Watched: The batshit insanity of Hemlock Grove, Season 1

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OK, so define a “good” show. I know, I know, we don’t truck with that kind of talk around here. But even in the annals of subjectivity and whimsical pleasures and not needing movies to be good, Hemlock Grove is a bad fucking show. Like, really bad. Like super awful holy-shit-was-this-written-by-12-year-olds bad.

And yet. And yet.

I guess I don’t need TV shows to be good, either. Hemlock Grove's first season really does feel like it was written in crayon on the back of an 8th-grader's paper bag lunch, and is so slapdash in its execution that if you told me a bunch of film students made it on a weekend in Thunder Bay with whatever they had lying around, I'd believe you. (There is a key wig in the last three episodes that looks, without hyperbole, like it was bought at Shoppers Drug Mart four days after Hallowe'en.)

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Watched: Monster’s Ball; Hannah and Her Sisters; The Fall

There are actors for whom one simply has no use, and for me Halle Berry has always been one; these performers can usually be identified because there’s always one performance that I absolutely adore, an exception that proves the rule. With Berry, Cloud Atlas seemed to fulfill that requirement, but having now watched Monster’s Ball I have to re-examine the whole set of assumptions, because there’s no denying that she is bloody phenomenal in that movie, and as is often the case when an actor really impresses me, I sort of want to watch everything they’ve done all of a sudden. If 2014 has been calling upon me to consider the function of empathy in cinema (and television, per last week’s DAM), Monster’s Ball functions almost entirely because of the sophistication of its empathetic interplay between Berry and Billy Bob Thornton, both of whom have complete, independent story arcs which only – as if by pure happenstance – intersect.

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Watched: Game of Thrones Season 4

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Game of Thrones continues to vault upwards, season by season, and its fourth (just completed) has been its best yet. If the season’s ninth episode (traditionally the placeholder slot for the major fireworks) was a bit of a dud thanks to the visual boredom of a nighttime fight at the Wall, the season’s finale – “The Children” – was a clockwork perfection of bloody payoff to all the capital the season, and the series, has accumulated so far.

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Watched: Remember that time I wrote Edge of Tomorrow?

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Well, I didn’t really; but I kind of did. At least, for about the last seven or ten years I’ve been kicking around an idea for a screenplay (the working title was Again, which would have been changed, All You Need Is Kill style, to Edge of Tomorrow) which was also based on a man in a recurring time loop. More importantly, it was based around the basic video game concept of iterative learning - each time through the loop, the man in question would get better at it, evolving towards superhumanity. By the final act he’d basically be at a MatrixInception level of prowess, and the action set piece (not killing a Brain Bug in my case, but shutting down the time loop itself) was really something. At least, in my head.

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Watched: Grab ‘Er By The Tiptoes

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With Daniel Eustace Cockburn and Demetre “Thunderdome” E. in attendance, it was contended that we should watch a movie where a bunch of drunk Irish people try to evade sea monsters (Grabbers), followed by a romantic comedy in which Gary Oldman played a dwarf (Tiptoes). These were not, strictly speaking, Good Ideas, but hey, you only live once.

Prior to the movies I tried to have a conversation with Daniel about why I don’t need movies to be good (using Monsters as collateral) but it was a non-starter. Better to have stuck to the original pre-show entertainment, which was this crazy shit:

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Watched: 1 Fast, 2 Furious, 3 Tokyo Drifts

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I have a lot of thoughts about the Fast and the Furious franchise. The movies have given me so much over the years, doubly valuable in that they never really required me to actually see any of them to get at the goods. My mind is a getaway car. I only started watching Fast movies at #4, and those only once, and only in theatres, and only (if possible) in another country. The Fast and the Furious doesn’t belong to, or in, Canada. And each of those movies, Fasts 4-6, was exactly what it was: something less than halfway appealing, that I didn’t particularly understand. I figured I’d get around to watching Fasts 1-3 someday, or never, and that either way, it wouldn’t matter much. The bling is all on the outside.

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Watched: Shorts Not Pants 10; TIFF Kids Jump Cuts Grades 7 & 8

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Demetre “Thunderdome” Eliopoulos, who once cracked physics by implanting audio into the center of an otherwise-silent video file like the cough syrup in the center of a Nyquil lozenge, had his two-pronged one-minute film project More Things / One More Thing - starring moi - serve as the bookends of this month’s Shorts That Are Not Pants screening. James asked me to host a Q&A with Demetre after the screening, and I spent the darkened hour of the shorts programme composing my intended questions. I’ve never understood the two films, so I took the opportunity to ask Demetre the following:

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Watched: Noah; Nymphomaniac

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Now that’s a pairing; and were Nymphomaniac not its own double-feature, I might propose a double-feature. Both films are splendid. 2014 is off to a rollicking start. I don’t know that either would end up on my top ten list at the end of the year (although there’s ample time for the bottom to fall out of 2014, so who knows), but they are both kindred of my very favourite type of movie: the movie that just makes me glad it exists.

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Watched: The Host; White Squall; Veronica Mars

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I certainly watched the first season of Veronica Mars back in whenever-it-was; I don’t think I ever watched the second (or the third). I don’t “get it.” I watched the movie over the weekend too, and was mostly delighted that - per the flick’s Kickstarted imprimatur - I didn’t have to go to a movie theatre to do it. It day-and-dated on the iTunes store, which for a movie based on a TV show that disappeared into the cracks in the middle of the digital decade, seems about right. Maybe Veronica Mars is a big-screen cinematic triumph, but I’ll never know.

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Watched: Trance

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I keep circling back to Danny Boyle for no particularly good reason; he hasn’t made a movie I’ve enjoyed since 1997. I guess “no particularly good reason” isn’t accurate, as there are three particularly good reasons, which are the three movies he made before 1997; they’ll be in my DNA until I’m dead, I think, as most of my cinematic obsessions in the film school era shall be. But Trance doesn’t break the streak. I got up a good head of steam to watch it, falling for the “Trainspotting / Shallow Grave throwback” branding, but as has been the case with every other movie since The Beach, the storyteller who made Trainspotting and Shallow Grave is no longer in residence. These movies don’t feel remotely like they were made by the same guy.

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