Showing posts with label Netflix Related. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Netflix Related. Show all posts

20 February 2019

How an X-Men writer inspired binge-worthy, character-driven TV from Buffy to Game of Thrones

An early comics book writer inspired today’s TV writing. The Umbrella Academy (Netflix), based on the comic book by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá, tops binge-worthy TV lists this month. Mary J. Blige plays Cha-Cha, an assassin that can travel through time.
An early comics book writer inspired today’s TV writing. The Umbrella Academy (Netflix), based on the comic book by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá, tops binge-worthy TV lists this month. Mary J. Blige plays Cha-Cha, an assassin that can travel through time. (Christos Kalohoridis / Netflix)
A quiet revolution has occurred within all of our homes, one that has fundamentally altered the way we watch television.

Given the North American love of television, it is not hyperbole to say this revolution has had a notable effect on our lives, our culture and our identities. It is strange to consider that we might owe a great deal of these cultural changes to the work of a single X-Men comics writer.

This writer played a significant role in developing the long-form storytelling techniques that have since found their way into everything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Game of Thrones to Stranger Things.

In the 1960s, X-Men comics were a failure for Marvel, despite boasting the creative pairing of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. After 63 issues, the series was effectively cancelled and left in limbo for five years. Then in 1975, a 24 year old editorial assistant named Chris Claremont took over as the new writer of X-men.

The First Issue of X-Men.
The First Issue of X-Men.
Claremont expected the job to last six issues, but he instead wound up writing the series for 16 consecutive years.

In that time, X-Men went from a B-list title to the best-selling comic book in the world, and Claremont holds the Guinness World Record to this day for the bestselling single issue comic of all-time: X-Men (vol 2) #1.

All of this is established comics history. What does it have to do with television?

A seismic shift: Casual to dedicated audiences

By the late 1990s, television had begun a transition. According to culuralist Jimmie Reeves and his colleagues, TV started “programming forms that inspire devoted rather than casual engagement.” Prior to this, TV was dependant on broadcast scheduling and had to be designed to be accessible to casual viewers. This was simply because there was no way to guarantee audiences would be in front of their television the next week at the exact same time to see the next episode.

With the rise of VHS or DVD boxed sets, personal video recorders and later, streaming services, television was set free to use long-form continuity-based storytelling. Those stories featured more complex character dynamics within more continuous, open-ended plots and structures.

As a result of this transition, the way most of the globe consumed television changed within a very short period of time. This shift led us from self-contained, non-continuous stories to the very concept of being “binge-worthy.”

This same type of transition is exactly what Claremont contributed to comics, decades prior.
When Claremont started on X-Men in 1975, comics were also written for a casual audience. Stan Lee is famously quoted as saying: “Every comic book is someone’s first.” Casual engagement needed to be woven into the books. That was the status quo and creators were not allowed to drift too far from it.

But Claremont was not interested in telling the same stories over and over, and because he wrote X-Men for 16 years, he covered a lot of stories. This necessitated a new approach to writing, one that allowed for change: new characters and new directions. In light of this, Claremont’s X-Men were constantly changing and growing in a way that did not conform to Stan Lee’s mandate.

X-Men #136
X-Men #136
Claremont’s growth of writing style was rooted in an interest in character over plot. Comics historian Sean Howe noted: “All Claremont cared about were the emotional relationships of his characters.” As a result, X-Men became, as Howe put it, “the soapiest soap saga ever put forth by the House of Ideas, filled with agonized romances, self-confidence crises, lectures on morality, psychic scars, and worrying.”

If these elements sound familiar, they should. Most of our current television programs use the same components to build their devoted followings.

From Kitty to Buffy

The most direct successor of Claremont’s work is Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. According to cultural critic Geoff Klock, Claremont’s influence “looms too large for many to see. A lot of folks don’t know that Joss Whedon would not have created Buffy or Angel were it not for Claremont’s X-men.”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Similarly, comics historian Jason Powell believes Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer is “an avowed Kitty Pryde [a character Claremont created for X-men] analogue, and an entire season of Buffy riffed on Claremont’s ‘Dark Phoenix Saga’.”

The same can be said for an entire season of Whedon’s Angel, which used Claremont’s Illyana Rasputin character as the basis for a long arc about Angel’s son, Connor. Whedon is quite open about how Claremont inspired him, and Buffy is frequently cited as a touchstone moment in the development of long-form storytelling in television.

A broader absorption

Beyond this direct influence, Claremont’s techniques are widely visible among the best-loved television series within this current golden age: nested story structures, drawn-out mysteries, character melodrama and dysfunctional collectives that have to put aside their differences to defeat a common foe.

The only thing missing is the yellow tights. Perceived as a whole, Claremont’s work constructed a sort of long-form storytelling toolbox, one that our TV creators have been dipping into ever since.

Claremont’s X-Women.
Claremont’s X-Women.
Additionally, Claremont’s use of women in his stories was, according to Powell, “ahead of its time 30 years ago, and modern comics are still catching up.” His cultivation of strong female characters like Storm, Carol Danvers, Rogue, Colleen Wing, Misty Knight, Phoenix and Psylocke set a new standard for action heroines in popular culture as a whole, one that manifests readily in some of the great, badass heroines populating our screens today.

In the end

When Claremont was finally pushed out of X-Men comics, he was the No. 1 comics writer in the world.

He wasn’t pushed out because he was failing at his job, but because he refused to comply with an editorial mandate that requested a return to status quo, to casual engagement all over again.

His greatest accomplishment — developing ways by which a character-based story could unfold slowly over time — was, ironically, what cost him his job. But if our current television landscape is any indication, our culture has profited greatly from the choices Claremont made, and from the ingenuity that followed those choices.The Conversation

About Today's Contributor:

J. Andrew Deman,, Professor, University of Waterloo

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

18 May 2018

The Australian Zombie Horror 'Cargo' Is Burdened By Its Own Gravitas


In Cargo, Martin Freeman plays Andy, a man who has to kill his wife after she turns into a zombie and travels across country with baby daughter Rosie on his back.
In Cargo, Martin Freeman plays Andy, a man who has to kill his wife after she turns into a zombie and travels across country with baby daughter Rosie on his back. (Addictive Pictures, Causeway Films, Head Gear Films)

Since the 1970s, some of the best horror films have been made in Australia. Something about the vastness of the continent, and its geographical remoteness from the northern and western hemispheres, lends itself to the kind of existential explorations of alienation that underpin the best examples of this genre.

Peter Weir’s The Cars That Ate Paris (1974) remains one of the great horror comedies, viciously lampooning small-town Australian life. Russell Mulcahy’s Razorback (1984) fully embraces the surreal-gothic potential of the Australian landscape, and the intense terror of Wolf Creek (2005) must have caused at least a few backpackers to reconsider their trips here.

But only one zombie film of note springs to mind, the Spierig Brothers’ brilliantly inventive Undead (2003). Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke’s recent Cargo, released in Australian cinemas and to Netflix today, is another one. Whereas the Spierig Brothers approached the genre with energy and mirth, Cargo is a much more sombre affair, favouring dramatic realism and an understated visual approach over the garishness more typical of the films of the genre.

The result is mixed. The first half hour is brilliant, slowly building up tension and suspense, but once the narrative kicks into full gear, the film becomes far less satisfying. It’s not that it’s a bad film, it is moderately enjoyable, but given the renowned cast – it stars Martin Freeman, Susie Porter (excellent in a limited role) and legend of the Australian screen, David Gulpilil – and the potential of the genre in an Australian context, it could have been a lot better.

The narrative follows Andy (Freeman), a man who has to kill his wife Kay (Porter) after she turns into a zombie in the opening part of the film, as he travels across country with baby daughter Rosie on his back (his “cargo”) and befriends a teenage girl, Thoomi (Simone Landers). His wife bites him before he dies, so he knows he has only 48 hours remaining as a human, after which he will become one of the intestine eaters (there is an appropriately gross amount of blood and guts in this).

His mission, in his remaining time as a human, is to get Rosie to the group of Aboriginal people to whom Thoomi is also returning. This group have returned to a “traditional” way of living off the land, and are best equipped to repel the zombies. They are presided over by cleverman Daku (Gulpilil), who appears from time to time looking ghostly and saying little. There’s a touch of the noble savage myth about this whole subplot, and the images of blackfella magic are frequently accompanied by mystical-sounding music.

The most interesting encounters in the film are between Andy and Toomi and the several brain-eaters that populate the Australia of the future, but, unfortunately, these are few and far between. Instead, the action is driven by their encounters with several stock Australian film characters.

There’s the ethereal-woman in the outback, Lorraine, who seems too delicate to live in such an environment (played by Caren Pistorius in a wooden performance). There’s tough-as-nails Etta (Kris McQuade), an outback school teacher with a heart of gold. And there’s delusional tyrant Vic (played by Anthony Hayes, in a one-note and stilted performance) who is preparing to control Australia’s natural resources once order is restored. He gets his kicks doing really bad things like kidnapping Indigenous people and keeping them locked in cages in order to attract zombies who he then massacres for sport.

Caren Pistorius as the ethereal-woman in the outback, Lorraine.
Caren Pistorius as the ethereal-woman in the outback, Lorraine. (Addictive Pictures, Causeway Films, Head Gear Films)

These are cliches, indeed, but this shouldn’t matter for this kind of genre film. And yet, with Cargo it does. Because it seems to be straining so hard for a sense of gravitas (built through its dramatic verisimilitude and realist style), these cliches become terribly visible and disrupt the viewer’s pleasure. It’s like the filmmakers have deliberately not embraced the ludicrous potential of the subject matter and there is thus an uncomfortable tension between its sombre tone, the absurdity of its premise, and the flatness of its cliched narrative.

The American zombie film, emerging in its contemporary form with the George Romero films beginning with Night of the Living Dead (1968) is generally considered a critique of consumerism in the post-Vietnam era, and the most interesting element of Cargo is its attempt to reimagine the genre in an Australian context that reflects anxieties about the land and its destruction.

The film features scenes, for example, of abandoned fracking sites, and the fact that the whole thing becomes a kind of battle between a power-hungry mining type and Indigenous people could have provided grounds for incisive social and political commentary. But the treatment is unnecessarily sentimental, and it doesn’t feel like there’s any genuine emotional potency by the end. Even the sweeping panoramic shots of the Australian landscape feel contrived and unimpressive, almost like stock drone footage taken from an online tourist commercial.

Alas, Cargo seems like a made-for-Netflix movie – it makes sense, in this context, that it is premiering on Netflix – watchable but also forgettable, after its dazzling opening third. It was developed, furthermore, from a short film that went viral, and like a lot of films made from shorts (or from Saturday Night Live sketches), it feels like it lacks the legs to sustain the length of a feature.

Cargo is worth watching, particularly for fans of horror cinema, but its aesthetic will be best served, I suspect, by the small screen.

About Today's Contributor:
Ari Mattes, Lecturer in Media Studies, University of Notre Dame Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation

23 November 2017

"Stranger Things" and Neon Cinematography

⏩ The following is the translation of an article originally published in French. If you would like to read this article in its glorious original version (with all its own pics, links, video-clips included,) just scroll down and you will find it just below the translated one... 

Enjoy this bi-lingual journey👍
Loup Dargent
Stranger Things 2 - Eleven Fanart
Stranger Things 2 - Eleven Fanart (via DeviantArt)
Begun in 2016, the Stranger Things series is the surprise hit of the Netflix platform. Oscillating work between fantasy, science fiction and slice of life - the name of these drawer intrigues focusing on the everyday lives of characters living in the same place like Twin Peaks - the series of Matt and Ross Duffer pays tribute to the popular culture of the 1980s by resuscitating some of his past glories such as Winona Ryder (Beetlejuice), Sean Astin (the Goonies) or Matthew Modine (Full Metal Jacket).

In its second season, the series is more ambitious in terms of intrigues and themes but also more referential to the era of his diegetic universe. Yet for many years now, many works have challenged themselves to resurrect the 80s with much tribute but also subterfuges sometimes easy. How then can a series like Stranger Things happen almost after the battle and embark on such a venture without necessarily falling into the pitfalls inherent in our time?

The 1980s seen by the years 2000 and 2010  

It is no coincidence that we are talking about the decade of American media, art and cultural overproduction as "Reagan years". The fortieth president of the United States, former actor, is the very symbol of this excess whose color specters still haunt the minds when we pronounce the fateful expression of the 80s. From furious clips of Cyndi Lauper to Steven Spielberg's adventure films to the escapades of the various rockstars of the time, this maelstrom of popular culture is an inexhaustible reservoir for anyone who today would like to represent these ten orgiastic years. At the moment Denis Villeneuve finally offers a sequel to Blade Runner and where those who made the luster of these years disappear gradually, like George Michael or David Bowie, a series like Stranger Things comes at the right time, offering a different vision of the clichés ginned in recent years in different media artistic.

Because the 80s and 80s are often used. The ingredients often used to define an "eighties" atmosphere are generally reduced to colored lighting, music synthesizer, some standards of the time and obsolete gadgets like huge mobile phones, shoes that blink or the hilarious walkman.
Mike and Eleven (via DeviantArt
Do we want to represent the real 80s? What did the films of the day leave us in memory of? Or simply a fantasy version of this decade seen by current artists? Implied who did not know the 80s? For a work, whatever the period of which it speaks, says more about that of its production. David Sandberg's short film Kung Fury is the perfect example: released in 2015, this pastiche of 80s action and sci-fi movies uses the extreme of what we call the "Neon cinematography", representing the Reagan years by misusing its motives, even its clichés. With an avalanche of digital effects, Kung Fury do not deceive and the Canada Dry effect is inevitable: it smells of the 80s, it tastes of the 80s, but it is not the 80s, simply an imitation by the year 2010. It does not remove anything that the film remains a true homage not to the cinema of the time but more to the arcade games like Streets of Rage or Double Dragon.

Other audiovisual productions have abandoned digital effects - a real anachronism for the 80's purists - to focus on other elements. Even if the ever-present neon are almost every David Leitch's Atomic Blonde sequence or Owen Harris's "San Junipero" TV movie, fourth episode of Black Mirror season 3 , this is another process that is used to that the spectator feels immediately transported thirty years back: the music.

If the synthesizer instrument-totem of the decade is actually present, it is often the additional tracks taken here and there in various compilations that feed the general atmosphere of these two works: "Atomic Blonde" opens on "Blue Monday" by New wave band New Order and concludes with "Under Pressure" by David Bowie and Freddie Mercury, while "San Junipero" is "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" by Belinda Carlisle. All these reasons so 80s working diegetic placing these works in a particular context: the fall of the Berlin Wall for the film Leitch and a nostalgic utopia populated by nightclubs and arcades, places to neon obviously, for the episode of Black Mirror.
MAD MAX - Stranger Things (via DeviantArt)
Light, color, frenzied rhythms: everything borders on the spatio-temporal journey to the Reagan years. Yet this decade rich in mass cultural successes can be represented much less frontally, more referenced and ultimately much more faithful to reality.

The 80s as at the time  
For Stranger Things, the Duffer brothers and their directors are going to appeal more to the process of happy few, these references resonating with attentive viewers feeling both nostalgic and rewarded for recognizing them: a looser club reminiscent of Stephen King's It released in 1986, these kids going on an adventure on bikes like in The Goonies by Richard Donner in 1985 or the presence of Sean Astin in the cast of season 2 to support a little more the link with the previous work.

Netflix's new flagship series is a melting pot of references sometimes hidden within the narrative construction or themes sometimes openly assumed as evidenced by the episode "Trick or Treat Freak" in which the festivities of Halloween serve as a pretext for showrunners to loudly shout their love of the Ghostbusters franchise, right down to the final twist. Stranger Things does not play the card of the neon colorimetry to anchor itself in a reality fantasized by dint of clichés but prefers to pay tribute to the culture of the time which amounts, in other words, to assume its fictional dimension and to claim oneself as such. After all, except the Blade Runner from Ridley Scott and Roger Donaldson's Cocktail poster, neon lights are not so present in the 80s.
Stranger Things 2 x Ghost Busters Mashup Poster (via DeviantArt)
Like Andres Muschietti's new adaptation of It, Matt and Ross Duffer's series gives pride of place to naturalistic images, with the exception of purely science-fiction sequences, focusing more on everyday life. a small American city in 1984 between bike rides, Dungeons and Dragons evenings and tasting Eggo waffles. Everything is in the detail and not in the bidding of visual effects as is the case for the parody clip "Through the Night" Grum electro group.
Stranger Things Alternative Poster (via DeviantArt)
Everything happens at the production level, in the choice of accessories, costumes and sets, and not in post-production, with a lot of color filters and musical pieces chosen according to their place in the billboard. If some typical sounds ranging from Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" to The Police's "Every Breath You Take" sporadically get the characters to dance, so does Anthrax's "Trust" revival in It , Stranger Things abandon the quasi-systematic reflex of the vintage jukebox proper to productions that anchor their diegesis in a predefined time. The two creators will also admit in the second episode of the making-of series "Beyond Stranger Things" that the bulk of the musical budget of the second season focuses on the final scene of the Snowball.

Yet, although particularly naturalistic in its desire to represent, resurrect the popular culture of the 80s, Stranger Things, like the new adaptation of It, do not go to the end of his intentions. Digital is always very present, either in the sequences around the portal leading to the lair of the Mind Flayer, the representations of this creature or even the Demogorgon of the first season. In the 1980s, studio sets and animatronic puppets would have replaced this deluge of special effects generated by computers, as can still be witnessed by Joe Dante's Gremlins or ET from Steven Spielberg, these cocoon works that will soon be resurfacing on our screens as the smoke slowly rises from the cups of hot chocolate and the snow falls peacefully into the night lit by the Christmas lights. Usually neon lights.
Stranger Things' 11 (Eleven)
11 (Eleven) (via DeviantArt)

« Stranger Things » et la Cinématographie des Néons

Affiche promotionnelle de « Stranger Things » saison 2
Affiche promotionnelle de « Stranger Things » saison 2 (Netflix).
Débutée en 2016, la série Stranger Things est le succès-surprise de la plateforme Netflix. Œuvre oscillant entre le fantastique, la science-fiction et le slice of life – du nom de ces intrigues à tiroir se focalisant sur le quotidien de personnages vivant dans un même lieu à l’instar de Twin Peaks – la série de Matt et Ross Duffer rend hommage à la culture populaire des années 1980 en ressuscitant notamment quelques-unes de ses gloires passées comme Winona Ryder (Beetlejuice), Sean Astin (les Goonies) ou encore Matthew Modine (Full Metal Jacket).

Dans sa deuxième saison, la série se veut plus ambitieuse en terme d’intrigues et de thématiques mais également plus référentielle concernant l’époque de son univers diégétique. Pourtant, depuis bien des années maintenant, de nombreuses œuvres se sont lancé pour défi de ressusciter la décennie 80 à grand renfort d’hommages mais aussi de subterfuges parfois faciles. Comment alors une série comme Stranger Things peut-elle arriver presque après la bataille et se lancer dans une telle entreprise sans nécessairement tomber dans les pièges inhérents à notre époque ?

Les années 1980 vues par les années 2000 et 2010
Ce n’est pas un hasard si on parle de la décennie de la surproduction médiatique, artistique et culturelle américaine comme des « années Reagan ». Le quarantième président des États-Unis, ancien acteur, est le symbole même de cette outrance dont les spectres colorés hantent encore les esprits dès lors que l’on prononce l’expression fatidique d’années 80. Des clips endiablés de Cyndi Lauper aux films d’aventure de Steven Spielberg en passant par les frasques des différentes rockstars de l’époque, ce maelström de culture populaire est un réservoir inépuisable pour quiconque voudrait aujourd’hui représenter ces dix années orgiaques. À l’heure ou Denis Villeneuve offre enfin une suite à Blade Runner et où ceux qui ont fait le lustre de ces années disparaissent progressivement, à l’instar de George Michael ou de David Bowie, une série comme Stranger Things arrive à point nommé, proposant une vision différente des poncifs égrenés ces dernières années dans les différents médias artistiques.

Car il y a années 80 et années 80. Les ingrédients souvent employés pour définir une ambiance « eighties » se réduisent généralement à des éclairages colorés, une musique au synthétiseur, quelques standards de l’époque et des gadgets désuets comme d’énormes téléphones portables, des chaussures qui clignotent ou encore l’inénarrable walkman.

Veut-on représenter les années 80 réelles ? Celles que les films de l’époque nous ont laissé en mémoire ? Ou simplement une version fantasmée de cette décennie vue par les artistes actuels ? Sous-entendu qui n’ont pas connu les années 80 ? Car une œuvre, quelle que soit l’époque dont elle parle, en dit davantage sur celle de sa production. Le court-métrage Kung Fury de David Sandberg en est le parfait exemple: sorti en 2015, ce pastiche des films et animés d’action et de science-fiction des années 80 use à l’extrême de ce que l’on désignera comme la « cinématographie des néons », soit le fait de représenter les années Reagan en abusant de ses motifs, voire de ses clichés. Avec une avalanche d’effets numériques, Kung Fury ne trompe pas et l’effet Canada Dry est inévitable: ça sent les années 80, ça a le goût des années 80, mais ça n’est pas les années 80, simplement une imitation par les années 2010. Cela n’enlève en rien que le film demeure un véritable hommage non pas au cinéma de l’époque mais davantage aux jeux d’arcade comme Streets of Rage ou encore Double Dragon.

D’autres productions audiovisuelles ont su délaisser les effets numériques – véritable anachronisme pour les puristes des 80’s – pour se focaliser sur d’autres éléments. Même si les sempiternels néons se retrouvent presque à chaque séquence d’Atomic Blonde de David Leitch ou du téléfilm « San Junipero » d’Owen Harris, quatrième épisode de la saison 3 de Black Mirror, c’est un autre procédé qui est employé pour que le spectateur se sente aussitôt transporté une trentaine d’années en arrière : la musique.

Si le synthétiseur, instrument-totem de la décennie, est effectivement présent, ce sont bien souvent les pistes additionnelles piochées çà et là dans des compilations diverses qui alimentent l’ambiance générale de ces deux œuvres : « Atomic Blonde » s’ouvre sur « Blue Monday » du groupe new wave New Order et se conclue sur « Under Pressure » de David Bowie et Freddie Mercury, tandis que l’hymne de « San Junipero » est « Heaven Is a Place on Earth » de Belinda Carlisle. Tous ces motifs so 80s travaillent à placer la diégèse de ces œuvres dans un contexte particulier : la chute du mur de Berlin pour le film de Leitch et une utopie nostalgique peuplé de discothèques et de salles d’arcade, des lieux à néons évidemment, pour l’épisode de Black Mirror.

Lumière, couleur, rythmes endiablés: tout confine au voyage spatio-temporel à destination des années Reagan. Pourtant, cette décennie riche en succès culturels de masse peut être représentée de façon bien moins frontale, plus référencée et, finalement bien plus fidèle à la réalité.

Les années 80 comme à l’époque

Black Mirror, saison 3, épisode 4 : « San Junipero »
Black Mirror, saison 3, épisode 4 : « San Junipero » (Netflix).

Pour Stranger Things, les frères Duffer et leurs réalisateurs vont davantage faire appel au processus de happy few, ces références qui résonnent face aux téléspectateurs attentifs se sentant à la fois nostalgiques et récompensés de les reconnaître : un club des loosers rappelant celui du It de Stephen King sorti en 1986, ces gamins partant à l’aventure en vélos comme dans The Goonies de Richard Donner en 1985 ou encore la présence de Sean Astin au casting de la saison 2 pour appuyer un peu plus le lien avec l’œuvre précédente.

La nouvelle série phare de Netflix est un melting pot de références tantôt cachées au sein de la construction narrative ou des thèmes abordés tantôt ouvertement assumées comme en témoigne l’épisode « Trick or Treat Freak » dans lequel les festivités d’Halloween servent de prétexte aux showrunners pour crier haut et fort leur amour de la franchise Ghostbusters, et ce jusque dans le twist final. Stranger Things ne joue pas la carte de la colorimétrie au néon pour s’ancrer dans une réalité fantasmée à force de clichés mais préfère rendre hommage à la culture de l’époque ce qui revient, en d’autres termes, à assumer sa dimension fictionnelle et à se revendiquer comme telle. Après tout, hormis le Blade Runner de Ridley Scott et l’affiche de Cocktail de Roger Donaldson, les néons ne sont pas si présents dans les années 80.

Stranger Things, saison 2, épisode 2 : « Trick or Treat Freak »
Stranger Things, saison 2, épisode 2 : « Trick or Treat Freak » (Netflix).

À l’instar de la nouvelle adaptation de It par Andrés Muschietti, la série de Matt et Ross Duffer fait la part belle aux images naturalistes, si l’on excepte les séquences purement science-fictionnelles, s’attardant davantage sur le quotidien d’une petite ville américaine en 1984 entre balades à vélo, soirées Donjons et Dragons et dégustation de gaufres Eggo. Tout est dans le détail et non dans la surenchère d’effets visuels comme c’est le cas pour le clip parodique « Through the Night » du groupe électro Grum.
Tout se passe au niveau de la production, dans le choix des accessoires, des costumes et des décors, et non en post-production, à grand renfort de filtres de couleur et de morceaux musicaux choisis selon leur place dans le billboard. Si quelques sons typiques allant de « Time After Time » de Cyndi Lauper à « Every Breath You Take » de The Police viennent sporadiquement faire danser les personnages, tout comme la reprise de « Trust » par Anthrax dans It, Stranger Things délaisse ce réflexe quasiment systématique du juke-box vintage propre aux productions qui ancrent leur diégèse dans une époque prédéfinie. Les deux créateurs avoueront d’ailleurs dans le second épisode de la série making-of « Beyond Stranger Things » que l’essentiel du budget musical de la seconde saison se concentre sur la scène finale du Snowball.

The ConversationPourtant, bien que particulièrement naturaliste dans sa volonté de représenter, de ressusciter la culture populaire des années 80, Stranger Things, à l’instar de la nouvelle adaptation de It, ne vas pas au bout de ses intentions. Le numérique est toujours très présent, que ce soit dans les séquences aux abords du portail menant à l’antre du Mind Flayer, les représentations de cette créature ou même du Démogorgon de la première saison. Dans les années 80, des décors de studios et des marionnettes animatroniques auraient remplacé ce déluge d’effet spéciaux générés par ordinateurs, comme peuvent encore en témoigner Gremlins de Joe Dante ou encore E.T. de Steven Spielberg, ces œuvres cocons qui bientôt ressurgiront sur nos écrans alors que la fumée s’élèvera doucement des tasses de chocolat chaud et que la neige tombera paisiblement dans la nuit éclairée par les lumières de Noël. Généralement des néons.

Le duel final de la saison 1 : Eleven face au Démogorgon (Stranger Things)
Le duel final de la saison 1 : Eleven face au Démogorgon (Netflix). L’utilisation de stroboscopes, justifiée dans la diégèse par le clignotement des ampoules provoqué en présence du monstre, sert également à masquer les éventuels défauts plastiques de la créature en images de synthèse.

About Today's Contributor:
Guillaume Labrude, Doctorant en études culturelles, Université de Lorraine

This article was originally published on The Conversation

Other "Stranger Things" Related Articles:

25 October 2017

Stranger Things: Inventiveness In The Age Of The Netflix Original

Winona Ryder in Stranger Things - Netflix
Stranger Things. Netflix
By Arin Keeble, Edinburgh Napier University

The Netflix series Stranger Things, which shortly returns for a second season, was the surprise TV hit of summer 2016. Fans and critics revelled in its allusions to Hollywood hits from the American 1980s in which it is set. Every haircut, every rippling synth pattern, BMX chase and adolescent gesture of friendship seemed to come from an 80s movie. Its young protagonists communicated through references to Star Wars and Dungeons and Dragons and the first trailer for season 2 shows them trick-or-treating as the Ghostbusters.

So what made Stranger Things feel fresh and new? Was it somehow innovative in its referencing? It certainly wasn’t because of a new kind of aesthetic recycling, as JJ Abrams had already done an 80s Steven Spielberg pastiche with Super 8, and borrowing or referencing has long been prevalent in American cinema. From Film Noir’s adoption of German expressionist techniques in films like The Maltese Falcon or Touch of Evil to the postmodern genre-mashing of Pulp Fiction, Hollywood storytelling has a rich history of pastiche, allusion and homage.

But what happens when serial TV does this? Stranger Things featured eight hour-long episodes developing characters who inevitably cannot exist solely in the stylistic shoes of Spielberg or Stephen King. And though the referencing is there, the immediate pleasures of its clever nods to E.T. or The Goonies evolve into a more sophisticated meditation on the processes of allusion.
Nostalgia and trauma
The achievement of Stranger Things is twofold. It is not just highly referential – it is actually about referencing. The series explores the way people – especially young people – communicate through patterns of reference or allusion. The programme’s retro register is also paired with an ongoing discussion of what we can see as the opposite of nostalgia – traumatic memory.

The casting of Winona Ryder is integral to this convergence of nostalgia and trauma. Ryder’s star power was born in the 1980s, when she was a teenager, through films like Heathers and Beetlejuice. In the 1990s her screen successes were accompanied by extreme tabloid scrutiny of her personal life. This included high-profile coverage of her struggles with drugs and anxiety. Because of this public history, the casting of Ryder was itself referential, as is the casting of any “star”.

As Keith Reader argued in Intertextualty: Theories and Practice: “The concept of the film star is an intertextual one, relying as it does on correspondences of similarity and difference from one film to the next and on supposed resemblances between on and off-screen personae.” So while Stranger Things’ teen drama story, centring on Nancy Wheeler, evokes the high school world of Heathers, Ryder’s performance as Joyce Byers, draws on her real life experiences. Joyce is a loving, thoughtful, single mother and a sufferer of anxiety. This is exacerbated by the disappearance of her youngest son and for much of the first series she is upset and hysterical.

Stranger Things Season 2 -  Netflix
Stranger Things Season 2. Netflix
Ryder’s performance was widely acclaimed – including by Rolling Stone journalist, Noel Murray, who suggested Stranger Things “brought her back”. Murray notes that the performance is powerful because the show takes advantage of what we already know about Ryder: that she is a “likeable celebrity who’s fallen on hard times”. Joyce’s hysteria certainly carries the power and authenticity of experience and it sharply juxtaposes the nostalgic innocence of Eggo waffles and BMX chases.

Joyce’s experiences are also echoed by other strands of the story. We learn that Chief Hopper is still struggling with the traumatic loss of his daughter and it is inferred that mystery child Eleven, who is the subject of sinister experiments, was taken as an infant from her now-institutionalised mother. Ultimately, Stranger Things’ nostalgic frame magnifies the intensity of its traumatic realism and stories of loss and psychosis.

Navigating an ‘upside down’ world
But Stranger Things is also invested in how its characters communicate through allusion. The boys, Dustin Henderson, Mike Wheeler, Lucas Sinclair and the missing Will Byers use these references to map out and understand their world – and that of The Upside Down (a dark alternate dimension existing in parallel to the human world). In the first episode we learn that they have renamed the streets of their small Indiana town using references to The Hobbit and in episode three, puzzling over the mysterious Eleven, Dustin asks his friends: “I wonder if she was born with her powers like the X-Men or if she acquired them like Green Lantern?

Eleven - Stranger Things
Eleven by Aelini
Sometimes references serve as a code that adults and other kids won’t know – which is important as the boys are outsiders (geeks before geeks were cool). Sometimes references are charged with imaginative and emotional meaning. For example, Mike cites his missing friend’s boldness and bravery in a Dungeon’s and Dragons “campaign” as a reason for him and his friends to be brave in trying to find him in real life.

The ConversationLiterature academic and blogger Aaron Bady has pointed out that what makes Stranger Things’ allusions unique is that it has no “anxiety” over its gratuitous borrowing. This subverts the need “to play authenticity detective.” This is undoubtedly the case and it is striking in the world of “Netflix originals” where everything seems to be an adaptation or re-imagining, like House of Cards or Daredevil. But I believe what sets the show apart is its clever use of allusion to amplify the impact of its depictions of anxiety, trauma and loss and its exploration of allusion as a mode of communication.

About Today's Contributor:
Arin Keeble, Lecturer in Contemporary Literature and Culture, Edinburgh Napier University

This article was originally published on The Conversation

Bonus Pictures:
Stranger Things - Nancy and Jonathan
Stranger Things - Nancy and Jonathan (via JCLF88)
Upside Down, Downside Up - Stranger Things
Upside Down, Downside Up (via NuclearLoop)

19 October 2017

Legacy Recordings to Release "Stranger Things" Soundtrack

"Stranger Things - Music From The Netflix Original Series" - Album Artwork
"Stranger Things - Music From The Netflix Original Series" - Album Artwork
 Legacy Recordings, a division of Sony Music Entertainment, today announced it will release Stranger Things - Music From The Netflix Original Series on Friday, October 27, timed to the launch of Season 2. 

Available for digital streaming or downloading and on CD, the 30 track compilation album includes a range of beloved 1980s hits and classic tracks featured in "Stranger Things" and the highly-anticipated second season, "Stranger Things 2." The album features nineteen songs and eleven audio clips from the show. 

  • A 12" vinyl edition of Stranger Things - Music From The Netflix Original Series will be released later this year.
Artists and original hit recordings appearing on Stranger Things - Music From The Netflix Original Series include Toto ("Africa"), the Bangles ("Hazy Shade of Winter"), Corey Hart ("Sunglasses at Night"), and more, along with unannounced titles from Season 2.

The multi-award-winning "Stranger Things" was most recently nominated for 18 Emmy Awards, including Music Supervision—the first year ever the category was recognized by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

“Stranger Things”
“Stranger Things” (image via Netflix)
"Stranger Things 2" returns globally to Netflix October 27th. 
Set in 1984, the citizens of Hawkins, Indiana are still reeling from the horrors of the Demogorgon and the secrets of Hawkins Lab. Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) has been rescued from the Upside Down but a bigger, sinister entity still threatens those who survived. 

The second installment of the series also features Winona Ryder (Joyce), David Harbour (Chief Hopper), Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven), Natalia Dyer (Nancy), Charlie Heaton (Jonathan), Joe Keery (Steve), Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin), Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas), Finn Wolfhard (Mike), and Season 2 newcomers Sean Astin (Bob Newby), Dacre Montgomery (Billy), Paul Reiser (Dr. Owens), and Sadie Sink (Max), among other stars.
Created by Matt and Ross Duffer, "Stranger Things" is a Netflix original series, directed and executive produced by the Duffer brothers and Shawn Levy of 21 Laps. Iain Patterson and 21 Laps' Dan Cohen executive produce. 

Bonus Videos:

13 October 2017

New Star Trek Klingons Are Rooted In Our Own Distant Past – Ancient History Expert


A ship of klingons
A ship of klingons. (Netflix/Jan Thijs)
By Eve MacDonald, Cardiff University

Star Trek has always reflected the contemporary political atmosphere and ideologies in which it is created. From the original series in the 1960s with its peace, love and interracial kiss, to the 1990’s post-Cold War Next Generation, the world-view of progressive western ideology has featured strongly in the stories of everyone’s favourite group of space explorers.

The original Klingons of the 1960s
The original Klingons of the 1960s. © 1969 Paramount Pictures

Across each new iteration, the Klingons – a humanoid warrior species – have often been the alien of choice. The 1960s Klingons were bad, untrustworthy, duplicitous enemies, but visually they looked pretty close to the sapiens on the Starship Enterprise. They were the “other”, but that “other” was also us. They were the Cold War Soviets mixed with a bit of the Japanese from World War II (another enemy, the Romulans, also wore that hat).

In Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Klingons were more physically differentiated by exo-skeletal additions but they were friends now, not enemies any more, and although slightly erratic allies they fought on the same side as the Federation. It was the post-Cold War world.

Us and them
So what to make of the new Netflix series Discovery and its version of the Klingons? Set further in the past than the other series, watchers have been given a race of new/old Klingons which is physically extraordinary, kitted out like badass Egyptian warriors. Gone are progressive views of understanding the commonalities of our existence. The classical “us” and the space age “other” has been reborn.

Klingons, the next generation
Klingons, the next generation. © 1991 Paramount Pictures

What is so intriguing about these new Klingons is that they exhibit all the extremes of real-life exotic enemies from timeless representations going back to the ancient Greeks. They are portrayed as incomprehensible beasts to the federation: the Klingons participate in self-harm, believe in rebirth in flames, and have a physical appearance that has extended their exo-skeleton to make them look more like wild animals than anthropomorphic beings. They appear like beasts, as exotic as Durer’s famous drawing of a rhinoceros was to his 16th-century audience.

The new Klingon uniform was clearly inspired by ancient Egyptian breastplates, wired like ribs across their shoulders and upper chest. Even more Egyptianising is the death practice of the Klingons that sees the corpse being wrapped as a mummy, and placed in a beautifully decorated space sarcophagus. These sarcophagi are then stuck to the outside of their space ships. The way that the Klingon dead and their death cult travel together through space and time removes any previous common “humanity” that had existed in the other Star Trek series. The Klingons are now so far from the “us” who reside in the opposite ship as to be almost incomprehensible.

Albrecht Durer’s rhinoceros, 1515
Albrecht Durer’s rhinoceros, 1515. Wikimedia

Ancient monsters
Though their appearance may be drawn from history, these new, hostile Klingons are base zealots and unrelentingly evil – with an obvious comparison to be made with Islamic State. They are simply our enemy: we possess no shared values, they lie in ambush and react with unremitting violence across the first episodes. The federation officers of the Discovery series are conflicted about reacting to the aggression – and as such are depicted at first as wishy-washy and weak. The ideals of the previous series, including the “prime directive” – that crews must not interfere with the development of civilisations – have disappeared and are replaced by sneering Klingons who seek martyrdom and mock the concept of “coming in peace”.

I wonder what Star Trek’s creator Gene Roddenberry would have felt about this easy dismissal of the ideals of peaceful inter-species cooperation? In the new Star Trek, violence is the only means to counter violence. For the creators it makes it much easier to accept this by physically placing the Klingons further back in our human past. Their representation in costume like exotic, alien ancients, and practice of a cult of death, further distances them from our so-called “western” humanity. By physically animalising the Klingons this becomes an easy retreat to the mythical beasts of old. As the monstrous Gorgon sisters were to the ancient Greeks these Klingons are to the Federation.

The ConversationThis new form of Klingon enemy seems to be reflecting shifting attitudes towards peace and war in today’s world. More than anything this only serves to confirm how far our society has shifted away from hope and idealism for the future. It will be interesting to see how this new Klingon war is resolved in the next chapter of the first season, and whether hopeful aspiration will return or fear of the other is all we can aspire to.

About Today's Contributor:
Eve MacDonald, Lecturer in Ancient History, Cardiff University

This article was originally published on The Conversation

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