Valley of the Dolls’ House

I probably should have bolted as soon as I saw the reception menu included something called a “Cascade of Fruit.” Or when the brochure heralded the large collection of dollhouses. Actually, the gaudy pink rose wallpaper that greeted me when I stepped into the antebellum foyer might have tipped me off.

If not the foyer itself, than the giddy bride to be, her plaid skirt unwrinkled, her diamond solitaire large but tasteful, and her mother, in a cashmere sweater and helmet of hair, ought to have been a clue that this wasn’t my kind of place.

Stephen, my mom, and I braved the wet weather and took the streetcar to the Garden District to look at potential wedding venues, so look we would. We were damp and, for New Orleans, regrettably sober. My hair, which does unspeakable things when it’s humid, and my bright orange jacket were immediately out of place. However, the House of Broel, like many Garden District residences, just screams “Get Married Here!”

For a couple of history nuts and nostalgic displaced Southerners like Stephen and me, the house was particularly seductive. Built in the 1850s and expanded in 1884, it’s got enough verandas, wrought iron, and ornate woodwork to make us swoon. The problem was twofold: we are, by Southern wedding standards, an unconventional couple, and I, by any standard, am a terrible bride.

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Posted in Wedding

Investigating The X-Files: Season 9, Part 2

In the past nine weeks, I’ve watched 153.5 hours (or almost six and a half days) of “The X-Files.” Between episode notes and published pieces, I’ve written over 70,000 words. Now that I’m approaching the end of this odyssey, I feel like I ought to produce some kind of exciting and dramatic gesture. Something like a champagne fountain, a Dixieland band, and a Busby Berkley-style line of chorus girls dressed as grays. Alas, everyone I’ve presented the idea to assures me these things are patently impossible in blog form; no doubt they suffer from profound failures of imagination.

After I finished watching, I needed a few days to process before I would have anything to say. Now that I’ve had some distance, I can say that most of what I enjoyed about the second half of Season 9 and most of what drove me nuts came from the same source. I’ve read that Fox wouldn’t just tell Chris Carter whether or not they wanted a tenth season, so he made Season 9 to have some closure. I really appreciate this instinct. As someone with a tragic history of falling in love with TV shows that promptly get canceled, I know the pain of becoming invested in characters and a story and never getting any payoff.
That said, the second half of Season 9 feels both a bit unnecessarily depressing and rushed, and I think those things are related to each other.

Minus the two-part finale, Chris Carter only had eight episodes to attempt a satisfactory wrap-up of every character and storyline. As a result, the information rushes by so fast it blows back the skin on your face. Many of the stories aren’t necessarily bad, just rushed. They would have been more effective if there’d been more time to ground them in the fabric of the show.

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Investigating The X-Files: Season 9, Part 1

Passionate fans of “The X-Files” have a hard time speaking rationally about Season 9. As I watched the first half and tried to unpack my feelings, rather than useful and well-reasoned statements about the flaws, I mostly yielded eye rolling, groans, and whimpers. If you’ll forgive my use of a tired meme, it’s such an epic case of “Do not want!” on the part of the viewers that pushing past the initial feelings of discomfort and boredom to get to the actual reasons for the suck presents a challenge.

However, now that I’m worked through my moaning and whining, I think I’ve unpacked a few big reasons behind the nigh-fiasco. Most glaring, the way Mulder’s sudden and disappearance just days after the birth of Scully’s baby gets dealt with feels ham-handed at best. He’s just – poof! – not there and nobody wants to discuss it. Scully and Skinner’s reticence to talk feels like an attempt to add drama and high stakes to the season. By the time you finally get some answers it seems less mysterious and more like a “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” explanation for the actor’s departure.

Although Mulder’s absence presents Season 9′s most obvious problem, I don’t think it’s what really dooms it. The biggest obstacle between Season 9 and the Land of Unsucky comes from the fact that the character relationships, how the people are motivated and how they relate to each other, just don’t work. Attempting to restart the series by focusing on Doggett and Reyes while keeping the older characters around but only semi-relevant fails from the start.

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Investigating The X-Files: Season 8, Part 2

I officially feel foolish for dreading Season 8 of the X-Files so much. Not every episode hits it out of the park, but taken as a whole, I think like 8 more than 7. The monsters of the week don’t excite as much, but it has a decidedly old-school feeling of momentum and purpose. Hell, I’ve even decided I am – Dare I say it? – a fan of John Doggett. I don’t get him, I don’t necessarily understand what makes him tick, but I dig him. Robert Patrick has a knack for contrasting gravitas with explosive badass-ness that gets me in a good way.

I finished the first half of Season 8 seriously pondering how Doggett would rationalize being brought back from the dead via Native American shaman cannibalism in “The Gift.” I haven’t decided whether Doggett basically ignoring the whole thing evidences a plot hole the writers just didn’t deal with or if it’s a part of Doggett’s complicated and multi-hued personality. Mostly, I just decided not to care.

The writers endeared Doggett to me by giving an explanation for his extreme skepticism. In Empedocles” we learn that Doggett’s son was kidnapped and killed. Reyes was in charge of the investigation and felt some typically woo-woo vibrations about the case that he rejected. Doggett admits to her that he can’t let himself believe in paranormal activity now because it would mean that by rejecting it at the time of his son’s death, he might have rejected a means of saving him. The writers also make a point of showing the fiercely loyal devotion Doggett develops to both Scully and the X-Files. He doesn’t need to whole-heartedly believe or understand in order to trust, and that earns him some serious points.

Of course, Doggett isn’t the only one who rises from the dead in Season 8. In case all the earlier Christ symbolism with Mulder strapped to a cross-shaped table wearing a thorny metal crown wasn’t enough for you, in Season 8 he dies and gets resurrected. I had utterly forgotten that this happened. Even now, when I think about it too hard, I feel a kind of incredulous about the whole business, but I was so goldarned glad to see Mulder again, I don’t want to overanalyze it. Even if I have decided Doggett rocks, nothing beats that Mulder/Scully spark.

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Investigating The X-Files: Season 8, Part 1

After I posted my thoughts on the second half of Season 7 of "The X-Files," I decided to reward my industriousness by beginning Season 8 while lying in our office’s hammock. Yes, my office has a hammock; don’t ask. Afternoon sun streamed through the window and the hammock swung gently. It’s an altogether lovely setting in which to have some quality time with Scully and the things that go bump in the night. As soon as I settled in and opened my computer, I thought of 14 other things I needed to do right away. I checked my email, organized my desktop, and made a grocery list. I checked my email again. I even spent 15 minutes watching amusing animated reviews for video games I’ve never heard of and will never play. In short, I did everything I could think of to keep from pushing play on Season 8.

At that point, I realized I needed a swift kick in the ass. Enough stalling. It was time to sack up and show Season 8 of “The X-Files” that I wasn’t afraid of it. Hell, I thought, it won’t be so bad. I like Robert Patrick, and it’s ages until Reyes shows up. And hey, what about that awesomely creepy episode where the cult members attach their parasite Jesus to Scully’s spine? That rocked! Ready to commit, I bolted upright with a fire in my belly. This made the hammock I’d forgotten I was lying in swing in a violent and startling fashion. After I’d untangled the laptop cords from the ropes and my legs, I clicked play.

Almost immediately, I was glad I’d gotten over my cowardice. After
watching the first half of Season 8, I find I like Agent John Doggett a
good deal. I can’t help but wish they’d introduced him back around
season 6 when the show felt so unfocused. Doggett adds a spark of
personality and skepticism that’s good for the show, but it’s hard to
get behind him. If they had integrated him earlier, when the show was
at a natural turning point, instead of as a last ditch effort to keep
the ball rolling when David Duchovny was on his way out the door, I
think fans would have resented Doggett less.

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Posted in Professional, The X-Files

Investigating The X-Files: Season 7, Part 2

I think I know how David Duchovny felt while filming season 7 of “The X-Files.” I’m full of good memories and bear the show no ill will. At the same time, I’m exhausted and I don’t think I want to be here anymore. Though not, perhaps, for the same reasons as Duchovny. The best compliment and worst condemnation I can think of to describe Season 7 is that it feels like it should have come earlier. The dramatic episodes are meaningful and fulfilling, the one-offs pleasant and amusing. Mulder and Scully bond and banter in new and delightful ways. Most of the episodes could have been seamlessly integrated anywhere in Season 3, 4, or 5.

In most ways, this is a very good thing. The episodes are well plotted, well shot, and by and large really enjoyable. On the other hand, I couldn’t help but yearn for more from the last real season of the show I’ve loved so well. It’s possible that no season of television could be climactic and fulfilling enough to put to rest the desires of thousands of rabid X-philes, but that doesn’t keep me from wishing for a bit more pizzazz. I watched all of Season 7 with a pall hanging over me because of the disappointment I knew was coming. It’s hard to lose yourself in a show when you know the end is both disappointing and nigh.

So, like Duchovny, I find I don’t want to be here writing about the conclusion of Season 7. I watched only parts of 8 and 9 when they first aired in an attempt to gain some emotional distance. I’m not particularly looking forward to watching them now. However, I’ll try not to be maudlin about it – yet. I really enjoyed a good deal about Season 7, so I might as well celebrate it while I have the chance.

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“X-Files: Revelations” Giveaway!

If you’re looking for a way to gear up for “X-Files: I Want to Believe,” you could watch all nine seasons of the show back to back in a veritable mind melting orgy of aliens, monsters, and conspiracies. However, if you want to prepare for the film without sacrificing so much time and sanity, you could instead watch “X-Files Revelations.” The two DVD set consists of eight episodes picked by Chris Carter to put you in just the right brain space for the film.

Speculation ran rampant as to whether or not “I Want to Believe” would concern itself with the show’s alien mythology. We know now that the movie will totally lack little green men. If you need further confirmation that the newest chapter in “The X-Files” story will be personal rather than extraterrestrial, Carter’s selections for “Revelations” leave no doubt.

The “Pilot,” “Beyond the Sea,” “The Host,” “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose,” “Memento Mori,” “Post Modern Prometheus,” “Bad Blood,” and “Milagro” are all episodes that focus on the characters, their evolutions as people, and their relationship with each other. In addition to the episodes, the set includes Gillian Anderson, David Duchovny, Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz’s appearance at the 2008 WonderCon as well as intro interviews with Carter and Spotnitz. They talk about each episode’s writing and acting triumphs in each and why they think it stands out as one of the best of the best.

My favorite revelation? Apparently, “Memento Mori,” the season 4 classic when Scully is diagnosed with cancer, was born almost by accident and on the fly. An expected script didn’t show on time and a myth episode had to be created at the last minute. Some of the writers thought giving Scully cancer would seem like cheap television melodrama. Instead, it became the emotional core that motivated much of the rest of the series.

If you’re a diehard X-phile with every episode imprinted on your brain, “Revelations” might not be for you. However, if you’re a casual fan looking to get more out of the movie or even a lover of the show who’s been away for a long time (and who has too much of a life to deep dive the whole series) I think you’ll really enjoy it.

And hey guess what! I’ve got four copies of “The X-Files: Revelations” to give away to readers. Even cooler, each one contains a pass worth $8.50 to see “I Want to Believe” when it comes out on July 25. If you’d like to get your hands on “Revelations,” leave a comment below before July 16 when I’ll use my telepathic powers to choose the winners at random. You can talk about anything, but I’m particularly interested to know: what episode or episodes of “The X-Files” would you have included on a best of the best compilation?

Posted in Professional, The X-Files

Investigating The X-Files: Season 7, Part 1

All I remembered about Season 7 of "The X-Files" was feeling unsatisfied with the explanation of what happened to Samantha Mulder and the fact that it was the last “real” season before everything started to go all to hell. I had a definite chip on my shoulder, but perhaps I wanted it to disappoint. If the last full Mulder season devolved into something not worth saving anyway, then I could tell myself it was fine David Duchovny left the show.

Halfway through I find myself surprisingly charmed. Season 6′s pleasant but unfocused style left me thinking Chris Carter probably couldn’t get back on the horse and make 7 more polished. I rarely enjoy being wrong quite so much. Mulder and Scully’s will they or won’t they relationship, while neither precisely explained or resolved, develops a comfortably intimate quality with less sexual tension. We don’t know exactly what they get up to when the camera isn’t there, but it feels like they’ve finally figured some important things out. Season 7 also marks the return of a subtle unifying theme to give the episodes more depth and meaning. Questions of spirituality drive the season. Faith, religion, and whether or not God and the Devil exist come up in nearly every episode.

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Investigating The X-Files: Season 6, Part 2

When Season 6 rocks, it produces an extravaganza of some of my all-time favorite episodes. When it sucks, it’s enough to make me go all drooly and cross-eyed. And when the episodes are just average, their very averageness somehow irritates me. The effect is just plain weird, bipolar even. Even the way the myth works strikes me as odd. In Season 6, the myth plateaus, tension stops building and suspense ceases to rise. It ought to be awesome to finally have some questions answered, and while it is, it’s also oddly unfulfilling. The myth engine that drove the meta-plot of “The X-Files” sort of runs out of gas, and it leaves the whole show feeling unmoored.

The myth episodes themselves have odd structures and a lack of stylistic and thematic cohesiveness. In Season 6 opener “The Beginning,” we find out that the X-Files, which got reopened during the film, have been assigned to weasly Jeffery Spender and slimy Diana Fowley. Gibson Praise reappears, after some creepy Syndicate brain surgery, and discovers that he can communicate with the newborn evil alien baby. I found Gibson particularly fascinating on this viewing, but the episode doesn’t focus on him. Instead, it centers on Mulder’s intense and illogical attachment to smarmy mega-bitch Fowley, a choice that made me feel stabby.

Around this point that I found I’d developed a grudging respect for Krycek. He’s smarter than Spender and less subversive than Fowley. The more I looked at her, the more I came to appreciate Krycek’s pragmatic sort of selfishness. I just wish “S.R. 819,” the episode where Krycek poisons Skinner with nanotechnology in order to control him, made better use of his ratty qualities. The episode manages to be both boring and illogical. Even though I know the premise kind of pays off later, it still couldn’t keep my attention.

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Investigating The X-Files: Season 6, part 1

I’ve noticed that after an important myth event, “The X-Files” tends to follow with a nice long patch of monsters of the week. They provide a well-deserved opportunity for decompression and reflection, but not all of these one-offs are created equal. Sometimes you get basically fine but forgettable eps like “Soft Light,” “Synchrony,” or “Hell Money.” Other times you get a classic like “Small Potatoes,” “Bad Blood,” or “The Post-Modern Prometheus.” Every now and then, the stars align and there’s a whole run of non-myth episodes that rock back to back. Season 6 kick-starts with one of these rare and wonderful runs. I gravitate toward it whenever I’m in the mood to watch a few eps without thinking too hard.

Although Season 5 might be my favorite of the series, the veritable typhoon it kicks off is a challenge to take in. Between the middle of season five and the first episode of season 6, the viewer experiences Cassandra Spender, the alien rebels, the loss of the X-files by fire, a feature film, and the introduction of Jeffery Spender, Diana Fowley, Gibson Praise, and Assistant Director Kersh, and the revelation that the black oil gestates into a violent juvenile alien which in turn grows up into the iconic “gray.” Almost like a reward for making it that far without your head exploding like Patrick Crump’s (played by Guest Who Later Got Big Bryan Cranston) in “Drive,” there are six episodes so quirky, funny, and fulfilling, it’s almost enough to make me wish the intellectual challenge of “The X-Files” mega-myth wouldn’t return.

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Posted in Professional, The X-Files