Monthly Archives: January 2014

TV Rot: “Sleepy Hollow” Season 1

Sleepy HollowLast night a week ago (sorry it took so long to get this up), I finished watching the first season of “Sleepy Hollow,” and I thought it would be interesting to really sit down and think about what I just saw. There will be spoilers, so consider yourself warned.

Based very, very loosely on “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving, “Sleepy Hollow” uses very, very loose interpretations of characters from that story for a modern day supernatural thriller which chronicles the beginning of the Apocalypse. Ichabod Crane is now a Revolutionary War soldier as opposed to a superstitious school teacher, and is actually responsible for the Headless Horseman becoming headless. And the Headless Horseman is now Death, one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. So, it really has nothing to do with the original story except for the names.

That’s not to say that it’s bad. Actually, the show has a certain charm to it, as well as being very plot heavy with little padding. What works?

Well, to start, the short season works very well. With only thirteen episodes this season, the show didn’t rely on much padding or side stories to fill time like other shows do (*cough*”Lost”*cough*). As a result, the show ends up being very fast-paced with huge plot-important revelations every other episode. Actually, I’m a little concerned about this fast plot, as the writers could write themselves into a corner very easily in a short time span. But it does keeps the show focused rather than having the characters pursue every shiny object that crosses their path.

I like that the main villain is not Satan. It would have been so easy to rely on a tried and true (and overused) villain. Instead, the writers have gone with a very specific demon as the villain: Moloch. It was actually somewhat refreshing to see them not fall back on Satan. As a matter of fact, Moloch has a very rich history in ancient mythology, and it would be fascinating to see them bring that in and include it in the overall plot. In addition, I get the impression that the Horsemen are not actually on Moloch’s side, but that they’re more like mercenaries and Moloch is buying them off with promises of love to Death and revenge to War.

The acting is generally good, although occasionally hammy. Tom Mison play Ichabod Crane as a man confused and out of time only when it’s plot convenient or for a joke, but seems perfectly comfortable and well-adjusted the rest of the time. Nicole Beharie does well as Lt. Abby Mills, but I feel she’s somewhat underutilized and is remaining unexplored as a character except for what she saw in the woods as a child. Other than that, she’s almost a generic cop. Captain Frank Irving is much more deeply explored, portrayed excellently by Orlando Jones who shows how torn he is between his job and his family.

Finally, and a bit of a letdown, is Henry Parrish. I know that statement is going to be controversial, but hear me out. When Parrish is introduced, it appears to be as a one-off character played by John Noble, an actor of extraordinary talent. But that’s where the problem comes in. When Parrish began to appear repeatedly, you realize very quickly that something is up. And when Parrish’s true identity is revealed in the season finale, it doesn’t come as much of shock as the audience has now been expecting it. In fact, the whole reveal that he is actually the Cranes’ son felt a little too tidy. We knew that Jeremy was going to play a bigger role and couldn’t have just died. That would have been totally pointless, and one thing the first season of “Sleepy Hollow” has shown is that they use everything they introduce. But having Parrish be Jeremy felt like they were economizing their characters a little too neatly, and it became obvious that Parrish was more than he was letting on when he kept coming back.

And, let’s be honest: The Headless Horseman carrying a machine gun. Good for a laugh, but mostly silly.

So, what do I want to see from the next season? Well, for starters, I would like them to stick to a short season format. Thirteen episode a season seems perfect, and prevents the show from having to rely on padding. Don’t over-extend yourselves, guys. We’ll obviously need to get personifications of the other Horsemen, although Pestilence sort of showed himself (or herself) already. I would like to see more of Moloch’s background and character explored. It seems like there’s so much more that isn’t being said there. Andy Brooks will need to return since his “death” after his transformation felt lame and a waste of his character. They’ll also have to either play up Ichabod Crane being a man out time or give up on it altogether, but they really need to find a mood with his character.

Ultimately, the first season acted as the setup. The second season will be where the show either explores and intrigues or goes off into the realm of the silly and mediocre. In other words, the second season is what’s going to make or break “Sleepy Hollow.” The first season has been interesting, but not without it’s problems, so they either fix these with the second season or risk killing the show. I’ll be watching the second season to find out.

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Twenty Years Ago

ThumbnailIt’s hard to believe that this marks twenty years (and twelve hours) since the nearly 7.0 1994 Northridge earthquake (I say nearly because there’s been some dispute as to how strong it really was, with some official records showing 6.7 to 6.8, while some other countries registered it as a 7.2). It’s strange to think that was twenty years ago because I remember it so vividly, but I guess traumatic events can do that.

At the time, I lived in the San Fernando Valley approximately 9 miles driving distance from the epicenter. So, yeah, pretty close. It’s odd how you can remember certain things about your life during that time. I remember I was in 10th grade, and I was in the middle of reading The Mote in God’s Eye at the time. I’m not sure why I remember that last detail so well, but I do. Anyway, I had taken some Actifed the night before because I’d been having some allergy issues, which can happen year-round in Los Angeles. One of the things I hate about this place.

I was in a deep sleep when things got moving at 4:31 A.M., so my memory of the earthquake itself is slightly hazy. I remember feeling things shaking really heavily. Now, for those who have experienced earthquakes, you may be familiar with the rolling motion that characterizes most them. This was not the case here. My father described it as someone underneath the house punching upwards. Things were bouncing pretty badly. I wasn’t sure what was happening at the time and thought I must be dreaming, then after about ten to fifteen seconds realized that I wasn’t.

Once the shaking stopped, all the power was out, so it was pitch black, and I didn’t have Riddick eyes. I remember my first thought was to put my shoes on, which I remembered were next to the bed, and they hadn’t moved much. I got them on and started to move towards my bedroom door, and immediately fell over. I wasn’t sure what I had fallen on because, again, it was completely dark and I’ve never had great night vision. So I started calling for help because I knew my parents were up after this major quake. But they couldn’t hear me because my mother was screaming.

My father got to the bedroom with a flashlight, and that’s when I saw that my bookcase had fallen over across the room, which was what I had fallen over. No, at the time we didn’t have things bolted to the walls, but over the following week everything was. It wasn’t until the daytime when we started going around the house to assess the damage that I saw what had actually happened. My bed was against the opposite wall of my room from the bookcase. When the bookcase fell, it missed my bed by only a couple of inches. I was already fairly tall for my bed, so I easily stretched its length. If that case had come down just a few inches over, I could have lost my foot.

In the dark with flashlights, we took a quick look around, and went to the side door to the yard to check on our dog (she was kept in the backyard; not an inside dog despite her calm and gentle nature). The second we opened the door, she bolted into the house, crying loudly, which was unusual because she was not a very vocal dog. She made it through the service porch and the kitchen to the entrance to the living room before we grabbed her and escorted her back outside. We went out with her to check on the yard, so she didn’t protest that much about going back out, staying close to us. A quick look showed that the brick walls which bordered the yard were still there, albeit shorter. Fine. Our dog wasn’t a jumper. We went out the front gate and shone the flashlight on the street, and it looked like it was completely rippled like waves in water. In the daylight, it looked fine. It was probably the effect of the only light source coming from the side rather than above.

After checking on our neighbors to see that they were okay, we went back into our house and got dressed, having all been in pajamas and robes at the time. It was still dark. We made sure we each had a flashlight. My dad grabbed a portable radio and we made sure our dog had food and water to comfort her. Then we huddled together in the doorway to our den for the rest of the night until the sun came up. We couldn’t really do much else since it was so dark, and with this earthquake, the ground never really stopped shaking. Aftershocks kept coming every couple of minutes, some stronger than others, which made it impossible to sleep, even if the adrenaline wasn’t already pumping. So, there we were, my parents and I huddled in a doorway, listening to the radio broadcast, as the ground continued to shake.

After the sun was up, and the aftershocks weren’t happening every minute (now they were five to ten minutes apart), we started looking at the damage. The top half of a two-part china hutch had fallen over on the dining table, left a tiny dent in the wood, then fallen over on the ground, break several item inside, although the hutch itself remained mostly intact. A large mirror hanging over the fireplace had fallen face-down on the bricks, but didn’t break, although there was a nice large crack in the wooden frame. Books had come off shelves, a book case in my dad’s home office had fallen over and broken. The brick walls outside had come half-way down. A brick was loose from the chimney. Some cracks were in the plaster outside. Luckily, we had no broken windows and little in the way of broken dishes. We still had no power and it was hard to use the phone as all the phone lines were jammed, but we got a hold of some family members and checked that they were alright. Luckily we didn’t have any ruptured gas or water lines. We got some pictures of the damage which I don’t have in my possession, but if I find them I might add them to this post later.

We went for a walk around the neighborhood, and saw that we got off relatively light. Chimneys and wall were down everywhere. Water mains were broken. A couple of main streets were flooding. Streets were being closed off for emergency repairs to those mains. On the radio we heard that some freeway overpasses had come down.

The portable radio was our only means of finding out what was going on. We had no power and couldn’t use the water. That night, my parents and I slept in the living room as the aftershocks were still going every few minutes. None of use slept well that night. At around midnight, the power came back on, so we checked the television for any more news (this was before the Internet was a big thing). We could use the water but not drink it, and we couldn’t drink our water for a couple of weeks. Again, we had it relatively easy compared to some. We also didn’t see our cat for a week. We have no idea where she was or what she was doing.

At the time, I attended El Camino Real High School, which was the second hardest hit school in the Valley. The school wound up being closed for about a month, although my AP Biology class still met a couple days per week so we could keep preparing for the exam. When the school did reopen, it wasn’t in great shape. Bungalows had to be brought in as the main building remained mostly closed while repairs continued and it took a while for everything to be reopened. The school days had to be extended to make up for the lost time.

Aftershocks continued for about a year, although less and less frequently. The damage from the earthquake lasted for a long time. We had to get our chimney replaced as a precaution. The walls around our backyard needed to be repaired. When I eventually went to Cal State Northridge years later, they were still repairing the damages. The wings of the library had come down and they finally reopened them while I was there. New buildings and facilities were being built, even after I left there, and that was eight years after the earthquake. Their parking structure had come down in the earthquake and a new one wasn’t built until approximately ten years later.

csun_parking2

I saw this all the time because my grandparents lived near CSUN, so I saw the collapsed structure every time we drove by to visit them.

Needless to say, it was one of the more traumatic and memorable experiences. I don’t think I’ve really written about it until now. I wanted to write this because it’s easy to find data about it online, but I wanted to share a personal experience and say what it was like to actually be there. You know, for the kids.

Oscar Project 2014

By my black hand, the dead shall rise!Yeah, I’m not that great at coming up with project titles…

 Anyway, last year, I had a fun little project. When the 2013 Oscar nominations were announced, I decided to try and see every nominated movie in every category before the actual awards ceremony, including documentaries and foreign films. In fact, I only missed one film, “The Gatekeepers,” which was one of the documentaries and didn’t win anyway (that honor went to “Searching for Sugar Man”). The Academy Awards are an interesting animal. It’s often considered “the big one” in terms of film awards and has some semblance of dignity.

The Academy Award nominations for 2014 have been announced. Last year, I posted quick one paragraph reviews of each movie to my Facebook and Google Plus pages, then summed up my opinions for each category in a blog post. This year, I will do the whole thing but on this blog with longer reviews, although even if I only have one paragraph of material to post, I’ll still post it. They will likely not be in a particular order, but simply as I watch them. I mean, I’ll do my best to group them, but given the criss-crossing between categories, trying to put reviews of movies in the main categories in any order would be somewhat meaningless.

Well, there’s a lot to watch, so I better get cracking.

Update Jan. 25: I’m making such good progress on my Oscar project (sans posting reviews which I’ll start doing in groups within the next couple of days) that I’m thinking of deliberately exposing myself to some of the worst films of 2013 for your amusement. That’s right. I’m going to watch and review every movie nominated for a Razzie. Stay tuned.

Update Feb. 19: I spoke too soon. I’m trying to do too much other stuff right now, and if I try to review all these Razzie nominees, I’ll drive myself nuts for more reasons than just the bad movies. So I’m dropping the Razzie addition. However, I’m making fantastic progress on the Oscar movies and am almost done watching them. The reviews have been trickling out, but the flood gates will open a little wider shortly. I might even finish this weekend.