selenak: (Call the Midwife by Meganbmoore)
The things you learn: seems Samantha Bee of tv comedy fame is a Call The Midwife fan. A woman of taste, which is not new.:) As the unspeakable creature in the White House brings us closer to WWWIII by the tweet and finds condemming Nazis as Nazis too much of an effort, I can see why watching CdM is a good way to maintain sanity.

(Sidenote: I usually avoid calling present day people Nazis because the term is flung around far too often and sometimes in bizarre contexts - see: "grammar nazi" - but if they scream about blood and soil, give the fascist salute and throw the occasional Sieg Heil in, there's absolutely no reason to call them anything else. No more of this "Alt-Right" nonsense.)

But to return to "Call the Midwife", here's a lovely new story, a terrific portrait of Shelagh/Sister Bernadette that follows her through her life to that most crucial of years to her, 1958: life, and breath, and all things.

And here's a Black Sails rec:

The Fields of Elysium: the story of Thomas Hamilton after the 2.05 flashbacks until and including something spoilery )
selenak: (Tourists by Kathyh)
In the last three days, British historian Mary Beard has been relentlessly attacked on and off twitter for pointing out that the Roman Empire wasn't populated exclusively by white people; this particular round of racism, misogyny and general vileness was started by, of all things, a five minutes BBC cartoon for children featuring some poc Romans. It would be ridiculous if it weren't so outrageous and depressingly a symptom for our present, especially considering current Trump Administration employee and long time racist nutter Alex Jones has also commented. Detailed articles on the subject here and here.

(Incidentally, if I weren't there already, such events would completely sway me to the "representation matters" side when it comes to tv and movie casting.)
selenak: (Black Sails by Violateraindrop)
Black Sails:


Echoes: it's that rarity, a post-Treasure Island fanfic not in denial of same which has Silver reflecting on his past, specifically the relationship with Madi. Also Flint, but here the focus is on Madi. And it takes what happens in the s4 finale fully into account.

Book of Days: Miranda (and James) after London and in the years before the show starts. Beautiful and painful.

Class:

....a question for everyone who has watched this little gem of a spin-off and the most recent season of Doctor Who: at which point of the Doctor's timeline do you think he met Charlie & Quill and brought them to Earth? We know that there were only three months between that and the Class pilot, and that Clara (as well as Danny) are listed as the most recent names on the Coal Hill board in the pilot, so it must most likely have been post-Clara for the Doctor, and I'm guessing pre-Bill, but was it before or after the events of Extremis flashback that reveals his s10 arrangement with a certain someone in the vault? At the time Class was broadcast, [personal profile] londonkds speculated he might have been projecting his best enemy on to Miss Quill (though they're actually quite different, other than love of sarcasm, if you look at motivation and goals), and it occurs to me the s10 revelation makes that even more likely, but it could have worked both ways - he could have had his Rhodian & Quill encounter before the flashback events, in which case it would have been part of the build up to the decision he makes there, or after, in which case the decision could have been part of the projecting and ignoring that the Quill and Charlie situation really isn't alike.

Okay, on to the fanfiction:

wear me like a locket 'round your throat: Charlie and Quill before, during and after the season finale.

Two stories using the fact that Clara Oswald taught at Coal Hill:

To to learn to be brave: in this one, she's April's favourite teacher and inspiration, but April also observes her downward spiral.

Per Aspera Ad Astra: in which Clara makes a nostalgic incognito visit to Coal Hill post DW season 9 and promptly runs into the not at all nostalgically minded Quill.
selenak: (Uthred and Alfred)
More Last Kingdom thoughts, and a new icon which I made myself since I couldn't find one, apropos some rewatching after reading the early books and discussions with [personal profile] peasant:

Cut for spoilers )
selenak: (Allison by Spankulert)
Last but one episode, and more board clearing.

Spoilery talk )
selenak: (Missy by Yamiinsane123)
A fantastic look at Missy through the decades in the Vault:

Still Time to Change the Road You're on (2513 words) by AstroGirl
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Doctor Who
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Twelve & MIssy
Characters: Twelfth Doctor, Missy (Doctor Who)
Additional Tags: Missing Scenes, reforming villain, The Vault (Doctor Who)
Summary:

Missy may or may not be changing. She doesn't understand any of it, herself.

selenak: (Brian 1963 by Naraht)
This tv movie was shown on BBC2 as part of the BBC's "Queer Britannia" season, to honor the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Sexual Offenses Act (which ended sex between two consenting male adults being regarded as a crime). Directed by Fergus O'Brien, it's a docudrama, with the fictionalized scenes based on the book of the same title by Peter Wildeblood, the only openly gay man to testify before the Wolfenden Comittee in 1955. (The Wolfenden Report was key to the eventual Sexual Offenses Act.) In between Wildeblood's story - he's played by Daniel Mays, whom I've previously seen mostly in villain roles (for example in "Ashes to Ashes", and who is great in this utterly different role), we get interviews with men in their late 60s up men in their 90s who describe what it had been like for them to grow up and live with both the law, society and your own social conditioning being against you. Both drama and interviews are incredibly moving, and compliment each other, especially since the film refuses to give Wildeblood an ahistorical "victory" moment where, say, he's reunited with his boyfriend, or one of his tormentors apologizes. Instead, the victory is in the lives of these men who've all been through hell but lived to see another age, still not ideal, but one where they can be with the partners of their choices.

Spoilers feel like a Mary Renault character ended up in a Ken Burns docu )

In conclusion: excellent film, watch it if you can.
selenak: (Missy by Yamiinsane123)
Ever since [personal profile] trobadora talked about the idea of a Missy Remix, I've been enthralled by it. And now it really happens:

Missy This Fic - the Gomez!Master remix

Meanwhile, in the real world which is currently both darker and far more absurd than Doctor Who ever gets:



This summary of recent events by Alexandra Petri also isn't half bad.
selenak: (Rachel by Naginis)
In which there is a lot of board clearing. Hmph.

Read more... )
selenak: (Sternennacht - Lefaym)
You know, in recent weeks there was a lot of talk, usually in the context of how ill advised the “Game of Thrones” makers idea of a show called “Confederate”, an AU in which an undefeated South with slavery intact continues to the present, was, about how sick people were of “what if the Nazis won?” or “what of the Confederacy won?” Aus. And I’m so with you; I was already sick of “what if the Nazis won?” dystopias several decades ago.

However. The combination of the recent (July 20th) anniversary of the 1944 assassination attempt on Hitler and me reading Kerr’s Bernie Gunther series made me wonder if anyone ever attempted a scenario in which one of the various attempts on Hitler’s life (from Georg Elser’s 1939 one onwards) succeeded. Historical attempts, that is, not fictional ones (looking at you, Quentin Tarantino). Probably not, because anything I can come up with would neither be a happy ending nor the awfulness that unfolded in reality, but…complicated. Not good for “good versus evil” role playing, which, let’s face it, is the main attraction for any WWII scenario, historical or AU, for the majority of people.

For starters, one common factor (which is also why I’m such a hard sell on “what if the Nazis won?” scenarios): there was so much infighting and hatred between Hitler’s flunkies that I can’t imagine the system holding up. The Third Reich wasn’t North Korea where you can replace one Dear Beloved Leader with another. Not least because while many of the upper level Nazis had great power in varying degrees, they weren’t personally popular, and more often than not were indeed disliked by the population at large. (“Wenn das der Führer wüßte”, i.e. “if only the Leader knew” was a catchphrase based on the naïve belief that all negative apparations of the NS regime were due to everyone else.) You couldn’t have just transferred the leader cult from a dead Hitler to whoever emerged victorious in the inevitable succession blood bath. The most likely candidate to unite both an already existing power base and popular appeal – indeed the only one among the top level Nazis with popular appeal – would have been Göring, who could trade both on his WWI veteran (and pilot – aviators were always popular) reputation and his chummy, genial manner. But by the late 30s and through the 40s, Göring was addicted to morphine, and the connected daze and laziness would have had him at a disadvantage re: his rivals. (One reason why Göring surprised many people in Nuremberg with his sharpness was that the Americans had weaned him off morphine and thus he was alert and all there for the first time in years. Of course, the imminent death sentence presumably also helped with his focus.)

Another common, depressing factor: there’s no way another Dolchstoßlegende (backstabbing legend) wouldn’t have developed, i.e. the myth that Germany could have won the war, if not for those traitors, etc., and this would have poisoned or at least heavily burdened whichever kind of German state would have existed next. Taking all that as a given, here are some possibilities I could come up with:

1.) The Georg Elser November 1939 assassination attempt succeeds as intended. Advantages: this would have gotten rid not only of Hitler but of many of the upper Nazi hierarchy, since they were present at the Munich Bürgerbräu where Elser had planted his bomb. Disadvantages: Elser worked alone. Which meant no one would have been ready to deal with the rest of the Nazi system. Likely result: I’m betting on a military dictatorship and/or an uneasy alliance between some top generals and some middle level Nazis. They'd have insisted on carrying out the invasion of France, ditto all of Poland, but I don’t see the generals invading Russia. They’d likely have then tried to negotiate peace with Britain and not tried to expand further. Whether or not Churchill would have gone for it in the case of a Hitler-less Germany… no idea. Would the Holocaust have proceeded further? Can’t make up my mind on that one, since it would have depended on just how many top level Nazis made it out alive, and whether or not the top military brass thought killing everyone in the already existing “work” camps would rid them of future embarrassment/retaliation, or whether they’d thought closing the camps in a non lethal manner would make it all go away.

2.) The March 1943 attempts. Advantages: this being post Stalingrad, this time parts of of the military were already involved, and thus there were some plans of what to do next. Disadvantages: these plans weren’t very thought out yet, and only Hitler would have died, which meant Goebbels, Himmler & Co. remained at large and more likely than not would have retaken control of the situation the way they did in rl in 1944. Nazi infighting wouldn’t have started until after the conspirators were dealt with. However, whichever victor emerged post Stalingrad would presumably have tried to negotiate a truce/peace with the Western Allies, because, well, Stalingrad, and the realization that you can’t win a war in Russia. Would the Holocaust have continued? Depressingly, in such a scenario my money is on a “let’s just kill everyone in the camps to ensure no survivors get nasty stories out” scenario.

3.) July 1944 attempt: aka the one with the biggest chance at actual success. Meaning that Himmler, Goebbels & Co. get arrested simultaneously with Hitler’s assassination as planned, Goerdeler becomes Chancellor and, backed by a bunch of generals as well as Canaris, starts peace negotiations. I think at this point the Allies would have insisted on unconditional surrender whether or not Hitler was still alive, and because the war situation as already very bad for Germany, Goerdeler and the generals would have agreed. There would have been a variation of the Nuremberg trials and an occupation. And no more death camps, meaning the saving of all people who died between July 44 and May 45. However, there would also, see above, a new backstabbing legend, and the July 44 conspirators would have been hated and reviled by the majority of the population which would have taken even longer to accept they’d all been part of a murder state. At best, I think Germany would have dealt with its guilt the way the Soviets did with the Stalinist purges – i.e. denial for decades save for a minority of the population, and only very late acceptance something monstrous had occurred.

Any agreements or disagreements? Alternate scenarios?
selenak: (Branagh by Dear_Prudence)
...and I don't mean the latest attempt to repeal the ACA, because that particular sparing came through hard work by people who made phonecalls, Senators Murkowski and Collins putting people before party and McCain proving he has a sense for cliffhangers and drama.

No, I just discovered that back in ye early 90s when the first three Bernie Gunther novels were published, successful and thus considered for movie versions, the two actors in consideration for the leading role were Klaus Maria Brandauer (wrong accent and wrong size, but could see him having pulled it off, acting-wise)... and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Thank the universe for small favours the world was spared that one. Nowadays, HBO has aquired the rights to the novels and Tom Hanks wants to executive produce (though again, thank you, universe, for favours, he's too old to play Bernie Gunther now except for the late 50s settings. Also, he's wrong for the part. Nothing against Tom Hanks in principle, but not in this role, at any age.

Since I believe in constructive criticism: I can see Max Riemelt (Wolfgang on Sense8) as Bernie Gunther, and since after the wrap-up movie (yay!), there will be no more Sense8, he's available. Advantages: actually German, actually from Berlin, actually the right age for Bernie Gunther in the 1930s when the series starts (and it's easier to age someone up than to age him down, especially if that actor has to play action scenes), and fluent in English which I assume (since HBO is producing) the series will be shot in. Also, he can do sardonic and increasingly self loathing.

(if it has to be an international movie star, Michael Fassbender would also do.)

(Going to actors who don't speak German and aren't at least half-German: Kenneth Branagh would be good for older Bernie, but just would not be believable anymore for a man in his 30s.)

Meanwhile, have two fanfic links in two different fandoms:

Spider-man: Homecoming:

Just a kid: Both a prequel and a fleshing out to and of canon - covers Peter from Ben's death to the movie. Great voices for all the other suspects, too.


Babylon 5:

The Book of the Dead: in which the Centauri afterlife turns out to be far different than what Londo had expected. Also features a great G'Kar, Timov and Vir!
selenak: (Watchmen by Groaty)
Reading the first Bernie Gunther novel has sent me into the rabbit hole, the marathon reading from which I now slowly emerge, having grabbed all the novels my local library had available and then buying the most recent one, Prussian Blue. By which you can conclude that these novels are addictive, despite or maybe because of their very dark setting and the way Kerr handles it. I didn’t always read them in order, but that works out better than usual in a series because Kerr writes them not always in linear order as well, and several take place in different eras simultaneously (one post WWII, one during the Third Reich), each filling out different gaps in his anti hero’s life. In fact, I’m glad I read, not by intention but coincidence of availability, “The Other Side of Silence” (No.11, probably the one most located in the 1950s, with just one flashback to the 1940s) before “The Pale Criminal” (No.2, set in 1938), because while both novels feature male gay characters, the ones in No.11 are fleshed out and for the most part sympathetic, and also not just one or two but four on page and a fifth one intensely talked about, whereas in No.2 they are solely a weak coward and a villain respectively, which for a novel set during a time when gay people ended up in prison and/or camps in Germany is a highly questionable authorial choice.

(Sidenote: not that you don’t have historical basis for writing gay villains in a story set among the Nazis. I mean, Ernst Röhm. But still.)

Reading the first novel had left me wondering how Kerr would justify Bernie Gunther’s continued survival as a (mostly) ethical P.I. in one of the most brutal dictatorships in history. Turns out, he doesn’t; Bernie gets drafted back into police service by Reinhard Heydrich in 1938, which means that when WWII starts, he along with the rest of the police gets absorbed into the SS, and while he manages to get a transfer into another unit, this doesn’t happen before being exposed to and in one case participating in mass shootings. While some of the novels feature flashbacks to the P.I. period, most therefore have Bernie as part of the institutions he abhors, which simultaneously deepens his moral compromise (and self loathing) but heightens the likelihood of his survival (while also providing the novelist with excuses for letting Bernie be present at some key points he couldn’t have been as a civilian, like the discovery of the Katyn massacre, more about that in a moment). I find this a fair authorial choice – if you’re going to produce a series of novels with a German detective set mostly in the Third Reich, keeping him entirely guilt free of the morass the nation was sunk into would have felt like cheating. I also was able to buy into the premise of various upper hierarchy Nazis – Heydrich, Goebbels, Arthur Nebe – finding Bernie so useful they would want to use him because he’s That Good at crime solving and occasionally even in a dictatorship you need to figure out who actually did the deed as opposed to finding the most convenient scapegoat. (The constant in fighting and rivalry between top Nazis also plays a role in Bernie’s survival, since a good detective is also useful for getting dirt on each other.) Another way Kerr plays fair is having Bernie constantly aware of the sheer insanity of it all – trying to track down individual criminals when the entire system around you has become criminal, and murder and thievery actually are the law.

Further ramblings below the cut )
selenak: (BambergerReiter by Ningloreth)
Having now read three of the four books the first two seasons of The Last Kingdom are based on, I find my original suspicion that Bernard Cornwell novels benefit from adaptions into other media because these take you out of the main character's head justified, though not always quite in the way I assumed. Because the novels are narrated by an older Uthred looking back, his narrating self can sometimes point out things his younger self did not yet see or realise, for example, that he wronged his first wife Mildrith, or that he underestimated Alfred early on because a chronically sick non-warrior valueing learning and feeling guilty about sex could not possibly be a strong leader in his young eyes. Otoh, older, wiser Uthred narrating still doesn't change the fact most female characters come across as more dimensional and fleshed out in the tv adaption than they do in the novels (Brida and Mildrith in the first, Hild and Aelswith in the second season - Iseult, alas, is a cliché in both versions).

The tv show cut or compressed various characters and slimmed down events, and given that they do two books per season so far, that's not surprising. But even if they took a longer time, I think some of the changes and cuts were to the narrative's benefit. For example: Cornwell has to come up with some pretty convoluted circumstances and far-stretched plots to have a teenage Uthred who is still with the Danes secretly present when Prince (not yet King) Alfred confesses about his carnal lapses to Beocca. In the book, he needs to be because he's the narrator and neither Alfred nor Beocca would have told him about this. The tv show dispenses with said circumstances and just has the scene between Alfred and Beocca, without Uthred secretly listening in, because he doesn't need to be in order for the audience to get this information about the young Alfred.

Mind you, dispensing with the first two times Uthred meets Alfred and letting their first encounter not happen until after Ragnar the Elder's death creates one important difference between book and show relationship that's worth mentioning. Book Uthred lies to Alfred (and Beocca) these first two times and point blank spies on them for the Danes, so the later "why do you keep distrusting me?" indignation rings a little hollow in this regard. Show Uthred does no such thing, so Alfred is accordingly less justified in his lingering ambiguity.

Another cut that somewhat shifts perception: the first novel has Uthred participating in a few Danish raids led by Ragnar, including one on Aelswith's hometown (though she doesn't know he took part). Now, in the show we go from Uthred the child to adult Uthred directly and adult Uthred is solely seen at Ragnar's home, with the deaths of Ragnar & Co. impending, but given adult Uthred later is shown to be already a skilled fighter, it stands to reason he practiced these skills. But I suspect the show avoided showing Uthred fighting against Saxon civilians this early on deliberately. Both show and books have Uthred loving the Danes but staying with the Saxons post Ragnar's death because various circumstances (and then Alfred's machinations) make it impossible for him to do otherwise. Only the book, though, spells out that Uthred doesn't start to feel any kind of identification/emotional connection to the Saxons until he sees them winning a battle (until then, narrator Uthred says, he hadn't thought Danes could lose, which makes sense given that throughout Uthred's childhood and adolescence, they were winning), when before he regarded them as weak and didn't want to think of himself as belonging to them. Which makes sense given Uthred is raised in a warrior culture and is a young, arrogant adolescent at the time, but again, I suspect the tv version avoids spelling this out in order not to make him off putting early on when establishing the character.

Otoh, the scenes the tv show adds in the two seasons where Uthred isn't present all serve to flesh out the characters in question more and work to their benefit, whether it's Alfred, Hild, Aelswith or Beocca. The notable exception is Guthred in s2, whose additional scenes make him look worse, not better than the novel does. Possibly, too, because in the novel Guthred is described having an easy charm that makes Book!Uthred forgive him even the truly terrible thing Guthred does to Uthred, and the actor playing Guthred on the show doesn't have that at all, and instead comes across as nothing but fearful, easily influenced and weak. (And show!Uthred while coming to terms with him doesn't forgive him.) I have to say, lack of actorly charm aside, given that Guthred does something spoilery to Uthred ), I find the tv version more realistic.

The push-pull relationship between Uthred and Alfred is there in both versions, but in the tv show, it comes across as more central. As my local library has it, I also read "Death of Kings", the novel in which, Alfred dies, not without manipulating Uthred one last time into doing what he wants him to do, and Uthred's thoughts on the man later, summing him up, are Cornwell's prose at its best:

I stood beside Alfred's coffin and thought how life slipped by, and how, for nearly all my life, Alfred had been there like a great landmark. I had not liked him. I had struggled against him, despised him and admired him. I hated his religion and its cold disapproving gaze, its malevolence that cloaked itself in pretended kindness, and its allegiance to a god who would drain the joy from the world by naming it sin, but Alfred's religion had made him a good man and a good king.
And Alfred's joyless soul had proved a rock against which the Danes had broken themselves. Time and again they had attacked, and time and again Alfred had out-thought them, and Wessex grew ever stronger and richer and all that was because of Alfred. We think of kings as privileged men who rule over us and have the freedom to make, break and flaunt the law, but Alfred was never above the law he loved to make. He saw his life as a duty to his god and to the people of Wessex and I have never seen a better king, and I doubt my sons, grandson and their children's children will ever see a better one. I never liked him, but I have never stopped admiring him. He was my king and all that I now have I owe to him. The food that I eat, the hall where I live and the swords of my men, all started with Alfred, who hated me at times, loved me at times, and was generous with me. He was a gold-giver.


Last Yuletide I added a Last Kingdom request at the last minute because I'd seen it had been nominated, and accordingly it was short, but this Yuletide I think I'll also offer, and will request in more detail and more characters. While the other historical tv shows I consumed during the last year were entertaining in various degrees, this was the only one which was also good.
selenak: (Rachel by Naginis)
In which there's pay off for severa storylines, hooray! And flashbacks.

Who are you? )
selenak: (Default)
For once, I manage to write my book reviews on a Wednesday.

Sam Bourne: To Kill the President

It was to be expected: the first Donald Trump era thriller (that I've read). Which takes full advantage of the fact that when previously any critic worth their salt would have complained about the one dimensional characterisation of the villains and the lack of realism in the US voting someone like that into power and then the Republican Party falling in line, followed by no checks and balances from any institution after even the Supreme Court caves due to the stolen seat being filled by the new President's choice, now all this looks like, well, realism.

Spoilers from an age where reality beggars caricature )


Philip Kerr: March Violets.

This is the first novel of a mystery series which I heard/read about via The New Yorker. The article in question was enthusiastic enought to overcome my instinctive squick at the premise, to wit: hard-boiled/noir detective novel set in the Third Reich. Basically, what if Philip Marlowe was German? Wandering those mean streets as a cynic with an ethical core takes a whole new meaning if the authories aren't just corrupt but a dictatorship preparing for war and genocide. Our hero is Bernie Gunther, former policeman who quit the force in 1933 for the obvious reason given that the novel positions he has ethics, and became a private investigator instead. Kerr serves up all the usual hard boiled/ noir tropes - untrustworthy millionaire clients, corrupt cops, shady dames -, complete with Chandleresque language, and he did his research - the novel's setting is Berlin in 1936, around the Olympic Games, and in addition to the well drawn Berlin geography, there are some great nods to Fritz Lang's movie M via some of the supporting cast, gangsters (given that Bernie Gunther originally gets hired to recover some diamonds, though of course it turns out it's far more complicated and what everyone is after is something else altogether. The brief appearances by historic figures (Göring and Heydrich, to be precise) are drawn credibly, which is to say their vileness comes across without Kerr employing sledge-hammery moustache twirling; in fact, he uses Göring's bonhommie manners to make him chilling.

As opposed to To Kill a President, this actually is a good novel. But. I still struggle somewhat with the basic premise. This is the first novel of what according ot the New Yorker article I'd read are twelve so far, and already I'm having to suspend disbelief about Bernie's continued survival. There's no reason why Heydrich at the end of this first novel shouldn't have gotten him killed, for example. And since we're in 1936, Bernie would still have the possibility to leave the country, and given what happens to him in this novel, it's hard to wonder why he doesn't, given he has no dependants who'd suffer for it. Yes, the decision to emigrate wasn't as easy as hindsight would have it if you weren't rich and didn't have friends abroad, but again, some truly harrowing things happen to Bernie in this novel which would serve as an incentive to get the hell out of Germany if ever there was one beyond the general situation of the country.

With this caveat, I'll keep reading.
selenak: (Henry Hellrung by Imaginary Alice)
Okay, that's it. As Civil War made me suspect, Tom Holland is my platonic ideal of Peter Parker, at least in his teenage phase. Also, while I had liked the first Raimi/Maguire movie and parts of the rest while increasingly disliking other parts of those films, and liked the first Garfield without thinking it needed to exist while extremly disliking the second one, this latest cinematic go at Spidey was a complete delight to me and I love it.

Ramblings beneath the cut )
selenak: (Missy by Yamiinsane123)
Spoilery Doctor Who talk about the big casting spoiler. )

On to Orphan Black. Which was a good spy hijinks hour that moved the plot forward.

Read more... )
selenak: (Max by Misbegotten)
Since the other Borgias left me in the mood for over the top historical melodrama, and since it was available, I marathoned the second season of Versailles. (My first season review is here.) Aka, the show with the general accuracy of The Tudors (which is to say more than than the all around anachronistic crack like Reign, but generally not that much, though the occasional clever use of historical fact actually happens), produced by Canal just as Borgia, with the main selling point to internet fandom that there’s canon m/m prominently featured, courtesy of Louis XIV.’s brother Philippe d’Orleans, aka Monsieur, played by the increasingly gorgeous Alexander Vlahos. The second season tackles the affair of the poisons, one of the most notorious events in the reign of Louis XIV., but just as it did in the first season with just about any historic event fictionalizes the hell out of it, including, mystifyingly, changing the name of the main supplier of the poisons in question. Instead of La Voisin (first name Catherine), we have “Madame Agathe”. (Otoh the black mass celebrating renegade priest gets to stay Father Etienne Guibourg, which means the first time he is introduced in a seemingly benign undercover identity, the more historically versed parts of the audience know who he is and what he’s infamous for.) In terms of historical characters, we also get introduced to the delightful Liselotte von der Pfalz, the Princess Palatinate, and may I say that I was hugely relieved the Versailles version is great, because the original is one of my favourite figures of the era, due to all those vivid letters she penned for the folks back home, and as Versailles’ first season unfortunately reduced Monsieur’s first wife Henriette to a very passive, agenda-less character, which the original definitely was not, I was a bit afraid something similar might happen to Liselotte, the second Madame. But no. She’s blunt, no-nonsense, determined to make the best of a bad situation, as all versions of Liselotte should be. (Mind you, this show still obeys the Hollywood rule of plain and beauty, so when Monsieur’s lover, the Chevalier de Lorraine, ridicules Liselotte’s fashion and looks, it’s not clear what he’s on about since the actress is pretty – whereas historical Liselotte cheerfully admitted to her plainness in youth and weathered stoutness in age, comparing her looks as a middleaged woman to a roasted pig – and so is her wardrobe.)

On to more spoilery musings beneath the cut. )
selenak: (The Americans by Tinny)
Emmmy nominations: as a fan of The Americans, I'm pleased that Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys and Alison Wright were all three recognized at last. Will root for them accordingly, which is all the easier since frustratingly, Bates Motel' final year went without an Emmy nomination again. Freddy Highmore has been fantastic throughout, and especially in this last installment where the show had to at last enter the same narrative territory as Psycho, and succeeded with flying colours, very much because young Highmore has managed to make an iconic role his own. (Very Farmiglia would have deserved nominations in all preceeding years, but I can understand she didn't get one this year, since she played "only" Mother, not Norma anymore.) My loyalties might be slightly split for best actor because of Bob Odenkirk for Better Call Saul, and I'd be happy if he wins, too, but if I had to decide and push came to shove, I'd go with Rhys over Odenkirk. Speaking of Better Call Saul, I call fail on the nomination of Jonathan Banks for best supporting actor over Michael McKean (Chuck). Or for that matter Michael Mando (who plays Nacho). Look, I get the Mike cult, and Banks is always solid, but Mike really did not have all that much to do this season. Whereas Nacho got core emotional dilemma stuff, and the actor rose to the task. And McKean may have played the most disliked character on the show, but I don't think the most fervent Chuck hater on the planet would dispute he did so amazingly, and this season, it was a lynchpin performance, with Chicanery and the s3 finale as the two particularly outstanding episodes in this regard. As for the utter lack of nomination for Rhea Seahorn as Kim, don't get me started. Though, again: makes it easier to root wholeheartedly for Keri Russell and for Alison Wright in their respective categories.

_____

Yesterday there was a lengthy interview with Christopher Nolan in one of my regular papers, apropos his upcoming movie Dunkirk. Two issues caught my particular attention: a) he mentions having written the script for a movie about Howard Hughes, only to be foiled by the Scorsese/Di Caprio movie "Aviator", which made it unlikely for a few years studios would finance another movie about Hughes, and now when the time would have been right again, Warren Beatty struck first and made Hughes a non-subject for a few years more. But, quoth Nolan, he hasn't given up and swears this script is the best he ever wrote. To channel some writerly frustration, he added, he put some of his Howard Hughes characterisation into Bruce Wayne in his three Batman movies. And suddenly Bruce's utterly self indulgent hermit phase between movies II and III as well as his bizarre rewriting on why things didn't work out with Rachel in I as voiced by him in II appears in a new light. :) Or maybe Howard Hughes' decades in Las Vegas hotel rooms do - clearly the cover for a secret vigilante identity. Come to think of it, old Hughes sueing unauthorized biographers does resemble the Frank Miller version of Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Returns somewhwat, no?

Anyway: b) the other particularly interesting-to-me Nolan statement was that in preparation for Dunkirk, he watched All Quiet on the Western Front (classic 1930 film version of Erich Maria Remarque's WWI novel, directed by Lewis Milestone) and was amazed such a movie was possible in 1930. But, says Nolan, it probably only was because it was an American movie based on a German novel, because an American director would never have presented American soldiers in this way, and the Germans wouldn't have made the movie to begin with, "so hooray for one culture speaking for another in this case", ends Nolan. Thinking about it, I concluded he was right that the German film industry would not have made All Quiet on the Western Front in the early 1930s - the book had been a big bestseller in Germany, but the movies were utterly dominated by the UFA by then, and the UFA was owned by Alfred Hugenberg, hardcore conservative who'd go on to support Hitler in his 1932 and 1933 election campaigns. As it was Goebbels orchestrated an anti All Quiet on the Western Front campaign when the movie was released in Germany - SA guys loudly protesting in the cinemas, white mice released, I kid you not -with the result that the movie was quickly withdrawn and most Germans saw it only once the Third Reich had come and gone. (My paternal grandparents back in the day did see it in the cinema, but they had to travel to Belgium to do so, which they did because not only did Granddad own the book, but he regarded it as a matter of local pride - he was born and raised just a few streets away from where Remarque, the author, had been born and raised in Osnabrück. And my grandfather, who'd lost his father in WWI when he, Granddad, was still a toddler, always regarded the book as a way to figure out what his father might have been like.)

Last year, when I heard a lecture by Elizabeth Bronfen on war movies in Zurich, she compared the aesthetic and thematic treatment of All Quiet on the Western Front with what WWII movies and news reels quickly established as standard in US movies, and it really is strikingly different. Not being an expert on war movies, my lay woman opinion would be Nolan is right in the American part of his statement as well, that an American movie about US soldiers like All Quiet on the Western Front at the time and for some time to come would never have been made. Probably not until the genre of Vietnam movies started, and that came and went again; more recent US movies, no matter about which war, which present US soldiers being lured into a war by propaganda and then fighting pointless battles and dying with no heroic justification or reward whatsoever (i.e. not even saving a comrade's life or turning a battle, or getting an epilogue declaring that their cause lives on or their sacrifice is remembered or what not), don't come to mind, either. Or am I missing something?
selenak: (Borgias by Andrivete)
Aka the European-produced series which debuted exactly in the same year as Neil Jordan’s The Borgias did, and got three seasons as well. I had seen the pilot back in the day and hadn’t liked it much, but as Amazon Prime put it up, I thought, why not. Also back in the day: at least two articles proclaiming Borgia (with each of the seasons having subtitles “Faith and Fear” (s1), “Rules of Love, Rules of War” (s2) and “Triumph and Oblivion” (s3)) being the superior show with more “historicity”, which put my back up, since I happen to be fond of The Borgias (well, fond of the first two seasons and two or three s3 episodes). That was another reason why I delayed watching Borgia beyond the pilot until this year.

Having now accomplished this, here are a few impressions: Borgia on the one hand does use a lot more actual events from the historical characters’ lives than The Borgias did (including such very Renaissance trivia as Lucrezia’s later father-in-law, Duke Hercole d’Este of Ferrara, collecting nuns with stigmata, I kid you not) , but on the other hand is no slouch when it comes to breathtaking dramatic license. (Cesare Borgia did many gruesome things, but I don’t think ordering pants made of the skin of his enemies was one of them. Also, I really doubt that a bunch of 15th century cardinals would have conspired to replace the Pope with his daughter, no matter how impressive a job she did when the Pope made her regent while he was indisposed. Michelangelo creating the David in Rome instead of Florence is almost harmless as an invention by comparison. And then there’s the drug addiction plot complete with cold turkey conclusion…) The first season suffers from several instances of telling over showing when it came to some important relationships. However, this was mostly remedied in subsequent seasons. And it was really interesting to see both the differences and similarities in the storytelling choices based on the same basic material. Not to mention that the series Borgia actually includes the decline of the family fortunes; Rodrigo dies mid s3, and the rest is Cesare’s falling apart until the series finale ending with his historic death and some other spoilery (not for history) stuff.

One of the biggest differences is the overall emotional arc for the Borgia family. In The Borgias, we start with the featured members more or less affectionately close to each other (even the Cesare-Juan relationship isn’t yet worse than mild fraternal rivalry), and end with them having outwitted and outplayed all their enemies, but lost each other in the process, or have their former closeness turned dysfunctional. In Borgia, otoh, we start with the Borgias dysfunctional and estranged (this Rodrigo hasn’t yet admitted to his children that they are his children but still employs the “niece and nephews” excuse even in private), it gets worse except in one regard from there until Juan’s death at the end of the first season… and then it gets better. From mid s2 onwards, there are family reconciliations all around, and for the rest of the show, the strong affection the Borgias have for each other are often their saving graces, so to speak. When near the end of the show Lucrezia’s third husband, Alfonso d’Este, ruefully observes to his wife that the D’Estes are worse than the Borgias and that she can show them how to be better (as in, a family), he’s not kidding.

A lot more spoilery ramblings and comparisons ensue )

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