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Joss Whedon

Crimson Peak and the Art of Gothic Perfection

October 19, 2015

“I will read you their names directly; here they are in my pocket-book. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time. ‘
‘…but are they all horrid? Are you sure they are all horrid?’
‘Yes, quite sure; for a particular friend of mine, a Miss Andrews, a sweet girl, one of the sweetest creatures in the world, has read every one of them.”

-Northanger Abbey

Dear Reader,

Guillermo de Toro seems to have strayed into my bedroom and taken all the books off my gothic novel shelf, mixed them together in his mental stew, then recruited my favorite actors to bring the resulting screenplay to life. Excuse me while I gush. Crimson Peak- The Person I Am TonightFirst, Crimson Peak is not a horror movie. Horrific things do happen and ghosts do haunt the heroine’s steps, but they only serve to show her that something is very very wrong in her world. “The ghosts are metaphors” she prophetically declares early on in the film. The movie has been marketed as a horror movie for the Halloween season, yet the trailers contain almost every scene in which a ghost appears. As in Pan’s Labyrinth, the human beings are the monsters. The ghosts do little but point and sob and warn. Crimson Peak- The Person I Am TonightThe plot is simple and you have absolutely seen it before, which is part of the point. Edith Cushing (Maria Wasikowksa), American heiress and aspiring female novelist, falls deeply for Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) penniless baronet with a dream to use Edith’s money to restore both his family’s good name and their crumbling estate. He brings to the marriage a creepy overbearing older sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain) who mournfully plays the piano and offers tea and a remarkable lack of sympathy. Crimson Peak- The Person I Am TonightEdith and Thomas marry and he whisks her back to his immense gothic pile of an estate. The rest is an unraveling spool of gothic perfection. Blood (ok red clay) drips from the walls of the mansion, ghosts with meat cleavers in their foreheads point mournfully at locked doors and horrifying secrets (what’s behind the black veil???), and sexual hunger and deviance practically ooze from every pore. Edith tries to discover why she is seeing all these apparitions that no one else sees while trying to grow closer with her mysterious husband and chilly sister-in-law. So she wanders through corridors late at night, candelabra held high as snow drifts through the hole in the roof and the whole mansion sinks slowly into the bloody earth. Every shot of this movie is beautiful and terrifying, conveying lushness and tactile pleasure and internal rot. Crimson Peak- The Person I Am TonightBut as in every gothic story, the ghosts are mere signals that something is indeed rotten. Victorians and their predecessors wrote gothic stories in order to give voice to deep fears and fascinations. Thus they are really explorations of (often deviant) sexual desire, abandonment, child abuse, taboo, destructive love, progress and its consequences, poverty, and death. Take away the ghosts and the Sharpe siblings are simply two abused children who grew into damaged adults. Edith is pure and loving because she had a happy, though sexually innocent, youth. Their treatment of her and the resulting consequences of their actions are occasioned by fear of poverty and a loss of both home and heritage. Crimson Peak- The Person I Am TonightBefore I continue my gushing, however, I have to explain something about all this. My prediction (and some early reviews bear me out, although this one agrees with me in every respect) is that many people will dislike this movie. Del Toro has created an intricately crafted masterpiece with this movie but unless you have a fairly specific background, I think it will be hard to appreciate it or understand fully what he is doing. The plot is formulaic- but that is entirely intentional. Del Toro is referencing the original gothic novels of authors like Horace Walpole, Ann Radcliffe, and Matthew Lewis, the later gothic revivals of authors like Poe and Stoker, and mid-twentieth century cinema renditions of the same. His film is a house built on their foundations and without much deviation, this storyline is the storyline. It is the plot of RebeccaJane EyreThe Fall of the House of UsherThe Mysteries of UdolphoNorthanger Abbey, and many others. It is the story of an innocent in a house of doom and it can be found at the heart of the gothic tradition. And Del Toro treats it masterfully, making his heroine a beacon of light, dressing her in gorgeous gowns of gold and white, making her the archetype of the new twentieth-century woman with her facility on the typewriter, her interest in inventions and progress, and her desire to become an independent woman through her writing. Chastain’s Lucille is her perfect foil, a perfect pre-raphaelite goddess when she lets her neatly coiled hair down and bares her shoulders (and wields a knife).Crimson Peak- The Person I Am TonightCrimson Peak- The Person I Am TonightSir Thomas Sharpe is a younger, more handsome Mr. Rochester, something Del Toro winks at roguishly by having him recite practically verbatim a monologue Rochester delivers to Jane in the middle of the novel. Hiddleston plays him as the perfect tortured Byronic hero/villain who is torn between the dark and light sides of his nature. The whole movie begs to be analyzed by Victorianists and Hammer House of Horror lovers alike. It is simultaneously a nineteenth-century gothic novel and a twenty-first century dream of the Victorian era. Del Toro understands that gothic novelists created a myth of Victorian England in order to explore the uncomfortable, the obscene, and the grotesque. Crimson Peak is his addition to a well-established tradition that counts such luminaries as Poe, Stoker, Shelley, Hitchcock, Bergman, Marquez, Angela Carter, and Joss Whedon among its contributors. I fear that without an established interest in that tradition this movie will not land, but for those that it is aimed to enthrall, the experience is nothing short of a phantasmagoria of gothic perfection.Crimson Peak- The Person I Am TonightFor the uninitiated or the previously uninterested here is my advice: go into the movie expecting characters that are both carefully created individuals and also archetypes. Edith Cushing is an interesting character in her own right but she is also “the innocent heroine.” Lucille Sharpe may be a tragic and ill woman but she is also the “dark mysterious villainess,” and Sir Thomas is the “brooding Byronic antihero.” Del Toro slowly develops both characters and plot, so don’t expect to be watching a movie that is in line with modern pacing- this movie is slow and intricate like a Victorian three volume tome. It is meant to be melodramatic and stuffed with very obvious metaphor. It is meant to be a bit ridiculous. Gothic novels are supposed to be a little silly so that, while exploring your fears, you can also laugh at them. It is a spectacle- you could clearly see a Crimson Peak ride at Disney World. But its gorgeous horror reveals very human darkness, despair, hope, love, and survival. You don’t have to be a Victorianist to relate to that.

An Instagrammed Comic Con

August 13, 2014

Dear Reader,

This past weekend was Boston Comic Con. And boy do my wallet and my feet remember it fondly. I was lucky enough to have access to a camera for some of it, so on Friday I should have some pictures of my adventure up. For now, I thought I would give you a taste of what I found Instagram worthy.An Instagrammed Comic Con- The Person I Am Tonight

This is the poster I did not buy, but absolutely should have. It is snarky and has Joss Whedon on it. Why it isn’t hanging in my apartment already is sad and inexplicable. However, I will hang it here for your viewing pleasure.

An Instagrammed Comic Con- The Person I Am Tonight

This came from a series in which a bunch of your major heroes were presented in their childhood. Needless to say, it was adorable. Gabriel picked up this print of Diana, known to many as Wonder Woman, reading casually with wooden sword at the ready.

An Instagrammed Comic Con- The Person I Am TonightWith a title like Kill Shakespeare, what is an English major to do? I picked this up at one of the tables and got it signed by one of the creators. It is pretty freaking fantastic and you should hit up your friendly neighborhood comic book store to get yourself a copy. It is part of a series that is about to put out its fourth book. The art is incredible and the story combines a ton of Shakespearean characters together and allows them all to meet and hang out and fight and fall in love across existing story lines. It is seriously cool whether you are into Shakespeare or not.

An Instagrammed Comic Con- The Person I Am TonightAnd finally, the lovely Laura and I taking a picture of our long overdue reunion. Comic Con has a way of bringing people together and I saw people from high school, college, and grad school as well as made some new friends along the way. It was a blast and I can’t wait to go back next year. And next year, I promise to cosplay. Most likely in something requiring one hell of a corset. Hope you are surviving the week!

 

 

 

In Your Eyes

May 11, 2014

Dear Reader,

I am back from my studying cave, have turned in all my finals, taken all my tests, and almost thoroughly recovered from the mindsuck that all of that entailed. So welcome back to The Person I Am Tonight. I promise I won’t completely disappear into a cave again for at least another six months or so.

As a reward for getting through the last couple of weeks I have declared this week Joss Whedon week. Joss is one of my favorite writers, directors, producers, composers, tweeters, people etc. so there could be nothing more enjoyable story-wise for me than sitting down to pour over some of his stuff. And I would love to take you guys along with me. I am going to keep it to some of his less well-known stuff, so even if I watch The Avengers, which I will most certainly be doing, I probably won’t be reviewing it for you all since I imagine you’ve heard of it about a million times.

Joss-Whedon-In-Your-Eyes

I want to start us off by talking about In Your Eyes. Not the Peter Gabriel song, mind you, but the new movie out on Vimeo for all to see (for the low low price of $5). It is a movie written by Joss and directed by Brin Hill. Bellwether Pictures, which Joss and his wife Kai Cole created and head, is partly responsible for this gem. So, as you can see, this is one that Joss has been pretty closely tied to.

So about the movie: It is pretty low-budget, pretty sappy, and pretty wonderful. It is Joss Whedon at his absolute sappiest. The story is a pretty simple one: A guy and a girl realize that they can see and feel what each other are seeing and feeling. He lives in New Mexico, she lives in New Hampshire and their lives are basically polar opposites.

_74353269_813ca2d8-9149-4f5f-97d7-07f2ccb2fb7fIn-Your-Eyes

 

She (Rebecca) is fragile and considered not too mentally stable by her doctor husband and he (Dylan) is an ex-con who keeps almost slipping back into prison. They fall in love, duh. And it is absolutely wonderful and will (hopefully) make you dance around your bedroom and cheer. That was my reaction, at least. The movie plays off this idea that some people feel as though there is a sort of presence in their lives, that the person that they are ultimately going to love is with them even though they haven’t met yet. The movie riffs off of that idea and uses the supernatural aspects of being able to literally see through someone else’s eyes as metaphor.

In-Your-Eyes-at-Tribeca

 

The results are, in my opinion, really great. I particularly love how we spend the whole movie watching this love story unfold and the two characters are barely ever in the same room together. The actors have to act out pretty much every scene without anyone to play off of, and their ability to do that and be really great astonishes me. But- a warning- check your cynicism at the door. And don’t expect that the supernatural is going to be explained or even that it will really bother the two main characters. As Dylan says when wondering why this happened to them or why it happened now… “Why not?”

Here is the trailer, check it out and see what you think.