The Bothersome Man (Norwegian movie, 2006, Den brysomme mannen), on the topic of the afterlife, is great watching. Here I compare it to The Good Place (American TV series, 2016), also about the afterlife.
The Bothersome Man is about a man in the afterlife who is stuck in “The Medium Place”, craves “The Good Place”, and ends up on a doomed bus ride to “The Bad Place”. “The Good Place” is hinted at by the aroma of breakfast pastries and sound of children on the other side of the wall, tormenting him and convincing him there’s a better place. Just as “The Bad Place” of Eleanor Shellstrop’s world is ominously implied as the destination of an old-fashioned train ride, here it is implied as the destination of a bus driving off into the barren snow. The places in The Bothersome Man are not named, there is a bus not a train, and the movie is sombre, but the theme resemblance is otherwise uncanny.
Interestingly, Wikipedia treats the setting as present-day, not afterlife: The story is about a man suddenly finding himself in an outwardly perfect, yet essentially soulless dystopia, and his attempt to escape. … The two dig frantically, in secret, through the wall and discover it leads into a house, presumably back in the real world.
I disagree, Wikipedia.
See it for the sombre and nuanced depiction of the afterlife
The Last Winter stars Ron Perlman as an oilman whose corporate intentions threaten the pristine icy setting. Pretty soon, people start dying. A scared and dwindling set of survivors are set against the frigid north. At first no one knows what the source of the problem is, except that it comes from the ice. I liked The Last Winter a lot, because the terror was largely psychological. Make no mistake, there is a lot of gore/grossness, but it starts really slowly and builds up to it.
Subtract points for a little heavy-handed “don’t spoil nature” message. Add points for the suspense and building dread. Compare and contrast with these other horror movies and tv.
See it for the excellent slow-building mood and fine characters
Fortitude Season 1 is beautiful but terrible
From Amazon.com: Fortitude is the most northerly town in the world, and the most peaceful – until a prominent member of the community is found eviscerated in his own home, and suddenly the town’s sheriff has his first ever murder to investigate.
It was filmed in Iceland, which means it’s cold, white, and gorgeous.
The pure white snow means when something bleeds, that blood becomes really stark and obvious. True to most horror flicks, there are epic amounts of blood. In a surprise twist that I saw coming a mile away, the source of the horror comes from the thawing mammoth discovered under the ice.
That’s right, it came from the ice, thawed, and wreaked havoc on the small population it encountered, as though the purity of the landscape was disrupted by something unclean and dangerous. The horrible parasite thawed out of the mammoths, laid eggs in human hosts, and ate them alive. Gross!
Compare and contrast with these other snowy horror movies and tv.
See it for the pristine beauty of the Icelandic setting
The Good Place (American TV series, 2016) is hilarious.
The Good Place stars Kristen Bell as Eleanor Shellstrop, a woman who wakes up in the afterlife and is sent by Michael (played by Ted Danson) to “The Good Place”, a utopian neighborhood he designed to reward a select group of people for the extraordinarily good lives they led on earth. Eleanor realizes she was sent there by mistake, and must earn her place in “The Good Place”. Does she reveal her secret? Does she become a better person? Will she create a Category 55 Doomsday Crisis? Hilarity ensues.
Ted Danson is goofy and brilliant, and his quirky outbursts and slapstick as the fretful Architect are perfectly timed. Kristen Bell is good, but not great. Her “bad past” selves are a little predictable and overacted. Manny Jacinto’s Jianyu Li was a little mean-spirited. D’Arcy Carden steals the show as Janet, an artificial helper being that chirpily appears the second someone utters her name. Her combination of robot-like affect and know-it-all-ism make the perfect deadpan to everyone else’s antics. William Jackson Harper is also fantastic as Chidi, the uptight, indecisive ethics professor trying to help Eleanor become a better person. I particularly enjoyed the train sequences to “The Bad Place” and “The Medium Place”. The unsavory characters from “The Bad Place” are also hilarious.
The first season goes astray a bit in episodes 9 and 10. All the business about soulmates feels antithetical to the core of the story. It recovers brilliantly in episode 12, with the introduction of “The Medium Place,” and the mediocre coke fiend who lives there. In the final episode we are treated to a straight-up reference to Sarte’s Huis Clos (No Exit). L’enfer c’est les autres; hell is the others. It’s revealed that the characters have been in “The Bad Place” the entire time; the whole thing was an elaborate ruse designed to have them torture each other endlessly by just being themselves.
Best scene in the series
The demon from “The Bad Place” clips his toenails in “The Good Plates” restaurant.
See it for the madcap hilarity and quirky depiction of the afterlife
Compare it to more somber depiction of the afterlife in The Bothersome Man.
See it if you can suspend serious amounts of disbelief
I like the fact that Netflix is showing original content. On paper, Paranoid sounds pretty good: it’s a cop show and it has a spunky female lead played by Indira Varma, of both Game of Thrones and Luther fame.
So, what went wrong? Several things:
- Crazy levels of stereotyping. The senior detective, Nina, played by Indira, is a hot, babbling mess. You are either going to think she’s cute as hell, or she’ll grate. For me, she starts off being cute, then she grates. Okay sure, she just got dumped, she’s unexpectedly pregnant by her ex-boyfriend, she’s got some issues. But her boyfriend, whose mother is a pathological liar, holds it together 100,000 times better than she does, and he has every reason to be a hot mess. It wouldn’t bother me so much if it were believable, but not all late-thirties women are in the throes of baby lust.
- Ridiculous anti-psychiatry vibe. There’s an all-kinds-of-wrong Jesus statue full of pills. Detective Bobby is a sweaty, paranoid mess, supposedly due to the antipsychotic pills he takes (hint: that’s the opposite of how they work). His beatific girlfriend solves all her problems with sunshine, tea and flowers; no psychiatry for her! And look how well she’s doing. One of the primary bad guys is a psychiatrist who abuses every rule of the profession. And if that weren’t enough, finally, yes, the spoiler: terrible things are happening to innocent people — a busload of children drives off a cliff — because of pills. Which leads me to point three…
- Way too aggressive a message. Even if the message weren’t “psychiatry is bad” — let’s say the message is “donuts are bad”, or perhaps less controversially, “murder is bad” — do we really need it to be shoved so aggressively down our throats? A little subtlety would go a long way.
- Plot holes galore. Lack of fingerprinting and gloves, shoddy police work, no repercussions when Bobby knocks over the Jesus statue, etc.
- Believability issues. Nina dumps her lovely new boyfriend to go back to her snarky, not-nearly-as-cute ex? I’m not buying it. And if she is so willing to have a pregnancy without the benefit of a partner, why not do it ages ago? Why does she act like this one ex-bf is her only hope of getting pregnant?
That said, I did binge-watch the entire series.
Breaking Bad: See it if you can handle the violence
Years before Breaking Bad came on the air, there were two shows that were influential in its formation: the Homicide: Life on the Street Subway episode, and the X-Files Drive episode. All three shows are interconnected. Vince Gilligan wrote the X-Files episode of Drive as well as Breaking Bad. Vince Gilligan borrowed heavily from Subway to make the X-Files episode Drive, and that in turn was a huge influence on Breaking Bad.
Drive and Subway:
- The majority of the episode focuses on intense dialogue between one man trying to save another.
- Lange/Crump are trapped in dire, near-death circumstance.
- Changing their circumstances puts them in worse danger.
- Lange/Crump are angry, distrustful and out of control at first.
- Lange/Crump seem doomed.
- There is a grotesque element to the plot: exploding head, man pinned under subway.
- There is a flare of hope right before the tragic end.
- This is not Lange/Crump’s fault.
- Police initially aren’t sure who was responsible for the crime.
- Mulder/Pembleton walk away deeply saddened.
Drive and Breaking Bad:
- Same intense writing by Vince Gilligan.
- Crump/White are dying (at least initially, in White’s case).
- Crump/White are in a race against time.
- Crump/White are in dire circumstances to save themselves or their families.
- Crump/White make morally questionable judgments.
- Crump/White will kill in desperation.
- Crump/White have an unstoppable energy.