The Most Influential TV show of all Time? Breaking Bad? THE WIRE? No… It is…

I am re-watching Michael Straczynski’s seminal BABYLON 5, after a lapse of probably 2 decades, and by the time you hit Season 3 Episode 10 Severed Dreams, and have sat thru the awkward first season, and rough effects (at the time innovative, but now quaintly dated, yet oddly still beautiful) it is clear… this show is what Straczynski intended. The first Novel for Television.

Whereas THE HONEYMOONERS forged the concept of the Sitcom for television, And DRAGNET (following in its Radio Roots) would define the form of episodic tv for decades to come, BABYLON 5 is very much the jumping off point for long form storytelling in television.

Prior to Babylon 5, in television largely the characters, kept showing up week after week and telling the story for that week, with no real vast growth or change for that character from first episode to last. 

Whether BONANZA or THE FUGITIVE or “insert series here”, it may have 2 or 3 part episode, but largely there was no overarching theme or arc for the season or the series.

It was episodic television, monster or crime or issue of the week.

And then enter Michael Straczynski and his idea, of going one step further than STAR TREK’s aborted idea of a 5 Year mission, and try a multiyear story, with a beginning, middle, and end. Where there were stakes, And characters would have arcs, and change. 

Enter BABYLON 5.

An experiment in television, in an age of ‘done and one’ TV.

It holds up.

Despite the meddling of the Networks, the lowball budgets, the always under threat of cancellation seasons, Michael Straczynski’s BABYLON 5 was then, and remains now, one of the best written shows. A grand saga, writ large. With tragedies and triumphs and growth and betrayal and change… and hope. 

And that BABYLON 5 is as good and as coherent as it is, despite the constant meddling and threat of cancellation it endured every year of its existence (which forced writer, cast and crew to always have to gear every season like it was their last, the last couple of seasons clearly suffering because of the the blade that was always over the show’s neck); you have to put it down to Michael Straczynski’s passion and his writing and his fighting for it.

And a team of people around him, from actors to directors to makeup artists to set and wardrobe designers to consultants (the late great Harlan Ellison) all championing this unheard of dream, of a novel for television.

So no, not LOST, not SOPRANOS, not THE WIRE, not GAME OF THRONES, not BREAKING BAD, not BATTLESTAR GALACTICA… though all those shows with their continuing story structure owe a debt of gratitude to BABYLON 5 (which paved the way for TV, to break out of its episode of the week, short form storytelling mode) … none of those shows are TV at its most influential.

TV at its most innovate and influential (post Star Trek the Original Series)… Well that mantle remains 30 years later, still… BABYLON 5; which dragging and screaming, changed the face and scope of what television could be.

You don’t get any of those shows, without Straczynski, actually showing that long form narrative could be done on television.

So if you have never watched BABYLON 5, or have not watched it in a long time, all 5 seasons are available courtesy of Amazon Prime.

Give it a look, the first season is admittedly rough, stick with it. It takes off by the 2nd season and never looks back. And by the 3rd season, it is a hands down masterpiece.

 

Highest  Recommendation.

 

And honestly, it is the type of series that deserves to be owned in physical media, that you do not want to trust to the vagaries of Streaming licenses. It is a series, like HOMICIDE, like GRIMM, like MUSKETEERS, that deserves to always be at your fingertips and available for viewing.

It unfortunately does not yet have a Bluray option, but you can get the complete series on DVD at the link below:

BABYLON 5: THE COMPLETE SERIES WITH MOVIES

 

Today’s Must own Blu-Ray Steelbook in the age of Digital : THE THIRD MAN (1949)

In the age of Digital when traditional DVDs are going the way of the dodo, Steel-books are just getting more and more popular. Here is this installment’s STEEL-BOOK of the day:

Orson Welles and Carol Reed’s THE THIRD MAN (1949)

 

Credited to Carol Reed, Orson Welles directorial hand is all over this one. In my opinion Orson Welles’ finest film, and that is saying a lot considering his masterpieces like CITIZEN KANE, MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, LADY IN THE WATER, OTHELLO, CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT and the list goes on. And if any film deserves the upscale Steel-book treatment… it is this one. And this one offers a stellar transfer, commentaries, and great features.

 

Get yours here! (Use this link and get a great item, AND earn a couple very appreciated pennies for this blog):

THIRD MAN LIMITED EDITION STEEL-BOOK

 

If you liked this post, please support this blog using the links below:

BONANZA

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11 of the best Cosmic Horror or Hodgsonian or Wellsian Horrors Films! And why it is a misnomer to call them Lovecraftian.

Cosmic Horror is a favorite of mine, and in this post we dive into my favorite Cosmic Horror films.

Now, first there are a lot of misinformed people who will term cosmic horror, as Lovecraftian horror. That is incorrect.

I know why people do it, because they are ignorant of the facts, and they are regurgitating a myth that other misinformed or downright mendacious people have propagated.

So this post I hope to clear it up.

Cosmic Horror, is not Lovecraftian Horror.

The Collected Fiction of William Hope Hodgson, Vol. 1

 

The Collected Fiction of William Hope Hodgson, Vol. 2

 

 

House On The Borderland HC by Corben and Revelstroke

While it is a field HP Lovecraft flourished in, he was not the creator of the genre, he was just one of a pretty impressive field. Arguably if you want to lay the mantle of father of Cosmic Horror at any writer’s doorstep, William Hope Hodgson, 1908 Author of THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND, would be way before Lovecraft, and even before him would be the great HG Wells who in many ways created the concepts of not just science fiction and the hopefulness of space with THE FIRST MEN IN THE MOON (1901), but also the concept of the horrors of space and man’s smallness in the face of it, with THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1898).

H.G. WELLS SEVEN NOVELS

 

We forget exactly how prolific and staggering and broad a writer HG Wells was. He created whole genres and fields of thought and whole colonies of lesser writers formed around a single one of his ideas. Such is the case with Cosmic Horror, arguably every writer you can name doing ‘cosmic horror’, including Lovecraft, is simply playing in the shadow of a single HG Wells story.

A single HG Wells’ paragraph.

“No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.”
― H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds

That is the heart of every short story Lovecraft would do, the dread from beyond, distilled into a single concise paragraph.

Lovecraft and others spent entire careers mining just that one idea of Wells, nothing wrong with it, but let us not get things crooked.

Father of cosmic horror, Lovecraft is not.

The Complete Fiction of H. P. Lovecraft (Chartwell Classics)

The Complete Fiction of H. P. Lovecraft (Chartwell Classics)

 

And while I appreciate Lovecraft’s writing, the truth is, he is an author who was never in his life… anything more than a niche little known writer, for niche little known magazines. He is more popular in death, than he ever was in life.

Again the same can be said of many very good writers.

However, unknown in his lifetime, that can not be said of HG Wells.

HG Welles was, without argument, one of THE greatest writers of his time, and arguably remains today, over a hundred years later, still the single most influential writer in the English language, since so many writers from both science fiction and horror and fantasy , can trace their lineage to him, and continue to build on his concepts.

So rather than people slapping Lovecraftian on anything remotely resembling cosmic horror, it would be more aptly called Wellsian horror, if you want to go to the source.

Plus HP Lovecraft, being the poster child for racists, makes him a writer I can do without over glorifying. From all documentation he was a pedantic, overblown writer and person, assuming airs beyond him, the racism and class-ism all were affectations of his aspiring to a nobility, when he was not a noble man.

He is a bit like Poe, a writer I adore, but who was also a vicious, insufferable human being (per his writings, correspondences, reviews), who railed against the world for its idiocy in not recognizing his nobility, and talent as a writer, during his life. 

A modicum of humility and honest perspective in either man, would have made them far better human beings, but perhaps their writing would have suffered.  Who knows.

That said Lovecraft (like Poe) is a very good short story writer (he is not as good as Poe, but he is a very good writer), and I think several of his short stories deserve their acclaim. But guys and gals, there have been great Cosmic Horror writers before Lovecraft, and a hell of a lot since.

 

So let us stop slapping Lovecraft’s name, which I will admit is a bloody cool name, on anything remotely resembling cosmic horror.

Now, there can be films that are specifically Lovecraftian, they deal with specific Lovecraft creations, but these Lovecraftian films are just a subset, or a sub-folder, of the larger main folder… that is Cosmic horror. So a Lovecraftian film by definition is a cosmic horror film, however a cosmic horror film, is not necessarily a Lovecraftian film. It can be a Chambersian film, or a Hodgsonian film, or Biersian film, particular subsets of Cosmic Films. Kinda like how every Raven is a Crow, but not every Crow is a Raven.

So now that that is cleared up, please feel free to educate anyone you see using the term Lovecraftian Horror, on all cosmic horror (even creators oft just lazily grab a catchphrase that people know). Tell them call it just Cosmic Horror, or call it Wellsian Horror.

Okay , onto the films:

COSMIC HORROR FILMS:

  • THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOONDark Side Of The Moon, The [Blu-ray]
  • THE THING (1982)
  • III : THE RITUAL (2015)
  • THE VOID (2016) – the filmmakers even have characters named after Lovecraft characters, however it largely feels more like an ode to John Carpenter, rather than the writings of Lovecraft.
  • EUROPA REPORT
  • THE ENDLESS (2017)
  • LIFEFORCE
  • Lifeforce [Blu-ray]
  • 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)
  • IT (1990)
  • IT LIVES
  • POSSESSION (1981)

 

Now here are actual Lovecraftian Films:

  • IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (1994)
  • DAGON
  • THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012)
  • THE COLOR OUT OF SPACE (Upcoming Richard Stanley film) (2019)
  • FROM BEYOND (1986)
  • RE-ANIMATOR (1985)

The Great Pretenders : The Best Pre-JOKER ‘Non-Superhero’ SuperHero Films!

 

Way before Todd Phillip’s record breaking JOKER, other filmmakers were tackling very grounded stories of damaged people, transcending (or giving into) their damage in ways either heroic or horrific. Grounded takes that are eerily familiar to the fanciful origin stories more typically found in the comic books of yesteryear, but now moved into a darker world,, more akin to our own. Here then are the best of the pre-JOKER grounded films. One of them plays like the tale of the most bad-ass Robin, another an evil Super-Soldier Steve Rogers, another perhaps the origins of a demented Joker, or a sociopathic Bruce Wayne (the Jeff Wadlow directed TRUTH OR DARE is surprisingly good), and one a pre-Netflix prototype for Luke Cage.

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for The Guest (#4 of 7)

Another Zero in the System

News you can Use : Intriguing News from Around the Web!

Facebook said earlier last week that it has no issues with allowing lying ads or nazi publishers on its platform

Why anyone continues to use facebook, after repeated abuse of the public’s rights and reason, remains beyond me.

 

Sharp 80% rise in liver cancer deaths in UK

 

50 great tracks for November from Dua Lipa, Destroyer, Selena Gomez and more

 

ACLU sues feds to get information about facial-recognition programs

And not just the municipal/’public’ cameras. Yes your smart phone,  WE, Xbox, Ring and wifi security cams, VR headset, all that stuff you are using for fun or your security, is placing all that data of your face, body, and your surroundings in huge databases, that someone that is not you, gets to sift thru and use. Welcome to MINORITY REPORT. :). 

 

SECURITY Breaches at Network Solutions, Register.com, and Web.com

 

Trump Is in Denial About Getting Booed Again, This Time at a UFC Fight

Also not accepting reality? Fox & Friends.

 

Arrogant Stupidity and prideful ignorance, is the enemy of reason.

 

DNS over HTTPS Will Give You Back Privacy that Big ISPs Fought to Take Away

Movie posters of the Day!

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for The Photograph

Very Good poster and a great trailer. Lakeith Stanfield continuing to elevate everything he is in, and becoming an actor whose name on a project…  draws accolades and viewers.

 

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for Charlie's Angels (#7 of 11)

I have no interest in this movie. The trailer underwhelmed. But this is a beautiful and enticing poster.

 

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for Jumanji: The Next Level (#3 of 3)

I call this the ‘Alex Ross’ shot, even though he didn’t invent it, his work is replete with such iconic posing and imagery. And this Jumanji poster, having a little fun with that concept is great.

 

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for Terminator: Dark Fate (#3 of 13)

I am surprisingly uninterested in seeing this movie in the theater.

 

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (#4 of 5)

One of the few films I plan to see in the theater this year. If you have followed this blog, you know 1/ I am the furthest thing from a Disney fan but 2/ I have been very impressed and enjoyed all the Star Wars films we have gotten since they bought the property off of Lucas. In a perfect world would I be much happier if all these IPs were not being bought up by a single company? Yes, heck yes.

But that is a separate argument. Looking at the world as it stands now, with these being Disney movies, I have to say, Disney, in the guise of Kathleen Kennedy, has done a great job putting out 4 films, in just as many years. After decades between films, Disney rolled up their sleeves, and jumped in.

And the movies have been good. Now whether they agree with the fanfic in your head, or your gender or ethnic issues, that’s a separate question. But as films they have been well made, and all (even SOLO) made money.

So it is odd to cast me, a staunch believer that Disney is a monopoly that should be broken down (not destroyed, but forced to divest of their news unit ABC, some of their film IPs, etc.), now in the mode of Disney defender.

But in the case of a film company that is making films, they have done their job, and I think they have done that job well. With an eye toward fans, and telling quality stories. Now whether they nailed it with you or did not, that’s a personal preference thing, but end of the day they are trying to make the best films possible, so any tirades to the contrary is just uncalled for.

You do not have to love a film. Or a coat you buy, or a book you read, or a dinner you eat. But you make a note of that, give honest feedback or a review and move on, and hope they improve; that they do better next time.

That’s how a rational, informed person behaves.

And by reviewing a thing, I do not mean a “0 I hate it!” or a “10 greatest ever!”, both extremes are usually (not always, but usually) incorrect and ill informed, and says more about how little you have lived and seen, that you think this thing is the worst or the best.

The true grade of something, generally lies not at 0 and not at 10. And if you are  calling the Star Wars films a 0, because you did not like them, or the casting, or the message, you have to learn how to effing grade. You get a zero for not showing up, for not having anything to grade.

You turn in a 3000 page report in school, and your teacher, may despise and disagree with your stance in that report, your conclusions, but that teacher, will likely still pass you if your paper is competently made.

If some of you  were graded in school the way you grade movies, you would never have passed a single class. 🙂

I crack myself up.

Okay, long story short, looking forward to the RISE OF SKYWALKER. Here endeth the lesson! 🙂