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Movies - Not this time

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Ok, I'm not going to talk about the Movie, I want to rant about the t.v. show. So, technically, the title of this section does not apply. Whatever, Love makes you do the wacky sometimes.

Now, anyone who has read my profile knows that I like Buffy. The question isn't why do I watch Buffy, but why doesn't everyone.

You tell people that you watch a show called Buffy the Vampire Slayer and they give you that look. You know the one. The look that says, watch much Sesame Street do ya.

With a name like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it must be a kid show. The cast is (ostensibly) teenagers, therefore it is a teen show.

I would challenge any show, teen or otherwise to produce an episode like the February 27th episode, The Body. This was the sort of episode that defines good television.

The show's creator, Joss Whedon, wrote and directed this power house episode, which was the frankest and rawest exploration of the effect of a loved one's death that I have ever seen on television. Forget all the "Tonight on <fill in the blank network>, a Very Special <fill in the blank show>." This was the real deal.

Anyone who has ever lost someone would recognize the feelings in this episode.

Whedon showed a sure and steady hand throughout the episode and demonstrated himself as master of his medium.

We, the viewers, were invited to see through the gaze of the characters as they absorbed the knowledge that someone they cared about had died. Not killed, but died of aneurysm they could not have predicted.

Throughout the episode, visual perception was distorted. Lengthened or shortened. There were skips in time. Buffy was constantly seeing things that weren't there (visions of what might have been) and having a heightened visual perception of things that were there, the phone, a paper towel absorbing a stain. Then there was our perception of Buffy's gaze, wide and unseeing. Dawn's need to see the body to make it all real.
And yet seeing wasn't enough. Whedon chose an incredibly poignant visual to end the episode upon. Dawn reaching out to touch the clay that was her mother.

There was no sound track to tell us when to feel sad. Just the characters moving in shock through their world. The sound of silence had an almost physical presence. Heavy and inert. It weighed on characters. Anya and Xander driving in the car, not speaking. Buffy looking blindly around her house after finding her mother's body. All punctuated with the sounds of
the world. Buffy standing looking out on her back porch with the sound of distant children playing. Both a reminder that life goes on and that Buffy can never again be an innocent child. Her mother is dead. 

All of the actors did an incredible job portraying the various aspects of grief. From Sarah Michelle Gellar's shell shocked Buffy, to Emma Caulfield's Anya, who just can't understand why this has happened. The acting was intense and palpable.

And then there is the role of the viewer, because we are a part of the experience.

As viewers of television, we gaze upon the story. We objectify characters. We become emotionally involved through the act of seeing (and hearing) a story in which we have no part. Whedon did a number of things to pull the viewer into the narrative through gaze. I thought of this, when I could think again, when contemplating the scene where Buffy tells her sister Dawn the awful truth. Rather than observe the entire scene with Buffy and Dawn, Whedon pulls us back a step and we see much of the scene through a window. Dawn's classmates, her teacher, her enemy, her friends watch her from a distance. They gaze on her story through the same window. By pulling us to perceive the scene with the other observers, Joss pulls us further into the scene. We are all silent observers on the sidelines.

Well, not all that silent, because I just had to say how much I loved this episode.

Pride and Prejudice

To continue the no movies version of the movie review section, letís look at a miniseries. The A&E miniseries adaptation of Jane Austenís best book is the finest literary adaptation Iíve ever seen. The plot, characters, and dialog are all faithful to Austen, but still leap off the screen full of life and humor. 

For those of you who have been living under a rock, Pride and Prejudice is a comedy of manners/romance set in Regency England. The Bennets are a family cursed with five daughters and no sons. When a wealthy, young bachelor and his friends move into the neighborhood, hijinks ensue. Most importantly, sparks fly between the sensible and witty Elizabeth Bennt and the proud and extremely rich Mr. Darcy. 

These two are played to perfection by Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. Ms. Ehle is lively, intelligent, and her eyes dance with humor - just as I pictured Elizabeth when I read the book and decided to be her when I grew up. Mr.  Firth is brooding and gorgeous - exactly right for a romantic hero. The rest of the cast is also superb. The costumes and sets are beautiful and accurate. 

All this adds up to a wonderful production which is what carries your interest through six hours of video tape. Crystal and I enjoy watching either of the two copies we own in marathon runs with tea and scones to set the mood. Of course, weíve also been known to fast forward through watching only our very favorite scenes (the letter! the visit to Pemberley!) if weíre pressed for time. Any way you watch it, Pride and Prejudice is well worth the time. If you are any kind of Austen fan, I know youíll love it as we do. 

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