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Article ID: 8145
Age Group: Adult
Posted: January 17th. 2004
Witch Cinema 17 - 2003 Wrap-Up
by Peg Aloi
The Year in TV and Film: 2003
Well, the first thing to note about the year in media last year is that witches were not quite the ubiquitous darlings we were the two years previously. Oh, Charmed is still popular, but you don't see witches in every other fiction TV show that comes along now. Just wait though; there's already a couple of reality TV shows that put out calls for pagan or Wiccan cast members... and of course, we may end up being horrified and excited by this in equal measure. (My personal opinion: if you allow your privacy to be compromised by going on a reality TV show, I have no pity for you).
Still, there are a few new shows dealing with interesting issues of interest to the pagan community, as we tend to like stories with supernatural or fantasy storylines. There's Tru Calling< starring Buffy's Eliza Dushku, about a woman who works in a morgue who suddenly develops the talent (if that's what you'd call it) of seeing how people have died. She is then able to go back in time 24 hours and prevent these sudden violent deaths from occurring, if she's lucky. The premise is a bit weird but the show was fairly suspenseful when I saw it.
Another new show I have only seen twice but that I liked a lot: Joan of Arcadia. This is the story of Joan, a suburban teen not unlike the girl who was on the short-lived but excellent My So-Called Life, who can see and talk to God, just as the original Joan of Arc did. But there is an interesting twist: God comes in the form of people who just show up and Joan is never sure who it will be: another student, a homeless man, a store clerk, a doctor, a gardener. Joan is expected to help people, to make things work out, with minimal guidance from God. Sometimes things go well, sometimes they don't. I find this show refreshing in the way it does not feel a need to preach about religion, or even morality (unlike the sappy, unwatchable Touched by an Angel). People just are; they try their best, they fail, and everyone usually gets through the day somehow. We need more shows about sainthood like this one.
The new season of Six Feet Under starts later this spring. This is the best show on TV now, bar none. I mean, Buffy is gone, and since Aaron Sorkin left, The West Wing has really lost its edge. (Confession: I tend to watch Angel now, and catch up on The West Wing later.) I love the way SFU merges humor, tragedy, death, sex, romance, and fantasy into an always intelligent, always-surprising story, based in a family that somehow maintains its closeness despite their neurosis. Even though it takes place in Los Angeles and so has that unreal Hollywood cultural veil over it all, the people we see week after week are real. They are flawed. They are ugly as often as they are beautiful, sometimes at the same time. I also think the show has perhaps caused viewers to confront the very troubling but unavoidable subject of death. I know it has given me pause more than once, offering some unusual insight or thrilling epiphany, and I think about death probably way more than the average person... but not in as morbid or fearful a way as I used to.
The year in film did not bring much in the way of fantasy films, beyond the excellent third film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. This is another trend that has eased off a bit, but it looks like we'll be seeing some more horror and dark fantasy-based stories soon (like in another one of those go-back-in-time stories, The Butterfly Effect opening later this month). But no stories of space aliens or Satan worshippers this past year, strangely enough. I suppose we'll catch up to this quickly with the remake of The Wicker Man and the Scottish sequel, The Riding of the Laddie. There will also be a remake of the 1970s horror favorite, The Stepford Wives.
Another cool movie you may have missed: Bubba Ho-tep a strange but funny story of what really happened to Elvis Presley. Bruce Campbell (remember Autolychus from Xena,?) in the performance of his career!
There is a wonderful fantasy film playing now, that I want to mention and encourage you all to see: Tim Burton's excellent new feature, Big Fish. It's an engaging and entertaining blend of intense real life and surreal fantasy, and an unusual departure for Burton. Billy Crudup plays a young man who tries to bond with his father (Albert Finney) as the older man faces a terminal illness. But the center of the story is the flashback sequence that stars the fantastic Ewan MacGregor as the young version of Finney: a dashing, romantic and confident young man who seems to succeed at everything he does. His unlikely adventures form the basis of the many tall tales he becomes famous for in later life. Along the way we meet the giant, the Siamese twins, the witch, and the others who help him in his quest for love and fame, as well as the peaceful but odd small village of Spectre, where no one wears shoes and everyone is happy. The witch character (played by Helena Bonham-Carter who actually plays three roles in the film) is an intriguing one who recurs throughout the film. It is said a man can see his own death reflected in her glass eye. The film is as moving as it is hilarious, and visually lush and gorgeous.
A request: does anyone out there have a decent VHS collection of the various documentaries on witchcraft and the occult made by the various cable channels in the last five years or so, like Discovery, History, etc? If so, please email me. There is something specific I am looking for.
I hope to post some more reviews in the next column. 'Til then, keep the emails coming!
Media Coordinator - The Witches' Voice
Monday, January 19th.. 2004
Email: [Staff Email]
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