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Hi all – you can now follow me at Words & Stitches for new stories, as well as book/movie reviews, free crochet patterns and more 🙂

Thanks for all your support!

Stay Strange.

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It’s the Golden Age of TV; But Is Binge-Watching Ruining the Experience?

A couple months back I encountered the newly released trailer for Stranger Things, Season 2. Aside from the utter disappointment that came with the realization that the trailer was only a play on audience anticipation and gave no narrative information, I found myself disappointed in me. Why? Because despite ranting and raving about the brilliance of this show, I had to stop and think, ‘what happened last season?’. Blasphemy, I know. But this is the paradox of binge-watching.

For those of you who don’t know, Stranger Things is Netflix’s greatest success. Season 1 was an engaging mix of 80s nostalgia, sci-fi/horror hybridity, and beautiful character development.

Stranger Things [Credit: Netflix]
Stranger Things [Credit: Netflix]

Most people are quick to describe it as similar to the best horror movies of the 1980s; and although Stranger Things is a perfect example of this sentiment, the truth is that this is a period of time in which TV has become far more cinematic than it has ever been in the past. We are currently in a new age of storytelling that conflates the escapism of the cinema with the accessibility and interactivity of TV.

The Cinematic TV Experience

Bates Motel [Credit: A&E]

We are presently experiencing TV in a way we never have before. Some go as far as to call it the Golden Age of Television, referencing the sheer quantity of quality TV available. Traditionally, TV has been thought of as the cinema’s crass younger sibling; it was originally a space for variety shows and game shows, and eventually moved towards the sitcom. For a long time, TV shows were rigidly structured and predictable in a way that cinema was not. Of course, to be fair, the cinema had had decades to mature by the time the 1950s saw the birth of TV.

Though the introduction of TV (and later the VCR) initially worried the film industry, the fears eventually proved to be unfounded. Stats from the 1980s show that people actually attended cinemas in record numbers. There are different ways to interpret this, but what seems evident is that TV and movies do not cancel each other out. They offer different viewing experiences. Or, at least, they once did.

[Credit: Slate]
[Credit: Slate]

Back in 2000, historian and theorist Anne Friedberg wrote a critical essay aptly titled, “The End of Cinema: Multimedia and Technological Change.” This essay highlighted the ways in which spectatorship had been altered, first by the advent of the television, then by the advent of the VCR, and finally by the advent of digital media. Astoundingly, her arguments do not feel at all dated when we think of them alongside the advent of content streaming. Rather, it seems she was prophetically telling the origin story of Netflix.

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Top 15s: 15 Vampires You Would Want to Have Your Back in a Fight

Vampire lore has been an obsession of literature, art, and pop culture for hundreds of years. In the last decade or so, there has been an influx in vampires in young adult fiction, paired with an influx of young adult fiction in popular culture. As a result, the vampire routine started to feel played out, and people even started actively hating on it. Vampires have now been put in a really uncomfortable homogenizing category of teen romance, which has subsequently made it difficult to defend the many vampire stories some of us still hold precious.

Creators of vampire fiction pre the teen-craze have also found themselves looking to defend their work. To great effect, Joss Whedon’s ongoing Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic series presented a storyline in which the Big Bad was named “Twilight.” Meanwhile, Steven King and Scott Snyder embarked on a new horror comic book series, American Vampire, which cynically stated that the bloody goodness of the vampire had recently been “hijacked by a lot of soft-focus romance.”

The truth is, there isn’t one right way to do vampires. The mythology was popularized by Bram Stoker in his 19th-century Gothic novel, in which the main plot involved Dracula compelling women to fall in love with him. The romance is built into the core. And yet, that dangerous allure elicits a sense of horror that reminds us that the vampire is, first and foremost, a monster. But, whether you like them broody and romantic or straight up bloodthirsty, you have to admit – it’d be great to have one back you up in a fight.

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Image Credit: New Line Cinema

Top 9s: 9 Subtle Homages to Hitchcock You Might Have Missed in Bates Motel

Bates Motel has proved itself to be an impressively unique spin on the concepts of both the prequel and the television adaptation. Like many other film geeks, I for one was absolutely terrified to see what would be done with the iconic Hitchcock classic, Psycho. I especially wondered how they would frame it; how could a 53-year-old film about a woman-hating murderer, with a now outdated Freudian psychosis, be responsibly portrayed on television today? The idea made me so uncomfortable, that I avoided the show until its fourth season had completed.

Once I finally got the nerve to check it out, I realized this was not a simple rehashing, nor was it a thoughtless manipulation of the kill-the-pretty-girl trope that Psycho, for all its brilliance, troublingly brought about. Bates Motel is best described as a love letter to film history, and a tribute to one of its most notable pioneers. Flawlessly updated to appeal to a new audience (some of whom probably haven’t seen or do not recall its source material), Bates Motel never forgets where it comes from, or where it is. Proof of this is not only in the action-packed, plot-twist heavy, narrative – but also in the Hitchcockian cinematography, which even includes many long shots. Hidden within the narrative and cinematography are a number of obvious Psycho homages, but there are also some less obvious tributes. Here are 8 subtle nods to Hitchcock that you might have missed in seasons one through four. Beware of spoilers.

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Image Credit: A&E

Top 15s: 15 Highlights From the Comics You Won’t See in Logan

With all the buzz, excitement, and acclaim for the latest Logan movie, it’s difficult not to think about it in conjunction with the many comics upon which it is based. Although the premise of the film is heavily inspired by the alternative universe Wolverine comic book series, Old Man Logan, it is also entirely tied into the universe of the X23 comic books series. What’s so interesting about the conflation of these two books, is how much creative storytelling it required, since these two stories are not at all connected and do not even take place within the same universe.

It was clear right from the beginning that the movie couldn’t be very closely linked to Old Man Logan because of the book’s reliance on Avengers characters. Instead, the movie simply borrowed the gritty realism of prominent themes such as regret, family, aging, and mortality. This was all applied to an X23 storyline, that would essentially facilitate the passing of the torch from Logan to Laura (which is, in fact, something that eventually happens in the X-Men comics).

Despite the many differences, it seems unfair to compare the movie to the books. However dissimilar, Logan offers a really powerful way to end Wolverine’s chapter. The film manages to capture the humanity of Logan and Charles by addressing the one thing that affects all of us – death. So, rather than compare, contrast, and pass judgment, I just want to visit the highlights of the great stories the filmmakers were able to draw upon.

View List (beware of spoilers)

Image via: Screenrant

 

Top 15s: 15 Gruesome Villains We Love to Hate

For generations, classic storytelling has used the convention of the gruesome villain to incite the excitement and anticipation that comes with following the protagonist into the grips of danger. While not exclusive to the horror genre, it plays to the cathartic and escapist nature of the scary or thrilling narrative. The villain can work on various levels: juxtaposing the hero to create a clear distinction of good and evil, mirroring the hero to blur the lines between right and wrong, cautioning against giving into the darker aspects of human nature, and reflecting that which we might fear about human nature and ourselves.

Film theorist Robin Wood explains that the monsters we create for our stories are really just manifestations of that which we have repressed most in our civilized society – people who look different, or act different, or who can otherwise be considered outside of the norm. It’s fair to say then that the monster represents our own fears of being out-casted. However, it is also fair to say that in this golden age of violent narratives, the monster is not just to be feared, it is to be admired. There is something utterly captivating about a charismatic villain. They can make our skin crawl, shock us, scare us; and yet, we can’t seem to look away. Here are 15 gruesome villains of which we just can’t get enough.

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image via: Screencrush

Beyond the Threshold is EXPANDING

Hi all!

This is just a quick update about what I’ve been up to, and some changes you will notice on Beyond the Threshold. As much as I love writing flash fiction, there is so much more within the realm of speculative fiction that I want to explore. As you may have guessed, I’ve always been a lover of books, comics, TV and movies. I spent 7 years in post-secondary education for film studies, so when it comes to discussing film and TV, I really can’t shut up. So I’m expanding Beyond the Threshold to leave room for things such as more book/comic reviews, and Top Lists for a variety of topics regarding TV and movies. I’m currently writing for a pop culture website, so a lot of this content will be linked to those published articles. And, of course, I will also continue to post my own fiction here too.

Thanks for all the support – I hope you’ll enjoy the expansion. Stay Strange!