Witchy Media, Samhain 2018 edition!

Greetings witches, pagans, nymphs, sprites, druids, daimons, and denizens of the dark forest realms of magic etc etc. Happy October! It’s been a while, and your witchy media correspondent has had a very busy and crazy year. Good news though: there is so much witchy media out there it is hard to know where to begin, and I have no doubt I will be adding to this list soon, so watch this space. Witches are very much in the news lately, and witchcraft is very trendy on social media and pretty much everywhere, and I realize we may all have mixed feelings about that, but one sure sign ‘o the times is the number of witches we’re seeing at the movies and on television.

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Stevie and Misty, together again!

First off, if you’ve been watching American Horror Story: Apocalypse (on FX), you know it’s gone from being a rather silly and snarky (and not terribly interesting) end of the world scenario to a flat out war between the witches of AHS: Coven and a group of fabulously-dressed warlocks in an underground bunker somewhere in the desert. It’s not entirely clear where it’s all going, but they brought back Misty Day and Stevie Nicks sang to her and that certainly should have happened the first time around! Fiona Goode will be back this week. The witchery is delicious in this season, and I will keep watching. Working on a review and will be posting my weekly thoughts soon. The notion that the end of the world will be bought about by a feud between witches and warlocks is…interesting, no?

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The new Charmed reboot looks great! I see that huge grimoire is still a thing.

The new reboot of Charmed premieres TONIGHT on CW. There’s been much talk of this already (some of it asking, simply, do we really need this reboot?), but the casting is bold, and the shifting of the characters away from white to Latina promises to be interesting at the very least. Will you be tuning in? Share your comments! I’m looking forward to it, even as I was not such a huge fan of the original series; but obviously my opinion did not matter since it ran for almost a decade! There was some controversy when the reboot was announced, mainly from former actresses who felt their input was ignored (since they were all involved in storylines and production decisions during the original series).

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Suspiria (1977) starring Jessica Harper

The remake of Suspiria (Dario Argento’s cult classic about a secret witch cult at an exclusive dance academy premiered in 1977) is wowing audiences at film festivals around the world. It premieres in the US on October 26th, going nationwide on November 2. Directed by Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name and I am Love), this is already drawing rave reviews for its lush visuals. It stars Tilda Swinton and is full of witchery and that’s enough for me; I’ll be seeing a premiere of it in New York the day before my birthday! Do see the original, too; it’s wonderful, and lead actress Jessica Harper also makes an appearance in the remake.

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Kiernan Shipka as Sabrina, an Archie Comics character updated for darker times…

The new Riverdale spinoff, hot on the heels of the show’s third season, which promises to have some dark, occult undertones (or is it overtones?), is the eagerly-awaited Chilling Adventures of Sabrina also premiering on October 26th, on Netflix. Starring Mad Men‘s Kieran Shipka as a sixteen year old who is forced to assert her witch identity even though she is half “mortal” (does this mean witches are immortal?), the series features a fabulous eclectic cast (including Mirada Otto from the Lord of the Rings trilogy), beautiful visuals and a heady mix of humor and horror. I’m only one episode in, but it’s very promising, and I am planning to have my review up this week!

There’s more to come, believe me! Still planning to review Apostle, Killing Eve, and some other new TV shows, and I’ll post some Hallowe’en week movie suggestions as usual, but is that enough to get you excited and in the mood? I hope so. Let me know what you’re watching and please share your suggestions.

 

 

 

 

Witchy Media: The Best of 2017

Hello friends! A very happy new year to you all and I hope your Yuletide continues through Twelfth Night at least (the candles and twinkly lights have been a great comfort to me in the chilly Northeast these past few days).

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Along with creating lists of the year’s best films and TV, it’s always a pleasure (although sometimes a daunting task) to round up the best of witchy, pagan and occult media for my readers. There were some excellent horror films and all around wonderful weirdness this past year, and I’m going to recommend some highlights. I’ve linked to more detailed reviews for some, and reviews will be forthcoming for others  (like Season 4 of Black Mirror which just premiered this past weekend), but I know some of you could use some recommendations now as we officially that dark post-holiday period when we look to storytelling for escape and insight.

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From Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander, a delightful Christmastide film.

Why do we do this? Of course, it’s for entertainment. But there is comfort in gathering ourselves around the screen to immerse ourselves in stories. Before television, people gathered around their big radios. Before that, cinema was a thoroughly exciting affair that people got dressed up for, or spent their last nickel on. Theatre has always drawn people too, and even Shakespeare understood the importance of making sure that poor folks had access to performances. Before lavish theaters were built, way back when, our ancestors gathered around their fires at night for warmth and light, and told stories of hunting and gazed on the animals and gods moving overhead in the shifting patterns of the stars. Humans try to make meaning from things around them, imbuing natural objects with spirituality, and crafting stories that, over time, become myths and legends.

Whew, that’s enough Marshall McLuhan and Joseph Campbell for one day. Okay, on to my list of things you should look out for! These are in no particular order.

Some films:

  1. The Shape of Water ~ Guillermo del Toro’s gorgeous dark fantasy is a suspenseful love story at heart. Sally Hawkins plays a shy mute woman who works as a cleaner at a shadowy government agency in
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    Sally Hawkins & Doug Jones in The Shape of Water

    the 1950s, and lives platonically with a lonely writer  (Richard Jenkins). She discovers kinship and passion with a reptilian-human hybrid creature (Doug Jones) captured and tortured by her boss (Michael Shannon, excellent as a sadistic villain). Metaphors of The Other abound here (hey, it’s del Toro!), seeming to say that our deepest desires are nothing to be afarid of. The sumptuous cinematography, thrilling music and all-around excellent cast make this one of the year’s best films; and it is currently playing everywhere, so see it on the big screen if you can

  2. A Dark Song ~ Set in the North of England, this atmospheric film features two main characters: Sophia (Catherine Walker), a grieving young mother who hires Solomon (Steve Oram) to use ritual magic to contact her murdered child. The two hole up in a large empty house for months, performing various rites of purification, studying ancient texts, slowly moving towards their divergent goals. Viewers with knowledge of magic and the occult will appreciate the authenticity of the film’s details. This gets my vote for best horror film of the year; it is subtle, brilliant, moving and absorbing. My longer review is here.

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    Steve Oram and Catherine Walker in A Dark Song

  3. mother! ~ This film garnered much attention when it was released earlier this year. Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Barden star as a couple living in and renovating a remote beautiful house; visitors begin arriving (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer are the first strangers to invade) and disrupt their peaceful lives. Oh, there’s much more to it. BUT. Do yourself a favor and don’t read reviews before you see it. Too many critics have explained the central meaning and symbolism of the story, and I think it’s best to discover these as you watch (I saw it knowing almost nothing beforehand but having seen a trailer that I found alluring, and already being a big fan of Aronofsky’s earlier films, like The Fountain, Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan). I wrote some further thoughts here for when you are ready.
  4. Get Out ~ Writer-director Jordan Peele’s feature debut is just stunning: a funny, brutal satire that manages to be one of the most significant achievements in the horror genre in years. A young African-American man (Daniel Kaluuya in a
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    Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out.

    brilliant, subtle performance) is brought by his white girlfriend (Allison Williams) to a family gathering, and terror slowly but surely ensues. Peele has said this is Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner re-imagined as a horror film; and just as that film sparked discussion about race relations in America at a time it was sorely needed, Get Out has done the same. Humor and satire both soften and sharpen the edges of our awareness; attention must be paid, and, as we move forward in an uncertain world, white people have much work to do.

  5. My Life as a Zucchini/Ma Vie en Courgette ~ This charming French animated film is about a young boy who is forced to live in an orphanage. There he meets other troubled, lonely children like himself, build by some and befriended by others. Unsentimental, but very moving, the story of Icare/Courgette and his new friends is the story of every child who has felt like a misfit, who has felt unsure of who to trust, and who feels worried about the future. There are plenty of humorous moments along the way, and even some cool homages to films like The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. A dubbed English version is available (with voicing by Ellen Page and Amy Sedaris, among others), but I am only familiar with the subtitled version, and I think much of the charm of the story’s French idioms might be lost in translation. My review for Diabolique is here.

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    My Life as a Zucchini (artichoke pictured in background)

Some other 2017 films you may want to check out: Ladybird (she wears a pentacle around her neck!), Kedi (a documentary about street cats in Istanbul), Personal Shopper, Dawson City: Frozen Time, A Ghost Story, Call Me By Your Name, God’s Own Country, The Other Side of Hope, The Square, The Lost City of Z, Okja, The Florida Project, Marjorie Prime, War for the Planet of the Apes, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, It Comes at Night, Wind River, Coco, Woodshock, The Devil’s Candy, and The Lovers.

This round up of media continues with some notes on TV and books, in separate posts lest this one gets too long. Lastly, on a personal note: It has been a very busy autumn season followed by a crazy busy December. I was still doing garden work for clients in December, believe it or not. There was unexpected travel. Teaching was busy. I got some new writing gigs. This blog has not been priority, alas, but that will soon change. I am taking a semester off from teaching to write a book on witchcraft and media. I’ll keep you posted. I hope you’ll keep reading. Best wishes in the new year to you all.