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Showing posts with the label feature

Netflix's "Surviving Death" Spurs Existential Wonder

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  From a young age I was exposed to death. I could understand but not process   what happened, and I asked what came after death. My father told me I could travel through the entirety of the cosmos and learn everything I didn’t learn about life. This is how my lifelong fascination about the afterlife began. After my father passed, I pictured him visiting the stars and it brought me peace. Netflix’s new series Surviving Death tackles the afterlife with six well-presented episodes of straight-forward investigation, historical review, case studies, and interviews with researchers in the fields most closely associated with the subject. There are no experts or single line of study in the afterlife, but there are practitioners that specialize in everything from mediumship to ghost hunting to doctors who study end-of-life dreams and visions. The show offers no judgment or opinions about the validity of process, but it does feel supported, avoids unnecessary spectacle, and offers some compell

How to Better Enjoy Movies... and Life!

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A year ago I joined Letterboxd ,   a social networking site where users log the movies they watch, add reviews, and follow others with similar interests to discover films. It’s a haven for movie geeks with a calling for making lists, and I imagined users would express their joys about movies with complete abandon. But spoiler alert: so much of the commentary is snark, complaints, and outright bitchery. These are people who supposedly  love movies  and use their time to write trash about them. Like friends, family and life, movies aren’t perfect but there’s usually something to enjoy, and it's said that every film made is someone's favorite.  I'm currently in a film studies program and I've begun to experience movies is a new, more thoughtful and artful way. My entire personal journey is marked by the movie watching experience, from childhood where I watched movies with my father and brothers, through adolescence where they showed me a world I was about to start explorin

Can Home Haunters Save Halloween?

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As more states move towards opening businesses and get some semblance of normality during this pandemic, I wonder about the lingering effects to our collective psyche. There’s a looming threat of a covid-19 resurgence in the fall or winter, and Halloween is smack down in the center of that time period. It doesn’t take a crystal ball to foretell that our spooky traditions will be altered this fall. For starters, I can’t imagine that parents will encourage their trick ‘r treaters to go door-to-door this year. Haunted attractions may be a little less spooky six-feet apart. And parties may not feature extensive guests lists or allow for much nibbling, with masks likely being required for the foreseeable future. We must remain committed to safety for the sake of our most vulnerable populations.  So where does that leave the home haunter, like myself, that decks out the lawn with sinister sights?  In one regard, creating these displays may draw crowds, which is normally a good t

A Plea to Reconsider the Timely IT COMES AT NIGHT

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In 2017,  It Comes At Night was royally screwed by A24 (the studio behind The Witch, Hereditary, Midsommar, and The Lighthouse ) when it issued a horror-packed trailer, lauded soundbites, and released the movie alongside the summer blockbusters. The studio was likely trying to capitalize on the prestige horror wave aimed at adult audiences clamoring for mature horror films (most mainstream wide-release horror films are targeted to teens). Audiences, myself included, hated the movie and walked away incredibly disappointed. Expectations are the death bell of a horror movie experience. The director, Trey Edward Shults, had previously worked on a stylish, intimate character piece called Krisha , and It Comes at Night follows further down that dark path. It seems Shults set out to make a grounded, atmospheric, psychosis-driven horror movie without conventional horror elements – a sinister drama, perhaps. And just to be clear there are several very frightening moments, and a tens

Delve Into the Dystopian Ceramics of Laura C. Hewitt

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The work of Alaskan artist Laura C. Hewitt is strikingly beautiful and startling dark and whimsical. It immediately evokes the work of H.R. Giger but upon further inspection, there’s an aesthetic that’s so completely unique and ethereal. She earned her MFA in 1998 at the Vermont College of Norwich, and her work has been exhibited from Alaska to Seattle to New York. Her Etsy shop, INAEENT or It’s Not Anything Exactly Enterprises, is now the prime location for acquiring one of her mysterious and otherworldly pieces, which include decorative vases, plates, cups and saucers, jars, and ornaments. The work must be seen to be believed. Ms. Hewitt writes, “I’m particularly interested in exploring the intersections between technology and nature, art and craft, destruction and creation. As inspiration, I look for the magical within the mundane, provoke thoughtfulness with the practical and animate the pragmatic with mischievousness.” For my birthday, I purchased the piece called a “Hybri

Knitted Dissected Bat Specimen by Emily Stoneking

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Emily Stoneking While visiting Portland last week I made a point to visit the exquisite museum-like store of natural wonders called Paxton Gate . On my bucket list was a taxidermy bat, but the staff members educated me on the rarity of ethically sourced bat bodies. Most bats sold by vendors are killed solely for collectors. The store rightfully refuses to sell something that might have been destroyed rather than gathered, so I removed a bat from my bucket list permanently. As if by fate, I was directed to the artwork of Emily Stoneking, a knitter from Burlington, Vermont whose creations "explore the places where art and science intersect" – also available at her  aKNITomy   Etsy shop. From frogs to human brains to aliens, Emily knits whimsical objects that are meant to be be appreciated by those who are typically squeamish of such things. I immediately purchased the Knitted Dissected Bat Specimen  (below) which is pinned to a board and splayed open with felted internal

Icelandic Christmas Folklore is Terrifying

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The most surprising thing about my trip to Iceland this summer was not how shockingly expensive everything was, but the rich folklore that permeates the Icelandic culture. Most notably was the Christmas folklore of Gryla, the mountain witch, the Yule lads, and the infamous Yule Cat. For starters, Gryla is giant, hideous troll that lives deep in a cave on the side of a remote mountain and only sets off as Christmas approaches to snatch naughty children for her yuletide feast. Much like Krampus, Gryla has hooves instead of feet, two horns, and an eye in the back of her head. Lovely. She also happens to be the mother of the yule lads, a lot of 13 petty and mischievous imps that each have a particular obsession with one thing. Among their compulsions is a pot licker, a door slammer, a yogurt glutton, a sausage stealer, a window peeper, and a door sniffer. They’re prankster trolls, but are also known to leave little presents for good children (or rotted potatoes for the bad ones) in sh

How To Identify Prestige Horror: An 8-Question Test

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The horror genre is back in a big way and with the recent attention and wins of The Shape of Water and Get Out , there's no doubt prestige horror will be making a huge comeback in the year(s) to come. But what is prestige horror? Basically, it's a serious, dramatic film with a high pedigree that dips into genre themes, such as the supernatural, unnatural monsters, or serial killers. These movies are usually not blockbusters (like The Conjuring or IT ) but tend to be indies or lower budget films that get quite a bit of love on the festival circuit and lots of praise from critics (although their marketing campaigns are usually very misleading). Below is my litmus test to determine whether a horror movie is a prestige horror film .

The Trouble with Slender Man

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Sony Picture's trailer for  Slender Man (below) was released this week and it while seems to be purposefully obtuse, it's still very creepy. Unfortunately, the origin story behind this supernatural creature with a featureless face that hunts children is quite tragic and may ultimately taint its success. It started on the now-called "literary site" Creepypasta, where visitors share their scary stories, photos and even videos. It's a true time sink for those who love scary stuff. Slender Man appeared in 2009 and slowly became a phenomenon. This generation devoid of a Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger or Jason Vorhees, finally had their very own boogieman. (I've always thought Slender Man to be a mix of "The Gentlemen" from the 1999's Buffy The Vampire Slayer , and Cthulhu, the elder god with tentacles, from HP Lovecraft's work.) Yet none of it is real. Right? In 2014, two 12-year-old girls stabbed a classmate in an attempt to appease the Slend

The Extraordinary Career of Ed & Lorraine Warren

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I've been fan of Ed & Lorraine Warren since I saw The Amityville Horror , and obsessed over the many details of the case, the Lutz's story, and the purported hoax. From that infamous haunting, the numerous TV appearances, and last year's hit movie, The Conjuring, The Warrens seem to be everywhere. Last September they released an ebook and audiobook version of their classic book, The Demologist: The Extraordinary Career of Ed & Lorraine Warren . The first printing of the book was back in 1980 with three subsequent printings prior to the 2013 release. The book covers some of The Warren's notable cases, their selfless approach to dangerous work, and a brief introduction to The New England Society for Psychic Research , which they founded. Like many readers, I wasn't prepared for what lies in these pages and I had to put the book down and away from sight. You know it's going to be a fight of good versus evil, but it was shocking to hear the details of how