Starcrossed and Some Thoughts on Teen TV and our Craving for Destiny

I recently binge-viewed CW’s single-season science fiction effort Starcrossed.  These are the sorts of confessions grown people without blogs don’t feel obliged to make, but here we are.

What is–or was–Starcrossed?  If you guessed, Romeo and Juliet with aliens, then yes.  If you were thinking more along the lines of yet another vehicle wherein the CW recycles too-good-looking actors from a handful of other teen drama series, then you’ve also won the bonus round.

(If you saw the show and remember it most as “that time girl-next-door Aimee Teegarden, formerly of Friday Night Lights fame, whittled herself down to cheekbones and an impossible figure to look eerily like Vampire Diaries star Nina Dobrev,” then you and I are kindred souls drawn to the same distractions–though ones I won’t further discuss here.)

The series met its promise of love-torn-teens-from-different-worlds quite admirably if also rather literally, along the way also making good on science fiction’s promise to project our society into a novel situation so that viewers can more easily spot our usual cultural attitudes and contemplate how well they really serve us for adapting to possible futures. The program’s unusual maneuver on this sci-fi element was that it quite explicitly pondered our humanity rather than our relationship to technology.   Continue reading Starcrossed and Some Thoughts on Teen TV and our Craving for Destiny

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Belgian Salamander’s Appealingly Untrendy Approach to Suspense

Salamander is one of those programs you find only because (unlike lots of the mainstream stuff you logged on hoping to find) Netflix is offering it on their streaming service. I clicked through to this Belgian suspense tale I’d never heard of on the promise of its nearly five-star user rating. As I approach the end of the series’ one season’s worth of episodes thus far consumed in a rapid one-week binge, I have started to reflect on what about it is special.

From the start that program participates in that admirable European tradition of actually casting normal-looking, middle-aged humans and treating them like they can believably represent interesting, complicated, and, yes, sexy people.

My now several hours with the series is also certainly the longest time I ever spent listening to people speak Flemish—to my ear a fascinating aural mash-up of French and German phonemes but hardly the reason I’ve been compulsively returning to my laptop. When I consider Salamander and what I am enjoying about it, these foreign distinctives are not at the top of the list.

I’ve realized that escaping into this Brussels-based mystery is less like watching good television from another country than it is like watching good television from another time. Let me be clear: the series is by no means outdated in its look, its brisk pace, or its long-format approach to storytelling. But it manages to spin its yarn without a lot of the latest concerns that define paranoia culture and without any of the narrative crutches that have become fashionable on American primetime. Continue reading Belgian Salamander’s Appealingly Untrendy Approach to Suspense

Criterion Collection on Hulu

English: en: Grauman's Chinese Theatre, photog...

Criterion Collection on Hulu

If you’re frustrated with the relatively low-grade streaming selection on Netflix, you might want to grab a hulu subscription.  The site is now featuring access to 700 films in the Criterion Collection–an incredible mix of foreign and Hollywood classics from the highbrow to the B’s.