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147. The Matrix – Summer of ’99 (#18)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Grace Duffy and Alex Towers, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This time, continuing our Summer of ’99 season, Lana and Lilly Wachowski’s The Matrix.

1999 was a great year for movies, with a host of massively successful (and cult) hits that would define cinema for a next generation: 10 Things I Hate About You, The Virgin Suicides, Run Lola RunElection, Cruel Intentions, Fight Club. The Summer of ’99 season offers a trip through the year in film on the IMDb‘s 250.

Thomas Anderson lives a fairly ordinary life; an office drone by day, a computer hacker by night. However, Anderson’s life quickly begins to fall apart when he finds himself drawn to a mysterious hacker named Trinity. It soon becomes clear that Anderson’s life (and his very reality) is not at all what it appears to be.

At time of recording, it was ranked 18th on the Internet Movie Database‘s list of the best movies of all-time.

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New Podcast! The X-Cast X-Files Podwatch – Episode #92 (Alone/Essence)

I’m thrilled to be a part of The X-Cast X-Files Podwatch, a daily snippet podcast rewatching the entirety of The X-Files between now and the launch of the new season. It is something of a spin-off of The X-Cast, a great X-Files podcast run by the charming Tony Black. Tony has assembled a fantastic array of guests and hosts to go through The X-Files episode-by-episodes. With the new season announced to be starting in early January, Tony’s doing two episodes of the podcast per day, so buckle up. We’re in the home stretch.

I’m popping in for the penultimate episode of the eighth season, drawing the curtains down on the eighth season by discussing Alone and Essence with the wonderful and insightful Chris Knowles.

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The X-Files – Existence (Review)

This October/November, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the eighth season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of The Lone Gunmen.

This is not the end.

But it really should be. At least for Mulder and Scully.

There was no season nine. What are you talking about?

There was no season nine.
What are you talking about?

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The X-Files – Essence (Review)

This October/November, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the eighth season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of The Lone Gunmen.

The mythology of The X-Files is a strange beast.

In the show’s declining years, it frequently became a stick with which the show might be beaten by critics and fans who had grown exhausted of ambiguity and labyrinthine plotting. Steven King lamented the fact that the show “blundered off into a swamp of black oil, and in that swamp it died.” In assessing the impact of the series, Joyce Millman described the mythology as a “sadistically convoluted plot line.” Juliette Harrisson complained that the entire mythology ended up “so twisted and incomprehensible by the end.”

Oh, baby.

Oh, baby.

In hindsight, it seems like history has not been kind to the mythology. In the years since the show went off the air, it seems that fans have come to value the episodic “monster of the week” stories ahead of the central story arc about aliens plotting to colonise the planet. This is ironic, given the attention devoted to the mythology while the show was on the air. The mythology dominated season premieres and finalés, taking the limelight during Sweeps and commanding impressive production values.

This assessment of the mythology is at once fair and unfair. Examined from far enough away, the mythology was linear and logical: alien colonists were coming back to reclaim the planet and enslave (or exterminate) mankind. Everything else was just window-dressing, with the mythology exploring the compromise and collaboration that facilitated this plan. The mythology was, at its best, an exploration of human weakness and the corruption of authority; a timeless (and almost Shakespearean) tragedy. From a sufficient distance, it was not hard to follow.

Oh, alien baby.

Oh, alien baby.

However, the details tend to create confusion, with everything getting a little muddled as The X-Files piles compelling and memorable visuals on top of one another. Are the bees intended to spread smallpox to thin the population as Zero Sum suggests, or to spread the black oil to aid in repopulation as The X-Files: Fight the Future implies? Is the black oil a sinister body-hopping parasite as suggested in Piper Maru and Vienen, or is it an organism that turns the body into a host for a gestating alien organism like in Fight the Future or The Beginning?

The eighth season does a lot to simplify the mythology by stripping out the conspirators and the vaccine and the rebels and the hybrids, replacing them with a more blunt central narrative about “alien replicants” mounting a stealth invasion. That said, things begin to get a bit cluttered and crowded as the season reaches its conclusion. Essence and Existence have a very clear structure and clear objectives, but there is a sense that that the narrative could still be streamlined a bit.

Oh, blood-splattered alien babies...

Oh, blood-splattered alien babies…

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The X-Files – The Sixth Extinction (Review)

This November, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the seventh season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Harsh Realm.

The fate of individual human beings may not now be connected in a deep way with the rest of the universe, but the matter out of which each of us is made is intimately tied to processes that occurred immense intervals of time and enormous distances in space away from us. Our Sun is a second- or third-generation star. All of the rocky and metallic material we stand on, the iron in our blood, the calcium in our teeth, the carbon in our genes were produced billions of years ago in the interior of a red giant star. We are made of star-stuff.

– Carl Sagan’s Cosmic Connection

Sea of blood...

Sea of blood…

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The X-Files (Topps) Digest #2 – Dead to the World (Review)

This November (and a little of December), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the third season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Space: Above and Beyond.

Stefan Petrucha and Charles Adlard are winding at this point in their curatorship of Topps’ The X-Files comic book. The duo have contributed an absolutely staggering volume of work to the line. On top of monthly issues and short stories, there have been annuals and digests. The volume of the output has been staggering. All of it has been written by Petrucha and the vast majority was illustrated by Adlard. The quality has – generally speaking – been quite impressive.

Dead to the World is the headline story in the second “digest” published by Topps comics. As with Big Foot, Warm Heart before it, the format of the “digest” feels a little strange. There is a single (and rather long) comic written by Petrucha and illustrated by Adlard, following by a collection of shorts taken from Ray Bradbury Comics, a somewhat less popular feature of Topps’ comic book publishing line. There is a sense that the format might have worked better as a collection of short X-Files-themed stories for a variety of creators.

Face to face...

Face to face…

Nevertheless, the result is interesting. In many ways, Big Foot, Warm Heart seemed to point at where Petrucha and Adlard would go when they wrapped up their massive twelve-part “Aquarius” mega-arc. With its reflections on human failings and human abuses, it seemed like Big Foot, Warm Heart set the tone for the stories that would follow – like One Player Only or Falling. It offered a tease of things to come, suggesting the humanity could be more monstrous than any mythological creature.

In contrast, it is very tough to see where Dead to the World might have been pointing. Then again, Petrucha and Adlard would be gone from the comic a month after its publication. So perhaps the story’s funereal atmosphere feels appropriate.

Here there be monsters...

Here there be monsters…

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