Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Edgar Allan Poe: The Root of All Horror

The great G.K. Chesterton was a stalwart defender of pulp fiction, but he also dismissively spoke of Edgar Allan Poe as a really “morbid” writer, driven mad by his hatred of poetry. There is no contradiction here. Poe is indeed one of the great pulp authors, but he was also mad.

Poe has long been considered anathema to “serious” study. Perhaps the reason he is so distrusted by the literary establishment is his fatal mixture of vulgar sensationalism and popular appeal. In such stories as The Fall of the House of Usher, he shamelessly utilizes basic thrills to tell a story which doesn’t appear to have some Important Point to make, beyond plumbing the depths of human fear and psychosis.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Inspector Lewis - Beyond Good and Evil - Episode Review

My review of last week's episode: The Lions of Nemea

Need a MacGuffin to inject drama into your season finale? Add a serial killer with a grudge against your hero!

Let's face it, the story is pretty clich├ęd, but psychopaths have a way of upping the tension in any story, and it's no different in Beyond Good and Evil.

Graham Lawrie, a Scotsman with a rictus of a face, has been in prison for thirteen years. A newly minted Inspector Robbie Lewis put him away in 2001 for allegedly murdering three policeman with a hammer. Now, fresh evidence has cast the verdict into question, and another murder with an identical method adds further force to Lawrie's appeal.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Formula and Art

Why is one form of an idea so cheesy?

...another so terrible?

...and another so beautiful?

One word: restraint. And okay. British accents help.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Inspector Lewis - The Lions of Nemea - Episode Review

Murder in Oxford! Panic in the streets!

Well, British panic—which means we’re suitably upset about the whole thing but couldn’t we hush it up quietly?

This Lewis episode brings us back to the heart of England’s deadliest city when Rose Anderson, a graduate in classics, is found stabbed to death alongside a canal.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Inspector Lewis - Entry Wounds - Episode Review

Sidekick promotion has always proved somewhat of a stickler for long-running detective shows. There’s some reshuffling of authority, which can often produce manufactured drama. In Morse the transition was rocky, as an ailing Morse had so little confidence in his sergeant’s abilities that he shadowed him incognito, much to Lewis’s dismay.

This time around, Superintendent Innocent has recruited a retired Robbie Lewis as back-up for newly promoted D.I. Hathaway. Hathaway is not too hip on this idea, and does his usual Brooding number. Unsurprisingly, we only get half a glimpse of his motivations, something involving doubts and faith and insecurity, probably, and also some trip to a church in Spain, and now he’s in a bad mood and nobody knows why, even him. Is this just me? It’s what makes the character interesting, but also frustrating—he is just sort of a vague intelligence without reality. Morse, on the other hand, was constantly displaying tangible flaws, and his existential ponderings had real weight because of it.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Losing My Mind - Religion, Reason, and Truth

I’m fascinated by beauty. It is my final fortification against materialism, a barrier from reducing the world to numbers. Sam Harris’s arguments are very sound—they explain things, fill in the gaps. But atheism specializes in the details and misses the sunsets and the waterfalls and Beethoven’s Ninth and Charles Dickens.

The sky’s on fire in the west tonight
 A chorus of pink, purple, blazing orange
 The air pulses with meaning and—
 I think of random particles,
 of chance and infinite typewriters,
 but no cold device could make the beauty,
 nor make me understand it.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Gracepoint - Episode 1 - Review

I just had to get this off my chest.

Gracepoint would have been a much, much better show if it was set in Appalachia.

David Tennant, an uppity Yankee, arrives in small-town Gracepoint just in time to investigate the murder of Opie Taylor. Assisted by a shocked local sheriff, he must cross-examine all the inhabitants of this seemingly idyllic town.

I kid. But only a little.

In remaking the amazing British show Broadchurch, it's inevitable that some themes would cross over. The idea of a small town turning on itself. The theme of Christianity and community. There would be no better place to transport this conflict than a small Appalachian town - that symbol of American rural life - complete with a heavy dose of Flannery O'Connor.

Friday, September 12, 2014

British Mystery Coming 2014, 2015

Starting Thursday, October 2, Gracepoint will hit the small screen in America. Folk have been quick to assure us that it will not be a point-by-point remake (at least, after the first two episodes) of the original, superb series Broadchurch - but I'm not entirely convinced. (Update: my review of the first episode.)

Since my last update list, I've seen a few more things turn up.

Besides more seasons of Foyle's War (complete - here's a brief interview from the elusive Mr. Kitchen), Broadchurch (filming), Father Brown (filming), and Sherlock (being written) we have...