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Millennium – Anamnesis (Review)

This May and June, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fifth season of The X-Files and the second season of Millennium.

In Arcadia Ego and Anamnesis form a strange late-season duology, exploring the roles of important female Christian icons.

In Arcadia Ego was the story of a (possibly) divine conception and birth, one evoking the story of the Virgin Mary. Initially, it seems like Anamnesis is another story about the Virgin Mary, when a bunch of high-school girls claim to have seen a religious apparition in their local church. However, after a bit of investigation, it quickly becomes clear that the religious figure at the centre of Anamnesis is not the Virgin Mary, but is instead the other major female character from the Gospels; it is Mary Magdalene.

Holy Mary...

Holy Mary…

Appropriately enough for an episode built around a female character who is often ignored and overlooked, Anamnesis is an episode largely driven by two of  the series’ three most prominent female characters. Anamnesis follows an investigation into this hysteria led by Catherine Black and assisted by Lara Means. As a matter of fact, Anamnesis is the only episode of Millennium that does not feature Frank Black. According to an interview with Back to Frank Black, writers Kay Reindl and Erin Maher had considered including him via phonecall, but quickly dropped that idea.

Anamnesis is a fascinating piece of television. It is a script written by two female writers, driven by two female regulars, investigating a case built around a mostly female guest cast. It is a testament to just how far Millennium has come in its second season that it can do a show like this. The first season had no female writers and had only Catherine Black as a prominent female character. It is the great that show can something like this, but do it so casually and effortlessly. Anamnesis is an underrated and overlooked second season script.

Going around in circles...

Going around in circles…

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The X-Files (Topps) #1 – Not To Be Opened Until X-Mas (Review)

This August (and a little of September), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the second season of The X-Files. In November, we’ll be looking at the third season. And maybe more.

If you needed proof that The X-Files had made it, then the forty-issue Topps comic book series from the mid-nineties seems a place to start. Of course, this has less to do with the stories published in the comics themselves – though some are very interesting – and more to do with the comic book market in the nineties and the business model employed by Topps. The comic book industry was perhaps at its peak in the nineties – at least when it came to exposure and public profile.

Chris Claremont and Jim Lee’s X-Men #1 became the biggest-selling comic book of all time in 1991, selling over eight million copies. A year later, DC Comics published The Death of Superman, a sprawling highly-publicised comic book event that killed off (and then revived) the Man of Steel. The year after that, Batman got in on the action with the Knightfall trilogy, a suitably spectacular event that featured the crippling of Bruce Wayne, his replacement as Batman, and the eventual return of the Caped Crusader.

The truth is in here?

The truth is in here?

It is important to put those figures in perspective. While this was a financial peak for the comic book industry, it was still something of a fringe economy. In the mid-nineties, a television show attracting only eight million viewers would find itself on the bubble line when it came to renewal. However, that figure was the largest readership of any comic book ever. (Audience diversification means that both television audiences and comic book readers have dwindled in the years since, but the latter much more than the former.)

However, the business model for comic books in the nineties made them highly profitable, despite their smaller audience. Price gouging was not uncommon, with some retailers charging as much as $30 for Superman #75 in 1992. Poly bags, gimmick covers, variant artwork, celebrity authors – comics were largely driven by gimmicks in the nineties. More than that, the emphasis on comic books as an investment in the mainstream media helped to suggest the industry was more for collectors than for readers.

Holy conspiracy, Mulder!

Holy conspiracy, Mulder!

It is telling that the company to land the license for The X-Files was Topps, a company famous for producing sports memorabilia. The company had branched into comics in 1993, as the industry was growing and growing, hoping to license various characters and properties. The implication was that The X-Files comic had been designed more as an accessory than as a story. The cover to Not To Be Opened Until X-Mas ever features a handy “first collectors item issue” tag below the “1” at the top left-hand corner.

Licensed comic books have something of a chequered history. In the context of the mid-nineties, it would be easy to write off the forty-one issues (and change) of The X-Files as a cynical cash-in. However, the series has moments of brilliance and insight that mark it as a worth extension of the brand name.

Up in the sky!

Up in the sky!

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Non-Review Review: Deliver Us From Evil

Deliver Us From Evil is a film where ambition seems to outpace ability. A wonderfully surreal blend of cop action movie with exorcism horror, the movie manages to score a few clever juxtapositions – even if it never seems to decide whether it’s gloweringly serious or wryly ironic. While Deliver Us From Evil never finds the right balance of po-faced gravitas and witty self-awareness, it is a surprisingly enjoyable ride.

After all, it is very hard to hate a film where a demonic presence seeks to establish itself upon the world using the music of The Doors as a recurring motif.

The writing's on the wall...

The writing’s on the wall…

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Non-Review Review: The Devil Inside

The Devil Inside is a cocktail of fascination, frustration and infuriation. Unfortunately it’s not a balanced one – though there’s just enough interesting ingredients to pique our curiosity, but the delivery is so slapdash and haphazard that these intriguing elements are swiftly brushed aside. The Devil Inside confuses provocative drama with shallow sensationalism, but the biggest flaw with the film is that – quite simply – it doesn’t work. I don’t mean that it doesn’t work as a film. The problem is more fundamental than that. I mean that it doesn’t work as a story.

No need to get bent out of shape...

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The Vatican and Cinema…

A whole host of on-line news sources have jumped upon the review of Avatar which appeared in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s official daily paper – though it’s been somewhat distorted as it filters through the the huge game of Chinese whispers that is the internet. The paper wasn’t exactly thrilled with the movie’s political undertones, but it acknowledged, as we all must, that it was incredibly beautiful. It’s just interesting how the Vatican’s opinions on popular culture – such as the reversal of their position on the paganism of the Harry Potter series, for example – have become an interesting point of discussion and on-line debate over the last year or so.

Look, kids! Priests can be hip, like... Ewan McGregor, right? The kids still like Ewan McGregor, don't they?

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Making Faith Cool Again, One Franchise at a Time…

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince has dominated the news this week. Maybe that’s why I haven’t got anything majorly interesting to write on. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate the franchise. It’s perfectly unobjectionable entertainment. It’s just nothing too exciting or interesting to me. Anyway, one piece of Potter news that has grabbed my attention is an endorsement from a most unlikely source. Yes, the Catholic Church is trying to be cool again and they like Harry Potter.

Buddy Christ

Buddy Christ

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