Goodbye Susannah

Maria Thayer as 'Susie Wagner' in "Eagleheart"[Contains slutty trees and SPOILERS!!!]

After finishing NTSF:SD:SUV::, I was left jonesing for more “short form” crime comedy, and started working my way through its close-cousin Eagleheart (2011 to 2014). At first I was concerned that the two shows might be too similar, since they were both riff on roughly the same genre (i.e., the crime-fighting team procedural), but Eagleheart is a much stranger, darker, and bloodier beast than NTSF ever was, skewing closer to the trippy horror of The Heart, She Holler… especially in its epic third (and final?) season. One of the main strengths/joys of watching this show is the dumbfounding ways in which seemingly routine and familiar case-related plotlines can take weird little detours on their way to the “solve”, or just spiral off into full-tilt insanity.

Beyond the plentiful yuks/yucks, my main point of interest here was the representation of the team’s token female member, “Junior Lady-Marshal” ‘Susie Wagner’, played by Maria Thayer… in-keeping with the “toxic masculinity” and casual sexism of the shows that inspired this parody, she’s depicted as the nagging “work wife” that her male colleagues constantly dismiss and belittle, even (or especially?) when she’s doing all the actual detective work! Although Susie is often side-lined and overlooked in her own workplace, thankfully Thayer is given a number of juicy sub-plots and bizarre character transformations to sink her teeth into, and show her considerable comedy-acting chops… the most memorable/grotesque coming in ep #2.5, when Susie overdoses on testosterone in a desperate bid to fit in with the guys, and devolves (Jekyll-and-Hyde-style) into a feral wolf-boy nicknamed “Little Dude”, who’s celebrated for his hard-drinkin’, sex-talkin’, suspect-cannibalisin’ manliness.

Maria Thayer as 'Susie Wagner' in "Eagleheart"Other highlights include ep #1.8, in which Susie unexpectedly falls prey to “regicidophilia” (which is defined as an overwhelming attraction to men who assassinate powerful public figures), and goes on the lamb with a besotted bad-boy who struggles to satisfy her rising blue-bloodthirst… ep #2.6 in which she gets spotted by a drug-store talent-scout, and becomes a celebrated pharmaceutical starlet, before inevitably being superceded and reduced to selling pills from the back of a car in seedy neighbourhoods… ep #2.7, in which her apartment is being used by the Marshals as a “Beat Shack” (illegal interrogation cell), and she inadvertently discovers that a tight-lipped hold-out is a masochist who loves to be smacked around, but considers kindness and compassion to be unbearable torture (they fall in love, and the episode ends with her gleefully beating the guy with a hammer as giddy foreplay!)… ep #2.11, in which she manages to uncover the terrible secret behind a seemingly innocuous (but insanely aggravating) board-game, despite having been locked in a car-trunk and forgotten by her careless colleagues(!)… and, of course, her continuing attempts to sell a crappy/creepy children’s show featuring bickering puppets with rotten apples for heads, which she uses to work through the derision she suffers on a daily basis (eps #3.2-3).

Maria Thayer as 'Susie Wagner' in "Eagleheart"Side-bar: I love the fact that she seemed waaay more upset about ‘Chris’ (Chris Elliott) inadvertently sabotaging her opportunity to pitch the “Ap’p’pals” show to a TV station, than she was about him accidentally killing their long-time friend/partner ‘Brett’ (Brett Gelman) in the opening episode of the season… and it was incredibly gratifying to see her finally achieve a little validation in the finale (ep #3.11), using her puppetry/ventriloquism “skills” to magickally save the entire planet from descending into violent anarchy. Hurrah!

Back on-topic, the show’s most pointed comment on sexual discrimination, both on and off the television screen, came in episode #2.8, which took the form of a recruitment video for the U.S. Marshals service, and found Susie cheerfully informing viewers that it’s “a great place for women!”, before hyping a recent increase in the number of words a female marshal is allowed to say per month (up from 200 to 445!). Unfortunately she exhausts this closely monitored quota before finishing her spiel, and is left to stare mutely at a ringing telephone on her desk in forlorn frustration. Bless.

Unlike its loosely-related brethren, Eagleheart wasn’t awash with comedic ringers in cameo roles, though there were a few familiar faces filling out the supporting cast: Kate Luyben as ‘Trish’, the Susie-substitute eye-candy in a fake show-within-a-show (#2.8)… Dana DeLorenzo as a fickle “Arty Woman” who admires and then derides Chris’s blood-splatter “paintings” (#2.9)… Paz de la Huerta as ‘Tess’, Brett’s super-trashy sister who Chris (kinda) gets it on with (eps #3.3-4)… Mary Grill as ‘Trish’, a disinterested prostitute Chris falls in love with while on the run (eps #3.5-7)… and Jill Talley as ‘Doreen’, a crazy lady Chris picks up in the ruins of a town destroyed by overzealous shoeshine boys (eps #3.8-9). M’kay.

Maria Thayer as 'Susie Wagner' in "Eagleheart"Verdict: On reflection, I’d have to say the second season was probably my favourite, although the mind-bending finale of season three has left me itching to re-watch it from the beginning, to better appreciate the serialised story arc and clever callbacks… but even in its first (warm-up?) season, the show was never less than laugh-out-loud funny, and splutter-out-loud absurd, and for that it should be greatly celebrated… preferably with international DVD releases, poseable action figures, trading cards, and branded clothing… though I’d settle for some decent-sized promo pictures, dammit!

P.S. The title of this post is also the title of the show’s occasional closing theme song, as performed by Raun Burnham.

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“The Meaninglessness Is Very Nice”

Rebecca Reid as 'Audrey Mouse' (circa 2015)When not stealing scenes/hearts as ‘Nadia’ in New Girl, the English-born model-turned-actress Rebecca Reid also moonlights as a stand-up comedian in various clubs around L.A…. where, as far as I can tell from the scant clips I’ve seen, she traffics in absurdist “conceptual comedy”, rather than the more traditional patter about everyday life. For example, in one routine she compares showbusiness to a goat that eats everything you own… a goat that you’ll eventually get to eat in turn, if you’re successful enough. Now, I don’t have the faintest clue what that means, but it still resonated strongly with me, as if it was actually quite profound… and the image was unusual enough to elicit a laugh, regardless of my confusion. By design, the characters Reid plays on-stage (including Minnie Mouse’s disapproving younger sister “Audrey”) are unrelatable and rather detached from reality… while her intentionally listless delivery, tuneless singing, spasmodic dancing, bizarre obliqueness, and stunning beauty, all combine to create a simultaneously disconcerting and mesmerising experience. She’s like the Inland Empire of stand-up comedy (but with mice instead of bunnies)!

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“I Have Russian Nesting Doll…”

[Contains “Giggle Dirt” and SPOILERS!!!]

Zooey Deschanel as 'Jess' and Hannah Simone as 'Cece' in "New Girl" (S5)The fifth season of New Girl (2016) had the potential to be the show’s strongest to date, with the Schmidt-and-Cece-Wedding arc providing a solid structural spine and a fertile new source of stories and jokes… unfortunately the star of the show, Zooey Deschanel, ended the previous season with a bun slow-baking in her oven, resulting in her absence from a significant number of episodes here, including the show’s landmark 100th instalment! Her maternity leave was covered by Megan Fox, playing a ball-bustin’ pharmaceutical sales rep named ‘Reagan’, who’s introduced to the show in an unnecessarily awkward and obtrusive way, as a random hottie that the guys scope out in a hospital reception area, and then lustily invite to stay in their loft apartment, to help cover Jess’s share of the rent… which is implausible enough in itself, but once they’d all arrived back at home-base, ‘Cece’ (Hannah Simone) recognised Reagan as a former friend/lover from her early modelling days, thus inflaming her fiancé’s smouldering jealousy. So, why couldn’t the writers have just gone with that much simpler explanation for her presence in the apartment (old girlfriend in town for work assignment needs a place to crash), and skipped the whole meet-creepy in the hospital? Gah!

Megan Fox as 'Reagan' in "New Girl" (S5)I was also a little perturbed by the way that Reagan was pitched as “The Most Desirable Woman in the World”, with ‘Nick’ (Jake Johnson) in particular acting as if she was so far out of his league they weren’t even playing the same sport… despite the fact that in previous seasons he’s dated women played by Olivia Munn (ep #2.10-12), Maria Thayer (ep #2.6), Lake Bell (ep #1.4), and Lizzy Caplan (ep #1.10-11/13-14), as well as Deschanel herself… all of whom I’d personally rate above Fox, in terms of desirability. Of course, that’s totally subjective… and I understand that the writers were trying to sell a Nick-has-low-self-esteem-that-only-Jess-can-snap-him-out-of subplot here… but even so, I feel it’s vitally important that the internet know I wouldn’t trade one Thayer for a thousand Foxes. In fact, I’d genuinely forgotten who her character even was by the time the gang started fretting about wedding invites… and when Nick gave the object-of-his-long-distance-lust a fretful name-check, I drew a total blank, despite having seen her run of episodes only a couple days earlier… though that might have more to do with my advancing age than the character’s impact…?

Nasim Pedrad as 'Aly Nelson' in "New Girl" (S5)Far more welcome was Nasim Pedrad‘s return as ‘Winston’s (Lamorne Morris) police patrol partner, and eventual love interest, ‘Aly Nelson’… who recurred in a total of nine episodes (#5.2/6/8/11-12/16/18-19/21), and brightened up the Jess-less stretch considerably, even if her expanded role resulted in a rather undignified one-scene send-off for Kiersey Clemons (ep #5.4) as Winston’s cheating girlfriend ‘KC’, in a lame tit-for-tat revenge storyline that was a straight-up insult to the thoughtful and timely episode that introduced her. We also saw far too little of Cece’s scary-sexy flatmate ‘Nadia’ (Rebecca Reid) this season, though she still managed to steal every scene she was in with her adorably-accented insanity, and even got a little “secret origin” flashback in ep #5.11, as a “twelve year old escapee from Russian gymnasia school” who blundered into Cece’s apartment looking for “beer party and bed for sleeping”. Bless. She and Aly also played pivotal roles in possibly the greatest single episode that the show has ever produced:

Rebecca Reid as 'Nadia' in "New Girl" (ep #5.18)“A Chill Day In” (ep #5.18) saw Jess arranging a (theoretically) low-key bachelorette party for her long-time bestie, involving the ingestion of strong weed and the worshipful viewing of Anne Of Green Gables… only for their buzz to be severely harshed by the arrival (and subsequent destruction) of a bread-maker sent by Schmidt’s mother, along with a bitchy card casting aspersions on her future daughter-in-law’s relative lack of baking/cooking skills. This kicked-off an epic quest to replace said gift, replete with fantastically bizarre stoner shenanigans and non-sequiturs. Admittedly I was still a little amped up on caffeine and post-Comic-Con adrenaline when I watched it, but I thought this was the funniest twenty-plus minutes of sit-comedy I’d ever seen! High-Jess & High-Cece were so hilariously random, I loved pretty much everything they said and did in their altered state, so major snaps to Deschanel and Simone for their incredible performances here, and to script-writer Sarah Tapscott for putting all those nonsensical words into their mouths. Fun fact: She’s also credited with writing five episodes of Kroll Show, and I dolphinately think that experience paid off here!

Beth Dover as 'Cynthia' in "New Girl" (ep #5.5)Meanwhile, notable guest-stars included: Anna George as Cece’s disapproving mom ‘Priyanka’ (ep #5.1/22), along with Mona Sishodia as the random Indian woman that Nick picks up at the airport instead of her (plus Katie Silverman and Jaidan Jiron as ‘Young Jess’ and ‘Young Cece’ respectively)… Ally Maki as ‘Kumiko’, a cute Japanese tourist staying at the loft, who has an off-screen “sexual encounter” with Nick (ep #5.4)… Lennon Parham as ‘Carol’, the broody wife of Nick’s cousin (replacing Emily R. Wilson from ep #2.20), and Beth Dover as ‘Cynthia’, a devious wedding-dress saleswoman (ep #5.5)… Clea DuVall as ‘Camilla’, a clingy former fling of Reagan’s, who Winston helps to deal with the break-up… Sarah Chaney as ‘Hutch’, Aly’s butch new partner, and Elizabeth Berkley as ‘Becky Cavatappi’, Jess’s work-shirking new boss (ep #5.11)… Lucy Punch as ‘Genevieve’, the head-teacher at a fancy free-spirited school that Jess applies to work at, little suspecting that they have a love-connection in common (in the tall-dark-and-handsome form of Dr. ‘Sam’ (David Walton)), plus Gillian Vigman as Kim, one of Schmidt’s overbearing lady-bosses (#5.13/19), and Susie Abraham as ‘Naomi’, an inconsequential coffee-date of Winston’s…

Busy Philipps as 'Connie' in "New Girl" (ep #5.14)Busy Philipps as ‘Connie’, the stressed-out owner of an upscale bar across the street from the gang’s regular hang-out (which Nick and Schmidt have now invested in as part-owners) (ep #5.14)… Sonequa Martin-Green as ‘Rhonda’, a girlfriend of Winston’s who is just a couple crazy pranks away from becoming a full-on Batman villain (#5.15)… Kat Palardy as the beleaguered ‘Lady Employee’ who has to talk some sense into High-Jess and High-Cece, when they try to return the battered bread-maker (#5.18)… Caitlin FitzGerald as ‘Diane’, a pining platonic female friend of Sam’s, who is clearly his True Love (#5.20)… Kim Wayans as ‘Susan’, the long-time lesbian life-partner of Schmidt’s mother ‘Louise’ (Nora Dunn) (#5.21-22)… and finally, Sonal Shah as a ‘Flight Attendant’ aboard the grounded plane that (almost) torpedoes Schmidt & Cece’s wedding (if you’ll forgive the slightly mixed metaphor there) (#5.22). Oh, there’s also a brief cameo by series creator Elizabeth Meriwether in ep #5.6 (aka #100) as a ‘Miserable Woman’ working in Reagan’s weird maritime-themed hotel!

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Dickie Digested

Hayley Atwell as 'Aliena' in "The Pillars of the Earth"For the past couple weeks I’ve been haphazardly working my way through Kate Dickie‘s filmography, in preparation for a potential chin-wag at B-Mouth Film & Comic-Con, so here are some of my (totally subjective and slightly bitchy) reactions:

1) Pseudo-historical 12th Century soap-opera The Pillars of the Earth (2010) was a bit of a damp squib Dickie-wise, because [SPOILER!!!] her character died about halfway through the first episode. While I was disappointed to see her depart so soon, I was grateful that I wouldn’t have to endure another seven episodes of that show’s slipshod storytelling, as the writers strained credulity in order to bring Rufus Sewell’s humble stone-mason (“Tom Builder”) into consecutive contact with the major players on all sides of the brewing civil war. Meh. That said, fans of Marvel’s Agent Carter might get a kick out of seeing Hayley Atwell playing a feisty young noblewoman, who isn’t afraid to swing a candlestick at unchivalrous suitors!

2) Dickie had a much more substantial starring role in Couple in a Hole (2015), playing the agoraphobic wife of a traumatised couple who’d taken to living in a manky cave in the middle of a French forest, after a freak tragedy brought their family holiday to an abrupt end. This is the sort of film where you can still admire the incredible commitment, courage, and talent of the cast (particularly Dickie and Paul Higgins, who played her slightly more sociable husband), even as the story gets progressively sillier the more we learn about their predicament, and the further they venture away from their “hole”.

Kate Dickie as 'Jackie' in "Red Road"3) When I read that the multi-award-winning Red Road (2006) was set around a rundown high-rise estate and shot “largely in a Dogme 95 style, using handheld cameras and natural light”, I expected it to be a rather grim and ugly affair… but the cinematography is actually surprisingly beautiful, and a credit to its BAFTA-approved director Andrea Arnold. Dickie aces the lead role of a vengeful CCTV-operator stalking a recently-released criminal, on a self-destructive and nerve-wracking quest to put him back behind bars where (she believes) he belongs. It wasn’t an easy film to watch, and it certainly isn’t my usual idea of “fun”, but there’s no questioning the quality of the performances, the spiky energy of the screenplay, or the originality of the premise… so kudos all around. Fun fact: This was the first instalment of a planned trilogy of films, utilising the same pool of characters, but each made by a different first-time director. The second instalment, Donkeys, was released in 2010, but the third part is apparently stuck in “development limbo”.

4) Outcast (2010) was kinda like a sub-par Scottish take on Let The Right One In, except with a furless-werewolf-boy instead of a vampire-girl, and lots more witchcraft around the edges. I can’t say I totally understood the storyline/mythology that they were spinning, but Dickie had some great scenes as the over-protective (incestuous?) mother of a mass-murdering monster, using various spells and hexes to hide him from encroaching hunters. There’s also a brief cameo by Karen Gillan as a local girl who crosses paths with the main characters, but she doesn’t really get enough screentime to make this a must-see for her fans.

Shirley Henderson as 'Bunty Blades' in "Filth"5) I’d been meaning to check out Irvine Welsh’s Filth (2013) for a while now, but this little “festival” gave me the incentive to fast-track it… and I’m very glad I did. Although I’d personally rate Trainspotting and Wedding Belles ahead of this film, thanks to their more engaging characters and involving storylines, it’s still a very stylish and eye-catching entry in the oeuvre, with some typically dark and amusing bits that stay snagged in your brain for a long time after the credits roll. James McAvoy stars as an ambitious and conniving Detective Sergeant slowly losing his grip on sanity, while Dickie plays the wife of one of his colleagues/rivals, with whom he is having a sadomasochistic affair. He also makes sexually-explicit “prank” phone-calls to the glamorous trophy wife of a nerdy-but-rich Masonic brother, played by a glammed-up Shirley Henderson! Hotcha.

6) As a writer of comedy crime stories (sort of) set in 18th Century England, the BBC’s period legal drama Garrow’s Law (2009-present) should be a great resource for me, research-wise… but I honestly find their straight-up historical documentaries far more lively and entertaining than this bland-as-burned-toast series. Nonetheless, I made myself sit through the entirety of ep #1.4, for the sake of Dickie’s guest-starring turn as ‘Mary Hamer’, the aggrieved wife/baby-mama of a man charged with treason for belonging to a “society” calling for wider enfranchisement and electoral reform. It certainly didn’t make a convert of me, but at least I got enjoy some more top-class acting from Dickie… when I wasn’t obsessing over the lay-out of the Old Bailey courtroom…

Meredith MacNeill as 'Tina' in "The Vice" (ep #5.3)7) Dickie was back on the wrong side of the law in The Vice (ep #5.3) (2003), where she played ‘Beverley’, a “clapped out” prostitute in a loving partnership with a young rent-boy! To be honest, I couldn’t really get into the other storylines, and started fast-forwarded through the bits she wasn’t in… until I spotted another familiar face: Meredith MacNeill, making her screen debut as ‘Tina’, a hypno-therapist helping one of detectives with his smoking habit, by sexing his unhealthy cravings away! She only had one scene here, but it was fun to hear her rocking an English accent for a change… not that there’s anything wrong with her natural one, of course.

8) Sticking with the procedurals, Dickie also had a pretty meaty role in an episode of New Tricks (#9.10) (2012), playing ‘DCI Fiona MacDougall’, who was looking to establish a branch of the UCOS (“cold case” squad) in her home city of Glasgow, with the help of a couple of series regulars. Although my parents are fans of the show, I hadn’t seen it before, and was pleasantly surprised by how twisty the plot was, and how enjoyable the character interaction was… especially considering how “long in the tooth” the series was by this point! Sadly this episode wasn’t a “backdoor pilot” for a Scottish spin-off, so we won’t get to see MacDougall again… but Dickie did a great job with the character, slowly revealing her ulterior (and deeply personal) agenda, as the suspicious Sassenachs chewed away at a far-reaching conspiracy.

Karen Gillan as 'Jane Lockhart' in "Not Another Happy Ending"9) Last, and almost certainly least, is Not Another Happy Ending (2013), a non-rom-com starring the aforementioned Gillan as ‘Jane Lockhart’, an adorable Glaswegian author struggling to complete the follow-up to her breakthrough “roman-à-clef” novel, so that she can free herself from the handsome-but-arrogant editor she’s secretly fallen in love with. Meanwhile, said editor is conniving to make her as miserable as possible, in the bizarre belief that this will cure her writer’s block! Eurgh. None of it made any damn sense, and no one behaved like a relatable human being… but Gillan still managed to wring a couple tears out of me, through the sheer power of her acting (and, on a more superficial note, she looks unbelievably beautiful here… especially when she’s rocking that long bowl-shaped fringe… sigh…). Meanwhile, Dickie has a minor role as ‘Anne Lefevre’, the editor’s no-nonsense accountant… and Amy Manson has a confusing/distracting role as ‘Darsie’, the hallucinatory manifestation of Jane’s fictional alter-ego, who appears occasionally to goad the author, and make her look like a crazy person in public.

Kate Dickie as 'DCI Fiona MacDougall' in "New Tricks" (ep #9.10)In conclusion: Dickie is an incredibly natural actress… the kind that never seems to be “acting” at all, but simply embodies her characters, as if she’s lived in their skin all her life… and always delivers a five-star performance, regardless of the overall quality of the production in which she appears. She’s a total sweetheart to boot, of course, so snaps to her for all that!

Note: Although it was my intention to watch these flicks/shows to become more familiar with Dickie, I didn’t expect to see quite so much of her naked body on screen! It’s especially striking, given her admission that she’s really quite shy and self-conscious in front of the camera… but I didn’t think it would be very gallant to press her on the apparent contradiction, when I met her in person…

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“Evil Manifests Itself Every Day, Lass!”

Anna Maxwell Martin as 'Merrily Watkins' in "Midwinter Of The Spirit"I’ve spent the last couple weeks haphazardly hopping back and forth through Kate Dickie‘s filmography, in preparation for a potential chin-wag at B-Mouth Film & Comic-Con… and thought that “supernatural suspense” series Midwinter Of The Spirit (2015) was going to be right up my alley, centring around a recently-promoted female vicar/exorcist (‘Merrily Watkins’ played by Anna Maxwell Martin), who’s immediately thrown into the deep-end when a sacrilegious murder is committed in her shiny new diocese by a Satanic cult intent on summoning up an actual demon. Sadly, it overshot my alley altogether, and took a very aggravating turn-off instead…

Although I never really warmed to Merrily herself, my hopes were raised in the first episode when her mildly-rebellious teenage daughter ‘Jane’ (Sally Messham) befriended snarky/punky classmate ‘Rowenna’ (Leila Mimmack), and they both fell into the compassionate company (and eventual employment) of New Age-y fortune-teller/cafe-owner ‘Angela Purefoy’ (Siobhan Finneran). I was looking forward to seeing the women banding together (along with sceptical copper ‘DCI Annie Howe’ (Dickie)), to share their contrasting-but-ultimately-complimentary perspectives on the crimes that were occurring, and explore their own unique ways of fighting the looming threat. These hopes were soundly dashed in the second episode, when it was revealed that Jane and Angela were just straight-up Satanists, intent on estranging Jane from her mother (and her faith), so that they could sacrifice her as part of their demon-raising ritual! Feh! This was a seriously regressive throwback to the dark ages when anyone with an interest in non-Christian spirituality or an unorthodox appearance (i.e., piercings and dyed hair), was condemned as a devil-worshipper, or burned as a witch!

Leila Mimmack as 'Rowenna Napier' in "Midwinter Of The Spirit"Even more egregious was the scene involving Rowenna’s former social worker, who related an anecdote characterising her as a schoolgirl succubus “sent by the Devil” to seduce a married male Canon in her previous hometown. I mean, the guy seemed quite cynical about the “Satanic” part of the story as he delivered his monologue, but his narration played over a flashback to the aggrieved/ruined Canon lying his sad-puppy-face down on a train track to commit suicide, and the later revelations of Rowenna’s infernal affiliations made it pretty clear where the show’s sympathies lay. They were outright blaming/shaming the underage girl for what happened between them, and excusing/exonerating the 45-year-old man as a defenceless victim we’re supposed to feel sorry for! Rowenna also ended up seducing Jane’s squeaky-clean boyfriend, mere seconds after the Good Christian Girl had rejected an invitation to go back to his (vacant) parent’s house for a make-out session… and it’s later revealed that the Satanists were using this compromised choir-boy as a pawn in their grand scheme, further underlining the writers’ outmoded puritanical morality, by suggesting that pre-marital heavy-petting inevitably leads to demonic manipulation and cold-blooded murder! Eeesh…

Oh, and Dickie’s barely in it at all… while the dialogue she does get is perfunctory-at-best… so boo to that!

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"Minnie the Minx" drawn by Nigel Parkinson and coloured by Nika Nartova (9/16)On Saturday I once again schlepped up to the mighty metropolis of Bournemouth for the (bi-annual?) Film & Comic Con… and had a very lovely time there, thank you for asking.

My first stop (after the loos, obviously) was the Beano table, where artist Nigel Parkinson was dishing out badges and drawing marker-pen sketches, which were then handed over to Nika Nartova for some expert colouring. Naturally I requested the comic’s trouble-making tomboy Minnie the Minx… who (according to Wikipedia) was created by Leo Baxendale way back in 1953, presumably making her the longest running female headliner in British comics? Crikey! Nigel and Nika were both very friendly, and it was fascinating to watch them work, and chat with them about their processes. As you can see from this scan, the finished piece they produced is pretty darn adorable… and dig the three-tone shading!

My autographed photo of Kate Dickie as 'Katherine' in "The Witch: A New-England Folktale" (9/16)Of course, the star attraction of the convention for me was Kate Dickie… though it did take a couple circuits (and a lunch break) to summon up the courage to approach her table. In retrospect, I’ve no idea what I was so nervous about, because she proved to be one of the most welcoming people you could ever hope to meet. Apparently she’d travelled all the way from Glasgow the day before… which is a seven hour drive at best, so bless her for that. After much deliberation, I plumped for a photograph from The Witch to get signed, and she’s clearly very proud of the film, as she explained the painstaking research that Robert Eggers conducted prior to production, and the care he’d taken over authentic period details… even down to the wool used in the socks they were wearing!

After she’d signed my photo, I asked if I could take a quick snap with my own camera, and she eagerly rose from her seat to rush around the tables (hers was about third from the end) to pose with me. As before, I feel compelled to point out that she initiated the physical contact, not me… in fact, as a socially-stunted introvert, I rarely put my arm around friends or family members in photos… but these GoT-actresses just can’t keep their hands off me, for some reason! After the picture was taken, I made some self-deprecating comment about my appearance, prompting Dickie to admit she’s also very self-conscious about having her photo taken… which she agreed was a tad unfortunate, given her profession. Thankfully playing a character helps her to keep the camera-shyness at bay, otherwise all these films and shows she’s appeared in would be a lot poorer for her absence…

Kate Dickie and me at Bournemouth Film & Comic Con (9/16)Fun fact: According to IMDb, Dickie made her screen debut in the Scottish sitcom Rab C. Nesbitt (ep #4.2), playing a gold-toothed ‘Young Girl’ hanging out of the window of a local lothario’s van. By a wacky co-inky-dink, this was the very same episode that saw Mabel Aitken making her first credited on-screen appearance… so I thought I might take a chance and ask Dickie if they knew each other. Apparently the Scottish acting community is quite close-knit, so it wasn’t quite as silly a question as it might sound… but she doesn’t know Aitken socially, no. She did agree that she’s a very good actress though, and we both hope to see her performing again soon. Please and thank you. As for Dickie’s own upcoming projects, I’m really looking forward to Prevenge (2016), a “post-feminist revenge movie” written and directed by Alice Lowe, who also stars alongside Kayvan Novak and Gemma Whelan.

In-between all this hobnobbing, I was trawling the stalls, and picked up several bargains…  including a seven-issue run of L.E.G.I.O.N. ’89 for just £1 all-in! Score. It was also rather heart-warming to overhear young neophytes admitting to sellers that they’d never bought a comic book before, but really loved such-and-such a movie, and wanted to check out more of the characters’ adventures in print form. One lad even compared himself to ‘Leonard’ from The Big Bang Theory as he leafed through a long-box for the first time… thus underlining how ubiquitous (and mainstream) Geekiness has become since I was their age, stumbling blindly into dark/stinky comic stores without any famous sitcom stars to emulate… I mean, yes, I did have ‘Brodie’ from Mallrats to look up to… but he didn’t set a particularly responsible (or attainable) example, did he?

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Get Your Goat

Kate Dickie as 'Katherine' in "The Witch: A New-England Folktale"Although I booked my ticket for B-Mouth Film & Comic-Con months ago, and would probably enjoy the experience regardless of who they’d booked to appear, I was a little worried that there wouldn’t be anyone there I was super-excited to meet/hassle… until a couple days ago, when they announced that Kate Dickie would be in attendance. Hurrah! Of course, she played the pivotal role of ‘Lysa Arryn’ in Game of Thrones (and pretty much set the entire story into motion, with her fateful letter to the Stark family way back in ep #1.1), which is more than enough reason to want a little face-time with her… but I thought it would be wise to check out some more of her work before the convention, in case we got chatting…

First up was Robert Eggers’ period folk-horror flick The Witch (aka “The VVitch”) (2015), which won over most of the pro critics, but seems to have polarised the general public*, with many nay-sayers dismissing it as “boring” and “not scary” at all. If this film had simply been the story of an ostracised and isolated Puritan family slowly descending into self-induced paranoia and evangelical violence, then I might have agreed with those curmudgeons… but within the first ten minutes, we see definitive (and disturbing) proof that there is in fact an agent of Evil lurking in the nearby forest, intent on doing them physical/spiritual harm. True, there aren’t a lot of big “scares” in the first couple acts… more like a sinister unease that builds and builds until the blood-soaked, bat-crap-crazy finale. It’s a film that demands attention, because any time you look away to grab a drink (as I foolishly did in a couple of the wrong places), you might miss an unsettling little stab of strangeness or grotesquery. Granted, the old-timey language was a little tough to follow at times, and I had to rely on subtitles for some of it (my ears ain’t what they used to be, dagnabbit!), but the visuals have a dark poetry that should travel well in any language.

Anya Taylor-Joy as 'Thomasin' in "The Witch: A New-England Folktale"Although I was mainly watching this for Dickie, who plays the family’s distraught and distrustful matriarch ‘Katherine’, the star of the show is undoubtedly Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays ‘Thomasin’, the unsuspecting ingénue “coming-of-age” in an increasingly hostile and hellish environment. Both Dickie and Taylor-Joy give pitch-perfect performances, quickly drawing you into the drama and dysfunction underlying their mother-daughter dynamic… but I also have to salute the scene-stealing prowess of Ellie Grainger, who takes the “troublesome younger sibling” trope to a whole other level as the bolshy, goat-bothering ‘Mercy’. Bless ‘er.

Clearly this film isn’t everyone’s cup of herbal tea, but it’s already won itself a prime spot on my (metaphorical) list of All-time Faves, and would make a great double-bill with The Wicker Man… which is still the gold standard for the genre, as far as I’m concerned. Unfortunately the powers-that-be have chosen not to include any of the American Blu-Ray’s extra features on the UK DVD/BR releases (despite this being where most of the cast actually comes from!), so I’m going to wait and see if any of them appear on the upcoming European editions before making a purchase. ‘Cuz that’s how I roll…


* On Rotten Tomatoes the film currently has a “Tomatometer” rating of 91% but an audience score of only 55%!

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