American Horror Story Rewatch: Part 2

Just like that, I am done. I can now dip into Apocalypse with a well-rounded understanding of all the characters, and where they cross-over/feature in each season. It’s so Stephen King!

I have absolutely loved my AHS marathon (which didn’t include Cult because that one is still so recent). Here are my thoughts:

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Freak Show

Freak Show starts strong but seems to drag in the last few episodes. Honestly, it could be cut by a couple of those, and the same could be said for the next two seasons as well. Like, we get it – let us live. As with the first two seasons, there’s a lot going on. The addition of Edward Mordrake is fun and it takes away one of the main villains early on (Twisty), leaving the coast clear for Dandy to step in as main psycho. But there’s so much to keep up with that it made my head spin a bit. I have also started to notice a trend for happier endings (for most of the characters) and it’s nice but also not really what I want. I sometimes want the wicked characters to get their comeuppance.

I also don’t really like Sarah Paulson‘s characters (Bette and Dot) in this (really bad FX) and find the addition of Neil Patrick Harris‘ Chester Creb a bit annoying (although it does bring back in the amazing Jamie Brewer). So it’s fun but could be condensed and therefore stronger as a result.

Evan Peters and Jessica Lange are spectacular as per and I really enjoy my attraction to Paul the Illustrated Seal. Frances Conroy and Emma Roberts are a bit wasted though – I prefer Emma when she’s being bitchy.

I did appreciate the tie in to Asylum as we meet Pepper again and then follow her journey to Briarcliffe. It’s sweet and sad but it’s nice to get a little bit of background on this character, who is played wonderfully by Naomi Grossman. We also enjoy a flash of Asylum’s Nazi doctor (James Cromwell) who is directly involved in a very macabre story line featuring Elsa Mars. This says a lot about me but I love the snuff stuff, it’s so horrible and that after all, is why we are here.

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Hotel

Hotel is majestic tbh and maybe my second fave. It is the first AHS without Queen Lange however, but Gaga does a mighty job as The Countess. Highlights here are Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) and Kathy Bates’ downtrodden Iris, especially when they team up against The Countess for some messy, bloody revenge. Again, this could be cut down a bit but when the setting is as wonderful and The Shining-esque as the Hotel Cortez, who’s really complaining? Evan Peters’ James Marsh is a little OTT but the Devil’s Night episode is magnificent. Lily Rabe is perfect as Aileen Wuornos.

Things that don’t work for me so well are Chloë Sevigny as Alex (she’s so amazing, why can’t AHS use her appropriately?) and I don’t give a damn about the Children of the Corn kids or frankly, serial killer (surprise!) John Lowe. What a dull family! See also: Rudolph Valentino and wife. Zzzzzz.

It is awesome to have Sarah Paulson back as Murder House‘s underused Billie Dean Howard though.

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Roanoke

This one is good because it really plays with structure and tries something new with the reenactment concept. It is also over long and very messy in places. For a time, in the second part when the real life characters and the actors who played them are trapped in the house, I lost the will to live for a while. There are good elements, don’t get me wrong but I didn’t really understand a lot of it – like Gaga’s character Scáthach – who never really comes to fruition and then just sort of peters out.

I still like it though and I particularly love the horrible Polk Family. Adina Porter enters the AHS franchise as the real Lee Harris and I bloody love her. She was amazing in Cult and she’s in the new one too, so yey for that! Sarah Paulson and Kathy Bates both deserve to be strung up for their accents though, there’s no excuse.

Until Apocalypse, bitches.

American Horror Story Rewatch

The last three/four months of the year are always my favourite. From late September to January I love reading ghost stories and watching horror from the comfort of my warm flat. These dark stories, they light up the long nights and I love them even more then. So my treat to myself this year is to revisit American Horror Story from the start (thank you Netflix).

Well, call me committed because I started two weeks ago (early, sue me) and I’m just about to finish Freak Show. My relationship with this show has been complicated in the past – when it first burst forth with its demented artistry – I loved it.

I gobbled up Murder House, Asylum and Coven without a second thought. But I ran out of steam when if came to Season 4 (Freak Show). I experienced the same with Hotel and Roanoke, and I’m not even sure why. I was enjoying myself and then, I must have got distracted.

I finished Cult though and I’m gagging to get into the new season, Apocalypse but not before I’ve re-watched everything from the beginning. And I am loving it so far!

Here are my thoughts on the first three seasons. *Minor spoilers*

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Murder House

The original but not the best in my eyes. Thoroughly enjoyable though – not least because it reintroduced us to the old school magic of Jessica Lange – who is the undoubted Queen of AHS. MH is a bit of a mess in the sense that it crams a hell of a lot into it – so many murders occur in that house it’s hard to keep up – but I really appreciate the set up.

The cast is great – Evan Peters, Lange, Frances Conroy, Connie Britton, Taissa Farmiga – and I really love some of the story threads. Including; Violet and Tate (love’s fucked-up dream), Moira O’Hara the maid trapped in perpetual purgatory, Dr. Charles Montgomery (illegal home abortionist and part-time Frankenstein), The Black Dahlia (#obsessed) and neighbour Constance Langdon’s own horrible arc.

I’m especially fond of Interior Designer Chad (Zachary Quinto) and his lover Patrick, cut down in the middle of a blazing row – and trapped together in the Murder House for all eternity.

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Asylum

Same criticism as above but more so with Asylum. So much going on and a lot of it doesn’t quite come to fruition – Nazi doctor story line, I am looking at you. But it is horrible and darker somehow (yes, even darker than gimp rape).

Lange’s Sister Jude grapples with her own personal guilt as she runs the show at Briarcliff, a home for the mentally incapacitated. She’s not a good woman and she’s delicious. Working alongside lovely Sister Mary Eunice (AHS regular Lily Rabe) and staff doctor (with an iffy past) Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell), she tends to her patients with an iron first. Her wards include wrongly accused lady murderer Kit Walker (Peters) and lesbian journalist being kept against her will, Lana Winters (Paulson).

On staff also is kind Dr. Oliver Thredson (Quinto) who may or may not harbor a dark secret of his own – but don’t we all?

Asylum features some one-off story lines that kind of muddy the water for me. For instance Arthur Arden, like Charles Montgomery before him, is something of an experimental surgeon but I don’t feel as though they see that through. It fades out in favour of giving more minor characters their screen time. Plus, when he’s accused of being a Nazi doctor by Anne Frank (just go with it), I wanted that to come to something (although there is a passing reference to him in Freak Show).

Plus, there’s the UFO story running through the heart of Asylum that doesn’t really float my boat – though it works better than I thought it did the first time round. Maybe I’m just more tolerant in my old(er) age.

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Coven

Definitely my favourite to date and you could argue that the format has tightened up for the third story. It definitely flows better – and for me, the witches of Salem make the very best subject matter. Plus, Stevie Nicks!

Emma Roberts, Angela Bassett, Kathy Bates and Gabourey Sidibe join the cast and add another bitchy layer to proceedings. They’re all magnificent and the young witches, including Taissa Farmiga and Jamie Brewer as Nan are dreamy. Especially when Stevie Nicks loving necromancer Misty Day (Lily Rabe) joins them from the swamp.

Set in New Orleans and focused around Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies, run by headmistress Cordelia Foxx (Paulson) we enjoy the company of witch hunters, axe-murderers, voodoo queens and ancient (racist) aristocracy.

As for Lange, I think this is her best work. She nails The Supreme Fiona Goode to the floor. As she goes against the long time truce made way back when with Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau (Bassett), she struggles with her own mortality and will stop at nothing to hold onto her crown. As for her life-long rival, Myrtle Snow (France Conroy), I know whose style I’m going to channel in 30 years time.

On Wednesdays we wear black, bitches.

~

Thoughts on Freak Show, Hotel and Roanoke to follow.

What are you watching?

Tootsie (Film) Review

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How cool is the Polish Tootsie poster? I want this framed

Before we begin I have a couple of confessions.

First off, I’m not sure if I’ve seen this movie. That’s unthinkable really considering it’s so far up my street but there it is. I think it’s one I thought I’d seen and I may have watched bits, but I don’t remember the whole film.

Oooopsy.

And B) I fancy the panties off Dustin Hoffman. I mean, hello – he looks like he’d be a riot (in the boudoir!), right? RIGHT?!

As always *spoilers*, although I’m sure the chances of you being the only other person on this planet who hasn’t seen Tootsie is rather slim.

Okay. Let’s do this.

Tootsie (1982)

Director: Sydney Pollack
Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Bill Murray, Dabney Coleman

IMDB Synopsis: Michael Dorsey, an unsuccessful actor disguises himself as a woman in order to get a role on a trashy hospital soap.

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“Excuse me! Which one of us has the waviest hair do you think?”

My Review:

Michael Dorsey, Actor is something of a diva and no one in Hollywood is willing to work with him anymore. Except, of course they don’t use the ‘D’ word because he’s a man, so he’s known as a ‘perfectionist’. Nevertheless, his acting gigs are drying up like liquid liner in the sun.

Michael’s just not getting work and things are starting to look serious when he helps out his friend Sandy on an audition for a soap opera. She goes along to try out for the part of Hospital Administrator Emily Kimberley on Southwest General but doesn’t get it because she’s not ‘tough enough’. (Oh girl, I hear ya).

Although you have to wonder if ‘not tough enough’ is shorthand for not hot enough (yawn).

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I could learn a lot from Dustin and his fierce make up skillz

Although Sandy is distraught and just about ready to quit the city and her dreams of acting, Michael hits on an idea – and boy, what an idea! He’ll audition for the part himself as Dorothy Michaels (see what he did there?!) – proving he will make it in this town after all, even if he has to be someone else.

During her brief non-audition – Dorothy is told by sexist pig Director Ron Carlisle that she’s not got the right ‘look’ for the part (I knew it!) – she shows a real spark in retaliation and this saves her. She wins the part thanks largely to the female Producer, who appreciates Dorothy’s sass. They work around the fact Dorothy isn’t exactly a traditional beauty (my how they drive the point home).

By the way, the off-set/studio shenanigans are stereo-typically eighties with staff members smoking in the control room (Strike 4 for our Smoking Films Month) and men in positions of authority being horribly handsy.

Woman are treated like prime rib, the word ‘slut’ is bandied about casually (even by the women about themselves) and they’re lumbered with ‘cute’ nicknames, hence the title of this film: “Tootsie”.

Emily Kimberley quickly becomes a household hit, especially with a female demographic when she plays the part ‘feisty’ and refuses to put up with this schtick. She answers back and even improvises some of her scenes. One particular sees Emily thwack Commandant Lassard from Police Academy (1984) (George Gaynes) over the head when his character, a lechy old doctor, tries to kiss her. It’s well received amongst the female cast members, to say the least.

Ginger was really enjoying herself on her 77th Spice Girl Reunion Tour

While this is all going on, Michael/Dorothy is becoming close to his co-star, Julie; lives with his mate Jeff (on a side note, they’re also trying to get a play off the ground) and has started having it off with Sandy.

The latter seems to only have taken place to cover up his new identity as Dorothy, and although it’s casual between the two, Michael has yet to come clean to Sandy about the role of Emily, and how he won it. Especially when she bitterly criticises the actress now playing the role she lost.

The role incidentally proves so successful for the soap that, much to Dorothy’s dismay, her contract is renewed for another year.

I don’t want to go back, back, back and forth on the entire plot but Dorothy and Julie do become incredibly close. Julie is sleeping with Ron BTW but also has a young baby by someone else. She’s treated horribly as you can imagine. Her Director’s also got his eye on beautiful ingenue/expert underwear wearer April (Geena Davis), who he’s been snogging on the side.

The original cast of Thelma & Louise was very different

Dorothy has also caught the eye of an admirer herself, in the form of Julie’s dad Les (Charles Durning) who’s actually pretty adorable. He proposes to D, which is all shades of awkward. It gets worse when Julie dumps Ron (inspired by her new friend) and Dorothy misjudges the situation, and tries to kiss her.

Julie is understandably freaked out but is still kind to Dorothy, telling her that she really does mean the world to her but that she just cannot right now. Especially not when her dad’s feelings are on the line.

This prompts a final scene with Dorothy as Emily Kimberley that will change the course of their relationship forever, and maybe even the tone of the soap opera too (you don’t get this on Eastenders).

MWAHHHHHHHHHH!

Questions: 

How long can Michael keep being Dorothy? How will Julie handle the kissing situation, or the fact her new BFF really isn’t who she says she is?

Will Lovesick Les ever get over his inevitable heartbreak?

How cute is Bill Murray in his skeleton t-shirt? How great is Sandy’s fringe?

And will Ron Fucking Carlisle ever sort himself out (ditto: Jon Van Horn?), those sexist buffoons?!

My Thoughts:

I obviously loved it because that’s what I do. I love eighties movies. When I mentioned on Facebook that I’d never seen Tootsie before, my BFF David was shocked – “But it was literally made for you!” – and he’s kind of right.

It’s not perfect by any means and maybe I’m looking at it too harshly but I do find it sad that it takes a man being a woman to stir the feminist pot on this soap opera. Of course Dorothy is a great influence on the new women in her life and they begin to fight back themselves but it’s a shame it took a male protagonist to get them there.

However, this film was made in the eighties and it’s pretty great to see gender roles challenged in this way (back then).

I do think the whole concept of befriending someone by pretending to be something they trust is super creepy, call me old fashioned. I know it’s innocent here and that Michael would never hurt Julie but still. I’d find it very hard to forgive.

That said, as above, it’s a great to have a man witness for himself the bullshit standards by which women are held up. To find himself ridiculed for not being beautiful, for being fat, all those wonderful flaws women have held against them – finally!

As a fun piece of cinema with all these elements put aside, it’s sweet. I love the soundtrack too (It Might Be You by Stephen Bishop is lovely).

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“I think I preferred working with the giant monkey.”

My Rating: 4.5/5. The 0.5 is lost due to the ending (too too easy Michael).

What did Jill think of this eighties baby? Shimmy on over to see for yourselves.