Flowers Season 2 (Netflix) Written & Directed by Will Sharpe
Flowers is such a difficult show to explain if you haven’t seen it. While watching the second season, I thought it’s like The Addams Family but grounded and about mental health. The tone and characters are realistically macabre, a tormented family of creative types whose communication has broken down so badly they just simply can’t communicate with each other any longer. Creator Will Sharpe has given us a second beautiful season that goes even more in-depth with the Flowers’ history and works to heal the damage.
Earlier, I looked at Max Lord, one of the villains in the upcoming Wonder Woman 1984. Today, I’ll breakdown the second villain, The Cheetah. Unlike Lord, The Cheetah has always exclusively been a Wonder Woman enemy, but there have been multiple people that worked under that name. In 1985, DC Comics launched Crisis on Infinite Earths, a company-wide event that rebooted the entire timeline and compressed many parallel Earths into one. Before this, there had been two Cheetahs, neither of whom had superpowers and were mainly knock-offs of Batman’s villain Catwoman. With Crisis, these versions were erased to make way for writer-artist George Perez’s overhaul of Wonder Woman and her continuity. This led to a new Cheetah, one who derived her powers from dark mythic gods.
Person or Persons Unknown (Season Three, Episode Twenty-Seven) Original airdate: March 23rd, 1962 Written by Charles Beaumont Directed by John Brahm
The Twilight Zone could really delve deeply into some intimately existential fears. In this episode, we meet David Gurney, a man who wakes up after late-night drinking. His wife reacts with horror, claiming she doesn’t recognize him and has no idea who he is. David thinks she’s playing a prank on him and leaves for work. But once he arrives at the bank, he finds his coworkers are in the same boat as his wife. They have never seen or heard of him before. Eventually, David ends up in a mental hospital where his doctor tries to convince him he never had this life; he seems to remember so vividly.
Southland Tales – The Cannes Cut (2006) Written & Directed by Richard Kelly
The promise of Richard Kelly was huge and seems to have dimmed in the last decade. In the wake of Donnie Darko, he was suddenly rocketed to the list of hot up-and-comers. I was definitely one of those people caught up in the Darko hype. I still hold that it’s his best work to date and that his subsequent work never felt quite as honed and clear. Southland Tales was the follow-up with a bigger budget and big names in the cast. It debuted at the Cannes Film Festival, and it was hailed as a disaster, bloated and too sprawling. Another cut was made for the theatrical release, and the reaction was much the same from audiences.
Last Night (1998) Written & Directed by Don McKellar
What would you do if you knew it was the final day of the Earth’s existence? Much like the Last Man on Earth trope, this is another one that comes up often when you explore Apocalyptic fiction. Here we have Canadian filmmaker Don McKellar’s distinct take on the end of the world, which balances both the darker aspects of humanity that would crop up and the way other people would cling to the norms and routines of decorum and civilization even as the end approached. It’s very different from the other films in this series, which is precisely why I wanted to watch it.
The Quiet Earth (1985) Written by Bill Baer, Bruno Lawrence, and Sam Pillsbury Directed by Geoff Murphy
The Last Man on Earth trope is a prevalent one in popular science fiction, being the fodder of the Twilight Zone multiple adaptations of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend and even a Fox television series. There’s the old scary story “The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door.” This is the foundation on which The Quiet Earth is built, exploring what it would be like to exist as the last member of your species, knowing that with your end, so goes all memory of your civilizations.
The upcoming Wonder Woman 1984 is set to feature two villains, and I am writing up a spotlight on each. First up is a character who has been both a hero and a villain, and it wasn’t until 2006 that they were even associated with Wonder Woman so directly.
Strasbourg 1518 (2020, directed by Jonathan Glazer)
Jonathan Glazer was inspired by an incident in Strasbourg, Germany where the townspeople overcome with a dance affliction, flailing themselves wildly and claiming to not be in control. The condition spread like a sickness and many were caught up in the frenzy. Glazer uses this and frames the same illness against our present-day conflicts. People are growing weary of remaining holed up in their homes. Governments are lacking leadership and kicking the can down the ladder of responsibility until they simply tell citizens it’s all up to them to figure out. Here in the United States, social unrest has come to a boiling point with a desperate President unable to provide a way forward and an opposition party that thinks doing nothing is their path to victory. The images in this short are beautifully reflective of the explosion of emotion and repetition in our daily lives. It’s no coincidence that the first words we hear are “How are you?” A24 is currently streaming Strasbourg 1518.
Threads (1984) Written by Barry Hines Directed by Mick Jackson
If you’ve spent any amount of time perusing YouTube for the 1970s/80s British Public Service Announcements, then you know they are some of the most horrific content produced for television. They are unflinchingly direct and severe in how they communicate warnings. It was that this sense of not holding information back that led to the BBC commissioning the filming of Threads. Mick Jackson had done a short film about Armageddon and the result of a nuclear war a couple of years earlier, but the BBC wanted a full-length feature to air on their network.
Stalker (1979) Written by Boris Strugatsky & Arkady Strugatsky Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
Today I begin a week-ish long series called Worlds on the Edge of Chaos. My thought behind this series of movies is to look at apocalyptic films that aren’t Mad Max-ian, deep in the primal collapse of mankind. These movies are intended to be more philosophical about collapse, with characters existing on the precipice between the world that was and falling into the oblivion of the end. These pictures will vary wildly in tone and characters, but they will all explore the themes that arise when we confront the end of civilization as we know it. Many of these movies present their collapse with a melancholy quiet proposing the old adage that the world will end with a whisper.