Revenge for Hannibal under Black Sails

These three series don’t belong together, but they left an impression on me.

I didn’t even watch the entire pilot episode and yet I have to say something about this thing and that is: “no thanks”.
I watched all of the movies around Hannibal Lecter and The Silence of the Lambs remains one of the scariest movies I have ever seen. But in the new Hannibal series, seeing a naked woman pierced on deer antlers with her lungs missing, then seeing Hannibal squeezing around those lungs preparing them for a meal… no thanks, I don’t need to watch this. I have no problems with gore and am a great fan of the Walking Dead for example, but naked women pierced on deer antlers and lung cooking are beyond what I want to watch. In Walking Dead you root for the humans who are fighting against the zombies, but there was nobody to root for in Hannibal, at least not in the first half hour of the pilot. In any story cruelty must serve a story purpose, here I saw none.

Black Sails
Pirates! Yeah, pirates are cool. Black Sails is fun and I’m enjoying it and am now in the latter half of season two. It has some nice quirky characters and the anarchy on display is interesting. One aspect strikes me very much though about Black Sails and that is the “desperate” attempt to add “strong” female characters to the story. It’s the policy nowadays to have strong female characters and I’m all for it being a girl myself, but in Black Sails it does feel kinda forced. Let’s face it, pirates is a men’s world, there weren’t that awfully many female pirates. So the writers of the series faced the dilemma how to integrate strong female characters into a pirate story. They offer us four women, Ms. Guthrie, the not so credible lady who rules the island, the pretty and witty whore (the most believable of the characters), Mrs. Marlowe who has that thing going on with captain Flint, and that strange Ann girl. All of them are interesting in their own right, but that “how do we get strong female characters into a pirate series” aspect always lingers in the background. The stories constructed around the women all seem kinda constructed and don’t flow naturally like the stories around Flint and Charles do.
I like the side characters in this series, the pain-intolerant coward, the half-witted cook, Charles’s comic relief quartermaster. They are fun to watch. The series is interesting and I wish they’d add some Alestorm music to it. Rum!

I am usually not the soap opera type, but I do confess to having watched all of the Desperate Housewives. With all the blood, gore, sex and swearing nowadays on TV it was kind of a “break” to watch a series with minimal blood and no “fuck” anywhere. But alas, the Desperate Housewives are done and gone. I started watching “Revenge” now as sort of compensation and so far it remains interesting (I’m nearing the end of season one). Its style is pretty much the same as Desperate Housewives: people are being mean to each other 😉 Madeleine Stowe as the rich bitch is lovely to watch, she’s one excellent Desperate Housewife indeed. The young lady who wants to get to her is also well played and her rich computer nerd accomplice Nolan, who has no friends, is my favorite character so far (apart from “Queen Victoria” – Madeleine Stowe). Revenge is surely a “chick thing”, just like Desperate Housewives was, but once in a while that is a nice relief among all the gore, blood and bad language. While Revenge is of course throwing around stereotypes, there is no lack of strong female characters here. And the men in the series are all wussy-boys! 😉 who cannot compete with the awe-inspiring killer smile of Madeleine Stowe. You really don’t wanna have her as your enemy 😉

Ballet Under the Dome

Okay, this blog entry will be a little bit of a stretch – Russian ballet vs. American TV.
I’ve been to my first ballet ever and consider that worth a report and I’m watching the series Under the Dome at the moment and got some comments about it too.

I spontaneously went to see my first ballet ever last Wednesday, The Matthew Bourne “all men” production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.
I guess it was a good choice to make this my first ballet ever, since I at least remotely knew something about the story, thanks to a movie I like very much – Black Swan – with Natalie Portman. So there is this princess Odette, who is turned into a swan by a curse and only true love can bring her back or she will be turned into a swan forever.
I kinda expected a “black swan” – the bad sorcerer who turns her into one somewhere but either I didn’t get it or it was missing from the Matthew Bourne production. In the original the hero, Siegfried, is not married and his mother seems to be bitching him around, but in the Bourne production she looked more like his wife than his mother, at least to my eyes.

It was amazing to see just a few gestures establishing their relationship. They looked like they have been married to each other for politics and especially she does not like him and rejects any sort of affection he is trying to show her. Very subtly expressed with just a few gestures and how the dancers posed their bodies.
The swans were impressive, all men and they did an excellent job at looking animal like. I’m kinda interested in seeing a classical production of the ballet where the swans are all girls. With men as swans the esthetics were elegant, yes, but also animalistic. Odette was danced by a dancer called Chris Tranfield (I think) and man, the guy was good. I found the scenes without the swans a bit long and dragging at times, but whenever the swans were around it was interesting and impressive. These dancers don’t seem to have bones in their bodies.
The finale of Odette and Siegfried dying was really amazing to watch. You don’t need words to tell a story. As a writer there are quite some lessons to be learned from that 😉
I shall be on the lookout for more ballet.

Under the Dome:
I’m watching that on hulu and while I liked at least most of the first season it’s starting to be a bit bland in the beginning of the second season. It’s about a small US town suddenly being trapped under a mysterious, invisible and indestructible dome some 30 miles wide or so. Although there is no ultimate revelation yet, aliens seem to be involved. What I find noteworthy about this series are only two things. Uncle Hank from Breaking Bad is playing the main bad guy (quite well) here and the other thing is the Game of Thrones syndrome of killing off major characters like flies… What has Mr. George R.R. Martin done??? He kicked off a trend to kill your characters. While your protagonists should suffer, yes, go through hardship, have tough decisions to make and and and, what good are they to you if they’re dead?

That does not mean like I’ve never killed off one of my characters but I am weary of the numbers. If I counted correctly, within the 15 episodes that I watched of Under the Dome, five major characters have bit the dust, especially during the last few episodes, where it’s more or less one per show. The dangerous thing about that is that the viewer gets used to it, detaches him/herself from the characters, since you have to be prepared that they are having switched their lights out. The character killing only has an impact if you were invested into that character and when it becomes a standard plot device it loses its impact in my humble opinion. The other issue with that is that you need to replace those characters with new ones that you have to draw out of your hat like a magician and that just doesn’t work all the time. I’ll keep on watching Under the Dome a bit more, let’s say until the Uncle Hank (here he is Big Jim) character bites the dust, but I am not invested anymore. However, thanks to Under the Dome for teaching me something about character deaths for my own writing 😉