The Queen’s Embroiderer
The Queen's EmbroidererDeJean describes the impetus behind this book as her desire to unravel the love story between Marie Louise Magoulet and her husband (briefly), Louis Chevrot. But inevitably, the young lovers take a backseat to the generations of in-laws before them, who eventually reach such a cartoonish level of underhanded dealings that by the time DeJean is suggesting Jean Magoulet impersonated his own dead brother for years to facilitate a double life, she includes several original documents, as if she knows things are beginning to beggar belief.…
Elementary: “An Infinite Capacity for Taking Pains”
Elementary: "An Infinite Capacity for Taking Pains"“An Infinite Capacity For Taking Pains” is a telling title. It’s a quote close to Sherlock’s heart (episode writer Bob Goodman had Sherlock advise Kitty to “accept that you’ll be taking pains” in the third season). It’s also a paraphrase of this Carlyle quote about Frederick the Great—the saying is more popular than the actual quote but inexact, which perfectly suits an episode where Sherlock has to deal with the idea that soon he might be as fallible as anyone else.…
The Alienist
The AlienistI’ve been recapping THE ALIENIST over at The AV Club! (All recaps so far should be gathered under that header; if you’ve wanted to get caught up, now’s the time.) It is a fascinating case study in adaptation (especially the pros and cons of adhering to the letter of the law), and it features, among other things, gorgeous sets and cinematography, three lead actors who are all pitching their performances to different iterations of the show, and occasional bursts of incredible weirdness that include one of the most sublime moments on TV this year: Sean Young silently looking to her dog for legal advice.…
Red Carpet Rundown: The 2018 Oscars
Red Carpet Rundown: The 2018 OscarsOnce again, the most high-stakes red carpet parade of all has come and gone.   As the broadcast (and the photo backdrop, and the ad bumpers) kept reminding us, this was the 90th anniversary of the Oscars. I actually watched all those things because I got talked into an in-person viewing party, which meant going through the whole business in real time.…
A Place of Darkness
A Place of DarknessThe camera is an instrument of suspense. Given a movie frame, you want to understand what’s happening in it — and what will happen next. That balance of wonder and dread is a fundamental draw of film, and a touchstone of the horror genre. The questions Kendall R. Phillips asks in A Place of Darkness: The Rhetoric of Horror in Early American Cinema are: How did we get from the nickelodeon special-effects “cinema of attractions” to understanding horror narratives as their own genre?…
Monster Portraits
Monster PortraitsThe fantastic bestiary is a time-honored speculative tradition. But some of the earliest ones didn’t even know they were speculative; early bestiaries routinely included dragons and unicorns alongside panthers and hyenas, creating pockets of the uncanny amid history. For those who have never seen the beasts they draw, it’s only possible to guess, and there’s always some element of dread in the unknown.…