“Soldiers today.” – Sherlock Recap – The Final Problem

Source: sherlockstuff

Sherlock, Season 4, Episode 3
“The Final Problem”
Posted by Sage

I considered breaking with our recap naming convention to call this post an “in defense of” piece. I can’t divorce my experience watching “The Final Problem” from the high rate of angry feels (and dearth of good feels) stirred up by the first two episodes of the season. So when the first few minutes of “The Final Problem” felt like a return to form for Sherlock – at least a return to the more madcap storytelling of season 3, which I loved – I produced my ticket, loaded up my luggage, and got on board. Did it make any sense? Barely. Was it a blatant attempt to have it all ship-wise? You better believe it. But this finale had all the nerve and zip I’ve come to expect from this show. I’ve been down enough on this season; I deserve to get a little enjoyment out of what might have been the last ever episode of Sherlock, in spite of its manifold problems. Sometimes nostalgia deserves the win.

The show’s primary concern has always been the humanization of Sherlock Holmes. Above all. And while I don’t believe that all antisocial people are created by a traumatic childhood incident, I believe the series was always determined to give us a REASON for the consulting detective. (“The roads we walk have demons beneath.”) If that weren’t the case, there would have been no job for Eurus Holmes, a lost sister drawn in the fashion of Hannibal Lecter. (And even he was allowed to have books.) Sherlock incorrectly diagnosed himself as a high-functioning sociopath – he’s just a big softy with an avoidance complex. Eurus is the only sociopath produced by her family. And while her empathy chip is busted, she can do virtually anything she sets her mind to. There’s always been a somewhat rational explanation for events on Sherlock (“It’s never twins.”), but Eurus breaks that mold. Mycroft and Sherlock’s sister introduces a supernatural element. Her brain has advanced to a state that’s beyond what we’d call possible. Her will is extraordinarily potent, as is her intellect. Eurus isn’t magic in this context – just an anomaly. But she may as well be a sorceress. Seeing her standing expressionless in her cell, hair hanging around her face, I couldn’t help thinking that Eurus is a grown-up Matilda Wormwood, if her story had gone very, very differently.

Source: shrlckholmes
 

Funny that Moffat and Gatiss were deadset on over-explaining Sherlock’s emotional state, yet let the entire episode run wild under the broad hand wave of Eurus’ powers. On the other hand, I was perfectly happy to set rationality aside for the 90 minutes. We’re asked to right at the beginning, when it comes to light that Eurus dressed up as Faith Smith, exchanged texts with John, and then pretended to be the grieving man’s therapist just to announce her presence to her big brother. (Bus Girl is the inexplicable piece and a transparent effort to persuade the audience to forgive John because it’s not REALLY cheating if you’re swapping emojis with the criminally insane. I RESIST.)

Look, it’s frustrating that – in a season where one female character was thrown in the fridge and another handed mostly recycled material – Eurus Holmes exists in order to make men REALIZE things about themselves. The narrative isn’t any kinder to her than it has been to Molly and Mary, and Mofftiss stepped WAY out of bounds with that unproductive conversation about Eurus’ deviant sexuality. But I could also argue that Eurus’ Saw murder spree happens as a direct result of one man deciding that he knows what’s best for her and another deciding that what’s best for HIM is to erase her existence entirely. She couldn’t be handled. They couldn’t burn the witch, so they locked her away. Then Mycroft USES her brilliant mind whenever it is convenient for him. Eurus is called upon to save people living lives she won’t get to have. Like, I know she’s remorseless, but I also get why she’s angry.

Source: cumberbatchlives

Eurus does succeed in dismantling the stories the three men in her web tell about themselves. His sister is Mycroft’s most fatal mistake. He’s one genius level under “telepath killer” and his claim to fame is that he’s always in complete control. But The British Government’s approach to the largest problem ever to plague his own family turns out to have been tremendously wrong. (“I’m not asking HOW you did it, Idiot Boy…”) John still believes he can be a “soldier today” when the situation calls for it, but his practicality stops right before the ability to execute a man to save another life. And Sherlock, as has been pounded into our heads by now, is not immune to sentiment at all. He feels things very deeply, even though he tried to force those emotions out of himself the first time they became too much to bare.

Does Sherlock’s sister know the difference between a game and a massacre? The show tries to have it both ways with Eurus. Sometimes she seems not to understand the full effect of what she’s doing. But in other moments she’s downright Moriarty-sinister. She’s the most interesting villain we’ve had all season, but the fuzziness of her character is set in high relief when that guy actually shows back up. Jim Moriarty is shoe-horned into this story to within an inch of his (ended) life. Just for fun. But that tracks, because fun is his number one reason for doing anything.

Source: majorlyobsessed

Sometimes you don’t know how starved you’ve been for a character until you openly weep at his five minute cameo. The flaws of this episode are many and dumb, but god, I could watch that helicopter entrance on a loop for the better part of a day. I might have, actually. The glasses. That suit. The soundtrack. His love of theater. I don’t buy that Eurus would send for Moriarty or that Mycroft would allow it, but I DO buy that Moriarty would show up to Sherringford practically panting with desire to find out what’s up. (“You’re a Christmas present.” “How do you want me?”)

“Do you like my boys?” Source: majorlyobsessed

(I did fear for one brief moment that Eurus had dominated Moriarty like she does everyone else and had been controlling him for the past five years. But I suppose she can turn it on and off and what she needed from Jimbo was his own personal expertise. It would have broken my heart if they’d erased everything about him.)

Moriarty didn’t live to see it or gain anything from it, but the booby-trapped haunted house he designs with Eurus does bring Sherlock’s carefully constructed facade crashing down. She’s obsessed with her brother’s deductive skills, which she must have noticed about him when they were children. What seems rather pointless while Mycroft, John, and Sherlock are racking their brains over Eurus’ puzzles is explained to some degree when we learn what she did to get herself locked away. Victor Trevor was the game. Young Eurus reasoned that if she took something away from Sherlock that he loved very much but left a trail for him, then he’d be playing with her while he followed it. But she overestimates her brother’s abilities and underestimates his emotional distress. She didn’t mind that Victor Trevor died, even if her original intent wasn’t necessarily to kill him. Either Sherlock would be enticed by her brilliance or she’d lose him forever. When her experiment failed, Eurus literally set her life on fire. There was nothing left.

Source: rominatrix
 

Johnlock fans who were hoping for something more definitive from this episode were disappointed. (Hey kids, death threats are what we might call an overreaction. Also illegal!) But all these connections between John and Sherlock’s “Redbeard” point to the arrival of John Watson in his life as the moment that Sherlock began to untangle himself from all those emotional security systems he put in place. He blocked out all memories of Eurus and turned Victor Trevor into a trusty dog because he couldn’t live with what had happened. That ought to have closed him off completely to someone in serious danger of getting as intimate with him as his childhood bestie.

 
 
Source: stephnstrnge
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“Once more unto the breach.” – Sherlock Recap – The Lying Detective

Source: sheldedlex

Sherlock, Season 4, Episode 2
“The Lying Detective”
Posted by Sage

We are officially going around in circles. Then we are backtracking and going on random tangents and we don’t even get the satisfaction of tormenting Mycroft while we do it.

“The Lying Detective” brought so many of Sherlock‘s favorite devices limping back into an already overstuffed narrative. Were there fun moments? Sure. Was the emotion real? Sometimes. Did Martin Freeman break me with this acting? Absolutely. Even though the pacing of this episode made it an easier watch than “The Six Thatchers,” it still collapsed in the center under the weight of everything it’s trying to do.

Let’s start with Toby Jones as the odious Culverton Smith, a wealthy philanthropist who moonlights as a serial killer. I’m surprised any scenery was still standing after Jones chowed down on it all, but hey, that’s why you hire him. Culverton is the jolliest murderer you’ll ever meet and so eager to share his deeds with an audience that his board meetings always come with a complimentary mind-eraser. But who needs an explanation of why anyone would agree to be hooked up to such an IV, even if asked by someone they trusted, let alone a creepy little troll like this? There are cereal/serial killer jokes to be made!

Source: bbcsherlocksource
 

How many more times will Sherlock tell us that no, actually, THIS is the worst and most heinous criminal he’s ever encountered? Whatever their methods and motives, so long as Sherlock writes all its uber-villains to be overly articulate, pompous, joyously maniacal, and just half an IQ-point less sharp than its hero, those variations barely register. Andrew Scott’s Moriarty is unsurpassable. And yeah, the show blew that wad in season 1. But that’s no reason to turn every Conan Doyle bad guy into the same monologue-crazy gentleman psychopath.

So Culverton Smith’s taunting of Sherlock wasn’t as effective as it should have been. It did eat up plenty of time though. None of that time was spent explaining what Culverton’s endgame was or how he’d planned to get Sherlock in one of his hospital beds. (I don’t know how he could have anticipated what happened in the mortuary.) He grandstands with his guests in the children’s ward, behaving a way that made me wonder who would ever let him speak to kids, fortune or no fortune. Nothing about Culverton Smith is lovable. He’s off-putting and scary, even when he’s smiling. He’s so clearly operating on some strange and separate plane yet no one but Sherlock and Watson appear to be repulsed by him or even the slightest bit concerned. I wondered at first if we’re meant to be seeing his behavior through Sherlock’s eyes – that in his drug-stupor he was looking beyond the facade and into the guilt. The show could have also made a more trenchant point about the leeway we give to the rich. But as it was, Culverton’s strange personality just hung there, unexplained and unquestioned.

Source: sannapersikka

I’m going to put my murder weirdo hat on right now and say that it is EXTREMELY unusual for a serial killer to want to stand out like Culverton does. Some are extremely anti-social. Most blend seamlessly into their communities. Ted Bundy was famously charming. It’s not Culverton’s hinting at his atrocities that’s unbelievable, it’s that he’d draw attention to himself in other ways, putting his name on hospital wings and appearing on television. His methods are interesting though, and I do appreciate how the show melded the “The Dying Detective” plot with the very true and very fascinating story of H.H. Holmes, the serial killer doing big, big business in Chicago during the World’s Fair. (Have you read The Devil in the White City? You get on it, and Leonardo DiCaprio, get on that movie you promised me.) He’s committing mercy killings minus the mercy and he’s doing it in a tricked-out MURDER hospital. (“I like to make people into things.”) Still, Culverton Smith falls short of being the terrifying presence Sherlock intends him to be because THERE ARE NO VICTIMS. I mean, there are meant to be many, but why are they locked out of the story? It was a nice character detail to show Lestrade so broken after hearing part 1 of Culverton’s lengthy confession. (He’s a good man.) But without context, the whole case felt so…impersonal.

Source: londoncallingsigh

Naturally, it’s all about Sherlock, who we know from the episode title is keeping something from us. It’s back to another familiar well with the detective getting himself hooked to achieve a goal: this time, it’s to court the sympathy or at least the presence of John Watson. John, you’ll remember, decided to break all ties with Sherlock after the death of Mary.  His grief has left him temporarily incapable of taking care of Rosie, and he takes offense at his shrink approving that choice out of pity. “Why does everything have to be ‘understandable’?” he asks. “Why can’t some things be unacceptable? And we just say that?” John Watson is so alone, with no company but his dead but still cheerful wife.

It’s common in Sherlock for people to communicate with themselves by communicating with their concept of another person, usually, that’s achieved by Sherlock in his mind palace. But there’s something unkind about putting Mary in this position, following John around, existing to only motivate his participation in the world or to stir up his guilt. She’s dead and she still can’t catch a break. Selfishly, I loved seeing Amanda Abbington again. She’s a master of the reaction and made for a charming personal ghost – as nurturing, mischievous, and on Sherlock’s side as ever. And even though the manipulation was strong and so predictable, Mary’s presence broke up the anger that rightly dominated most of Martin’s performance in this episode. She tries to remind him: “John, you’ve got to remember, it’s important: I am dead.” But John refuses to register this information. His stubborn denial was this episode’s most moving moment, though I expect Team Johnlock will disagree. (I’ll get to it, dain’t you worry.)

Source: livingthegifs

High Sherlock is still a sight to behold and I applaud the unabashed Britishness of having Benedict Cumberbatch roaring the most famous speech from Henry V for no detectable reason other than his training. (Question: if Sherlock doesn’t need room in his brain for the solar system, how come Shakespeare gets a spot? Answer: He’s a romantic, duh.) The visual bravado of the scene comes to its slow-mo/sped-up climax when Mrs. Hudson drops Sherlock’s tea so that she can get a grasp on the gun he’s been waving around. (“Of course I didn’t call the police, I’m not a civilian.”) And prepare to hate me, because I’m about to rain on your Hudders parade.

“That’s good.” Source: livingthegifs

I miss the subtlety of early Sherlock, where Mrs. Hudson would make reference to her checkered pass and then chuckle and pass the biscuits. (That never happened exactly so, but you get the drift.) Now all subtlety is gone. Mrs. Hudson drives an Aston Martin like a coked-out 007 and evidently has the upper body strength necessary to shove a 6′ tall man into the boot before she does it. She doesn’t need to do these things to prove to me that she’s a badass. She always has been; those original episodes show us that she endures what Sherlock puts her through because she cares about him but also because she loves the danger.

Source: conduitstr
 

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“The danger was the fun part.” – Sherlock Recap – The Six Thatchers

Source: 1985

Sherlock, Season 4, Episode 1
“The Six Thatchers”
Posted by Sage

As dangerous as it is to hand too much of a popular series over to fanservice, so too is it to treat your audience like adversaries. That’s the feeling I got when I watched the Sherlock Season 4 premiere — like the show was all puffed up and encroaching into my space, daring me to turn against it. “Give the people what they want,” John says. “No, never do that,” Sherlock counters. “The people are stupid.” Why do I get the feeling they were talking about us?

Where was the joy? The giddiness? I felt like my heart would burst during the majority of Season 3. I was so happy to be back watching such a clever and sleek show with characters I adore. Not here. Sherlock is always self-aware, but usually in a way that lets fans share its ego. This episode felt interminably long, because it seemed as if we were no longer included in the fun. “The Six Thatchers” was a dour installment that set up what looks to be a dour season. As Mary says in her video message to Sherlock, “The danger was the fun part.” A slow march to the gallows is not.

The case isn’t tremendously important, but the circumstances surrounding Sherlock’s return are. He must have subconsciously worked out the majority of his issues with the ghost of James Moriarty during his drug trip in “The Abominable Bride,” because “The Six Thatchers” finds him interested in the villain’s next move in his “posthumous game,” but not so preoccupied as to withdraw from life. (This is Sherlock Holmes we’re talking about, the measure of successful social interaction is different.) Anyway, Lady Smallwood, Mycroft, and the rest of their Rulers of the World knitting circle make quick work of absolving Sherlock of the murder of Charles Augustus Magnussen. They rescind his death sentence so he can sniff out the metaphorical bomb Moriarty left ticking away somewhere in London, and Sherlock is only too delighted to tell them that there’s currently nothing to be done in that regard. (“I’m the target. Targets wait.”) He returns to Baker Street and his expectant friends.

Source: sirjohnwatsons
 

Unsurprisingly, my favorite parts of this episode were all domestic. Pregnant Mary heaving about the flat, weighing in on cases. Sherlock’s amused smile when John and Mary simultaneously shut down his offer to give their unborn baby his name. Molly teaching Mrs. Hudson how to focus John’s camera. Sherlock trying to explain his rather reasonable expectation that Rosamund Mary Watson NOT throw a toy back at him that she appears to want. Greg and another Scotland Yard officer making small talk on the landing while they wait for their consultant to be free. Sherlock showing off photos of his godchild to his brother, who offers the kindest compliment he can muster: “Looks very…fully-functioning.”

Source: sherleck

Finally, Giles Greg offers up a case that’s worthy of more than a chat in the living room with Sherlock and John’s balloon stand-in. But determining the cause of the sad end of Charlie Wellsbury isn’t something to be done with a Holmesian flourish. The most dastardly thing the family has done is to have a shrine to Margaret Thatcher.  And though she was no picnic, that certainly doesn’t make them deserving of what happens to their son. This boy cut a trip of a lifetime short to travel thousands of miles to wish his father a happy birthday. He dies alone; his body is burned beyond recognition. But there’s no murderer but Death himself. Death does not always arrive in the body of enemy, but it always gets its man. In the market at Baghdad or outside an English estate.

Sherlock has tossed off condolences before, but he’s never sounded more genuine than when he tells the Wellsburys how sorry he is for their loss. Would it have been any comfort if the great Sherlock Holmes could have identified some nefarious plot and apprehended an assassin on whom they could lay their anger and grief? Maybe. As it is, it’s a hopeless, purposeless death that propels the rest of the episode.

“Well, I like you.” Source: 1985

The episode lags a bit after Sherlock discovers that first missing bust of The Iron Lady. Because the busts don’t matter – only what’s contained within. The dog sequence is cute, but unnecessary. There’s only the symbolism of the market, and the episode was heavy on the symbolism already. Craig is a chubby and bespectacled hacker stereotype in a show that doesn’t need one. (One of the most thrilling things about Sherlock is that – besides the texting – the detective is rather old-school in his methods.) Anyway, while I understand that A.J. is a broken and desperate man, I would think that a world-class secret assassin would know when he was creating a pattern. But he doesn’t, and Sherlock heads him off at the home of one of those crazy Thatcherites. It was brilliant throughout, but I want to especially acknowledge the work of first-time Sherlock director Rachel Talalay here in the fight scene, particularly as A.J. and Sherlock grappled in the pool.

Sherlock gets the upper hand, smashes the bust, and then looks among the shards for the Black Pearl of the Borgias – a link to Moriarty. Instead he sees Mary’s A.G.R.A. flash drive. Sherlock said earlier that he knows when the game is on because it’s his lifeblood and what used to be his only bliss. But Sherlock’s eyes are panicked as he tries frantically to discern who this man is and how he’s linked to his friend. This isn’t a game he wants. It’s all well and good when he’s playing fast and loose with his own life. But there’s nothing to love about a threat to Mary, John, and their baby girl.

Source: rosegoldsherlock
 

Confronted with the drive, Mary tells Sherlock what the acronym means and why she and her three compatriots each carried one. Their last mission went belly-up during a coup in Georgia; Mary believed she was the only one who’d escaped alive. Her past is catching up to her again. And though she’d prayed it wouldn’t, she’s been honing a protocol for that very occasion. Because Mary is a PRO. Since the moment he met her, Sherlock has known that Mary Watson is capable of taking care of herself. He even tries to send John home to be on baby duty in this episode so that he can Mary can follow a lead together. She’s a combination of Sherlock and John: an intelligence agent AND a soldier, smart, always aware, and willing to do what is necessary. She goes on the run – a wife and mother throwing her own peace away so that she can protect her family. And what does Sherlock do? He undermines her agency by tracking her movements and then going to COLLECT her, like an errant child.

Source: sir-mycroft

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“Sounds a bit soppy, this: love conquers all.” – SDCC 2016, Part III

Con Friends are the Best Friends

Con Friends are the Best Friends

Posted by Kim and Sage

Everyone knows that a massive part of San Diego Comic Con involves making tough choices. It’s no secret that Hall H is the place to be on Saturday but it’s ALSO no secret that if you want to score one of those coveted seats, you basically have to lose all of Friday in the name of sitting in the Next Day Line. While we had a BLAST camping out for Hall H in 2015, the idea of camping out for Saturday held ZERO appeal for us, not only because we would have missed all the awesome panels Friday had to offer but because the weather was UNUSUALLY hot and humid for San Diego. People had literally started camping out for Saturday by the middle of the day on THURSDAY, leading to a veritable umbrella city being set up in the parking lot of Joe’s Crab Shack. People were ordering umbrellas from Amazon Same Day Delivery to be sent TO the line and posting pictures of their intense sunburns on Twitter. There were reports of chairs actually leaving divots in the asphalt because it was ACTUALLY melting due to the intense sun. NO THANKS. I love the Marvel Movies as much as the next person, but unless it was guaranteed that Chris Evans was going to French kiss me (Sage: or one of his costars. That would work too.) and Tom Hiddleston was going to public renounce the sham that is Hiddleswift, the idea of waiting close to 36 hours in a parking lot for footage that would be on the internet minutes later felt ridiculous. So until SDCC comes up with some way to curtail the camping (which they won’t because that’s what makes headlines), Saturday Hall H will never be a thing for us. And you know what? That’s okay.  As you will see, there is so much that SDCC has to offer that you can miss the marquee panels and STILL have a full day. Besides, we knew Benedict Cumberbatch would be waiting for us on Sunday. –Kim

Off-Site Mania

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After spending the majority of Friday cramped between manspreaders and oversized cosplay in panel rooms, we thought Saturday would be a good day to stretch our legs and hit the off-sites. San Diego Comic Con is known for taking over not just the convention center, but a lot of real estate surrounding it with branded exhibitions and activities. One of the most popular set-ups is Zac Levi’s NerdHQ, which has its own sort of mini-con benefiting Operation Smile with its impossible to get into Conversations For A Cause and Smiles for Smiles photo ops. We were shut out of those tickets again this year, but it’s always worth the walk to the San Diego Children’s Museum to see what vendors are handing out free ‘ish and what kind of photobooths we can make fools of ourselves in.

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Head Over Feels was here.
 This year’s NerdHQ was a haven for gamers, so there wasn’t much for a couple of hand-eye-coordination-challenged idiots to do there. We moved on to Entertainment Weekly’s Con-X, located at the far corner of the marina. We were among the small group gathered at the gates when it opened, so we had no trouble snagging free Krispy Kremes (best giveaway in history), screened-to-order t-shirts, and photo ops with Tony & Steve, the real American Horror Story: Hotel set, and corpulent space gangster, Jabba the Hutt.

SWAG

SWAG

After Con-X, we made a stop at the Hyatt where SDCC keeps its panel swag. It’s an efficient system. When a studio wants to give out freebies to panel audiences, they send in a group of volunteers to hand out color-coded tickets. During posted hours, attendees can stop by the fulfillment room to pick up their goodies. Our haul included a Colony beret, an exclusive Moana print, and a super-cute Orphan Black muscle tee. When you know this is an option, it makes it especially tacky when Hall H presenters prefer to go over time handing out swag just so they can get b-roll of Hall H fans going all Oprah’s Favorite Things. (Ahem: Warner Bros, Marvel.)

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We were assured by a panel neighbor earlier in the weekend that the tiny Mr. Robot off-site experience was “worth it.” Unfortunately for our feet and nerves, we didn’t realize just how intimate or time-consuming that exhibit was. We got in line around 11:30am, half an hour after it opened. The line was a block and a half long; in SDCC terms, nothing. “This will be fine,” we said. “It’s not too bad,” we said. Smash cut to four hours later when we’re still in line, seething while the staff marches in industry VIPs and press ahead of all the fans who’ve been sweating in the sun for most of the afternoon. (We know you had a press preview night, USA. THE JIG IS UP.) Our wills were tested that day. So much that I swear, I started hallucinating Christian Slater too.

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Holy shit, there he is

But we were committed, and hey, at least we got fsociety masks for our trouble. (I wish the street team would have been handing out those sick hoodies instead, but we’ll take what we can get.)

Being a part of an anarchist hacker conspiracy is NO reason to give up glitter make-up.

Being a part of an anarchist hacker conspiracy is NO reason to give up glitter make-up.

Okay, so it WAS pretty fucking cool. Even through my grumpiness, I could appreciate the work that went into the off-site. The waiting area was a replica of the Mr. Robot repair shop, all for the touching. We rifled through work orders, read jotted phone messages, and held an original Gameboy in our hands for the first time in about 25 years.

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Most of the paperwork in the exhibit looked like the standard business of an electronics shop in the ’80s. But Easter eggs were here and there for those observant enough to catch them. This one was my favorite:

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“1 Human Soul: $9.99”

The waiting area could MAYBE fit 10-12 people at a time. By twos and fours, those people were led into the next room where we were handed our virtual reality equipment. (VR was all the rage at SDCC this year.) Then we were directed into a full-scale replica of Elliot’s apartment and instructed to take a seat wherever we liked. (We chose the bed, for obvious reasons.) After some brief instruction, we pressed play on an original Mr. Robot vignette, written and directed by showrunner Sam Esmail and starring Rami Malek and Frankie Shaw (Shayla). It was beautiful and melancholy, with the added benefit of the sensation of Rami speaking to you right in your ear. You jerks don’t have to stand in line for four hours to watch the scene; the official Mr. Robot website has the clip in various formats, including regular old desktop. (Spoilers for season 1!)

We snagged some extra shirts from the off-site (with permission!), and we’re giving them away on Twitter! Go follow us and RT this tweet for your chance to get one. –Sage

Geek & Sundry Afterparty

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We emerged from the Mr. Robot site in desperate need of food and ice-cold beverages. Being hangry is NEVER a good thing at SDCC and there’s only so much satisfaction Cliff bars and trail mix can bring, so we set off in search of sustenance. With most of our usual Gaslamp haunts being backed up to 45 minute to hour-long waits (“I CAN’T WAIT IN ANOTHER LINE RIGHT NOW.” = us), we opted to ignore my carefully curated list of places we wanted to eat in favor of just going to whatever joint that would be able to seat us right away. Lucky for us, we discovered a new go-to place for next year in The New Yorker. GUYS. The San Diego pizza (spinach, bacon, pepperoni, and gorgonzola) changed my life. BONUS: we were able to go halvesies on our pizza, which let us try the Buffalo Chicken version as well. It just goes to show that you can rarely go wrong food-wise with ANYTHING in the Gaslamp District.

Revitalized by pizza and beer, we made a quick pass through the convention center to pick up some art and then we made our way home for a disco nap before getting dressed up for the Geek and Sundry Dance Party. (Sage: We WILL put on something cute and dance tonight, DAMMIT.) We’ve said before that Comic Con parties are a massive crapshoot and rule held true here. We arrived at the club an hour before the party was set to kickoff and found a minimal line, which blessedly assured that we would make it in.

Here’s where I am gonna go off on a rant about line etiquette though. We got in line at 8 PM, an hour before the doors opened. There were two girls in front of us who we chit-chatted with because what else are you going to do when you’re standing there for an hour? One girl left to go to the restroom, and when I scooted over to make room for Sage to sit on the ledge, the girl’s friend snapped at us for trying to take HER friend’s spot. We assured her that we were just trying to give each other room so we could all sit, we were in no way trying to push her friend out of line. Later, as the line started to condense, more and more people started JOINING these two girls in line. At first it was just two…then two more…then three. Soon, there were TWELVE new people ahead of us in line. A line that now was stretched blocks long. NOT COOL. I realize that we were ALREADY fragile from the 4 hour wait for Mr. Robot earlier that day but that is what kicked us into Sage-Rage and K-irritation. You don’t DO that. We knew it wouldn’t affect US…but what about the people at the end of the line who had been waiting just as long? Sage tried to be nice, but these girls KNEW they had pulled a fast one, as they blatantly ignored Sage when she tried to confront them. One of the latecomers dared to have words with her about how she needed to RELAX. HAAAAAA. While I furiously ranted about the bad form on Twitter, tagging Geek and Sundry every time, Sage tried to flag down a security guy to report the line cutting. The security guy offered to escort us into the party but did nothing to remove the offending parties, which was upsetting. The line-cutters KNEW we were trying to get them kicked out, which resulted in more than a few salty remarks being tossed back and forth between us. TL;DR: people are assholes and Sage and I are ALWAYS looking out for the people in line behind us. You’re welcome.

Actual picture of us in line.

Once in the party, we were greeted with a dance floor full of nerds. While that sounds promising, everyone knows that the success of a dance party hinges on the DJ.  This DJ was THOROUGHLY committed to the whole “geek” theme. While he had flashes of excellence, playing our jam “Africa” and half of “Backstreet’s Back at one point, most of the music consisted of house mixes of TV theme songs and video game music. That’s right. At one point we were actually expected to be dancing to music from “Final Fantasy” which is basically like asking us to get down to the Shire theme from The Lord of the Rings. (Cue me standing in the middle of the dance floor making a turtle face and wondering what in the hell was going on.) And after witnessing an entire room of fanboys losing their SHIT over the Pokemon theme playing, we NEVER want to hear shit about demanding to hear One Direction EVER again. EVER.

But still, parties are always what you make of them, and we had a grand time surrounded by our lady friends who were all dresses as Sith Lords in Corsets. We laughed at the ridiculous music, drank overpriced beers, danced with glowsticks, and gulped down the poorly made mixed drinks we scored when Felicia Day finally announced the open bar. Parties, much like SDCC itself, are what you make of them. As much as we would have liked to party all night, Sunday Hall H was calling our name, leading us to retire before midnight. Just call us SDCCinderellas. –Kim

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Glow crowns FTW

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“There’s always two of us. Don’t you read The Strand?” – Sherlock Recap, The Abominable Bride

the abominable bride

Sherlock, New Year’s Day 2016 Special
“The Abominable Bride”
Posted by Sage

If you follow Head Over Feels on social media (and you’d better), you perhaps noticed that we didn’t give off our usual hum of anticipation leading in to a brand new episode of Sherlock. Truth be told, I found it genuinely difficult to get excited about a special that looked for all the world like it was going to be some kind of dream or alternate reality adventure, totally outside of the actual show canon. “The Abominable Bride” was a standalone story that put us right back where series 3 left off…and it wasn’t. I admire Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat for their determination to have their cake and eat it too, even if that doesn’t work out for them all the time. But when years pass between our appointments with this Sherlock and Watson, why not be bold?

sherlock set

Look, this Victorian Inception thing either worked for you or it didn’t. But the conceit gave the show’s brilliant production and design staff another way to shine; their care and attention to detail showed in every frame. At last year’s Gallifrey One convention in Los Angeles, I was privileged to spend an hour in a hotel boardroom with Sherlock production designer Arwel Wyn Jones and a dozen other fans, 12 Angry Men style. That’s nearly a full 11 months ago, but he was already neck-deep in preparations for “The Abominable Bride.” The task that was keeping him up at night around that time? Finding era-appropriate versions of Sherlock and John’s signature arm chairs.

Production designers spend their lives considering minute details that only the most attentive of viewers will even consciously note. And that’s why we love them. But the scarcity of the new Sherlock episode to the people who make it shows in the final product. In “The Abominable Bride,” I see a piece of work that’s been made in its own sweet time with the cool, shrugging confidence that can only come with runaway success and a heavily tumbled slash ship. I also see that the artists behind the show had months (and years in the case of the writers) to think about how to do it and how to do it right. Contradiction, my dear Watson. It makes for a divided audience. About a third of my Twitter timeline really hated this episode.

Me? I’m fine. “The Abominable Bride” didn’t have the giddiness of “The Sign Of Three” or the cold dread of “The Reichenbach Fall,” and believe me, I’ll get to the problematic bits. Still, I enjoy Gatiss and Moffat’s textual high-fiving over their own cleverness – you kind of have to, to be a fan – and the one-off did push the story forward incrementally. Or at least, a couple of characters.

Though the first five minutes did nothing to allay my fears in that respect. The episode opens and proceeds for a while as a straight-up Victorian re-telling of “A Study In Pink.” John Watson is injured in the war; runs into his old friend Stamford, and meets his new flatmate Sherlock Holmes whilst he’s wailing on a dead body in a morgue. It’s all very twee, aside from Martin fucking Freeman. Sherlock is always Sherlock – a “man out of his time” or any time. He’s timeless. But “Bride” showcased the traditional Watson who runs parallel to the modern one in Freeman’s performance. He plays this Watson so differently, though there’s never a doubt that the partnership is still the same. As always, I marvel at his talent and get more excited when I should when he gets to yell.

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Then the episode fast-forwards a bit to an established sleuthing duo returning home from another adventure that’s sure to be written up for publication in The Strand magazine. The time-warped Baker Street is proper thrilling, as is the appearance of Mrs. Hudson. She’s the first in a series of women to be overlooked and undervalued in the episode. And while she may be used to reading her name in a perfunctory context in John’s stories, she’s not over it. “Well, I never say anything, do I?” she challenges her tenant. “I’m your land lady, not a plot device.” (THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT A PLOT DEVICE WOULD SAY.) Inside their rooms is another woman is taking drastic steps to be seen. Mary Watson resorted to gaining access to 221B as a client, since it’s the only way by which she can see her husband. Not that her husband is really worth the trouble. 0/10 recommend dating or marrying 1895 John Watson, ladies. His painfully bored wife misses him, and offers up her assistance on the next case. “What would you do?” John asks her, befuddled by the suggestion that she might be of help. “Well, what do you do?” Mary shoots back. He doesn’t have much of an answer.

Sherlock ignores the domestic happening behind him and murmurs some foreshadowing about going “deep” within himself for a case. (“Ummmm…” – Tumblr.) Then a pair of mutton chops walks in, followed quickly by Detective Inspector Lestrade. He’s shaken, and certainly there on business. But first, a drink. (“Watson, restore the courage of Scotland Yard.”)

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Lestrade (still FINE AS HELL, even with the face-warmers) begins weaving the tale of Emilia Ricoletti. On her wedding anniversary, Ricoletti put on her wedding dress, smeared red lipstick onto her mouth, and then stepped out onto her balcony in full view of the busy street below. Bystanders ran for cover as she shrieked (“YOU?”) and fired shots at the ground, the whole ordeal ending when she pointed the gun at herself and pulled the trigger. Or so that’s what rationality would predict. Later that night, none other than Emilia Ricoletti’s husband Thomas meets “the bride” on his way out Lime House. The dead woman, whose body he was certainly on his way to identify, shoots him in front of several witnesses and disappears into the foggy night.

bride

I want to talk about storytelling for a minute. It’s happening on every level of Sherlock. Every case starts with a story, whether that comes from the law or from the client. It’s never nothing. There’s never no information. There’s a version of events from a specific point of view. There are prejudices and assumptions about what humans are or are not capable of. It’s Sherlock’s job to suss the truth the out, his lack of emotion (keep telling yourself that, Shezza) making him the ideal editor to cut through the bullshit. (“Poetry or truth?” “Many would say they’re the same thing.” “Yes, idiots.”) Once that happens, the story is re-written yet again, this time by John Watson. Whether he’s writing for a blog or for the Strand, he’s writing for an audience now. Sherlock’s work doesn’t make him a legend. John’s stories do. And they’re nothing without a little flair. My head canon is that every Sherlock episode is a “filmed” version of a Watson blog entry, and maybe the cases themselves weren’t quite so melodramatic. It’s all about framing, you see.

Lestrade’s narration is enhanced by a cool visual trick. The Sherlock crew set up the sitting room of 221B in the middle of the street where Thomas Ricolletti is shot; the camera zooms in and out of the meeting of minds and back to the murder, so it’s as if Lestrade, Sherlock, and Watson are actually witnessing the crime. That technique also backs up my unreliable(ish) narrator theory. The sleuths are seeing events as Lestrade describes them. He’s the storyteller.

Not that Sherlock trusts him. The first stop is the morgue, to ascertain whether or not what’s on the slaaaab is truly Mrs. Ricoletti. A “moron” has strapped the corpse to the table (hi, Anderson!) and is rewarded for his stupidity with verbal abuse by “Hooper,” the mustachioed, no-nonsense coroner. I do believe I love this. Modern Molly is a very feminine character who doesn’t see why her desire to date, wear lipstick (right shade or not), or be a low-key cat lady should at all undermine her authority in the lab. (Or in Sherlock’s mind palace. HM.) Molly could have been written into this special as a barmaid or something and the cross-dressing out of necessity could have been given to a female character who’s less stereotypically girly. But our Molly Hooper is a little ruthless. And she’s certainly brave. I could see her gaming the system to live the life she feels she deserves and do the work no one could do better. My shipper heart also leapt at the brief yet weighty interactions between Holmes and Hooper. There’s something about Holmes not noticing something very off about the coroner that calls back to the bad timing, misunderstandings, and tentative healing of their 21st century relationship. I ship it in every era.

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Anyway, the dead body is (or was) unquestionably Emilia Ricoletti. The only change from the body’s previous day spent in the morgue is the smear of blood on one finger – the finger “she” used to write “YOU” in her own blood on the wall. (Anderson’s precautions aren’t so stupid after all, maybe.) Watson offers a meat-dagger-quality theory that Sherlock shoots down immediately: twins. SECRET twins. (“This whole thing could have been planned.” “Since the moment of conception?”) The good doctor does make a helpful note on the way out, however. The body shows signs of consumption. Sherlock doesn’t hear this part, since he’s already decided he’s learned all he can from these people. (“Thank you all for a fascinating case. I’ll send you a telegram when I’ve solved it.”)

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Oh, and there have been more murders pinned to “the bride.” All men, which has Lestrade shaking and Sherlock scoffing. It’s copycats, the detective reasons. With hysteria in the wind, why not add the bells and whistles the public associates with this ghostly terror to throw Scotland Yard off the actual scent? Sherlock’s interest in the case waning, Mycroft sends for the men to call on him at the Diogenes Club. But before that, we get a very strange scene between Watson and his maid. Mary isn’t in (and hasn’t been much since she received a cryptic telegram at 221B); the maid is quite intentionally impertinent in asking about it. John’s response is such a perfect jab at the designation between real duties and “women’s work.” (“If it wasn’t my wife’s business to deal with the staff, I’d talk to you myself.”) This hint at the conspiracy behind the city under siege would have worked better if the maid had appeared in one or two more scenes to underline the role she plays in the Watsons’ life and how enraged she is at being ignored. Instead: fat suit Mycroft.

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Besides the fact that Mycroft Holmes is quite rotund in the Arthur Conan Doyle stories, I don’t understand this choice. I suppose the goal was a spot of dark comedy, with Mycroft eating himself to death just to win a bet with his brother. But it doesn’t fly. It’s too meanspirited a take on Modern Mycroft, who’s come to show real regard for and loyalty to Sherlock. The visual gag is easy and vile; John’s sign language hack-job is just as predictable, but much less uncomfortable. The success of the scene is that it’s where I began to really question what was going on backstage of this episode, if you will. Mycroft does delight in being the puppetmaster, but the way he fed this information to Sherlock and Watson (a Lady Carmichael will lead them to the perpetrators of these acts, “an enemy we must lose to…”) is too contrived for a regular Moffat/Gatiss script.

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Brother Mine meets with Lady Carmichael, who also has a story to tell. Her husband has been acting strangely since the morning he received five orange pips in the mail (classic Holmes reference), apparently an omen of death. “She’s come for me, Louise,” he chokes out. From that morning, he’s a haunted man. This is terrific news in Sherlock’s book, since it gives him a solid opportunity to see “the bride” in the flesh. Or not, whatever.

Sherlock: “Eustace is to die tonight!”
Watson: “Holmes.”
Sherlock: “…And we should probably avoid that.” 

The boys take a field trip out to the Carmichaels’ country mansion. On the train, Watson’s uneasiness starts to show. He’s accepting the stories as they’ve been told to him. Based on the witnesses and the positive morgue ID, there can be only one conclusion: Emilia Ricoletti is terrorizing men from beyond the grave. He forgets how facts can be twisted, until Sherlock accuses him of letting his pathetic fancy run wild. “Since when have you had any kind of imagination?” Sherlock asks. “Perhaps since I convinced the reading public that an unprincipled drunk addict was some kind of gentleman hero,” Watson answers back. And….fair.

come to mention

Sidebar: I love it when Sherlock gets all macabre and says things like, “There are no ghosts in this world, save those we make for ourselves.” I bet you all a million dollars each that James Franco has whispered this exact sentence into the ear of at least one NYU co-ed while drinking small-batch whiskey from a chipped coffee mug in a Brooklyn speakeasy.

Eustace is not psyched about being the carrot dangled in front of a misandrist spirit. He even attempts to convince the detective that his wife is overreacting, even though he was the one sobbing on the floor in his pajamas the night before. Sherlock will have none of it. He met Lady Carmichael and in an instant knew that she wasn’t the type to be held hostage by a scary story and a creaky step on the stairs. “She’s not a hysteric,” Sherlock reminds her husband. “She’s a highly intelligent woman of rare perception.” He does smell one rat in the house though. And I wonder if Sherlock’s enthusiasm for this rather dangerous plan has anything to do with his assumption that Eustace probably deserves what’s coming to him.

rare for us

“Mm, I should think so. Murder on the knees.”

At last, we’ve arrived. The gay greenhouse scene. *cracks knuckles*

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Live Blogging the Oscars 2015 Red Carpet

Posted by Kim and Sage 

We may be several episodes behind on our weekly recaps (THEY ARE COMING WE PROMISE) but for now it’s time to celebrate our High Holy Day: The Academy Awards.  I just read there is no mani-cam tonight, so the Celebrities and the world has already won tonight!  Join us here for all the commentary on Giuliana and Ryan and for all the flails regarding fashion.  WOOOOO!

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“White Middle Aged Guys” – An Oscar Nominations 2015 Roundtable

Posted by Kim, Sage, and Chelsea

HAPPY NOMINATION DAY EVERYONE!  Every year, the Academy manages to pull surprises out for the Oscar nominations, both elating and cringe worthy.  This year, we enlisted our friend Chelsea (the monster behind the dearly missed #Top3 game on twitter) (who is also  film student & producer of an upcoming documentary & TV show, but really #Top3) to help us break down our reactions to the nominations.  Let’s get to it, shall we?

Best Picture

American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, and Whiplash

Kim: Chels, I know you loved Birdman, and I fully expect you to school me, but I just can’t with that movie. I respected a lot of the PARTS of the movie but as a whole? Meh. What was it trying to SAY? I didn’t get anything from the story. It lost me when it turned to the fantastical in the third act. Also, as a snobby New Yorker who works in the theatre district, the way it messed with the Geography of it TRULY irked me (there’s no way any door in the St. James would spill out into Times Square) but I know that’s just me. I found it pretentious as a film, to be honest.

The lesson we’ve learned from all the Sniper nods is that old white men will never abandon their love for Clint Eastwood.

Selma gets best pic but nothing else other than original song? Makes sense.

I’ve expressed this before, but my problem with this year’s crop of films is that while many of them (MOST OF THEM) were outstanding acting showcases or feats of directing, very few of them feel BEST PICTURE to me. These movies have to stand in the Pantheon of ALL TIME great movies, you know? And for me, that means the picture has to have EVERYTHING or it has to make a great impact on film making from here on out.

For me, my favorite of the year is The Imitation Game and it’s definitely the most traditional of all the nominees. It fired on all cylinders. Great acting from top to bottom, an important story with an excellent screenplay, high emotional impact, lovely pacing and a terrific score. It’s everything A Beautiful Mind THOUGHT it was.

Outraged at the snubs for both the lady driven pictures, Wild and Gone Girl. Everyone said that when the picture race expanded beyond 5 that it would allow more mainstream movies in, which is rarely the case. Were the nominators scared of Amazing Amy? How is it that everyone wanked themselves over 127 Hours and James Franco vs elements but Reese Witherspoon and Wild only scrounge up two acting noms? LADIES that’s why.

Sage: I haven’t seen American Sniper but I already know it’s some jingoistic bullshit from a senile old man who talks to chairs. I’d rank Imitation Game over Theory of Everything because of the genre-blending that happens in it. It’s a cool spy movie that also happens to be an intense character study. Budapest isn’t even my favorite of the Anderson films, though it’s perhaps the most ambitious. Would rather see Wild here though.

I promise I’ll finish Whiplash today.

With the way these nominations played out, it adds a weird context to the strong possibility of Boyhood winning for being – essentially – a love letter to growing up white and male in America. Regardless, I appreciate the work and I love Linklater and I feel that it’s a wholly original project that could have been fucked up so many times along the way. It’s a true feat that it wasn’t.

Chelsea: Overall, this is a strong pack of nominees this year. I’ll be spending the next six weeks gushing over Boyhood so get ready. I had a feeling American Sniper would make it in. I won’t judge without seeing it but BCoop has been on a roll and never underestimate Eastwood. The academy loves him and war films. Whiplash was the only other real “surprise” this year but when you break down the main components of the film then it’s not shocking. White men struggles in the arts, similar to Black Swan but not nearly as dark (or compelling in my opinion). The film thrives because of JK Simmons’ performance but at its bare bones, it’s just another safe and boring choice. It should be happy it was invited to the party. It is lovely seeing Wes Anderson get the love he deserved even though I’m apathetic to Budapest. If this makes up for the lack of Moonrise Kingdom love, then I’ll survive.

Kim, we just need to have a knockout round with Birdman. That would be a fun discussion. I’m thrilled to see Birdman help lead the pack. It’s a film student’s wet dream (just ask half the students and teachers in my department). It’s been quite polarizing to audiences as of late. Its structure and form is what enhances the content and the story is harder to decipher if you don’t understand its form and how the director is trying to tell this story of a man’s spiral into insanity.

Kim: To me, Birdman is just what Abed’s Jesus movie would have been if Shirley had not intervened.  Meta for meta’s sake.  And yes, I’d like to discuss this further, but does that mean I’d have to see it again?

Chelsea: What really stands out is how much these award shows LOVE biopics. 1/2 of the nominees this year are based on the real lives and struggles of white men and the most influential person of color in U.S. history. Would it have killed them to consider any female biopics like Wild? Thank God Theory of Everything is equally Jane and Stephen Hawking in terms of story and performance.

When it comes down to the actual awards though, it’s Boyhood‘s to lose. Budapest & Birdman can give it a run for their money but good luck. You take this average American family and show how time affects them and how parents shape their children, particularly the relationship of the mother and her son and how he views her life as he ages. The most simple of concepts shows how life is important no matter how hard and mundane it can be. And it’s the only film of this whole bunch that balances the gender of each characters. Patricia Arquette and Lorelei Linklater are just as fully formed and respected in their characters as Ellar Coltrane and Ethan Hawke. My feminist heart just soars. The scope of the film, story, performance, seamless editing, and commitment make it stand out in the pack. We will be talking about this masterpiece for years to come. Extraordinary filmmaking and deserves all the praise it’s received.

Best Director

Alexandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

Kim: Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaay Middle aged white men?  How did Miller pull this off??? Didn’t everyone hate Foxcatcher?

Sage: YAWN. Miller is the only surprise here. Coming off of that buzz, Foxcatcher was basically a disappointment. And the direction wasn’t particularly noteworthy. I haven’t seen Selma but you haaaaaaaaave to be kidding me. It won’t happen, but I kind of wish it would win so Ava could have her Argo fuck yourself moment.

Chelsea: Thrilled to see Linklater here and so ready for him to win. He should’ve been nominated last year for Before Midnight and previously for Before Sunset. He has been the most consistently interesting director over the past two decades and I anxiously await to see what he does next. Team Boyhood!

As for everybody else, I’m glad to see Inarritu as he too is one of the most innovative directors of the year. And again, it is wonderful to see Wes Anderson finally get some recognition even if I’m not the biggest fan of the film. He’s more than deserving of the nomination. I loved Capote and Moneyball but I’m not sure what Bennett Miller is doing here or even Tyldum for that matter. In a year when there were two great female directors in Ava DuVarnay and Angelina Jolie, they just had to go with the boring old white guys again?

Best Actor

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Kim: The category with the most upsets, with Cooper and Carell pushing out Gyllenhaal and Oyelowo. As soon as Sniper started racking up tech noms, I knew Cooper was gonna get in and Jake was toast, which is unfortunate. Jake’s performance in Nightcrawler was the best of his career and deliciously unsettling. I was surprised about Carell as it seemed everyone had cooled on that pic. But yay for Michael Scott.

I am adamantly against Keaton winning just on merits of it being a “comeback”. You’re an actor and you made a film. That’s the job. Yes, he’s good, but Cumberbatch and Redmayne act circles around him. Speaking of those Brits, CAN THEY SHARE?

In our great performances post, I compared Redmayne to DDL in My Left Foot. It’s an extraordinary performance physically and emotionally. My only fear about him is his relative youth (and he LOOKS younger than he is) and the fact he is new-ish on the scene. Best Actor winners tend to be Older and more grizzled lately, with few young exceptions (Adrien Brody). Can Eddie do it?

Sage: I just…what possessed Bradley Cooper to make this movie?

Honestly, I think Carell came through because people like the idea of him getting a nomination, not entirely due to the performance. Redmayne is pretty much a lock, but let this be the first of many nods for BC. Apparently the guaranteed recognition for biopics only applies to white people. Sorry, David O.

Chelsea: Again, I will reserve judgement for American Sniper and Bradley Cooper until I actually see the film. BCoop has been delivering wonderful work since Silver Linings Playbook so I’m not gonna tarnish him before I see him.

I think Michael Keaton was wonderful in conveying his crazy actor side in Birdman. The film is so frantic and Keaton really captures that actor wanting to make a comeback in a world he just does not understand. I have no problem with an actor making a comeback with an Oscar. We didn’t have the McConaissance last year for nothing.

Carell isn’t really a surprise to me since he got the GG & SAG noms and I’m not surprised to see Gyllenhaal dropped from the category, just disappointed.

I too have been making the My Left Foot comparison to Redmayne since before I saw the film. I fully expect him to win and DDL won his Oscar for My Left Foot at 32, same age as Redmayne and he seems to be doing alright.

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The Best Performances of 2014

Posted by Kim and Sage

We’ve named our Top 20 moments of 2014 (re-live those moments here and here) and now it’s time to turn our eyes to our favorite individual performances of the year. As usual, we make the disclaimer that we are but two modest bloggers and cannot see everything, so try not to get too worked up if your favorite isn’t here. Still, we live for nothing if not to celebrate great work when we see it. Help us do that, won’t you?

1) Julianne Nicholson – Masters of Sex

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Guys, I don’t understand why EVERYONE isn’t talking about Masters of Sex.   I’m still in the midst of watching season two (I watch it on my iPad at the gym, which must make for amazing over the shoulder watching for whoever is on the machine next to me.)  While Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan’s performances carry the bulk of the weight, Masters is incredibly rich in its supporting and recurring characters.  I love Julianne Nicholson’s Lillian DePaul because she is the anti-Virginia.  Where Virginia is warm and emotive, Lillian is awkward and tenacious and to the point.  Lillian is abrasive and seems to always be clawing her way up, believing her intelligence should stand on its own, whereas Virginia smoothly slides herself into the places she needs to be, unafraid to use her feminine wiles.  These women are two sides of the same coin, which is why they gravitate towards each other (even if Lillian does it kicking and screaming).  Obviously, the relationship between Virginia and Bill is the driving force of the show, but the unsung relationship of the show is Lillian and Virginia and what these two women learn from each other.  Virginia helps soften Lillian and teaches her that sometimes intelligence and passion isn’t enough to get you where you want to be, while Lillian, in her incredibly rigid way, teaches Virginia to expect MORE from herself and respect her own intelligence.  It’s a fascinating relationship and I love how Lillian isn’t afraid to call Virginia out for the way the affair with Bill is offensive to her.

“Don’t you understand what you’ve done makes it harder for every woman who comes after you?  Easier for every man that has designs on that same woman?”

The best friendships are the ones where one is not afraid to call the other out.  “Giants” is a spectacular episode for that very reason, as Lillian and Virginia end up screaming at each other in her office.  Neither is in the right, as Lillian disregards Virginia’s emotions, while Virginia refuses to admit that she is doing anything WRONG. (“We’re participating in the study” is the LAMEST excuse ever.)  It’s the kind of fight that would end a weaker friendship.  But when Lillian’s cancer flares up at the end of the episode and she passes out, who does she call?  Virginia. (“I am scared though, for what’s ahead, which means I can’t really afford to be upset with you now, can I?”) And Virginia comes because her friend needs her. FRIENDSHIP.

Don’t even get me started on when Virginia tucks Lillian into bed and kisses her forehead like one of her children.  The pain is too real right now.

Nicholson is so wonderful in the role because she allows you to see the woman behind Lillian’s brittle exterior.  It could have easily been a one-note character, but instead you see a woman terrified that she is losing the one thing she has always counted on and the only thing about herself she’s always prized: her mind.  Lillian has so many wonderful unexpected moments, like when she pulls a bottle of liquor out of her desk to have a post-work drink with Austin or when she slyly refuses to outright apologize to Virginia after their fight (acknowledging the non-apology IS the apology).  Given her character’s diagnosis, I always knew Julianne’s time on the show was limited…but that doesn’t mean I didn’t sob like a baby when Lillian died.  Because she did it on her own terms, blazing her path on her own, like she had always done.  HERO.

— Kim

2) John Barrowman – Arrow

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You all know that John Barrowman can do no wrong in our eyes and we love Arrow for bringing him back to our television screens on a regular basis.  There is little to nothing redeeming about Malcolm Merlyn.  He’s a ruthless business man and an even more ruthless assassin.  His only loyalty is to himself.  Just when you think there might be hope for him in the form of love for his daughter, he turns around and drugs Thea, forcing her to murder Sara (with no memory of doing so) for some reason I’m STILL not entirely sure of other than fridging one female character whilst taking away the other’s agency. (Seriously, writers.  This is supposed to one of the most pro-lady shows on TV and you are failing this gender.)  It takes an actor with an innate sense of over-the-top theatricality to make all of these dastardly deeds seem grounded and realistic.  Luckily, John Barrowman has that in spades.  What elevates Barrowman’s performance is the fact that you can SEE how much fun he is having bringing this bastard to life.  He chews all the scenery with a fervor usually reserved for meals at five-star restaurants.  It’s nothing short of delightful.

— Kim

3) Jenna Coleman – Doctor Who

doctor who jenna coleman

2014: The Year of Clara Oswald.

Before Series 8 premiered, I was very lukewarm on Clara as a character.  This is not a slam against Jenna Coleman at all…she’s always been wonderful on the show, she was just saddled with bad writing and being reduced to a plot device.  Clara was a cipher, a puzzle for The Doctor to figure out, which did not do much for her in terms of a personality.  She showed flashes of who she was outside of being “The Impossible Girl” in “The Day of the Doctor” but that was lost in “The Time of the Doctor”.  Then Matt Smith regenerated into Peter Capaldi and EVERYTHING changed.  In the wake of having the Doctor go through an identity crisis, Clara’s personality solidified and what emerged was WONDERFUL.  Clara became a Type-A control freak who desperately wanted to “have it all” in her life.  Gone were the days of her being a nanny (really…what was that?) and she blossomed in her position as an English Teacher.  She moved past her hero-worship of The Doctor and became unafraid to push his buttons and call him out on his shit.  She demanded more of him because she KNEW the type of man he was capable of being and she did not accept him being any less.  She fell in love but refused to compromise herself or bend to Danny Pink’s demands of the relationship.  She is passionate, she is self-assured, she is empathetic, and she is ruthless.  She is devoted to The Doctor to a fault and she’s addicted to the life that he has shown her though their travels.  She is incredibly difficult and complex.  She’s not an easy woman content with simple pleasures, and I love her all the more for it.

With better material, Jenna emerged as a brilliant actress who was capable of bringing incredible pathos to Doctor Who.  In Peter Capaldi, she got a scene partner who pushed her to bring her A-Game every episode…and she did.  Their chemistry is electric and unexpected and thoroughly watchable (and shippable WHOOPS).  If you had asked me a year ago if I was ready for Clara to move on, I would have probably said yes.  Now?  I screamed with joy and almost flailed off my bed when she was confirmed for Series 9.  Don’t ever leave me, Jenna.

— Kim

4) Jesse L. Martin – The Flash

the flash jesse l martin

I’m still grappling with the notion that Jesse Martin can play a character with an adult child. For heaven’s sake, who’s holding down the anarchist movement at MIT??

Regardless. With Coach Taylor out of the game, Jesse’s Detective Joe West is the best dad on TV right now. Built on the sturdy base of Arrow, The Flash hit the ground running (hee) this year. The series boasts quality writing and very un-cheesy effects. But The Flash‘s ace in the hole? Its superhero casting. Grant Gustin is a find – heroic and unequivocally good, but without laying on the “gee, whiz” routine. I love the ingenuity of casting erstwhile nice guy Tom Cavanagh as the ambiguously unsavory Dr. Wells. And then, there’s Jesse. He’s just so WARM, you guys. I want him to bear-hug me into a coma.

I’m a sucker for a father/son relationship, especially a non-traditional one. And with Barry Allen’s biological dad (heeeeeey Mitch Leery) taking the rap for his wife’s murder, it’s Joe who’s held that position for most of Barry’s life. Like its sister show, The Flash wins at humanizing its heroes by focusing on the people who build them up and give them a reason to do what they do. In Joe, Barry has a boss, an ally, a possible future in-law, and the family he needs to keep on being that light. He’s the guy behind the guy.

When you first moved in with us, I thought it was going to be too much. I was already a single dad, finances were tough and you were a little boy who just lost his mother. But, man, I was wrong. Within two weeks you changed the whole dynamic of the house. Suddenly the house was filled with this light, this energy. I mean, you brightened up everything. You’ve seen more darkness than any man will in a lifetime and you never let it dim your soul. So there I was thinking that I’m changing your life by taking you in, but the truth is, you changed mine. So don’t lose that light, now, Bar. The world may need The Flash, but I need my Barry Allen. Let’s go home.

I think there’s something in my eye…

–Sage

5) Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl

gone girl rosamund pike

While everyone hemmed and hawed over the casting of Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike situated herself comfortably in the title role of this whole nasty business. (Also, Ben Affleck is an actor. He’s going to do movies. You may as well get used to it.) And she nailed it. Amy Dunne is a Hitchcock blond on Adderall. She’s cunning, merciless, vulnerable, and utterly insane. She scared the bejesus out of me. But because she also did that to every man in America, I root for her. Just a little bit.

–Sage

6) Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything

The only thing I can compare Eddie Redmayne’s performance in The Theory of Everything to is Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot.  Both are extraordinary PHYSICAL performances that could easily feel gimmicky or like a blatant awards grab…but they are so rooted in the humanity of the men that they are portraying that they feel nothing but completely natural.  The difference in the performances is that Christy Brown was BORN with cerebral palsy, while Stephen Hawking went through a gradual decline thanks to ALS.  This gives Redmayne the opportunity to also grapple with the incredible struggle of being a healthy and brilliant young man being crippled by a horrible disease.  It’s a daunting challenge for any actor and Eddie Redmayne immerses himself in the challenge fully. The result is extraordinary. Physically, I don’t know how Eddie managed to contort his body for hours at a time…just looking at that gif makes my neck hurt.  The best part is how, despite the deterioration of his body, Eddie always keeps Hawking’s MIND alive.  It’s an incredibly aware and alive performance.  The wheels never stop turning, his eyes never lose the sly twinkle, even after he is no longer able to use his voice.  That’s right. In the final act of the movie, Hawking loses his ability to speak, leaving Eddie Redmayne with only his FACE to convey all the things going on in Stephen’s mind.  It’s mind-boggling.

— Kim

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