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The X-Files – The List (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.

The List taps into a lot of contemporary anxieties.

As with Chris Carter’s last stand-alone script for The X-Files, there is something very timely about The List. The late second season medical conspiracy thriller F. Emasculata had aired at a point where national anxieties about Ebola and other killer diseases were at a high, with the high-profile release of Outbreak and the publication of Crisis in the Hot Zone. One of Carter’s strengths as a producer and a writer was his ability to take the national pulse, and to make The X-Files reflect whatever made nineties America uncomfortable.

A capital idea...

A capital idea…

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Non-Review Review: The Best of Me

As with a lot of Nicholas Sparks adaptations, there’s something inherently reductive about The Best of Me. The film would suggest that characters are either inherently good or inherently bad, with several members of the cast existing as nothing more than roadblocks serving to keep the film’s central couple apart. The Best of Me is not set in the real world; it makes no allowance for the nuanced complexities of human emotions and relationships.

Instead, The Best of Me unfolds in a weird parallel world, a world where all human interactions and feelings are clear-cut and simple. It is easy to see the appeal of this world. It is a realm of romantic fantasy, where probability and chance are simply the tools of dramatic irony; where obvious twists are not only expected, they are obligatory. The Best of Me introduces its male lead, Dawson, reading Stephen Hawking as lazy shorthand for how smart he is. He can’t be that smart, or he’d understand this world doesn’t follow anything as bland as physics.

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Throughout The Best of Me, characters ruminate on the machinations of fate and destiny. We are told that mankind has always looked to the stars to guide them. However, this metaphysical musing is not so much a thematic statement as preemptive justification for a contrived (and entirely predictable) final act. The Best of Me is very much a twist in search of a movie. It is a tire-and-tested twist, at that.

However, the characters in The Best of Me don’t seem to realise that there is a difference between fate and hackneyed writing.

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Watch! True Detective Trailer!

Matthew McConaughey has really reinvented himself, hasn’t he? Over the past few years, McConaughey has invested considerable effort in being taken seriously as an actor. His work in films like The Lincoln Lawyer and Bernie has been a large part of this, but he’s always garnered considerable praise for his work on films like Killer Joe and Mud. His upward trajectory seems to be continuing, with McConaughey taking the lead role in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and now headlining (with Woody Harrelson) HBO’s upcoming new drama True Detective.

It’s amazing how skilfully HBO has cornered the market on high-quality high-interest television. True Detective would be interesting enough given its caliber and pedigree – McConaughey and Harrelson starring, with Cary Fukunaga directing – but it’s especially interesting given the format that has been chosen. The first season will apparently be a self-contained story, charting a seventeen-year investigation in Louisiana. However, if the show is renewed, apparently plans are to recruit an entirely new cast for an entirely different story.

In essence, it seems – not having seen the show in action – that it’s a serial anthology. Or, perhaps more accurately, a collection of annual miniseries collected under the same brand. Colour me excited at the prospect. American television tends to be wary of miniseries as anything other than prestige pieces, but I grew up on British television, where it was possible for a show to run just eight episodes and to be considered an artistic success. True Detective looks like an experimental take on a familiar set-up from a fantastic creative team. It looks stylish and atmospheric, and I’m a sucker for well-told crime tales.

I’m already looking forward to it. It’s out this January, on HBO, which means Sky Atlantic will likely air it not too long afterwards.

Non-Review Review: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild is a fascinating film, and I’m not quite sure I’ve figured it out yet. It looks stunning, especially considering the relatively tiny budget, and it features two stunning lead performances from newcomers Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry. However, there’s a sense that movie lacks substance, that Zeitlin’s ethereal coming of age fantasy lacks a firm grounding necessary to convince us to embark with the young Hushpuppy on her coming of age adventure.

Lighting up the screen…

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