Tuesday, May 24, 2011

College Already?

I know it seems hard to believe, but yes - it's time for college. For me, my summer school session has started. It'll be a five-week whirl through the dramatic arts, cafeteria style. You remember cafeteria style, don't you? A little of this, a dab of that, oooh - gotta try some of that . . . just make sure you leave room for chocolate pudding at the end.

On the Whedon front, I've submitted my proposal for the upcoming Southern regional popular culture conference. I'm planning to present on the influences Watanabe's Cowboy Bebop that can be seen in Whedon's creation of the Firefly 'Verse. Bebop was first chronologically and even the casual viewer can watch an episode of Watanabe's anime tour de force and then watch an episode of Firefly and see connections. Let me make it clear - in no way do I think Firefly is a simple copy of Bebop. But there are links and similarities and no one seems to have written much about it, beyond blogging. (Don't get me wrong - I like the blogging, but I want to take this to another audience.)

Meanwhile, over at the Re-Watch, you have two links this week. (I missed last week due to unavoidable vacation. Should you wish to, you can read about it over here.) The first link was put up a week ago and discusses the wonderful Season 3 two-part finale, "Graduation Day." These two episodes have an interesting history behind them, as the network delayed broadcast in the USA (Canada got them on time - darn syrup-lickers!) due to sensitivity about Columbine. While I understand that in light of the earlier Season 3 episode "Earshot" (which had as a central plot point a planned mass killing at a school) , this delay seems a bit more iffy to me. What? Did the network suits really worry that kids were going to carry weapons to their graduations to prevent the Ascension of a demon-worshiping commencement speaker? And, if so, just who do these school boards have on speed dial? Anyway, let the lovely and talented Jennifer Stuller explain it all for you. But first, read Steve Halfyard's discussion of the use of music in these episodes. Really. Read it.

Then this week's post sees the Scoobies take their first steps post high school. High school was scary, but life after high school comes with a whole new set of perils.

Nothing's ever easy.

Including summer school.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

So What's Next?

Reel One: The film class has concluded. I was inordinately proud of their final papers - I know, it doesn't have that much to do with me; they're the ones who wrote them. Still, it was nice to see students make strides toward developing their own voices and strengthening their writing. (PS - I know you still hate thesis statements/topic sentences/whatever. I don't care. Remember - writing is a road map. So tell me where you're planning on taking me before we start going turn-by-turn.) The final night was a "fun night." There may even have been candy involved, but due to our strict "no food" rule, I cannot speculate on that topic. We watched the Firefly episode "Jaynestown," followed by Dr. Horrible and then put the cherry on the sundae with the Cowboy Bebop session "Ballad of Fallen Angels." The through line was a tenuous one, but music does crop up significantly in all three, so I went with that. A fun class and one that I'm chalking up as successful.

Reel Two: Over at the Rewatch, Buffy and her friends are moving ever closer to graduation. But first - prom! This week features both "Choices" and "The Prom," which are two lovely episodes that both feature the Scoobies facing future beyond high school. A scary prospect, at best. (Sorry I'm not writing more about this week - it's an awfully good posting - but I'm prepping for my own school's graduation and there's a list of things to do. "Brush off puffy hat" is included on that list!)

Coming Soon: Now we go back to the title of this post. Really - what's next? An excellent question, Readers Mine. The film class has wrapped up for the semester and will be on hiatus until fall, when it resumes again. And the denizens of Sunnydale High are staring down the barrel of the uncertainty that is life post-graduation after next week's viewing. Here, I'll continue to post about the Rewatch to encourage you to check out that project. I'll also (finally!) be working on polishing a couple of writing projects that I'll update you on as things progress. These are major opportunities for me, involving people and projects that I'm humbled to be associated with. (No false "aw, shucks" here, folks - these are big.)

Stick around, won't you?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Everybody Hurts

Reel One: In class, it was the second showing of District 9. You catch so much on the second showing that slipped by on the first. That's true of most films and this one has so much going on, especially with the documentary style. The pseudo-impromptu dialogue that the microphones just barely pick up and the jittery hand-held camera shots make a second viewing (at least) imperative. Papers are due in by midnight Friday and I'm looking forward to reading where my students decided to go with this one.

Reel Two: Over at the Re-Watch - oh, boy. One of the prevalent themes in District 9 is the idea that Others matter and that the pain of those unlike us has an effect - in short, that it matters. This is an idea that Buffy explores quite frequently and perhaps nowhere as poignantly as "Enemies" and "Earshot." In "Enemies," we see "the exterior become interior" as Faith's dark past surfaces. (The quote is Tanya Cochran's, who wrote the commentary for this part of the Re-Watch.) She had a lousy childhood and now she's got strength and power and she's definitely not feeling warm and fuzzy. More like furious and vengeful.

Back over at District 9, the Atticus Finch's proverb of never really understanding a person "until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it" gets a rather literal take as the protagonist is forcibly made to see the world the way a "Prawn" does. (A fate caused largely by his own arrogance and stupidity, but still.) Buffy works with this concept in "Earshot" as feelings that we strive mightily to keep buried are exposed by the suddenly telepathic Buffy. Sounds cool, right? Hearing what other people think? Well, (to use a Whedonism), not so much. It's not a gift. This episode has an interesting history, as its original airdate was delayed due to the horrific Columbine shootings a mere week prior - I understand the delay (a planned mass murder at a school is central to the plot), but the episode is about as far from exploitative as it's possible to get. Read the post, watch the episode and learn, please. We're all in pain. All of us, no matter how together we may appear to be. And that's especially true in high school. (It gets better, at least for most of us, after we get a few more years under our belts. Promise.) Plus, this week gives us the return of Evil Willow! Seriously - it's a good week to re-watch!

Coming Next Week: Wrap up of the film class. I'm considering a few shorts - maybe a little Firefly and Bebop, maybe a little 1950s silliness with wisecracking robots. And at the Re-Watch, we continue to rocket toward the Season 3 finale - will the gang graduate high school? Or will the ceremony be delayed by an apocalypse? And what color will the robes be?