Feat of Clay

Tennis is a solitary sport when you’re playing it. Watching it however, is a different story – whether you’re in the stadium or on your couch, there’s a feeling of camaraderie, of union when you see a packed stadium. Seeing players running around on Philippe Chatrier, a court made five times larger by the absence of people, throws a body slightly off-kilter. It’s weird. It’s lonely. There is no wall of sound. The communal gasps and cries of excitement and groans of exasperation are gone, replaced by the silent nods and occasional clapping of physios and coaches – the only ones allowed to watch – and masked ballboys and ballgirls, linesmen and the referee. It’s weird, and it’s sad, and it’s all my fault.

I jinxed Paris, because I broke my own rules.

I try never to tell anyone about my plans. At most I will be vague about it, because I believe aspirations can be ill-wished by a malevolent wind. You don’t have to tell me how batty that sounds, Le Hubs says it often enough. Still, I’m weirdly superstitious about some things, so I play my cards close to my chest, and only let on what I’m about when it’s all a fait accompli.

But early this year, I told Paulie I was going to France.

The words “I’ll be in Paris in May!” flew out of my wayward mouth. I couldn’t help myself, I was too excited. The airfare had been booked and paid for, Le Hubs had been suitably convinced it was a good idea to tag along with a tennis-mad, Rafael Nadal fangirl of a wife, and this was to be the year I would finally get to stalk see the Raging Bull on the terre battue of Roland Garros. Getting to meet with Paulie, who lives a stone’s throw away from Paris (Switzerland, but what’s one train ride) after a decade would’ve been the cherry on top.

So I blabbed about it. And the universe heard me.

The universe heard, the gates of hell opened, and in clopped the first donkey of the apocalypse, braying for all it was worth. Hello, Covid-19! I am an idiot.

And that was how I ended up in a Bobcaygeon river bunkie, watching the 2020 French Open on TSN.

I powered through all the RuPaul’s Drag Race episodes I missed, including All Stars, and… yeah

I powered through all the RuPaul’s Drag Race episodes I missed, including All Stars, and… yeah

If July was all about Amazon Prime trapping me in the sticky web of Lost’s whodunit and whydunit and howdunit plots, I’m in danger of being trapped again, this time in the morass of RuPaul’s Drag Race now that Crave has all the episodes. ALL. THE. EPISODES. That’s eleven regular seasons, plus four seasons of All Stars, which is a lot of screentime, especially if you want to stay relevant. If you stay relevant you don’t got to get relevant, and it’s nice to be on the pulse, although at this point being relevant doesn’t seem to hold as much attraction as it used to, given the speed at which our world spins, powered by a 24/7 news cycle that never seems to leave any room for respite.

Still, RuPaul’s Drag Race has always been enter-taint-ing for me, even in the days before it became the juggernaut it is today. So Crave getting all the episodes is a good return on investment, methinks. Luckily for me, I’d seen a good chunk of RPDR already back when Netflix and I were still on good terms. But Netflix didn’t have Season 1 of RPDR, or all the All Star episodes, so this has been a good chance for me to catch up on everything that I’ve missed, to the detriment of everything else, but hey. Choices!

Two weeks later …

I finally got through everything I’d missed, and I don’t think I missed very much, if at all. All Stars 3 went out with a whimper, All Stars 4 tried to please everyone, and Seasons 10-11 made me realize that the drag queens being featured were younger and a helluva lot less well-read than the relatively brainier ones that went before. I mean this is a show that gave us the rapier sharp wit of Bianca del Rio and her Rolodex of hate (“Beauty fades, dumb is forever!”) and the less pointed, but no less entertaining mind of Katya Zamolodchikova (“Adore Delano, giving you smell-my-punani, Poetic Justice realness.”), my top two all-time favourite queens.

Let the record show that for me the flame sputtered when they gave too much airtime to Eureka, a queen who spent a lot of her time being jealous and insecure and being unable to own up to her own bullshit in Season 10. It officially flickered out and died in Season 11, when Silky Nutmeg Ganache couldn’t read or recognize the word “colonel” on the teleprompter in a mini-challenge,  a queen who spent her time hogging the camera, bragging about her a masters degree.  It just got dumber. It’s also too calculating, overproduced and a lot faker interaction-wise,  than it used to be.

All the op-eds about how it’s become more work than fun to watch RPDR have merit (and you can read them here, here and here.)  I don’t know if I can even summon the energy for Drag Race UK. The bestie says he’ll still watch it, so I guess I’ll have the experience by osmosis.

So, do I feel like I wasted all that time? Maybe a little. But again, hey. Choices. 

A Descent Into Madness, or The Time Prime Video Sucked Me In and Spat Me Out

A Descent Into Madness, or The Time Prime Video Sucked Me In and Spat Me Out

I’ve spent most of July in a fugue and I blame Amazon Prime Video for all of it.

It started out innocuously. I had seen the first episode of the first season of Fleabag and laughed myself sick on the couch, despite not actually being able to hear any of it. I do this sometimes, just lie on the couch following the captions on the screen, mentally giving the characters their voices. When something is especially funny, no sound is needed to appreciate it. And that was Fleabag.

I’d thought nothing of it. It was a random, fly by night quickie, meant to while away half an hour cheating on my Roku by figuring out how our new Android media box works. It doesn’t, by the way. Not really. It’s a shitty, earnest, horribly un-intuitive attempt to support piracy. Everything moves like molasses, there are pop-up ads galore, and I quite simply do not speak its language and probably never will. It’s probably the wrong media box for me or anyone, but I digress.

Late June was where the confluence of events came to a head. The bestie brought up Fleabag again. He couldn’t quite stop quoting from the show and so, simultaneously inundated with Twitter ads for Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens, I decided to hit two birds with one stone. I bit the bullet, and got Amazon Prime for a month.

Alice followed the white rabbit and started falling down a tunnel into Wonderland. My descent was closer in spirit to Wile-E Coyote, walking off a cliff and free-falling into a canyon, except it felt like I was never going hit the bottom.

wile-e bye

I blazed through the entirety of Fleabag in the course of a weekend. It’s a great show, with outstanding levels of exquisitely placed shade, the humour as black as the grounds left in the office coffeemaker at the end of the day. It deserves all of its eleven Emmy nominations and I would recommend it to anyone casting about for something to watch. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is an insanely talented writer and she’s so good I could almost hate her for it. But I can’t, because I love her work in (and as) Fleabag so much.

And then it was on to Good Omens. What is in the water these Brits drink? How do they come up with these fantastical flights of fancy? I’ve been a longtime Gaiman fan, and as a TV show, Good Omens is the yang to the yin of American Gods. It’s light, it’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s uplifting and it’s witty beyond measure. I hadn’t yet gotten around to reading Good Omens and didn’t know if I was going to like the show, but I was a goner the minute they introduced Sister Mary Loquacious of The Chattering Order of St. Beryl. Sister. Mary. Loquacious. Terry Pratchett has gone on to the great beyond, but Neil Gaiman still breathes and is a national treasure who must be protected at all costs.

That was supposed to have been it. I was supposed to have gone on with my life, maybe having blithely ordered a few things to take advantage of the free two-day shipping all Amazon Prime members get. But no. Oh no. No, no, no. I started to watch Lost. I had survived the mid to late aughts having never seen Lost, and  now my luck had finally run out.

The free-fall continued.

loki

Lost has six seasons. The first three seasons have at least twenty episodes apiece, each clocking in at almost an hour. The last three seasons vary in length from fourteen to eighteen episodes, and the devil of it all is that it is very, very, very hard to stop watching Lost. It is the kind of show that raises more questions than it answers and never really resolves anything. Like a charismatic cult leader, it is maddeningly opaque at times, colourfully inventive in others and always, always, keeps the viewer wanting more.

I wasn’t immune, gamely going along for the ride, feeling the days and weeks slip past alternating between work and Lost and work and Lost and work and Lost until it finally, blessedly, confusingly, ended.  The famous finale, the one that the conclusion of Game of Thrones is most frequently compared to, that divides the fandom to this day. That ending. And all I could think was, it’s over. It was finally over. I had nothing more to give, no energy left to come up with a coherent reaction to the Lost finale, because I was just so glad to have finally hit the canyon floor.

No, no one held a gun to my head and made me do it. Yes, I really only have myself to blame. But oh, the feeling of freedom, the satisfaction I felt terminating my month-long Amazon Prime subscription. I’ve come out on the other side. I don’t want to put myself through that again.

This is Really is It, Pancit

This is Really is It, Pancit

Now that Game of Thrones has finally ended, I truly imagined I’d find myself rocking back and forth in a corner, clutching a battered copy of Entertainment Weekly’s GoT special edition with Peter Dinklage on it.  I came out of it pretty good, everything considered.

I’d meant to recap each episode as it came but, like a resolution made every new year, that died early. The show’s gotten a bit of flak this particular season, but it’s had great moments too. I imagine it’s rather hard to live up to a level of expectation that is ridiculously high, especially when you’re really working with fan fiction and not actual source material, so to all the entitled, ridiculously overacting fans who demand a rewrite, sit down and wait for the rest of the books, no one owes you anything.

In lieu of no recaps, here are a few spit-takes from the final episode, “The Iron Throne.” It goes without saying that some spoilers may apply, so do not read on if you haven’t seen it yet.

Or do, if you don’t care about spoilers. C’est la vie!

 

Continue reading “This is Really is It, Pancit”

Fin

Fin

May has been a month for goodbyes. The final chapters of stories I – along with a good chunk of the rest of the world – followed over the past decades (The Avengers, The Big Bang Theory, Game of Thrones) have finally been unveiled. I know it’s ridiculous to feel sad about bidding farewell to characters who don’t really exist in real life, but they were real to me, and it was nice to have that sense of community, of belonging because other people felt the same way I did.

It feels a bit empty too, wondering what the next big show would be. In the past, we’ve seen great shows come to an end – and attempt second lives by way of disastrous movies – but there was always something. Something else. Some other TV show that was different, but just as good if not better. The last time I remember feeling even the slightest bit bereft was when Breaking Bad ended. But Game of Thrones was there to catch me, and what a long rebound relationship that turned out to be.

I suppose it was a bit like being a serial monogamist. Always having one boyfriend waiting in the wings once the current one plays out with barely any change in rhythm, but this one… well, this one feels different. I felt the same way about Avengers: Endgame. It was immensely satisfying to see it all play out, but I walked out that theatre with the feeling that I was personally ready to move on. The MCU and Marvel Studios is obviously going to keep on keeping on,  and I’m quite sure they will always have an audience for the stories they have yet to tell, but my part in their tale might just be more of a recurring guest star than an episode regular.

I can’t say the same about HBO, a powerhouse which frankly dominates the landscape of TV with good reason, but I do wonder if I will ever be as invested in a TV show as I was with Game of Thrones again. Perhaps I might. I enjoy good TV, and there’s a lot of good shows out there. But I don’t see myself going full on stan the way I did with Game of Thrones.

There’s a lot of corny platitudes that could be used here, and I suppose anything really would be cheesy and completely tacky to say, but there’s still truth to be found in the cheesiest of sayings.

“How lucky [we] are to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
– A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

 

Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 7 Recap: The Pack Survives (Part 2)

Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 7 Recap: The Pack Survives (Part 2)

Need to refresh your Dornish wine? Check out the Episode 7, Part 1 recap here.

I never got around to writing a recap for the final episode, if only because S07E06’s Beyond the Wall was such an insane thrill ride, I ran out of gas. If they’d ended the season there, it would’ve worked just as well, which makes S07E07’s The Dragon and the Wolf a bit anti-climactic. With a runtime of 1:20 it’s frankly bloated. The fun stuff begins in the second half, so that tiny spoiler aside, let’s jump in feet first, shall we?

Continue reading “Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 7 Recap: The Pack Survives (Part 2)”

Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 7 Recap: It’s Just About Living (Part 1)

Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 7 Recap: It’s Just About Living (Part 1)

Need to refresh your Dornish wine? Check out the Episode 6 recap here.

I haven’t written a Game of Thrones episode recap since late 2017! It’s been a while. Unlike the previous seven seasons, my plan is to watch Season 8 along with everyone else, week by week and come up with episode recaps for each.

I was going to reblog the recaps I wrote of Season 7 when I realized I never got around to writing one for the final episode, if only because the penultimate episode, Beyond the Wall, was such an insane thrill ride, I ran out of gas. If they’d ended the season there, it would’ve worked just as well, which makes The Dragon and the Wolf, the season finale, a bit anti-climactic.

With a runtime of 1:20, it’s frankly bloated and is bit of a drag in the first half, which is why I’ve split this recap into two parts. That tiny spoiler aside, there’s a lot more to come in this post, so without further ado, let’s jump in feet first, shall we?

Continue reading “Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 7 Recap: It’s Just About Living (Part 1)”

Waiting

Waiting

I know, I know.

I said I was leaving Netflix.

I have a confession to make.

I haven’t.

Yet.

I feel like one of those female friends we all have who keep complaining about their boyfriends and yet never get up the guts to truly leave. Netflix is like the bad boyfriend you can’t seem to shake, the one who’s given you every reason to leave and yet you can’t seem to keep giving chances to. I kind of hate myself for it, because I’m still seeing Crave on the side. Actually, I’m seeing Crave on the regular, and sorta/kinda neglecting Netflix, while paying for both, which is kind of a dumb scenario to willfully be in.

Still, there’s been nothing from them addressed to me personally about hiking my subscription up, so I’m going to hedge my bets. I read that they’ll hike the prices on the ninth of February, but am waiting for an official e-mail. So no, I haven’t pulled the plug. I’ll pull it when it’s official.

Update: There. I did it. It feels like the end of an era… and the start of another one!

Netflix, I’m leaving you

Netflix, I’m leaving you

Dear Netflix,

You were the one.

You were the scrappy upstart, the daring pioneer, the one who put established movies, TV shows and  unique content together, showing me that life without cable didn’t have to be all about streaming movies and shows off of dicey websites and downloading files under threat of jail and insidious malware.

You were the one. I went legit for you.

Oh, you delivered. Some of my happiest times were spent on the couch with you and take-out food. We were good together, you and I. We were happy in each other’s company. You were a part of me, knowing what I wanted before I did, keeping a list for me. You never forgot anything and were always solicitous, suggesting things I might want to see based on something I’d already seen before. We were perfect. We were beautiful.

Netflix, I’m leaving you.

It’s the bajillion movies and TV shows you’ve come up with in the past two years, 90% of which are kind of … garbage.

It’s all the comedy specials I don’t think I’ll ever find the time to see.

It’s the suggestions that make no sense.

It’s the enthusiasm for auto-play, which I didn’t mind at first, but slowly began to resent.

It’s my dwindling attention span.

It’s not you, it’s me.

It’s inflation.

It’s the unjustifiable price increase.

Netflix, you put She-ra in shorts. Shorts.

It’s not me, it’s you.

It’s both of us.

Netflix, I’m leaving you. I’m leaving you for Crave. Crave has HBO, and movies I want to see. Movies I want to see right now, anyway.

Thanks for the memories, Netflix. Le Hubs thanks you for the complete seasons of X-files (before you pulled it) and the complete seasons of The Office. I thank you for the complete seasons of House, M.D. (that I never got around to watching again, damnit), the first three seasons of Orange is the New Black, the awesomeness that used to be House of Cards, the first season of Daredevil, the gloriousness that is The Crown,  and finally, for introducing Jo Koy to the world.

In closing, we both thank you for Black Mirror and Stranger Things. It’s been fun, and a helluva lot of bandwidth. I have no regrets.

All the best,

Me

Gratuitous and Meaningless

Gratuitous and Meaningless

I watched Outlaw King for Chris Pine’s peen.

There, I said it.

I’m sorry, but if a big part of the buzz surrounding your movie is that its lead actor drops trou and goes full frontal, that’s going to be the main reason people will flock to see it, especially the ones who otherwise wouldn’t care about a band of scrappy outlaws fighting to regain control of their own country. Like me. To be fair, I’m not the biggest fan of war movies. There’s only so much men, muck and dying that an easily bored consumer like me, up to my ears in possible content to watch, can stomach.

So yes, I spent most of the two hours and one minute runtime waiting for my reward. I don’t know what it is about movie star peen, but an episode of Bojack Horseman does come to mind. In its latest season, Bojack plays a noirish PI a la True Detective McConaughey, who, through a series of machinations gone awry, somehow ends up doing a scene where he is required to be stark naked as he changes a light bulb. It’s supposed to represent an honest look at the character, flaws and all but instead is obviously gratuitous and meaningless. Which is where Chris Pine’s peen comes in. Thank you for your bravery, Chris Pine, but it is gratuitous and meaningless. Not that I don’t appreciate it, or the guts it took to let it all hang out.

And yet. And yet. When the benchmark for a medieval Scottish highland fling such as this is Braveheart, the seminal Mel Gibson-helmed movie that masterfully combines romance, catchphrases, fantasy, shady backroom deals and noble men with stout hearts riding forth for glory and honour, expectations are going to be high. It’s got to be more than a Chris Pine peen (Chris Peen?) movie. It’s got to encapsulate the wonder, the magic, the determination of early Scotsmen and one man’s drive to unite the warring clans of Scotland.

What we get are bad haircuts, duels staged for unknown reasons – just as gratuitous and meaningless as random peen – and (for me, anyway) a distracting cast. As a hardcore Thronie, the sight of Stannis Baratheon, Jeor Mormont and Brynden Blackfish Tully in medieval Scottish drag is jarring. I know, I know, actors are more than the parts they play, but HBO succeeded in pushing these actors to inhabit their parts so well, it’s difficult for me to separate them from the characters they have played in Game of Thrones. Pine, Taylor-Johnson and Pugh do give powerhouse performances and it’s hard to look away when they are on screen.

While Netflix’s Outlaw King has manliness and nobles riding out for glory, it is sadly short on the romance and the backroom deals aren’t so much shady as they are desperate. It’s unfair to expect real life events to always be glamorous and fantastical, but too many things go unexplained. Why are there so many pointless duels? Why do all the old kings dying take place so suddenly and with barely any lead up? Why aren’t the Scots sufficiently shocked when their future king kills his rival in a church? Why does the hair on Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s beard not match his hair? Why are all the wigs so bad? What does it mean to raise the dragon and why does that sound like a euphemism for getting a boner?

Netflix gets a few things right – the quartered body of William Wallace nailed to a post in the town square, for one. It’s such an effective prop, it makes you believe the sight of it is enough to raise the ire of the Scots and incite riots. I had heard of the phrase “hanged, drawn and quartered,” but I’ve never really seen a fourth of someone’s body on display and I thought I had plumbed the depths of gore with The Walking Dead. There is also a scene that involves the swift punishment of Robert the Bruce’s younger brother c/o a sadistic Prince of Wales, which turns the stomach. Unlike Braveheart, which focused on Mel Gibson’s facial expressions and let the viewer’s imagination do the heavy lifting, this particular scene, scored by the wails of frightened women and children, is a searing punch to the gut. Lastly, the Battle of Bannockburn is claustrophobic, messy, chaotic and amazingly shot, giving the Battle of the Bastards a run for its cinematic money.

Still the story of Robert the Bruce and his fight to regain Scotland is too complicated by far for a two-hour movie. While the cast is able and the premise honourable, ultimately it falls far short of the standards set for movie epics. Too many questionable decisions and not enough concrete answers, and events that obviously took years and could’ve lent a lot more gravitas to the piece are skimmed over or compressed into minute sound bites. The performances are good, and the backdrop of Scotland is beautiful, but a movie is not based solely on crazed performances and an exotic locale, no matter how convincing the madness of the Black Douglas is. Neither can it be carried on the strength of one man’s peen, unless the peen belongs to Ron Jeremy, but that is another story.