winter shaker

Stranger Things (Netflix)

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What a well-done series.  I saw that Jason Panella wrote on FB that he's not binging this, and that's a great way to watch this.  The chapter-like structure made for very intense bursts of viewing, but I felt like I needed a breather after each episode. Our only break from that was watching 7 & 8 back to back.  

NPR had a great interview with the Duffers, including their favorite reaction to the show, a blog post from the DOE disavowing all knowledge of parallel universe research.

 

 

The finale, with it's too obvious set-ups for a season two, missed some really good opportunities to drive this to a fully satisfying resolution.  I am not so sure that I want to see 5 or 6 seasons of the Hawkins kids growing up and continuing to encounter the Upside Down and other things--it robs the series of its poignancy, I think.  I expected Hopper's death, but then it never occurred.  I then expected the series to close with the agents driving away with Hopper, but then it didn't.  I didn't expect that Will would cough up a slug a month later (surely that would have been ID'd through the hospital tests, no?  Or at least eliminated gastro-intestinally?)  I expected Steve's demise at the hands of the monster, but liked the actual resolution--Nancy and Steve reconciled and dating--better than my expectations.

Edited by Buckeye Jones

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On 7/18/2016 at 11:32 AM, M. Leary said:

The teen romance angle is fairly ancillary to the plot, but I could see it panning out over another series more effectively.

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Do you mean, another season?  Or a different series altogether?  I really enjoyed this as well, though I felt it could have finished stronger with an eye to being a single, fully encapsulated season.  I was only slightly younger than these characters in 1983, and indeed had just moved to our new home in the Midwest from New England--I literally was a stranger in 1983!--so the feelings of disconnection and bullying and finding solace in a few good friends with the same slightly awkward interests were exceptionally well captured.   Thematically, is it too on the nose to suggest the entire season is a reflection on losing a loved one to cancer?  The unwordly, aggressive, remorseless beast; the experiments and treatments, the powerlessness and the wishful fantasy of having power to enter into its arena and rescuing your loved one, to do battle with the thing you can't actually fight.  It's reminds me of The Grey, that Liam Neeson, Joe Carnahan angry wolf movie in that sense, except with a triumphant ending instead of a downer one.

Edited by Buckeye Jones

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Just binged this all last night.  Incredible series.  I can't claim to have the personal nostalgic connection to this era that others do as I was born at the tail end of the eighties, but I have always loved the movies and story tropes referenced here, and I was amazed at how well they were brought back to life.  There were a couple points I thought they went a tad too far with their referencing--they really leaned into connecting El to E.T., and putting movie posters in the background, having the mom suggest going to see Poltergeist, and showing the guard reading a Stephen King book with King's face covering the whole back cover staring at us, all seemed a bit over-the-top and rib-nudging.  Nevertheless, it never got out of hand, and it was absolutely tapped into the same atmosphere and emotional connections that it's forebears did so well.

That video posted above showing the linkages/homages is great, but incomplete--they could have shown clips from The Fury, Halloween, Starman, 'Salem's Lot, Stephen King's It, Twin Peaks, and Under the Skin as well.  Stephen King books were a massive influence here, even those that weren't filmed (though sometimes it seems that more have been filmed than not).

The one thing I will say is that the filmmaking in display is not quite on the same level as John Carpenter or Steven Spielberg exhibited in this era.  The compositions aren't as carefully framed and balanced, the images not as instantly iconic and narrative-driving.  But the length of the series gives the characters time to develop and all the little narrative asides to build and acquire interest and flavor.  These are the kinds of things Stephen King is so good at, in fact; it's not that his prose is so amazing or distinctive on it's face, it's that his stories keep going, keep developing, far beyond where you expect them to go, and take on such vibrant life that you don't want to out them down, even when they run 1000 pages.

Incidentally, I am from southern Indiana, where the series claims to be set.  I'm not sure where they filmed (and I don't remember what things looked like in 1983, like I said) but they got things almost-but-not-quite right.  The town square, which we only see a couple times, was perfect, and mist of the houses seemed right, but the surrounding landscape looked a little foreign.  Maybe this was set down closer to the Ohio River than I usually go, but while we have hills, we don't generally have cliffs like they do here.  And while we certainly have limestone quarries, they don't generally have so many crags and pine trees covering them until they look like something in Montana.  And certainly no one in the film *sounded* like they were from southern Indiana, accent-wise, where the rural voice has a very distinctive sound that marks it as being just north of Kentucky.  But they did all sound vaguely Midwestern, and I think that's really what they were going for--a very specific town in a vaguely Midwestern location that you can't quite place.

At least they didn't put palm trees in neighborhoods in Indiana, like Close Encounters of the Third Kind did.

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this was filmed in Georgia.

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On Saturday, August 27, 2016 at 10:19 PM, Buckeye Jones said:

this was filmed in Georgia.

Oh right, they did have that little tag in the credits at the end of every episode, didn't they?

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Well, that's good news.  I'm curious if they avoid a sophomore slump, or if the storytelling accelerates.  I still maintain that had they chosen to make this a standalone project, the set up was perfect to do so.

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Interesting that there are episode titles already. But as others have said, I'm very worried about a sophomore slump.

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HULK HATES IT.

My response is that much of the vagueness and the plotblocking (great word) he complains about can be ascribed to the fact that Stranger Things is a recreation of a cinema version of the 80's, not the real thing. I think this mitigates some, not all, of Hulk's fair critique.

Edited by M. Leary

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I was about to post that, also say something along the lines of I DO NOT AGREE

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Um, I think Hulk is off-base. Certainly, my own subjective-emotional reaction to the scene he opens by discussing was not in line with what he describes. The bulk of this critique ("mysterious just means vague") seems to come down to the idea that more stuff should have been nailed down (character motivations for Eleven, sexual politics, etc). Which is--fundamentally--the wrong way to approach the show (though I did find the "best friends" thing a little out-of-left-field). It could be that the Hulk is mistaking the fundamental aesthetics of the show as outlined by Aaron Bady at LARB: "the necessary ignorance of those who know that it’s just a game." But most of his critiques strike me as either beside the point or counter-factual, but not in a way that one could really argue against without committing precisely the same errors the Hulk does.

The whole LARB piece is good, btw:

Quote

The plot of the show—and its generic framing—are structured by the monster, by threats, and by danger. But its heart is in the problem of groups, the things which collective ignorance make possible. This is a show, put bluntly, about playing together, about forming groups and finding ways to make those groups work and cohere, and about not being too bothered about origins, or past grievances. It’s also why the show resolves in the way it does: at the beginning, all the characters are part of different stories—each taken from different genres and social strata, disconnected and distrustful—but at the end, as the story winds to its conclusion, everyone ends up on (more or less) the same team, all playing the same Dungeons and Dragons game that only the children had started out knowing they were playing. And as their stories converge, their efforts unite, each is enriched by each other. If there is a message, it’s that our differences are what make us precious to the group. But this is about as far from an original “message” as you’re likely to find, because that, too, is the point: authority and authorship are related terms, as etymology and an interest in origins will tell us. But to get past that, we have to get past that:play is about productive coexistence, about finding shared texts and practices and finding space within them to thrive, and about not caring very much about where things come from, or why.

Edited by NBooth

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To be fair, I kinda hate the whole FILM CRITIC HULK schtick, so I don't care what he thinks about the show.

But that LARB piece was really good.

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HULK MAKE BUCKEYE HEAD HURT.  EYES BLEED FROM ALL CAPS.  BUCKEYE SMASH!!!  LAPTOP BREAK IN MANY TINY PIECES!! NOW BUCKEYE MAD!  NEED NEW LAPTOP!!!  

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I've been having an interesting discussion with a few people on Facebook about some of the anachronisms in this series, which is set in November 1983. E.g., I can *kind* of accept the use of tunes like the Bangles' cover of 'Hazy Shade of Winter' (released in 1987) over the end credits, because they're not part of the diegetic sound, but then there's the bit in Episode 6 where we hear Corey Hart's 'Sunglasses at Night' on the car radio (Wikipedia says the single was released in January 1984, and the album three months later; however, a friend found an interview in which Hart says he remembered hearing his song on Montreal radio in November 1983; perhaps, given that Hart is Canadian, the single and the album were released in Canada *before* they were released in the U.S.?).

Details like that might sound like nitpicking, but what can I say: I was 9 years old when the 1980s began and 19 when they ended, and I went through a *lot* of changes in that time -- five different schools from elementary to university, etc. -- and I associate specific songs with specific points in time along the way. (Though my memory isn't infallible, of course; e.g. I was surprised to find that 'Hazy Shade of Winter' came out in *November* 1987, after I had finished high school, whereas in my memory I had thought it was a high-school tune for me -- maybe because of other Bangles tunes I was familiar with during senior high. But still: I knew the tune came out in the late '80s, and definitely *not* as early as 1983.) Stranger Things doesn't mash the entire decade together as egregiously as, say, a movie like Pixels, but it still matters to me when films or TV shows get their early '80s and late '80s pop-culture artifacts confused.

One or two of the female supporting characters also tend to fall into that croaky vocal-fry pattern that is all the rage nowadays but was not a Thing, to my recollection, 30+ years ago. (Though by all means, if there's video/movie evidence from that era that contradicts me, let me know.)

SDG also wondered if the characters' use of the phrase "Just sayin'" in an early episode might be an anachronism. I did a bunch of Googling and the earliest documented use of any version of the phrase that I can find is a 1996 episode of The Simpsons in which Nelson says "I'm just saying, is all," though that's not as abbreviated as the phrase we all know and love *now*. (Some sites claim that the saying has its origins in Yiddish humour and may have been popularized by stand-up comics like Paul Reiser in the 1980s.)

I finished watching Stranger Things two nights ago and the Winona Ryder factor may be a reason why I decided to watch Alien: Resurrection for the first time in ages last night. (Lately I've been putting Alien or Prometheus on when I feel like going to sleep, and I figured this would be a variation on that.) Big mistake. Man, that's an awful film.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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I can say without a doubt that despite any existing anachronisms, the series did an excellent job of evoking the feel of an 80s film, and their reflection of the 80s experience.  But isn't discussing picking these nits missing the forest for the trees?  All film to some extent is condensing, simulating, editing, conflating reality in service of its story.  And its the story, whether for pure entertainment's sake or in service of saying something more significant, that is of real interest to me.  

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I will say that this anachronism tangent is one of the endearing things I find about Peter.  Where else would I learn about the time travel inconsistencies of Terminator 2?

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I love his obsession with vocal fry, which honestly i didn't even notice or know about til he mentioned it

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To be honest, I still can't hear vocal fry.  I have even listened to a podcast about it.  I don't think its real.

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4 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

 

SDG also wondered if the characters' use of the phrase "Just sayin'" in an early episode might be an anachronism. I did a bunch of Googling and the earliest documented use of any version of the phrase that I can find is a 1996 episode of The Simpsons in which Nelson says "I'm just saying, is all," though that's not as abbreviated as the phrase we all know and love *now*. (Some sites claim that the saying has its origins in Yiddish humour and may have been popularized by stand-up comics like Paul Reiser in the 1980s.)

 

Interesting discussion on that here. I feel like that has been part of my lexicon from my childhood in the 80's, but that doesn't really mean much.

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Buckeye Jones wrote:
: But isn't discussing picking these nits missing the forest for the trees?  

I like trees. :)

And like I think I said above (or maybe I said it only on Facebook), getting the strata of the 1980s right is important to me because that was a very formative decade for me, and each two- or three-year chunk had a very distinct feel and a very distinct set of pop-culture paraphrenalia. (What age or grade are the boys in this series? I would have been 13 when it takes place, i.e. in November 1983.) There's a forest aspect to this too, for me at least.

And frankly, if they *are* planning multiple seasons of this show, then I think it behooves them to give each year its own feel, concomitant with whatever was going on in the culture in the years that those seasons take place. If we get to season five and 1987 is somehow indistinguishable from 1983, then that's a problem. A big one.

: I will say that this anachronism tangent is one of the endearing things I find about Peter.  Where else would I learn about the time travel inconsistencies of Terminator 2?

Oh, I wouldn't say that *anachronisms* were one of T2's problems. :) Although I wonder how many people realize that the film is actually set four years in the future (i.e. it was released in 1991 but takes place in 1995, when John Connor -- born in February 1985, according to what we see onscreen -- is ten years old) (and never mind for now that the actor who *plays* John Connor is clearly *not* a ten-year-old, a point that is all the more obvious to me now that I have a ten-year-old son).

M. Leary wrote:
: Interesting discussion on that here.

Thanks!

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 Sean Astin is among those joining the cast for Season 2. Sounds pretty good to me.

Have to say I adored this show, which gave us absolutely nothing new but managed to be a perfect blend of everything I like about 1980s Americana. The ultimate amalgamation of those two Steves, King and Spielberg.

EDIT: Just noticed that Paul Reiser is mentioned in the comments thread above, which is interesting as he's another of the new cast members.

Edited by Anodos

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