Why Aren’t You Watching This?


The D-Cast Episode 54 – The Force Awakens

Culture, film, Opinion, Reviews, Why Aren't You Watching This?

December 21, 2015

Andy and Dale return to the D-Cast to talk a little movie that really came out of nowhere to dominate everything forever. You may have heard of it… Star Wars, the Force Awakens? You can and should check out the movie in theaters now, and then check out the spoiler-laden latest episode of their podcast right here, right now. The video version is sure to follow.


The D-Cast can be found by clicking their name, and you can chat with them on twitter, too.

And you can check them out on itunes. Awesome.

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D-Cast Reviews: Creed

Reviews, Videos, Why Aren't You Watching This?

December 2, 2015

You know Dale Wentland from those times he and Aaron do the Kessel Rundown, but he is not alone in his D-Cast greatness. His erstwhile partner, Andy, went out and saw the seventh movie in the Rocky Series: Creed.

The D-Cast can be found by clicking their name, and you can chat with them on twitter, too.

And you can check them out on itunes. Awesome.


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Review: Jessica Jones

Culture, Reviews, Why Aren't You Watching This?

November 30, 2015

Jessica Jones, the second of the original series being produced by Marvel and Netflix, has been out for a little more than two weeks. We’re about to dig deep and talk about the guts of the thing, why it works and what makes it excellent. So, spoilers they are ahead, obvs, but we’ll try and keep them to a minimum.

There was some concern about how Jessica Jones was going to be translated from comic to screen. It’s a dark story, about a hero who get co-opted her first time out, and is physically, mentally, and spiritually destroyed by one of the scariest villains Marvel has ever produced over an eight month period. There’s a real sense of darkness throughout the tale, grounded by who and what the villain is, and his taint touches everything that happens. Would Netflix be willing to host something this disturbing.

Well, yes. They’ve done it before, even if they did caper off with a whimper at the end.

But it’s still different. This is not your standard Marvel fare; it’s not your standard anything fare. It’s radically different from pretty much everything else you’re going to see, and it hits every point it wants to make while staring you in the face and daring you to blink.

You won’t, by the way. You won’t blink. You won’t be able to tear your eyes away from the screen. This is just as good as Daredevil was, and has an even greater impact than that masterpiece did.

Right from the start, Jessica Jones establishes that the main character is female, that the characters that are going to have development in this tale are all female. The male characters are mostly static, eye candy, or obstacles to be overcome. Their agency is tied to Jessica’s story, and any catharsis they experience is only through the advent of her presence and tied to her growth.

What’s remarkable about this is that the inverse is often true: female caricatures on traditional television have served subservient roles to male characters, helping them to grow, providing obstacles, or being prizes to be won. Instead of looking to be lauded for strong female characters, Jessica Jones opts to give us strong characters that just happen to be female.

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“We’re pretty great, you know?”

And not all of these characters are good, or strong. Jessica Hogarth, a lawyer that contracts Jessica for various jobs, is shown to be callous, selfish, and generally horrible. Pam Walker, Jessica’s adopted mother, is a self-involved woman who abused her daughter and adopted Jessica for publicity’s sake. Jessica herself suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder the likes of which you will see nowhere else.

Which is another thing that Jessica Jones does exceptionally well: portray what it is like to live with PTSD. The paradigm under which our society lives is based on materialist-nihilist principles, meaning that our culture accepts physical reality as the sole truth. In this case, that means that society typically sees mental illness as either a moral weakness or something that simply isn’t real, despite any evidence to the contrary.

Recently, we’ve been re-examining our cultural beliefs, and mental illness has been getting a lot of attention and is now being equated to physical illness. Depression, anxiety, and other ailments are being given the same consideration as their physical counterparts, and being seen as sicknesses rather than failings. Jessica Jones gives us a variety of characters that are suffering from PTSD and doing the best they can, from the villainous Kilgrave to Trish Walker to Jessica Jones herself.

Jessica spends much of her time trying not to let her world overwhelm her, having to take moments to separate and ground herself as life goes on around her. She’s dealing with an eight month period where her agency was taken from her, where she was raped in every possible way with no end in sight, and where her escape from that situation came about because of happenstance rather than rescue.

The truth is that mental illness is real; it is a struggle to live with depression or anxiety or anything of the other illnesses that can afflict a mind. Some people are born with these illnesses, and others – like PTSD – happen because of experiences in life. Like physical scars, they never go away, but they can be lived with. Trish overcame her trauma to become a celebrity. Jessica is still coming to terms with things, but she’s getting there.

And if Jessica Jones treats mental illness with respect, it stares unblinking at the horrors of rape. Compare this to Supernatural or Agents of SHIELD or any of a dozen other narratives where someone is mind controlled and raped and the situation is played for laughs. A woman was raped in Supernatural and her life was destroyed by it and her trauma is used as a punchline. Agent Ward is raped by an Asgardian in Agents of SHIELD and the other characters mock him for it.

Willing to wreck anyone that thinks stealing agency is a punchline.

Willing to wreck anyone that thinks stealing agency is a punchline.

Jessica is destroyed by what was done to her. The character of Hope and her whole family are entirely undone by what was done to her. Jessica has to remind Hope that nothing that happened to her was her fault, while society is ready to condemn her and blame the victim. We see this happen in our own world, where people are raped and then blamed for it; what were you wearing, why didn’t you fight, you knew him so it couldn’t have been rape

There’s a male character that lost his jacket to Kilgrave, and equates his pain to that of everyone else. He had no choice in what was done to him and can’t get over it, and no one makes fun of him for his inability to do so – a narrative choice that acknowledges that any loss of agency is horrible, regardless of the scale.

By that same token, however, rape, mental illness, and trauma are never used as an excuse for poor choices. Everyone is culpable for the things they do and the choices they make, and serious weight is given to every action in Jessica Jones in a way that very few other narratives manage, regardless of medium.

Kilgrave himself is a monster, yes, and we’re shown that he has a tragic backstory that explains what he is without excusing it. He is evil on a level that we haven’t seen in Marvel before, and is treated as the terror he is without exception. No one sympathizes with him specifically because of what he does: his actions and continued monstrousness make it okay to pity him without forgiving him.

An apology only has weight if there’s no excuse behind it and the offending party intends to be better, two qualities that Kilgrave lacks utterly. He is a charming, pretty monster, a predator that no one believes in and who leaves a trail of broken lives in his wake, and is all the more terrifying for how everyone around him accepts him.

Kilgrave would like to remind you that everything he does to you is your fault.

Kilgrave would like to remind you that everything he does to you is your fault.

The slow reveal of Kilgrave – and Jessica herself – help to ground this tale in the real world. Jessica Jones, at its heart, is a detective story. She has to uncover the truth of things methodically, discovering new facets of the crime she’s investigating while taking us along for the ride. Taken purely on that front, this is brilliantly done and executed, but it’s everything that happens around the story that makes the story so much more than it might otherwise be while also laying the groundwork for both a sequel and the next of the Marvel/Netflix collaborations.

And the next collaboration? Luke Cage.

If the character of Jessica Jones is a study of a cultural failing, the character of Luke Cage is one of the most important power fantasies imaginable: he is a black man whose power is to be bulletproof. Given the terror that African-Americans live in of being shot by police officers or crazy white fundamentalist terrorists and the way the media portrays these incidents, it’s not hard to imagine why so many people might dream of having that super power.

All evidence points to this series being breathtaking.

All evidence points to this series being breathtaking.

Jessica Jones gave us fully fleshed characters, firmly grounding in reality, who happened to be female. Given this, we fully expect Luke Cage to give us grounded main characters who just happen to be black. It’s hard to imagine a more timely or necessary narrative.

The acting of everyone involved is brilliant. Krysten Ritter’s turn as the title character is based around a tough fragility – someone who looks strong but might break at any moment, and everything she does, from walk to silence, reflects Jessica’s pain. Rachael Taylor and Mike Colter both bring their a-game, inhabiting their characters with a vulnerable depth that Jessica can rely upon. David Tennant’s performance perfectly captures the solipsistic horror that Kilgrave is.

A special shoutout needs to be given to Eka Darville, however, as it’s the character of Malcolm Ducasse that truly ties everyone else together. The revelation of who he is and what’s been done to him is the purest motivation anyone could give Jessica outside of her own experiences, and he handles his role with a pure sense of hope and tragedy in equal measure.

There’s some subtle and not-so-subtle ties to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, too, mentions of Thor and Captain America, kids playing at being the Avengers, and Rosario Dawson resuming the role of Claire Temple from Daredevil. All this gives the series an increased sense of depth without requiring anything more than what’s present and without taking away from this specific narrative.

In short, Jessica Jones is just about perfect, and you should watch it.

And season two. We need a season two.

And season two. We need a season two.

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We Know Nothing – Monologues of Ice & Fire

Books & Writing, Culture, Why Aren't You Watching This?

November 11, 2015

Madhouse Productions – the same people that brought Geeks versus Nerds to the West Coast – is at it again, this time bringing a series of comedic monologues to the stage based upon George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series of books, which you might know as Game of Thrones.

The We Know Nothing monologues promises to look at some of the lesser known characters and to get a look at their perspectives, ranging from Fabiar Frey, the bard from the Red Wedding, to Susan Sand, the other other Sand Snake.  Some of the Vancouver scene’s best and brightest emerging stars are coming forth to wax poetic and give us some solid laughs, including Michael McIntyre,  Al Dales, Nathan Gordon, Ryan Hache, Chelsey Stuyt, and Kenneth Tynan.

Behind the scenes, Keegan Flick-Parker and Chris Nyarady – the geniuses behind West Coast Geeks versus Nerds – are directing and producing, while Alison Ross and Courtney Shrumm have taken on writing duties. All four of these people are wild powerhouses associated with some of Vancouver’s finest and funniest dinner theater productions, and they’ve got a proven track record that has us deeply looking forward to seeing what they’ve got on tap.

Performances start at 7pm and run from Friday, November 13 to Sunday, November 15, and can be witnessed at the Cultch.  You can buy tickets by clicking here, calling 604 251 1363, or simply by showing up at the door on your evening of choice.


We’ll be there Friday night to catch the show, and we urge you to join us.

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Jessica Jones Trailer

Culture, Videos, Why Aren't You Watching This?

November 11, 2015

Perhaps Netflix was afraid that we would forget about their brand new Marvel property coming out, what with Star Wars being so much in the new of late. It’s a fair fear; Daredevil has name recognition and sounds like a superhero, where as Jessica Jones sounds like, well, someone you might bump into while grocery shopping.

And that? Sort of the point. Jessica Jones is a hero who failed, getting caught by a bad guy mind-controller her first time out and used as his muscle for eight months. The series picks up after that, where she’s built a life for herself as a private investigator and just tries to get through the day. A new trailer just got released, and it’s a doozy:

Yeah, I know what we’ll be doing in these offices come the twentieth. You’ve got our attention, Netflix. Let’s see if you can do better than the last time you got our hopes up.

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Metroid – The Sky Calls

Culture, Projects, Videos, Webseries, Why Aren't You Watching This?

November 5, 2015

So, we’re massive fans of Metroid, not counting that one game that was just terrible. Due to events (not sleeping), we stumbled across a Metroid short Rainfall Studios put together and were instantly blown away. The Metroid franchise has always thrived on isolation and discovery, and those are two elements that this short film captures perfectly. Check it out:

It stars Jessica Chobot (Chozo?) from the Nerdist as Samus Aran, and is pretty much the best Metroid adaptation we’ve ever seen, and the best Metroid news we’ve heard this year. Someone let this crew do a feature, please.

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Review: Carmilla Season 2

Culture, Opinion, Reviews, Webseries, Why Aren't You Watching This?

November 4, 2015

We needed to wash the bad taste of Hemlock Grove out of our mouths, so we went back to an old favorite.

We powered through the first season and loved that about as much as we ever did, then watched the Christmas Special, and started up season the second. It was about halfway through the second that something occurred to us; we went back to our initial review of Carmilla to double check something.

Sure enough, it was there: “There’s a lot of telling of events, followed by a showing of the emotional impact and consequences of those events. It’s a clever device that allows the illusion of a much larger budget than the show actually possesses, which is nice.” We looked at the line, long and hard, because there’s a simple thing we came to understand.

We were wrong.

Carmilla works because it lacks any shown bit of action, or picking and choosing what action it does show. The plot is largely incidental – this is a webseries that prides itself on strong characters and character development, and the actions that happen around them are secondary to the aftermath those actions have.

For those of you that missed it (and you can start fixing that lack by clicking here), Carmilla is a modernization of a novel written by Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu, which is essentially Dracula, only before and lesbian. There’s a school in Styria called Silas University and there are girls going missing there. A young girl named Laura starts looking into it after her roommate vanishes, and she’s assigned a roommate named Carmilla who happens to be a vampire.

Stuff happens. It’s awesome and adorable and heartwarming. We loved the hell out of it, and it’s something that gets frequent play around our offices when we’re formatting or waiting for things to render. We really like us some character-driven narrative, and Carmilla is very much that.

Naturally, a character-driven narrative is going to live or die depending upon the performances of those involved. Elise Bauman and Natasha Negovanlis return as Laura and Carmilla, respectively, and absolutely become these characters. The snippets we see of their lives and how badly everything falls apart around is a tragedy made all the worse by the fact that both of them are very human, their actions and traumas entirely understandable.

Laura is still naive and very, very young – she has a very set idea of right and wrong, is very much the old tree that breaks in the storm because it does not bend. She has an unwavering and unexplored moral center that drives everything that happens in both seasons, but her short-sighted passion to do right does not look at the larger consequences of the resulting actions, and she ends up destroying everything she was trying to save, including herself.

Carmilla, on the other hand, is so desperate to be loved for herself that it’s terrifying. Her trauma is tied to being a non-entity, of having her agency constantly taken from her despite her apparent strength. As a noble woman she was murdered. As a vampire she was locked in a coffin and left to rot. She’s embraced nihilism as a guiding philosophy as a defense mechanism, and her relationship with Laura and Laura’s view of her becomes the crux of this season’s conflict.

There’s a host of other characters. LaFontaine and Perry continue to work their magic in the background, and have a strong presence throughout the season. The character of JP takes a surprising turn. Danny and Kirsch return, both of them in love with people they can never have, and both of them have their moment to understand and move past that. Kirsch, puppy that he is, handles it a lot better than Danny does, but both actors are able to convey the very fragile emotions that drive both of these characters.

Both of them bring along other new cast members to flesh out the organization that they represent: the Zetas, a fraternity that Kirsch claims are his brothers, gets Theo, and the Summer Society, an organization of warrior women, gets Mel. Both are introduced early, and both of them provide moments of change for everyone else without changing too much themselves. In a narrative as nuanced as this one, they are steady voices that represent larger human forces.

Which bring us to one of the simple truths of Carmilla: very few of the major forces are human.

The Dean was an unstoppable undead monster, the mother of Carmilla, and the big bad of the first season. Even in death she casts a large shadow over everything else, and the deity she worshiped still has a massive part to play in the overall narrative. We see the Silas Board of Directors, monstrous beings that exist only in shadow, their voices giving power to aura’s mistakes.

And Laura makes mistakes this season. She did last season, too, but she mostly got away with it; she gets away with nothing here. Her actions directly lead to the murder of Mattie, another wonderful addition to the cast and Carmilla’s sister. Her death is a sacrifice made in another’s game, the shadow player that manipulates everyone until they are nothing more than puppets on her strings.

The largest of her victims is Baron Vordenberg, a doddering old man and descendant of the family that took Carmilla in when she was first made a vampire, and whose bloodline Carmilla subsequently destroyed. He becomes the head of the Silas Board through Laura’s machinations, and immediately sets about changing the school in ways that horrify Laura.

And well they should. Vordenberg institutes a literal martial law, using magic to empower the Zetas and the Summer Society, making them his private supernatural army. He turns the ambient horror that lurks about Silas into a literal abattoir, seeking to justify the atrocities he commits and the lies he tells about his own life through bloodshed and murder.

Which leads to one of the most powerful moments the series has to offer. Spoilers lie ahead. You has been warned.

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That’s Carmilla, as played by Natasha Negovanlis, towards the end of the second season. She had her heart broken earlier in the season, when Laura loved an ideal of her instead of who she was. Carmilla broke it off and two of them were bitter, then strained – two people still very much in love with one another, but Laura’s binary morality would never allow her to see Carmilla as she was, and Carmilla was too broken to accept that Laura could love her.

We learn a lot about both of them over this season. Both of them are still willing to help one another, and Carmilla even shares a secret with Laura to keep her safe – a secret that Laura shares, resulting in the death of Carmilla’s oldest and dearest friend, resulting in the total destruction of their tie.

Still, when Laura is desperately trying to fix her mistakes, she calls on Carmilla for help. Carmilla comes and is captured, resulting in one of the most heartwrenching scenes in a season that was rife with them: Danny dies. Danny dies protecting Laura, protecting Laura’s dream, fighting to be what Carmilla can’t be so that she can win Laura’s heart. She’s betrayed, literally stabbed in the back, and she dies in Laura’s arms.

Laura is so broken by this that when Vordenberg shows up with a captive Carmilla in tow, threatening to kill her, Laura can’t respond – and that lack of response breaks something in her. In that single moment, without any word being spoken, we can see that this character is ready to die.

Over the course of these two seasons and before she has lost everything: her mother, her sister, her lover. And as much as she plays with nihilism, it’s because of her horrible life – her agency has been stripped from her so many times, from her time as Mircalla, to her whole life with the Dean, to being shoved into a coffin and left to rot, that believing in nothing is the only way she can think of to keep herself sane.

She’s lost and broken and keeping herself that way because it’s the only thing she knows anymore. When Vordenberg threatens to decapitate her, he quips “I bet you wish you’d married my ancestor now!”, and Carmilla smiles and bows her head and says “I’d rather be dead.”

And she would. She’s so impossibly tired. There’s nothing in her life worth living for, not at this point. She’s beaten down and shattered, and the problem is she’s tasted love now; loneliness and nihilism can never be the haven for her that they once were, but the person upon which that love is based has given up on her.

Which brings us to Laura. Flawed and brilliant as she is, Laura offends Carmilla on a basic philosophical level. It’s why there’s so much difficulty between them at the start of season one, and the reason for their problems throughout season two. Here, Laura sacrifices her innocence to save someone who they both know is utterly, utterly broken.

This is a direct assault on everything Carmilla believes about the world, and it’s got to be as shattering for her as it is for Laura.

Look at the last four gifs in this sequence and watch the shock in her face, the emotion of this sequence. Carmilla literally cannot understand what just happened. It makes no sense to her, and it changes everything about her relationship with Laura and Laura itself. This single moment gives Carmilla the chance she needs to actually heal, and for Laura to mature. All of this happens in silence. All of this happens in seconds.

This is exactly how you build a character-driven narrative, building emotion and history and choice and pushing it right to the breaking point. It’s a beautiful moment, about as close to perfection as you’ll get anywhere.

I love this show. I love this show completely, and I urge you to watch it.

In short...

The Good: The acting, characters, dialogue, sound design, mythology… pretty much everything.

The Bad: Pacing is sometimes a little off.

The Ugly: The soul of Danny’s murderer. What happens to Kirsch. The emotional trauma and heartbreak. Waiting for the next season.

The Verdict: Go watch this. Go watch this right now.

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A Modern Fairy Tale

Culture, Reviews, Why Aren't You Watching This?

August 26, 2015

There’s something about fairy tales.

We grow up with them, internalize them. They’re the first stories that many of us experience, whether it be through the auspices of Grimm or Disney. There’s something about them that resonates in the programming of our souls, that helps us make sense of the world. Big bad wolves and strange woodsmen and hunters. Lost princesses, dwarves, and villains. Animals granted the agency and wit of humans.

Modern Fairy Tale 001

Or more wit, in the case of Boots.

As the formation of language and culture, fairy tales inform our norms, give us things to aspire to be or people we can measure ourselves against, for good or ill. It’s easy to dismiss them as simple fables and leave them at that, but there’s a rich tapestry to draw upon. It’s why we’ve seen such a resurgence of the old stories, through the Disney Princess line, Once Upon a Time, and even considerate inversions – like this one.

The Orthos Theater Company has put together a Modern Fairy Tale. It’s a deep look at the tropes that make fairy tales work, while dismissing much of the window dressing that gets in the way of the core underlying themes. Gone are the reliance on gender identity as a forced construct – the good people of this town accept gender and sexual identity on a casual basis, having evolved past discrimination on that front, but they still suffer from an underlying prejudice against anthropomorphized animals.

And that’s where our story begins: There’s a royal ball coming up and everyone is invited, even the animals. One of the royals, Cinder, remembers his roots and how the animals made his cute outfits, and the Prince cannot argue against their impeccable talent for crafting fashion. Wolf is trying to work up the courage to ask Red Riding Hood to go along with them.

There’s problems, though. Red’s parents were eaten by wolves, and she’s now living with her overprotective granny and being stalked by her incredible douche-bro of an ex-boyfriend, both of whom are very anti-animal and so obsessed in the rightness of their causes that they refuse to see the damage they’re doing to everyone else.

Bringing out a whole new kind of despicable.

Bringing out a whole new kind of despicable.

I don’t want to give away the story – you really should go see this – but the villains need to be talked about. Imagine if Dolores Umbridge and Gaston got together and hatched a scheme to strip away the agency of someone they both claimed to love, all the while demanding that it was for that person’s own good. Imagine them dancing on that person’s very identity and memory, trying to strip away from them choice and reason.

They’re loathsome, and played to perfection by Natalie Schreiber and Bradford Pellerin. They’re evil people convinced that they are acting in the best interests of everyone around them, which makes them all the more terrifying for how reflective they are for the worst parts of our society. They are the people who will make decisions on your behalf without consulting you, and scream about you not respecting them if you try to stand up for yourself.

And the people standing against them? They’re not heroes, not in the classical sense. Instead, we’re given people that are vulnerable, characters that are given new purpose under the skill of this pen. Standing out especially is the performance of Sasja Towe, who plays Wolf. Their performance is soulful, haunting, and touching all at once, a high energy hope built on facial expression and body language.

Stand out performances also come from Bev Rapley and Julia Fox, who play Cat in Boots and Red, respectively. Bev’s performance as Cat in Boots was so strong that several members in the audience were entertaining the idea of just watching her improv doing cat things, as there is a moment in the show where this happens and it’s easily one of the funniest moments you’ll see in the whole show. Julia’s Red is full of indignation and a desire to find herself, and her journey into self-mastery is hard fought and earned.

Lovers gotta love.

Lovers gotta love.

Kay Lozada plays a Snow White that has been traumatized, and she gets a musical number towards the end of the first act that is chilling in content and imagery, and her voice takes on an ethereal cast as she walks us through the nightmare she lived through.

The rest of the cast also pours their hearts into this performance. Notably, Chris Lovatt turns in an excellence background performance as a Peter Pan who flits through the background, while James Hussen and Shaun McHale slither through each act as Captain Hook and Scar, shadowing the Hunter and making him a much larger menace than he might otherwise be.

Eventually, of course, the villains get what’s coming to them, and this where I had a few problems – but, upon reflection, I realized the problem lay with me. The villains in this show are reprehensible and vile creatures, perversions of familial and romantic love. They’ve caused so many people so much hurt over the course of this story, and their punishment is to be arrested rather than killed.

My heart demanded vengeance. The script, thankfully, is better than I am. A civil society has laws for a reason, and the villains revealed are brought low before the law, to face justice instead of revenge. They are crass and banal creatures, and the energy that could be spent punishing them is better spent fixing the damage they’ve done. The script gets this right, and the actors sell it.

Better still, the minions that obeyed them abandon them as they fall, and end up taking them to face whatever justice awaits them. Evil does not have friends, and cannot command love or loyalty because it understands neither. This story tells that, sells that, and does it beautifully.

A Modern Fairy Tale was written by Lisa Simon, and is showing at the Metro Theatre until the 30th of August. You can pre-buy tickets by clicking here, or by calling 604-266-7191. They go for $20, and are worth every penny. The photos used in this article were taken by Haley Bouchard of Little Cat Photography.

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Carmilla the Webseries Season One Review

Culture, Reviews, Webseries, Why Aren't You Watching This?

May 26, 2015

A while back, we were lucky enough to come across the first season of Carmilla.

We were enchanted by it and decided to spread the word. We’re good like that. We got in about halfway through the first season and we became addicted, loving every frame of it. And why wouldn’t we? Clever script, excellent casting, a clever way of storytelling that focused on relationships more than action, picking and choosing what physical conflicts to show on screen and highlighting the aftermath of each.

But you know all this. You’ve seen the first season, right? If not, you can watch the whole of it right here:

The second season kicks off a week today, and you better be sure we’ll be watching it. The first season is something we frequently rewatch because there’s always something new to notice, and their online presence hosts one of the greatest cultures presently online. So buckle up, creampuffs, and let’s get into the guts of this thing and figure out why it works.

Carmilla was the original vampire novel. It was published about thirty years before Dracula and told pretty much the same story, but was largely ignored for featuring female leads, a strong lesbian text, and being published in the Victorian Era. Thankfully, we’ve come aways since then, and the book has found a modern cult following. You can download a free copy of it here.

The modern retelling takes place in the modern era at a placed called Silas University that sounds like a place I’d like to attend. Between the Alchemy Club, the Summer Society, and the Library, this sounds like the greatest school this side of Miskatonic U. The entirety of the first season takes place in the dorm of the main character, Laura, where we see the planning and aftermath of most major events, and a handful of those events as they play out.

It’s a clever storytelling device that allows them to highlight the emotional impact of every conflict, and becomes a part of how the story unfolds. There’s a cleverness to this script that is matched only by the cruelty of the forces of play, and it becomes a gutwrenching experience as every single character has their conflict, their change and growth.

No one on this show is static. Everyone evolves. Everything falls apart. It’s one of the things that makes the show so rewatchable, going back and just following a single character go through their particular journey. From the horrible trauma of the title character to the weighty heroism of the lead, from the slow acceptance of reality of Perry to the heartbreaking courage of LaFontaine. Each character is perfectly cast and given moments to which to shine.

Thematically, the show is just as strong. Different characters explore different concepts, from loyalty and betrayal to unrequited love and the thin veneer of normalcy we use to keep our sanity intact in a largely chaotic universe. It builds to a satisfying non-ending that ties into that same chaos, all while walking a fine line between horror and comedy.

And, again, that line is possible largely because of the stellar cast. Everybody nails their parts, and it’s worth going back and watching each character go through this strange tale. There’s subtlety and nuance in each performance, layers that stand up to multiple rewatchings. It’s one of those rare shows that you really can pick apart and gets better with each subsequent viewing – something that their fanbase will be happy to talk to you about. At length.

Carmilla has one of the most fanatical online followings of the modern era. They’ve cultivated this fanbase, making them as much a part of the experience of watching the show by engaging them on every possible level. The fanbase has responded to this ongoing conversation by investing more of their time into the culture surrounding the show, and it has become an evolving culture that explores every aspect of theme and character. It’s one of the most fascinating things to be a part of, and it’s impressive as hell considering that it’s been around for less than a year.

The fanbase has produced parodies, fanfic, art, university posters, inside jokes, and the makers of Carmilla have fed the fire with role reversals featuring the leads and interviews that go into the depth and making of the show itself. The official twitters of the characters and actors are an absolute joy and have continued the special brand of madness that Carmilla offers in the off-season.

Go ahead. Watch this show. Join the rest of us creampuffs in counting down the days til the second season. In Queen Elsie we trust.

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Bad Blood as Cultural Zeitgeist

Heroes of the Living Myth, Opinion, Reviews, Why Aren't You Watching This?

May 25, 2015

Watching anything after Mad Max – Fury Road makes that thing seem, well, muted. Everything feels quieter, less colorful. Or, it did. At about the same time Mad Max was unleashed, this came out:

As of this writing, Taylor Swift’s Bad Blood has been released for eight days and has 70, 853, 170 views. Taylor Swift has broken every record the internet has when it comes to music videos, and really videos in general. This is a milestone, a complete slap in the face to old school producers of media. And it has similarities to Mad Max, in that it features female action stars taking center stage and becoming dominant characters in and of themselves.

This music video is an action movie writ large, the sort of revenge story that was popularized in the eighties and nineties. One secret agent betrayed by another, awoken into a world changed by that betrayal, collecting allies and skills to go and confront the person that betrayed her. It’s a story we’ve seen again and again in male-led movies and television shows and books and comics, but to see it done here, and done so well? Why isn’t there more of this?

Well, the reason is simple. For decades the train of thought on this sort of storytelling has been that it doesn’t work.

The recent leaks from Disney and Marvel about why we’re not getting a Black Widow movie, and a drought of Black Widow merchandise, is the latest in a long line of proofs of a tainted belief among the primary decision makers of media: that women aren’t interested in watching or being a part of anything that isn’t a romance, romantic-comedy, or period piece.

Common excuses cited to support this error are the failures of movies like Catwoman, Elektra, or the Next Karate Kid. These films are used as proof that female-led action movies are doomed to failure, as opposed to looking at the idea that bad movies with terrible storytelling are doomed to failure.

Elektra failed as badly as Daredevil. Catwoman failed as badly as Batman and Robin. The Next Karate Kid failed as badly as any of the dozens of half-assed qualitatively bankrupt martial arts coming-of-age stories that came out around that time and continue to come out now. They don’t fail because they have female leads; they fail because they are, objectively speaking, bad.

And yet the illusion of female-led narratives being doomed to fail persists, outside of the prescribed roles of damsel-in-distress, arm candy, or romantic lead.

This, despite the widespread success of Kill Bill, the world-wide profits of Lucy, the popular demand for a Black Widow movie, the excitement that followed the Supergirl trailer and subsequent leak. This, despite the sales-figures of female-led comics like Spider-Gwen and Thor and Batgirl. This, despite the fanaticism surrounding books like the Hunger Games. This, despite the violent beauty of anything the Soska Sisters work on.

With this video, Taylor Swift has slammed the coffin shut on an out-dated, ancient, and erroneous way of thinking.

Taylor Swift herself is a controversial figure who picks up a lot of flack because double standards and patriarchy. Her latest album, 1989, makes it clear that she’s had enough. From Blank Space‘s  deconstruction of public perception to Out of the Woods‘ quiet reflective philosophy, the entire album feels like a diatribe from a person who has claimed her identity and her power and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. She knows who she is.

And Bad Blood?

It’s intoxicating. In four minutes we’re given a host of characters and the world they inhabit, we’re given enough nuance that we want to see more of that world, and a large enough conflict that we want to see how it ends. There’s a reason that people are watching this video again and again and again, and with any luck some of decision makers will develop the skill of basic pattern recognition and start giving us the stories that we want, the stories that the current shift in zeitgeist is demanding.

Failing that, we’re going to have to make those stories ourselves… and if this is what we have to look forward to, well, we’re off to a good start.

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