Tuesday, January 25, 2011

So You're a Slayer - Just How Scary Are Your Nightmares?

It's Week 4 of the Great Buffy Re-Watch and it's so big, it's split into two posts! (Actually, there are two writers for this week.)

Great stuff here! After all, if you're the Slayer and (as such) you're the thing that scary things are scared of, just exactly how bone-shakingly scary are the things you're scared of going to be? That's one of the issues that gets explored in "Nightmares" and we learn some very interesting things about our Scoobies. (Hint: Willow has rather severe stage fright!)

Also covered in this first half of this week's post is "Out of Sight, Out of Mind." Or something like that - it's one of those episodes that has different names depending on your source. Seems even the network couldn't make up its mind. Regardless of the title, most of us remember some times in our tour of hell known in polite society as high school during which we felt invisible. Sunnydale being situated on a Hellmouth means that's not just a metaphor.

This week's post is brought to you by David Kociemba, the editor of Watcher Junior, a peer-reviewed online journal for undergraduate scholarship on the Whedonverses. If that's an area of interest for you, they're currently accepting submissions. Click here for details.

We're nearly through Season 1 - it was only a half-season in length, after all. (Remember, BtVS began as a mid-season replacement, so the first season wasn't a full 22-episode run.) Coming up in a day or two is the finale of Season 1 - "Prophecy Girl." I won't spoil for anyone who's watching for the first time, but I can say this - "Prophecy Girl" is where I moved from liking this show to starting to love it just a little. You might feel the same way.

Watch and find out!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Buffy Re-Watch!

As we continue working our way through Season 1 with "Angel," "I Robot, You Jane," and "The Puppet Show" (scary ventriloquist dummies - always a guaranteed crowd-pleaser!), we also get to enjoy the thoughtful commentary of the very observant, dryly funny and in no way reminiscent of Giles, Matthew Pateman. I've known him for a number of years now and his commentary never fails to make me go "hmmm." (He also has a tendency to make me metaphorically smack my forehead and say, "Of course! Why didn't I see that before?" Not a bad thing in a critic. That he also manages to be funny while doing all of this - there's your superplus. Click here and you'll see what I mean.) Anyway, this is his week.

Season 1 was a while back and Pateman points out that some of the references (especially to technology) don't hold up well in a contemporary context. Then again, texts need to be met on the ground on which they were created - Jane Eyre didn't have a cell phone, either.

In these three episodes, Jenny and Giles begin to circle their mutual attraction. Under duress, Xander, Willow, and Buffy perform at a school talent show (stay for the credits!). And - oh, yeah - the mysterious, brooding, somewhat-older-than-Buffy Angel (played by a very young David Boreanaz - that bit about vampires not aging is a total lie) turns out to be a vampire who has been around long enough to have read the first edition of Jude the Obscure when it was hot off the presses. Well, what relationship doesn't have its quirks?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Technological Wonders!

My college wants very much to increase the level of proficiency amongst the faculty, so for the last two years, thanks to a grant that will last three more years, we've had a "FIT group." The cutesy acronym stands for something like "Faculty Instructional Technology" and being chosen for the group means a shower of tech goodies to incorporate into the classroom, including this year's prize, the iPad. I'm part of the current group and I must admit that, at first, I thought the iPad was a cool toy, but I didn't really see the application of it to the classroom.

I'll admit I was wrong.

I've been pointed toward (and discovered some on my own) some very useful, practical uses for the iPad, and here's one for my film class - the film study app. This will link you to literally hundreds of public domain movies - to be fair, many of them are what we would politely term "obscure" and more than a few seem to just be bad, but bad movies can be very good teaching tools! (And some of them are classics in the good way.)

Using this app, you can watch films in a variety of genres - cartoons, film noir, science fiction (our focus), Westerns, romance, etc. You can pause the film whenever you like and choose from a wide number of tags to mark examples of editing techniques, the use of sound, various shots and angles, and many others. All this and it's free!

What a country!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"I'm a Slayer - Ask Me How!"

Week 2 of the Great Buffy Rewatch of 2011! And it's a doozy. Remember, every week three more episodes will be critiqued. Now, Nikki Stafford is lovely and talented (still perkily Canadian, though), but she can't do it all. Besides, half the fun of watching is yakking about what you've seen with friends. So she roped in a couple dozen folks to pitch in. This week, critic extraordinaire David Lavery (seriously, the man has forgotten more about TV than I know) takes us by the hand to walk us through "Teacher's Pet," "Never Kill a Boy on the First Date," and "The Pack." (The title of this post comes from "Never Kill," by the way. And yes, I've seen lapel buttons with the slogan printed on them at conferences. Gotta get one of those!)

At this point in Season 1, Whedon has his major players (the "Scooby Gang") in place, and he starts to flesh out (a term with often gross overtones in a show like Buffy) some secondary characters, like Xander. We also start to see Buffy's conflict between her Slayer duties and her deep-seated desire to be "normal," which will run throughout the show.

Great stuff here!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

"Into every generation a Slayer is born . . ."

. . . you know the rest. "One girl in all the world, a Chosen One. One born with the strength and skill to fight the vampires, to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their numbers.” Thus began the saga of Buffy Summers, who pretty much began my own journey into the in-depth investigation of the ways in which popular culture matters in the wider world. (A lot of that fire was really lit by Firefly, but Buffy can be said to have built the bonfire.)

It's an amazing show. Really. You must, of course, get past the deliberately silly-sounding title but once you do - ohhhh, your rewards will be vast and your interest will be compounded!

It's a show worthy of a rewatch, and the lovely and talented (albeit perkily Canadian) Nikki Stafford has begun the Great Buffy Rewatch of 2011. Gather around, children. It promises to be an epic tale, full of true love and high adventure. (OK, so I'm ripping off The Princess Bride with that line. Whatever advances the story.) She lined up a most impressive cast of rogues and sharp dealers to chime in with their thoughts and the plan is to post a new installment on Tuesday, which was always "Buffy night" when the show was airing. Each installment will usually cover three episodes (the writer might choose to focus on one of the three more than others - dealer's choice rules), although a couple will be "stand-alones."

I'll keep you posted.

Also, I'll be using this blog to comment on my soon-to-begin film course this semester. Yes, Gentle Readers, several years of hard work and much conferencing has borne fruit. (Hopefully not figs. I don't like those much. Especially the leaves.) I'm teaching an introductory film course this semester which focuses on science fiction films and I intend to use this blog to comment and (hopefully) get some comments in return. Please feel free to leave comments, but be warned that this is a moderated board. I don't censor, but I do refuse to post obvious links to selling sites or scams. It's my blog; I get to set the rules.

So come for the Slayer, stay for the rayguns!