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May 24, 2013

"The protagonist of The Shining is the hotel."

Twitter's own Ken Lowery is spending 24 hours watching The Shining. His twitter stream is a mix of insight, madness, and desperation. But he pointed to an interesting (and long) project by Todd Alcott that is a very close read of the film based upon some pretty unique foundations. Namely that the protagonist of THE SHINING is the evil Overlook hotel. It might seem a small thing, but it dramatically colors this interpretation of the film. toddalcott: The Shining part 1
The protagonist of The Shining is the hotel. What does the Overlook want? The Overlook wants to find a perfect candidate for familial slaughter. It had one a few years back, Charles Grady, who chopped up his wife and children and then committed suicide. Now it's got another one, Jack Torrance. Mr. Ullman, the Overlook manager, even mentions that Jack is an unusually good candidate for the job. When interviewing Jack, he mentions something about how the "people down in Denver" recommended Jack "and for once, I agree with them." It seems that Mr. Ullman has had no luck during his tenure getting a caretaker to slaughter his family, all because of those meddling bureaucrats in Denver. Those lousy pencil-pushers know nothing of family slaughter, but this time, seemingly by accident, they have picked a winner. Kubrick does in The Shining something very similar to what he does in 2001: A Space Odyssey: he creates a protagonist who is invisible, or nearly so. The extraterrestrials who set the plot of 2001 into motion are never seen, but their artifacts are. Likewise, the protagonist of The Shining, whatever evil entity it is, takes many forms but always through surrogates: the bartender, the lady in the bathtub, the elevator full of blood. No wonder people were upset -- the movie gave them not only an invisible protagonist, it gave them an evil protagonist. The Shining has one narrative question: Will The Overlook Succeed In Getting Jack To Kill His Family? Which means that the narrative has two main antagonists: Danny, the psychic kid, and Halloran, Danny's psychic cook pal. For those keeping score, this is an inversion of the novel: in the novel, Danny and his psychic powers are the linchpin of the whole plot: the Overlook wants Danny, because he's so freaking powerful. In the movie, the Overlook wants Jack, and sees Danny's power as a bar to its success in that goal. And while we're here, why does Danny need to be psychic at all? In the novel, Danny's talent is the inciting incident: the ghosts come out to play because Danny is in the hotel. In the movie, the hotel is haunted and Danny is psychic, but the two things have nothing to do with each other. Isn't that kind of strange, to have a movie with a haunted hotel and a psychic kid? Why have both? Either one, I would think, would be enough to carry a movie. It might sound like a stupid question, but why does The Shining need a psychic kid in it? (Except, of course, it would need a new title.) The hotel is evil, it means to persuade Jack to kill his family, it will either succeed in that pursuit or it will fail. Danny's psychic ability, apart from a couple of plot points, is utterly beside the point in narrative terms. It's like having a Dracula movie where it turns out Van Helsing is really a space alien: it's interesting, but it doesn't really add anything to the vampire narrative. Why, then, does Danny have psychic ability? . . .

May 14, 2013

Trailer: Almost Human

Another new fall tv show. This one has a great cast and is being put on by the folks who made FRINGE. The plot seems to involved a cyborg cop, afflicted with PTSD and an android who was shelved for being too human. There's banter and quips and lovely effects and a conspiracy. There's always a conspiracy these days. He's a human cop with robot parts who acts emotionless. And he's a robot cop with a human soul who feels too much! They complete each other.

Trailer: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

This looks fun. A police procedural set in the world of Marvel superheroes. So like ALPHAS or HEROES but with access to Marvels deep roster of unknown-to-99%-of-tv-watchers characters, a decent budget, and talented writers. I'm a pretty big Joss Whedon fan. The guy has a way with dialogue and story--when he's focused--that is delightful to me. The problem with Whedon has always been deligating to worse writers (Hi, Buffy season 5 and 6!) and studio honchos mucking around with the work (Whassup, Dollhouse and Firefly). One assumes that with The Avengers under his belt he has enough juice to not get dicked around by the studio. But that's probably not true at all. All of the fan press seems to be a flutter with trying to guess who J. August Richards is playing in the pilot. Is he Luke Cage? Is he Rage? Is he Patriot? Which is dumb. He could be anyone. A new character! A revamped character! A villain! A character who--GASP!--isn't black in the comics. Seriously, he could be anyone. The speculation is tiresome. I'll be watching this, is what I know.