures much like the Initiative kept hostiles in season 4 of Buffy. It's like his own personal adult dollhouse, where he pops the little soldier into their slots until he gets the full set. It's like one of the aspects of Lost has been flipped -- where on that show, the Dharma Initiative and the Others were aware of the survivors on the island, but the survivors knew little about them and neither did we, now we, the viewer, are watching from the perspective of the Others, tracking the survivors and watching the good guys bad guys Hauser's team pounce.

My husband and I are considering doing a podcast, just because we had very different views of the show. While he, like me, really liked it, he thought the Lost stuff was annoying, and that the music was overbearing and far too Lost-like, that the silly references to numbers are getting tired (I made the mistake of noticing the room key in the building next to Cobb's was Room 423, and when I said it, he groaned and said, "When will they MOVE ON?!" I will admit, the references nine episodes in on Once Upon a Time are getting a little overdone).

But I don't know, maybe it's the Lostie in me, but hearing that music, seeing the dark stormy set, moving back and forth through time, watching the questions build up with no answers, seeing Jorge Garcia play a character who is at once useful yet unsure of himself, it just had a warm familiarity to it. And it felt like home.

I promise that in the weeks to come I'll be switching this to a more Lost-like post format. Next week I'm actually away, so it'll have to start with the fourth episode, but I wanted to let you all know that I watched this, LOVED it, and if you watched Lost, you really must be watching this show, too. Don't miss it. If you did miss it, Fox will be airing the Pilot episode (this week they played the first two eps, "Pilot" and "Ernest Cobb") on Saturday night at 11pm again.

Once Upon a Time: True North

As I mentioned on my Facebook wall earlier today, I've been really sick this past week, and in between not sleeping because of the cold and not sleeping because my kids have decided to suddenly start routinely getting up at 2am for an hour or two (how do children always manage to know exactly when you need sleep the most and THAT is when they decide you can't have it?) and also working until late every night on a paper I'm giving at Wesleyan University in Nebraska next Tuesday, I didn't manage to post on either Once Upon a Time or Alcatraz. But I want to post on both, so I'm going to write up two very quick posts tonight.

First, Once Upon a Time (which I actually watched TWICE before it had even finished airing in the US and STILL didn't manage to get a post up!) I loved this episode. I don't know what others thought, but I've always loved the Hansel and Gretel story, and from that gorgeous gingerbread house set to the great acting from Gretel especially, this episode was a lot of fun to watch.

And I know I've mentioned it before, but I really do adore the Evil Queen's wardrobe? How fabulous was that black hat?!

In the original story, the part that's always bugged me most is that the pathetic father leaves the children in the woods (in some versions of the story; in others he's let off the hook when the stepmother leaves them) and then when they eventually find their way back he hugs them and apologizes and says She made me do it! How spineless can one person be? (Unless he'd been really ill and maybe the kids were waking up for a couple of hours every night; in that case perhaps leaving them in the woods is justified... hehehe...) So I felt that in this episode they paid homage to that useless excuse for fatherhood through Michael, the mechanic who is the biological father of the two kids, and the way he looks at the compass, sees that those are definitely his kids, and says, "Nope, sorry, can't do it." Like the father of the fairytale, he doesn't have the guts or strength to fight for his kids.

But... he does. Unlike the father in the story, this guy eventually steps up and decides to give these two kids a chance. Who could watch that final scene of the father slowly walking toward the two confused children in the car, knowing the huge responsibility he is walking towards? I do hope we see more of this family and how it works out.

I hope everyone who joined in the Buffy Rewatch immediately recognized our Anya in the Blind Witch! I shrieked when I realized who it was; my husband, on the other hand, despite my, "Oh come ON you have to know who that is" prodding, had no clue. I promptly took away his Buffy fandom card.

I was amused that one thing this episode seemed to suggest is that fairytales are not just full of evil stepmothers, but annoying younger siblings. How useless was Hansel, really?? However, it's actually flipped the original story, where Hansel is the older sibling (the one who leaves the trail that helps them find their way home), the one who outsmarts the witch, and Gretel, though younger, is still helpful and does what he says. She's the one outside the cage who helps get Hansel out, and Hansel is the one who pushes the witch into the fire. Interesting they did a gender switch on these two.

I thought the Storybrooke story was good, too. At first, when Emma left the kids on the doorstep I thought, "What kind of detective IS she? Everyone knows you never pull away until the kids are in the house." So I was very happy she immediately redeemed herself in the next episode.

What did you think?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Angel S5: Eps 7, 8, 9

5.7 Lineage
5.8 Destiny
5.9 Harm's Way


For my lengthy analyses of these episodes, follow along in Once Bitten.

This week marks a turn in the events, with "Lineage" and "Destiny," two great episodes. As I've mentioned, Wesley is my favourite character in the Whedonverse, and every time the writers throw Wesley for another loop, my heart sinks for him, but soars for me as a television viewer, watching the extraordinary Alexis Denisof sink Wesley deeper and deeper into himself. The torment he endures in "Lineage" shows us that Dark Wesley wasn't a new thing, and perhaps was inevitable if that was really his upbringing. The Wesley we were first introduced to in S3 of Buffy was covering a lot of pain. (Despite the sadness of the end of this episode, we get that fantastic line from Spike where he mentions the events from "Lies My Parents Told Me.")

In "Destiny" Angel realizes he's got some competition for greatness, and of all creatures to pose a threat to him... it's SPIKE. I love the race for the Cup of Perpetual Torment.

"Harm's Way" is ok, but it distracts from the overall building tension of the season.

Spoiler Forum: Angel S5, Eps 7, 8, 9

As always, here is the place where you can talk about this week's episode within the context of the rest of S5 of Angel.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Fringe: Back to Where You've Never Been

I only just got to watch this week's return to season 4 of Fringe, and it's midnight, so I'm going to make this very quick. What a great return to the show! It was fast-paced, pulled in a lot of the mythology of not only this season, but all of them that preceded it, and ended on a whopper.

I'd actually been tracking the glyphs throughout the show, so when it got to JONE I turned to my husband and said, "Oh my god, it's going to be JONES." "So?" "You know, that guy from season 1 that Jared Harris played?" Sure enough... I haven't watched it closely enough to catch little things (other than did you notice in the bus terminal the mom was reading a copy of American Geographic?) but I'm sure lots were there.

But back to the ep. Great storyline, and it's been hard to juggle some of the mythology. We have World 1, which we watched in the first couple of seasons, and that led to World 2, the alternate world. But Peter was erased from those and plopped into a World 3 of sorts, which is actually a World 1 where he doesn't exist, and now he's back in the alternate world (World 2) but it's not quite the same World 2 because Peter was erased from it, so it's kind of like a World 4. Yeesh. And yet... it makes perfect sense. Peter doesn't need to necessarily get back to a place, per se, but an ontology... a world in which he exists and always did exist, where he's something more than a bad memory or someone who's not supposed to be there. I loved the scene this week where his mother looked into his eyes and immediately saw that it was him. Beautiful.

And then... that ending. First, we see David Robert Jones, who we last saw being chopped in half when he was going to the other universe (he's the guy Peter was referring to when he told Lincoln that he once saw a guy get chopped in half, "But he was a bad guy." He had connections to ZFT and had been trying to get to the other side.

And then we see the Observer, who has been shot (can you shoot an Observer?!) telling Olivia that no matter how many different outcomes he's seen in the future, it all ends the same: Olivia has to die.

Who shot the Observer? What did he mean? How is Jones still alive?

Well, I don't know about you, but I can't wait for next week!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Memorial for a Lady

For anyone out there who’s ever lost a beloved pet, for anyone who’s ever had to say goodbye too soon, for anyone who’s had to make a terrible decision to put that pet out of his or her pain, this one is for you. I experienced my own loss a month ago, and it’s taken me that long to write this. I know there are a lot of people who don’t understand the importance of a pet’s death, that you feel like you’ve lost a member of the family (people tried to be kind, but a few said things to me afterwards that no one would ever dream of saying if I’d lost a human), but here’s hoping there are a lot of animal lovers out there who get this. I wanted to memorialize my girl in a special way. So here goes.


The moment we locked eyes, I knew she was mine. And I was hers.

I came from a one-cat family, and my fiancĂ© came from a multi-cat household. When we moved in together after dating for several years, we decided to compromise with two cats. A woman who lived near my future mother-in-law’s house had a cat who had recently given birth to kittens – two were solid (one orange, one black) and three were calicos. I wanted males – the cat I’d grown up with, who would live to be almost 19, was an orange male. We decided we’d get the orange one, and one of the calicos. Then we went over to meet them.

She was standing in the box, and the other four were crouched. She was the orange one (we thought she was a he). But while the three calicos were all huddled together on the right, this orange tabby stood on the left, and had one arm protectively hugging the black one, who was huddled below her. She stared at us without moving, as if to say, “I don’t go, unless he comes, too.” That was it: we were taking the two tabbies.

We named her Oscar. I always wanted a cat named Oscar. A couple of weeks after they came home with us, we took them in for their first shots. The vet flipped her upside-down and said, “Uh… this is a girl.” A girl? We had to change her name. But despite the dignity of her new name, we called her The Girl. And eventually that became The Lady.

She was a little skittish, and where her brother was the friendly tabby, she was the one who hung back a little, eyeing strangers and hiding while watching them from afar. Her tubby little brother would try to jump up on our bed at night, but he was too small and could never make it. She, on the other hand, found other places to sleep. Often curled up with her brother. I remember just a few months ago my husband nudging me and pointing, and there they were, two senior tabbies still curled up together, just like when they were kittens.

If something could go wrong with a cat, it went wrong with her. When we had them both fixed, her stitches came out – we don’t know if she pulled them out or her brother managed it, but suddenly that little incision was gaping open. Luckily, the vet was across the street. I ran over, and they stitched her back up, but put one of those little plastic collars around her head, and we had to separate them. I still remember her shooting backwards like a crayfish through the room, desperate to get it off. That night, I slept in the bedroom with her, while my fiancĂ© slept out in the living room with the other cat. Just as I was dozing off, she suddenly jumped up, nudged my head with hers (almost poking my eye out with her plastic cone), and snuggled up next to me. She was scared. She was never scared, but tonight, things were weird, and she didn’t know what to do. So she turned to me. I remember hesitantly lifting up the covers and she crawled under, turned around, and slept lengthwise against me, with her head on my shoulder and my arm around her. She slept with me like that all night. She never did it since, but that night we bonded.

I know you shouldn’t choose a favourite cat when you have more than one… but she was mine.

My boyfriend and I got married, and we moved – twice – and then on a routine vet visit they said she needed to have her teeth cleaned. I was eight months pregnant at the time and I remember lying awake all night because she was staying overnight at the vet’s, and I couldn’t imagine her being there all alone (and yes, that anxiety foreshadowed my often-worrying mothering style). When I went to pick her up the next day – waiting outside the vet’s office when they opened – she practically leapt into my arms.

Our first baby was born, and while her brother decided he was having NONE of this, she was the one who did that creeping thing cats do when they’re testing the waters – she’d move toward the basket on the floor, jerking her body backwards slightly, then stepping forward two tentative steps, jerk back, two more steps, etc. – and she circled that basket like a shark, with her nose sniffing every corner of it. A couple of days later, the baby was napping (something she almost NEVER did) and I ran downstairs to throw a load of laundry into the washing machine, and when I came back up, there was The Lady sleeping in the bottom of the basket, next to the baby’s feet. I was shocked. From that point on she was always rather interested in the kids, although there were times when even she appeared to think, “Good god, why did you decide to bring these yowling cats to my house?!” and she’d disappear to the basement. Here's a pic of her with my son.



A couple of years after that she was diagnosed with hyperthyroid, something that happens often with cats, and it involves a lifetime of medication, or surgery, or a radioactive iodine treatment. The latter was the most expensive, but it had the highest success rate. She was only 11, and we figured we had a lot of years left, so we chose that option. They put a radioactive iodine in the cat, it runs through her system while they monitor her for a week, and then you separate her from the household for the next month, carefully putting her litter elsewhere and monitoring what she did. She was great, and we’d bring her upstairs at night, snuggling with her and joking about how our radioactive cat could be used as a nightlight, or perhaps could power our TV.

She was always thin, while her brother was fat, but he knew he should NOT mess with his sister. She always gave as good as she got, and when we got a four-storey six-foot cat tree, she immediately claimed the penthouse suite at the top, where she could roost and bat at her brother as he sat on the level below her.

She chirped. When she was in a happy mood, purring and sitting next to me, if I coughed she would make a chirping noise with her eyes half-closed. We would talk back and forth like that for ages. My husband thought it was hilarious. “Cough, make her chirp,” he’d say.

She hated the vet. Whenever I took her, they assumed she was the male (orange tabbies are typically male) and they’d try to do the checkup but her pulse would race and one time she drove her body temperature up almost 8 degrees. It was insane. I’d have to sit with her and calm her down in another room before they could come in and give her the annual shots. But considering how many other treatments the poor little girl had had, I don’t blame her for not liking that place.

She was my circus cat. She’d come into the bathroom as I would come out of the shower, and I’d hold my hand in the air and snap my fingers, and she’d stand straight up and stretch her body out completely as if she were bipedal, and she’d grab my wrist with her front paws and rub her cheek against my hand. I loved when she did that.

We got a new kitten in May, much to my childrens’ delight. She was yet another orange tabby-cat girl. My original orange tabby-cat girl began growling more than I’d ever heard, and she found new and inventive ways to hiss, but eventually there was a begrudging tolerance of the new little beast. Everything seemed to be fine, and we were now a three-cat household. And then…

It happened on a Saturday.

Just this past December, I was away in NY on business, and on Friday night my husband took the kids to his parents’ house because he was playing a show in town there. The next day they swung by the airport to pick me up on their way home, and when we got home she didn’t seem right. She slowly picked her head up and looked at me a little dazed, and I asked my husband if she’d been eating. He said she’d seemed off the day before, but nothing too unusual. Just a week earlier I’d been saying to him that we should monitor their food intake, because she looked a little skinny and I was wondering if the new little kitten was stealing all the food. That night instead of putting her down with the other cats, I gave her her own bedroom, with her own litter, water, and food. She jumped up on the bed in the room and curled up, glancing at me as I left.

I wish I’d stayed. How I wish I’d stayed.

The next morning the litterbox was untouched, and so was the food. Of course it was a Sunday, so the vet was closed. My husband decided to take her up to the animal emergency hospital. They charged him $1000 to admit her and put her on emergency fluids, and when they looked her over they found a lot of sores in her mouth. No one knows where they came from, but we suspect that’s why she’d stopped eating. Just after midnight they called our house and said they were transferring her to the ICU, and that she was in stage 4 kidney disease, and it was unlikely there was anything more they could do for her. My husband came across the landing and into the bedroom and delivered the news, and I crumpled into a sobbing mess. My girl was all alone, in an ICU, and we were going to have to put her to sleep the following day. I should be there. I told him I really should be there. He called the ER back and they said she was comfortable, and there was no reason we should come up. I said if we have to euthanize her on Monday, I don’t want her to be alone on her last night. They said to be honest, they didn’t think she was aware of anything around her, and she was sleeping. I decided I’d wait.

Next morning, I was back up there first thing. A vet took me into another room and talked to me, and said he’s not allowed to recommend euthanasia, but if that was what we wanted to do, he said, “You’re not making the wrong choice in this case.” He said they’d put a catheter in her arm to administer the IV fluids, and they could leave it in there so when we euthanized her they could just inject her in the catheter and not have to invade her body any further. I opted to keep it there. But, he added, it would only be good for about six hours. I now had a time limit with her.

I sat in the waiting room for what felt like an eternity while they disconnected her from countless machines. I watched the clock, thinking, “Come on come on COME ON…” I didn’t have much time with her, and I didn’t want to be separated from her. I began reasoning. If she comes out and seems happy to see me, then maybe I won’t do this today. Maybe she’ll get better.

They brought her out and I chirped her name as happily as I could, with a lump in my throat the size of a basketball and desperate to get out of that place. She looked at me and meowed back. She knew me. Would she be OK?

We got out to the car and I opened the front of the cage and put my hand in. She began purring. I began crying. I was sobbing so hard the whole drive home I could barely see the road at times. I brought her into the house and carried her upstairs to my bedroom, where I assumed she’d want to be. I opened the cage, and she got out of it and walked away, her front arm in a splint and walking very wobbly, and she slowly went down the stairs. I followed her, a little perplexed, and we got to the main floor, she turned and went down to the basement, and right to the kitty litter. Of course. They’d had her on IVs and the poor thing had to pee. But she’s peeing… that’s good, right?

I carried her back upstairs and put her down. She walked in a zigzag. That wasn’t like her. She stopped every few steps to give her front arm a shake as if to get that damn splint off, and that made me chuckle through my tears, but she walked to the back patio door, where she loved to sleep in the sun. (Pathetic fallacy was in full swing that day; there was no sun, only a downpour.) She stood for a minute, and then just fell sideways. She couldn’t even ease herself down. She lay there, and I laid flat on my stomach on the floor, petting her head and talking to her and crying.

And crying.

I eventually decided to leave her alone, but that resolve only lasted a few minutes at a time before I’d be back over with her. After about an hour, I left her alone again, and she got up and went back upstairs, where she managed to jump up onto my daughter’s bed. I began wondering if maybe she might be OK. We got a call from the vet’s office saying they had the paperwork back from the ER, did we have any questions? Yes… do we have to euthanize her today?

The vet got on the phone and said her kidneys were at such high levels, he’d never seen a cat come back from it. He said we could put her on some aggressive fluids and we’d probably get some more time with her. “How much time?” we asked, suddenly so hopeful. “Four… maybe five days.”

Oh.

When should we come in?

How does 3:20 sound?

A quick look at the clock said it was just after 2:30. There’s no time. How do you thank this wonderful little creature for bringing so much joy to your life? How do you take your last few moments with her and make them last forever? How do you let her know it’s going to be OK?

How do you say goodbye?

All day when I’d been sitting next to her, I kept giving her a little cough. Chirp for me, I thought. Just chirp for me this one last time. She didn’t. I whispered her name. Nothing. At one point I put my hand on her head and she sat up, and nudged my hand with her head the way she used to. It was more feeble than she used to, but she did it.

Now she just lay there, curled up in a ball, and we pet her and pet her and cried and cried together. She had come into our lives two weeks after we moved in together. She was an essential part of our lives. We couldn’t imagine our world without her in it. But we were going to have to. This is the last photo I took of her.



We went over to the vet at 3:20. They’re only a couple of blocks from our house (we always manage to live close to vets, for some reason) so I didn’t put her in the cat carrier. God, she hated that thing. Instead, I wrapped her in a towel and held her in my arms as we drove through the pouring rain. We walked in, and sat and listened to another couple talk about their sick dog. You can take your dog home, I thought. “Can you put her on the scale?” they asked me. Why? This isn’t a routine check. “Um… we need to weigh her to estimate how much the ashes will weigh, so we can charge you accordingly.” Of course you can. (The $500 bill for her euthanasia and return of the ashes came later. I love vets, but it’s hard not to feel gouged when it cost us $1500 to basically watch her die.)

Then the vet called us in.

He asked us if we wanted to see the records from the ER. No. Did we want to hear anything more about the renal failure? No. He’d already explained to my upset husband on the phone that despite the $500 or so we’d spent only four months ago on a full bloodwork set for her, often things like this don’t show up. At this point, we didn’t want to delay this anymore. He asked me to lay her down. I kept her in the towel and carefully placed her on the table, still keeping my arms wrapped around her. She looked at me strangely as he pulled out her arm.

“She’s not going to close her eyes,” he told us. “And it’s going to be really quick, OK?” OK. He prepared the syringe. He put it into her catheter. I leaned down and whispered, “I love you so much, my girl. I love you, I love you, I love you.”

“Are you ready?”

No. No, I’m not ready. She’s only 14. She was supposed to live for five or six more years. I went away to NY five days ago and didn’t give her a second thought and now we’re “putting her to sleep.” I should have let her sleep with us more often. I should have cuddled with her a couple of weeks ago when she nudged me with her head on the couch when I was sitting there typing a blog post about Once Upon a Time. I should have noticed she was frail. But the vet said this had the signs of a sudden failure, not something that had happened over time.

No, I’m not ready. Don’t do it. Please don’t do this to her. Please.

“Yes,” I said.

He slowly depressed the plunger. She looked up and growled at him, and then dropped her head. And that was it. I thought by “quick” he meant a minute or something. But it was maybe three seconds. And my lady was gone. The vet quickly checked her heart, whispered, “She’s gone,” and quietly slipped out of the room to leave my husband and I sobbing and grief-stricken. I draped myself over her body and cried and cried into her fur, smelling it for the last time, petting her, and reassuring her that she was OK. I noticed one of her hairs was in her eye, so I swiped it out. And then it left a mark on her eyeball. I can still picture that mark. I shouldn’t have touched her eye.

“Why do you call her The Lady?” my daughter had asked my husband only a few weeks earlier.

“Because she’s a lady,” he said. “She’s dignified and graceful. She’s our lady.”

And our lady was gone. Her last act had been to growl at a stranger who was doing something she didn’t like. Just as she’d stared at me knowingly the first time I looked at her, with one strong arm around her brother and making our decision for us, she left this world as defiant and strong-willed as she’d always been. And god, I love her for doing that.

Fate could have landed her in any family, and I'm so endlessly appreciative and honoured that it gave her to us, and allowed me to share that wonderful life of hers.

Goodbye, my girl. My lady. My sweet, sweet lady.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Angel S5: Eps 4, 5, 6

5.4 Hell Bound
5.5 Life of the Party
5.6 The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco


For my lengthy analyses of these episodes, follow along in Once Bitten.

Last week you guys seemed to take the reins of watching Angel really well, so once again I'll provide the forum, and I really enjoyed what you guys said. Just a note that I think the rewatchers might enjoy these episodes more than first-timers, simply because we know what's coming, and these episodes seemed a little odd the first time through, but once you realize how the season ends, they make more sense. Keep at it... you won't be disappointed. :)

Next week:
5.7 Lineage
5.8 Destiny
5.9 Harm's Way

Spoiler Forum: Angel S5, Eps 4, 5, 6

Here's the spoiler forum, where you can talk about these episodes in the context of the remainder of S5 of Angel.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Amazing Video!

My husband showed this to me on the weekend. I hadn't heard of Gotye (apparently he's huge in Australia) but I love this song. First, watch this stunning video:



Pretty amazing... but nothing compared to the jaw-dropping achievement of this next video. This is a Burlington-based band called Walk Off the Earth (Burlington is about 45 minutes outside of Toronto) doing the same song, with five people playing the same guitar. Their voices are stunning, and you won't believe what five people can do with a single instrument.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Once Upon a Time Ep 8: Desperate Souls

Before I begin this week’s writeup, I just wanted to mention a book I read in the fall called The Book of Lost Things. If you enjoy fairytale stories for adults (the same way OUAT is twisting the stories) I think you’ll really like this. A boy crawls through a hole in his garden and enters a fairytale world, where he is met with familiar creatures from the storybooks (and followed everywhere by the person who is the main character of this OUAT episode) only to find they’re not what they seemed in his books. Definitely check it out… it’s a great story.

The writers of Once Upon a Time have said one of their missions with this show is to show the other side of fairytales, to lead us along with the notion that what we’ve always known to be true (bad guys are bad, good guys are good, happy endings are always forthcoming and evil gets it in the end) is true, only to pull the carpet out from under us and show us the opposite. Evil can prevail, good guys aren’t all good, but bad guys are actually sympathetic. What made the Evil Queen evil? What turned Rumpelstiltskin into a trickster? Why are there so many people in storybook land who have a bug up their arse and are always plotting other people’s revenge?

And so, in the 2012 return of the show, we go back to the origins of Rumpelstiltskin, the man who is quick to make a bargain, and just as quick to turn it around on people and trick them into having to hand over more than they thought they’d bargained for. Rumpelstiltskin was a loving father who would do anything to keep his son out of the hands of the conscriptors who mercilessly pulled children into the ogre war when they turned 14. His boy is a couple of days away from that fateful birthday, so he attempts to escape from the men, until they’re caught on the road. The men taunt Rumpelstiltskin and tell the boy that his father was a coward who ran away from the ogre war and left the others behind to be slaughtered, and his wife couldn’t bear the sight of him when he returned from the war. He humiliates Rumpelstiltskin in front of his son, no doubt making him son see him as less than he once thought, and another man, disguised as a poor man looking for alms, takes him under his wing. He convinces him to go after the Dark One, and once he discovers that man’s name, he would be able to control him. He tells Rumpelstiltskin to steal the Dark One’s dagger, which has the Dark One’s name written on it, and he will call him forth by saying his name, and then he has to kill him. Rumpelstiltskin does that, and when he kills the Dark One he realizes he’s been tricked… the Dark One is in fact the poor man, and now Rumpelstiltskin will succeed him. Upon the man’s death, Rumpel’s skin begins to turn greenish-gold, his teeth rot, and he is all-powerful. He returns to his home to slaughter the men who threatened him, but instead of awe in the eyes of his son, he sees nothing but fear.

Meanwhile back in Storybrooke, another succession is taking place – Graham is died and Emma assumes she’ll take the mantle of sheriff. But, no surprise, Regina has other ideas and puts Sidney in place of Emma, until Emma challenges the appointment and demands an election. Mr. Gold tells Emma he’s on her side, and burns down the mayor’s office. Emma realizes what he’s done, and announces at the debate that he’s committed a crime on her behalf, but everyone in Storybrooke is thrilled that they have someone in town who’s actually honest, and Emma wins. In the storybook world, Rumpelstiltskin has had a role thrust upon him; in Storybrooke, Emma has reached for that role and earned it. But in both cases, they have taken on a dangerous power that, on the one hand, should make everyone respect them, but instead, they’ve adopted a whole new crop of enemies.

Highlights:
• Emma yelling to find out if Mr. Gold is in the store, and him muttering, It IS my store…
• Emma telling Henry to read something more reliable, like the Internet.
• Regina asking if Henry now knows that Emma cut his cord with a shiv. Haha!
• Archie’s stammering introduction of Glass… Swan…

Did You Notice?:
• Emma’s actually not one of my favourite characters on the show – she’s unnecessarily harsh at times and I just don’t like her that much – but I’ll have to rethink that after hearing her blaring Sonic Youth’s Kool Thing.
• In Mr. Gold’s shop, you can always prominently see a mobile of glass unicorns hanging near the cash register. I wonder if those unicorns were magically turned to glass. I don’t trust anything in that shop – I’m assuming everything in it is a result of dark magic.
• There’s a Mickey Mouse figurine in Mr. Gold’s cabinet. OMG, did he attack Mickey Mouse, too?
• There’s also a chess set… I’ve wondered if that’s a subtle Alice in Wonderland reference.
• When Mr. Gold said, “I don’t know… be a hero in a fire?” he flicks his fingers in the air the same way Rumpelstiltskin always did.
• The talks between Emma and Mary Margaret are very mother-daughter.
• When he sees his name on the dagger, it’s misspelled as Rumplestiltskin. (Rumple instead of the far more common Rumpel…) Rumplestiltskin is used on occasion, but Rumpelstiltskin is the far more acceptable spelling of the name.

Lost references:
• Emma still drinks the McCutcheon.

Ruby Red:
• Mr. Gold wears all black except for a tie patterned with red.
• Henry’s scarf has red stripes.

Any Questions?:
• I’m still wondering what Rumpelstiltskin had been gardening in the forest in the previous episode…
• How did Rumpelstiltskin go from being a fearsome Dark One to a cackling crazy person who hopped around and taunted everyone around him with an odd shake of his head and a flourish of his fingers whenever he talked?
• In the original fairytale, no one knew Rumpelstiltskin’s name – that was his power (just as the Dark One in this episode has a secret name, and the way to get power over him is to find it out). But in previous episodes, everyone knows Rumpelstiltskin’s name… he doesn’t try to hide it at all. Why the change? Especially when Rumpelstiltskin is still caught up in knowing names (remember him asking Snow White what her baby will be named?)

Saturday, January 07, 2012

One Year Ends, Another Begins

I’ve been remiss at keeping this blog updated over the holidays. The end of the Buffy Rewatch took up a lot of time, and then there was turkey… and more turkey… and more turkey… and more turkey (yes, four turkey dinners)… and Pizza Hut (that was the Christmas dinner that I hosted, ha!) And then, as I’ve mentioned on my FB page and on here, I’m preparing for a talk at Wesleyan University in Nebraska at the end of January on Twilight, so I spent a lot of the holidays reading those books. My comments to come on all of that post-discussion, which I’m actually really looking forward to.

But as usual, I’m hoping to contribute more to this blog this year, mostly because I don’t have new Lost episodes or a Buffy Rewatch to keep you guys tuning in. The reviews and entries might be a little shorter (with kids getting older, I find they’re up later… no longer does my evening solitary time begin at 8) but I won’t forget you guys if you don’t forget me.

However, as usual I often say one thing and do another, so this blog post will be my usual lengthy rambling. This is my review of my favourite things this year.

Favourite Book: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
It all started back in the summer when Tim, who comments here occasionally as Tim Alan and is on Facebook under another name, sent me a FB message and asked if I’d heard of this book. He told me I should check it out, because he’d just read it and thought I’d really like it. I began seeing it in stores and I picked it up a few times, but I didn’t have time to read it until the fall. And then I read it like a fiend.

Ready Player One is set in the not-so-distant future of 2040. Just thirty years ahead of us, it’s enough to make you think, “That’s not so far out… I could see the world moving in the direction Cline suggests” but far enough that you also think, “Oh my god, I’m going to be HOW OLD in 2040?!” Sigh. In this future, we’ve all moved from social networking and RPGs to the OASIS, which is what the playground of the internet is now called. But it’s more than just the internet – it’s an entirely immersive experience, where people suit up with virtual reality goggles and suits and can feel physical blows and see other people. The world has become so vastly overpopulated that people now stay at home (in tiny apartments or trailer parks, where the trailers are literally stacked a couple of dozen cars high) and go to work, attend school, and the amenities that we currently enjoy all exist only virtually, with human beings jacking in to an OASIS that consists of hundreds of planets and limitless possibility.

The OASIS was created by James Halliday, a Bill Gates type who is worth billions when he dies. Turns out he’s only a year older than I am, and a huge fan of 80s pop culture. And the moment he dies, a message goes out everywhere on the OASIS: that he’s left behind no heirs, and instead has hidden three easter eggs somewhere on the OASIS, and whoever finds all the easter eggs first will inherit his fortune, worth about $360 billion.

The key to finding them? You have to know everything a kid in the 1980s would know. EVERYTHING about it. You have to know how to play Pac-man to the last level; you have to be able to quote Monty Python’s Holy Grail (FINALLY… all my hours of learning it were worth something, I thought to myself, forgetting I wasn’t actually IN THE BOOK).

What follows is a race against time, seen mostly through the eyes of the guy who finds the first easter egg (he reveals himself as such on the first couple of pages, so I’m not spoiling anything here), and the novel is as fast-paced as the top level of Space Invaders. There were videogames in there that I wasn’t familiar with, but my husband, only two years older than I, knew all of them. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough, and was begging my eyes and brain to GO FASTER because I needed to keep up. It…. is… AMAZING. I have recommended this book to countless people, and now I recommend it to you. Go here to get a copy from Amazon. If you spent way too many hours playing Centipede in the basement, and thought Alex P. Keaton was dorky and Duran Duran videos were the shit, this book is for you.

Favourite movies: The Descendants and Hugo
I saw both of these films over the Christmas break, and was astounded by both of them, for different reasons.

I’ve always been a fan of Alexander Payne films: About Schmidt and Election are two of my all-time favourite movies. I tend to think of him as tackling serious issues in our lives, but in a humorous way. The Descendants was no exception… well, for the serious part anyway. Don’t go to this movie if you’re looking for Payne’s trademark funny, because while it is there in dribs and drabs, it’s a really heartbreaking film. This is a movie about a man (George Clooney) whose wife has been in a boating accident and is now in a coma. Because he’s always been a hard worker who hasn’t been around much, he now has to collect up his broken family (a younger daughter who is sassy and hilarious, and an older daughter who’s in a special boarding school after various drug and alcohol problems) and bring them to see their mother, who probably won’t last much longer. And then… he discovers that his wife had been having an affair and was planning to leave him, and thus begins the mystery caper where he must find out WHO she was sleeping with, and more importantly to him, WHY. But the second part can only come from his wife, and she’s not exactly available right now. In addition to that madness, Clooney’s character is part of one of the founding families of the area (hence the title of the film) and they’re being forced to decide what to do with a large piece of land that’s been in the family trust for years, and Clooney is the decision-maker who must choose whether to sell the land or keep it, with his great-grandparents’ legacy hanging in the balance. What follows is an emotional rollercoaster, which isn’t as depressing as it sounds (it never is in Payne’s hands) but will still elicit tears from you by the end. And it’s all set against a backdrop of Hawaii, but not the Hawaii we’re used to seeing in Lost or Hawaii Five-0… this is the residential area of Hawaii, which you almost never see in film, and it’s gorgeous. I’ve never wanted to live in Hawaii as much as I did when I saw this movie. This is the movie with the best performances of the year.

The most magical film I saw this year is Hugo. I was talking to my friend Richard Crouse yesterday, who is a film critic here in Canada (for NewsTalk 1010 and Canada AM) and he and I both agreed that this film is extraordinary and had a trailer that really let it down. I went into this thinking it was a movie about a little boy who was hiding in a train station and had a mechanical toy named Hugo. In fact, it’s about a little boy named Hugo who runs the clocks in the Montparnasse train station in Paris, who has inherited an automaton that doesn’t work. When he steals from a man who runs the toy shop in the station, the man takes Hugo’s diary, which has sketchings of the automaton, and the look on the man’s face indicates he’s seeing a ghost from the past. Why is the man so shaken by the sketches? What did he just see and why did it upset him so much? THAT is what the rest of this movie is about.

Without giving away the rest of the film, this is a tribute to the earliest silent films, when moving pictures were magic in a way that today’s society can’t appreciate. There was a time when a moving picture of a train hurtling toward the viewer was enough to make people dive under their seats in fear that they were going to be run over. Now even the most spectacular special effects can make people yawn and ask for more. We need 3-D to make us happy, apparently, and we go to films not for the magical element of it, but for the storytelling and acting. Hugo takes you back to the films of one particular director, who was a pioneer when it came to ushering us to our seats and unveiling a world of wonder before our eyes. It was a gorgeous, gorgeous film (some of the cityscapes of Paris will take your breath away, and I have no words for how thrilled I was when the boy was running through the clocks – I wanted to go live there), and I want to go back and see it again. I sat in the theatre with my 7-year-old daughter, and both of us were as transfixed and caught up in the magic as if it were 1896 and we could see a train hurtling towards us on the screen for the very first time.

Biggest Movie Disappointment: The Muppets
Don’t yell at me. I was actually hesitant to write this, and didn’t say anything at the time, but I was really disappointed in The Muppets. I love them. I love everything about them. I was DYING to see this movie and went the day it opened with my kids. My four-year-old asked me when we could go about 30 minutes in. My seven-year-old liked it. But the premise is this: Everyone has forgotten about the Muppets, and they’ve split up and gone to live separate lives and have even forgotten each other. What?! That’s not what the Muppets are all about. Now, I know my view is not a popular one. A friend disagreed with me and said someone she knew was born in the mid-80s, and had no clue who the Muppets were, and that that’s probably pretty typical. I don’t know if that’s the case (what about Sesame Street – which features Kermit – wasn’t Tickle-Me-Elmo the omnipresent toy through the 90s? Or the Christmas specials, or Muppets Tonight, or the ongoing YouTube Muppet parodies… I mean, are these people living in caves if they don’t know who the Muppets are?) To me, that’s like saying, “Gee, I wonder what Mickey Mouse is up to these days? Haven’t heard from him in years…”

But more importantly than us remembering the Muppets are them remembering each other. Would Kermit really live in a decaying mansion and have Fozzie Bear living in an alleyway? Miss Piggy and Kermit were married, last time I checked, but that’s never stated outright in the film (instead they show a wedding photo ripped in half as the subtle reminder they were once Mr and Mrs Piggy) and she now lives in Paris in a Devil Wears Prada parody (complete with Emily Blunt as the receptionist) and hasn’t spoken to any of the others. Gonzo is too stuck up to speak to anyone anymore, Sweetums is back at the car dealership where he started in The Muppet Movie, etc. etc. It just, I don’t know… hurt to think my beloved Muppets would treat each other like that. (To which my movie critic friend said, “You, um… know they’re not real, right?”) ;)

I went out with a friend of mine who also disliked the movie immensely (and he loves the Muppets as much as I do) and I asked him if he thought Miss Piggy’s voice sounded weird, and he said it did, because Frank Oz didn’t do it. I said, “What? He DIED?!” He said no, he didn’t, but he read the script and said this wasn’t true to what the Muppets were all about, and refused to participate. So, I guess I’m not the only one who feels this way.

That said, there are definitely great things in the movie. Unfortunately, it’s when the Muppets decide to mount their own fundraising show, and we see rehashes of Muppet sketches, and they sing the songs from The Muppet Movie. Apparently the best things about this movie are retreads from what the Muppets already did best. BUT, while I would argue that no original song from this movie is as good as “The Rainbow Connection” (which they do here again, and which will still bring you to tears) my daughter was in her room the next day and as I walked by I heard her singing, “Am I a Muppet, or am I a man?” so clearly they had an impact on her. Who knows… maybe my parents thought The Muppet Movie was crap (actually, I know they didn’t, but let’s just be theoretical) and I just don’t see this the same way. But if you’ve seen their YouTube parodies of The Green Lantern and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trailers, or seen them do “Bohemian Rhapsody” or any number of songs, you realize they are capable of sheer brilliance. And this movie has very little of that. (Though, watch for a moment where a barbershop quartet sings “Smells Like Teen Spirit”… in that moment, I had a lot of hope for the future of The Muppets.)

Favourite Ongoing TV Show: Breaking Bad
You already know why I think this. In my review of Breaking Bad’s stunning season 4, I talked about how this show is one of those things where you feel like it’s YOUR show, that it’s talking directly to you. It has the best ensemble cast on television right now, and I think in every episode (or at least every other episode), there’s a scene that is so sublime you realize you were holding your breath throughout. The suspense is painful at times, the actions the characters take are never predictable, and the series is basically the journey of one man’s descent into the Dark Side, and the people around him who are forced to either follow him down, or get left behind. Season 5 is going to be 16 episodes (jury’s still out on whether it’ll be in one long go or split into two) and I cannot wait.

Favourite New Show: Homeland
Sorry to disappoint anyone who thought it might be Once Upon a Time. I love OUAT but Homeland is that special kind of show that, like Breaking Bad, has you glued to your seat, wondering what the writers could possibly throw at you this week. This is a show about a CIA agent, Carrie (Claire Danes), who has some mental health issues – you see her popping pills throughout the season – and who has never forgiven herself for missing something before 9/11 and allowing those events to transpire. An American POW in Iraq, Brody (Damien Lewis from Life), has just been discovered alive after 8 years, and he’s coming home. Carrie is convinced he has been turned and will be a traitor to the country, despite the protestations of her mentor and protector, Saul (Mandy Patinkin). Danes is phenomenal. NO ONE has given a performance like her this year, not Bryan Cranston, not anyone. They need to invent a new award just for her and give it to her. She is mesmerizing in every frame, and in the last two episodes she will actually make you forget about every scene she’d done beforehand. Damien Lewis is the perfect mouse to her cat (or is it the other way around?) and the way they play off each other in every scene will have you on the edge of your seat.

Is Brody a traitor? Is Carrie crazy? Is Saul so used to Carrie’s erratic behavior that he’s missing obvious things? I don’t want to say too much because I want you to check out this show and be as amazed and surprised as I was in every scene, but I will say that what eventually unfolds made me shocked that a show like this would ever be okayed for American television. Homeland is astounding, and if you’re not watching it, find a way to do so. It won’t disappoint.

Least-Favourite Television Event of the Year: The finale of The Killing
Oh COME ON. Seriously? Bah. They promised that we’d find out who the killer was at the end of the season, then backpedalled when they imagined they could pull in more viewers to S2 if they didn’t reveal it. You know what? I loved this show until you did that. Sure, it had its issues (I hate a show that is so covered in red herrings and wrong pathways in a single season that you feel like you were constantly so misled the main plot no longer interests you) but I was going to follow through. Now you can have S2 without me. I’m outta here.

Biggest TV Disappointment: Dexter
I haven’t even finished the most recent season, but I’m just SO bored with this season of Dexter, and that’s coming from someone who loved this show SO MUCH I was actually involved in a bid a couple of years ago to do the show’s official book. Thank god they ran out of steam before going ahead with it, because I’d hate to have to do it now. There’s an episode where Dexter drives around with his brother and dad in the car that was abysmal. Just terrible. And knowing the behind-the-scenes drama (that Jennifer Carpenter and Michael C. Hall have split because he was allegedly unfaithful, leading to such hostility that most of their scenes are filmed apart or over a phone) has become really distracting. The storyline is lame, Colin Hanks is terrible (seriously, the guy was really good on Roswell but if I were his dad, I’d be asking him to use another surname), and James Edward Olmos is the most annoying villain yet. It’s just gory for gory’s sake, and I’m tired of it.

Biggest TV Pleasant Surprise: Boardwalk Empire
I really enjoyed S1 of Boardwalk Empire but season 2 is jaw-droppingly good. If not disturbing (who can watch a scene where a mother tells her son that when he was a baby and she’d change his diaper she would “kiss his winkie” and not be haunted by that line for the rest of the season?!) But the various storylines were great and characters that were interesting in the first season are astonishing now. Unfortunately, stupid EW spoiled me for the huge surprise in the S2 finale only a week after it had actually happened, and since I watched all of S2 over the holiday, I knew what was coming right from the beginning. But it actually created more suspense for me, and I noticed things I might not have noticed just by waiting for this monumental event to happen.

Biggest TV Shock EVER: Game of Thrones
You know the scene I mean. You remember how I reacted. Holy. Crap. I still haven’t recovered from that. Here’s hoping George RR Martin has more wicked surprises up his sleeve.

Favourite TV Comic Episode: “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” on Community
I might be wrong; it’s possible this was from last year, but I saw it this year. This is HYSTERICALLY funny, especially in the open when a voiceover sets up every character as if they’re about to go into an epic battle. The game play had me in stitches from beginning to end.

Things I’m Most Looking Forward to in 2012:
The Hunger Games movie
• The return of Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad
Alcatraz (starts January 16… set those PVRs!)
• The Joss Whedon Triple Threat: Avengers, Cabin in the Woods, and Much Ado About Nothing
• The Slayage conference in Vancouver (I hope some of the Rewatchers join us!)
The Dark Knight Rises


OK, your turn. What are your favourite things from 2011?

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Angel S5: Eps 1, 2, 3

5.1 Conviction
5.2 Just Rewards
5.3 Unleashed


Well, I really intended to write a few words for this first of the Angel S5 episodes, even though I said I'd basically just be posting these to be forums. But it's been a crazy week with holidays and all, and I've read been spending most spare moments reading the Twilight series (I'm just finishing Breaking Dawn right now, and I really want someone to put a stake in me). It's research. No, really it is. I'm going to be giving a paper in Nebraska at the end of January on Twilight, and I'm reading all the books so I really know what I'm talking about. It hasn't been all bad. I mean, I have had the joy of seeing Bella in extreme pain on a few occasions, so that was fun.

But back to Angel. He and the Angel Investigations team is... working for Wolfram & Hart? Wait, they RUN Wolfram & Hart?

Don't worry, it'll make sense soon. ;) Until then, these are a fun group of episodes. I especially love the very opening of "Conviction" when we see a repeat of the Angel premiere, with Angel saving a girl from the alleyway. But... it's a little different this time. He's not quite so alone, as much as he wants to be.

I know there was something else I was going to mention... blonde, vampire with a soul or something... but it escapes me. So I'll let you guys discuss it. ;)

Spoiler Forum: Angel S5, Eps 1, 2, 3

And just in case anyone wants to discuss this week's Angel eps in relation to the end of S5 or the comics, here is the spoiler forum.