winter shaker

Stranger Things (Netflix)

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I didn't see a thread for this yet. I'm about midway through the first season that just premiered on Netflix and really digging it. It's set in the '80s and there's lots of throwbacks, especially the synth-suffused soundtrack. It feels like 1 part Stephen King, 1 part Twin Peaks. It also does a great job of recapturing the sense of children's adventure (a la The Goonies and more recently, Super 8). 

Also, best use of Christmas lights since Starcrash.

Edited by winter shaker

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I'm going to check this out this evening. Alan Sepinwall's review certainly raised my interest.

EDIT: Just realized this show has Joe Keery from Henry Gamble's Birthday Party.

Edited by NBooth

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This was a wonderful experience. So much has been written about it already, but it is essentially three major US 80s movie tropes mashed together in one long sequence (Teen Horror, High School Whatever, and Kids With Bikes Thwarting Government Conspiracy). The casting is superb, particularly with the younger actors.

It does not overplay the nostalgia card, but scatters its 80's portkeys judiciously across the episodes. The sole New Order and Joy Division song appearances are just perfectly calibrated. An Echo and The Bunnymen tune fits well over a conclusion. Peter Gabriel makes an appearance via his cover of Bowie's Heroes. But it works really well. A little Moby and Vangelis fold neatly into the custom synth score that crescendos beautifully with each episode's title card.

Thematically, there is a lot here. The whole disaffected pre-adolescents finding solace together in D&D vibe percolates throughout the entire story arc, which prompted some conversation between my wife and I about how transcendent those experiences were for me despite its having been banned as demonic in our circles. The teen romance angle is fairly ancillary to the plot, but I could see it panning out over another series more effectively.

The US government conspiracy angle is way out of fashion as a TV trope these days for a lot of reasons (a post-9/11 fear of associating security and conspiracy, an X-Files gutting of the market, changing tastes toward NCIS type procedurals, etc...). But the crowning success of Stranger Things is probably the way it makes this well-worn tradition feel new again - the way it felt as we experienced it back in the 80's, the possibility that beneath the veneer of economic and political stability lurked something inexplicably evil. I can't imagine what this story would look like in our era, as suspicion of government involvement in anything is the sole unifying perspective across our political spectrum. We have to go back to the 80's, and this entire narrative constructed in 80's cinema, to even imagine a need to cultivate distrust in government activities.

Much, much more could be said here, but

 

The end, in El's sacrifice to save her friends, is a beautiful touching image of a naive innocence covering over the sins of others. It is a beautiful explosion of light and sound. El's scream is aggrieved, but it is full of such power and might. This glimmer of something entirely other breaking through labyrinths of political intrigue, personal relational trauma, and the limitations of technology is the essence of 80's cinema. Stranger Things just nails it completely here in drawing the story right up to the precipice of inexplicability and then receding back into a satisfying series of what-comes-next scenes with key characters.

 

Edited by M. Leary

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We're about 2/3 of the way through it and so far, we're loving it. Yes, it shamelessly traffics in '80s nostalgia, but it's actually kind of eclectic and avoids obvious cliches. (Or maybe I'm just not used to hearing Joy Division songs in TV shows.) And it references lots of classic films, from Stand By Me to Close Encounters of the Third Kind. So it's shameless that way, too. But I just don't care because it's just done so well, a classic case in how to use nostalgia well.

I love the characters, even the minor ones. (One of my favorite scenes is when the boys are having a discussion with their dweebish science teacher and they throw out a Dungeons & Dragons reference and he knows exactly what they're talking about.) And I love the show's aesthetic, which feels very authentic in terms of setting, wardrobe, etc., while adding to the atmosphere. For example, the way the camera lingers on scenes after they're technically over, which only adds to the sense of gloom and foreboding.

I realize it could tank by the final episode, but I'm very hopeful. We'll probably binge watch the final episodes tonight.

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I wish they had explained

the origin of the rift and what the monster is

, but that's my only real complaint.

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The origin was

El's screams

. I'm pretty sure that was established in a flashback. No idea on the other, though.

I went ahead and binged the whole thing yesterday. I really like it--the ending fell a little flat, but other than that it's a fantastic show. I've tried to watch several shows with the creepy-small-town thing going on--including Haven, which is loosely based on an actual Stephen King novel--and they've tended to be disappointing (remember Happy Town?). This one hooked me in and held me to the end. The child actors are quite good, and Millie Bobby Brown is fantastic as El. 

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Right, I though the rift

was generated by her terrific scream at her first encounter with the beast. They left the mechanics of this all unexplained, but I assume that it to set us up for another season. I found that explanation satisfying, especially given hints that El still occupies this space, which appears to contain more flower-headed monstrosities.

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It's really good. I'm already contemplating a second run-through. 

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I'm really hesitant about getting into new TV shows these days. The ratio of time investment to reward isn't great for everything but the very, very best.

I'm still in the middle of casually working my way through Star Trek: The Next Generation and this coming weekend is all about Bojack Horseman.

This show sounds like it's very much in my wheelhouse, but the trailers had me fearing that it would be a long-form Super 8.

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Sepinwall makes that connection, too. But he argues (and I agree) that this show--unlike Super 8--has enough heart of its own to push it up a level.

If nothing else, it's worth it for Millie Brown and Winona Ryder, both of whom deliver fantastic performances.

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A very minor thing but given the first episode in which he eagerly brings Nancy the last slice of pizza, I expected Dustin to have lingering crush over her. But then, they didn't have much interaction throughout the season.

Also, the first episode where Lucas' father is fiddling with the TV antenna, I thought this suggested it was broken or busted and I thought when Lucas showed Eleven the TV and boasted of its size that she might fix it somehow with her powers, but I don't recall that happening.

Edited by winter shaker

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6 hours ago, Ryan H. said:

This show sounds like it's very much in my wheelhouse, but the trailers had me fearing that it would be a long-form Super 8.

Super 8 is a legitimate comparison because they're both mining the same type of tropes and source material, but while I enjoyed Super 8, I'd argue that Stranger Things delivers more in the end. I know it resonated with me a lot more strongly then Super 8 ever did.

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I spent a good chunk of my monthly data allotment to watch this over the weekend. I do not regret it at all. 

I spent the whole first episode wondering why everyone was referring to El as if she were a girl. When I looked her up and found out she really was a girl, then I couldn't figure out why I thought she was a boy. Then I realized why I'd thought I recognized her:

 

image.jpeg

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Super 8 is about a species of cinema. Stranger Things is about an entire era.

Both are great on those terms. Stranger Things is just also one of the greatest things ever.

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At the risk of getting too meta, though, Stranger Things is kind of complicated. It is about the 80's. But it is about the 80's that actually only exists in 80's cinema tropes and our present nostalgia for aural, social, and cultural elements of the 80's. It is a beautiful evocation of the idea that nostalgia is actually a form of reflection and recitation - it is like a lens that helps us focus on the essence of our past, which has been coded into the things we remember from that time frame.

People talk about having a "nostalgia for the future," and this series comes close to capturing that vibe in cinema/TV terms.

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23 minutes ago, M. Leary said:

At the risk of getting too meta, though, Stranger Things is kind of complicated. It is about the 80's. But it is about the 80's that actually only exists in 80's cinema tropes and our present nostalgia for aural, social, and cultural elements of the 80's. It is a beautiful evocation of the idea that nostalgia is actually a form of reflection and recitation - it is like a lens that helps us focus on the essence of our past, which has been coded into the things we remember from that time frame.

People talk about having a "nostalgia for the future," and this series comes close to capturing that vibe in cinema/TV terms.

Love it. My work with small-town fiction has convinced me that there's a redemptive nostalgia at work in books as varied as DANDELION WINE and PEYTON PLACE. So I really dig the idea that it's in STRANGER THINGS too. 

Edited by NBooth

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"Redemptive nostalgia" is a great term. Especially for Dandelion Wine

My wife and I had a similar shared experience of Sing Street which captured so many essences for me, tugging at those wires that still connect the present with the past (big brothers and the new wave being significant touchstones for me). It isn't that such nostalgia trips create a veneer over the regrettable components of the past. It is more that they hold up these bits of the past and say: Yes, this is a good thing. Remember it? It was a good thing and it is still part of you.

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Variety has an interview with the Duffer Brothers.

Lots of good stuff there as well as hints about where the show might go in season two:

There’s a lot there we don’t know or understand. Even with the Upside Down, we have a 30-page document that is pretty intricate in terms of what it all means, and where this monster actually came from, and why aren’t there more monsters — we have all this stuff that we just didn’t have time for, or we didn’t feel like we needed to get into in season one, because of the main tension of Will. We have that whole other world that we haven’t fully explored in this season, and that was very purposeful.

Elsewhere, they've said season two will be a "sequel."

--All of which has me feeling pretty ambivalent. I love this show--and the longer it sits with me, the more I like it--but I'm not convinced that finding out more about the Upside Down, the origins of the monster, etc etc etc, would actually help the show at all. This season works, in my mind, precisely because it doesn't feel the need to explain every single thing (and, for me, the places where it does explain stuff are its weakest moments). I'd much prefer that they go the American Horror Story Fargo route and just tell a completely different story, in a completely different setting, next time.

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Meanwhile, there's this:

 

 

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On 7/27/2016 at 9:50 AM, NBooth said:

Meanwhile, there's this:

 

 

Probably best to watch that after you've finished the season.

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The soundtrack is full of the synthwave type stuff I'm really digging right now. 

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8 hours ago, Justin Hanvey said:

The soundtrack is full of the synthwave type stuff I'm really digging right now. 

Good news, then.

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Yeah I checked them out as soon as I heard their band name, good stuff

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