We didn’t know what we were in for when FX debuted The Americans last February. The Cold War story of Russian spies embedded in suburban Washington D.C. was fresh and fun with winning performances from Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, and Margo Martindale. With the second season ready to arrive in a few weeks, our friends at 20th Century Home Entertainment are offering ComicMix readers an opportunity.
The Americans, Season 1 blasts its way onto Blu-ray and DVD February 11th. There’s no better way to celebrate than by entering to win a Blu-ray copy of Season 1 to add to your collection, as well as a Russian styled Ushanka hat. Be careful where you wear the hat though, your neighbors may begin to think you’re an undercover Russian KGB spy!
To enter for your chance to win, simply answer the below question.
What year was the U.S.S.R officially dissolved?
Give us your answer by 11:59 p.m., February 11. Open to United States and Canadian readers only. The judgment of ComicMix will be final.
Secrets can be deadly in this suspenseful thriller about undercover Russian spies in 1980s Washington. Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) seem to be a typical suburban couple, but they’re actually lethal KGB agents plotting to bring down America. As the Cold War escalates, Philip and Elizabeth must take extreme measures to continue their mission and keep their true identities hidden. But when an FBI agent moves in across the street, they become ensnared in a pulse-pounding game of cat and mouse.
Blu-ray & DVD Features
“The Colonel” Commentary featuring Joseph Weisberg, Joel Fields and Noah Emmerich
The buddy picture was a staple of the 1970s and 1980s, possibly dating back to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid but it’s been largely missing from more recent Hollywood fare. As a result, you have to given Universal Studios credit for recognizing the somewhat fresh approach in the Boom! Studios graphic novel 2Guns. Steve Grant paired two men in a drug story that felt familiar but with every action, things were never what they appeared, freshening the entire concept. Add in the charismatic Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, stir, and you have a crime story worth taking a look.
Out now on Blu-ray from Universal Home Entertainment, the film starts off with a robbery and never really slows down. Washington is Robert Trench, Bobby T, and Wahlberg is Michael Stigman, Stig, paired up to rob Mexican criminal drug lord Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos) of $3 million in cash. Neither is ware that both men are phonies with Bobby working undercover for the DEA while Stig is a member of Naval Intelligence, hoping to obtain the money to fund their cover operations.
Instead, they wind up robbing a bank in Tres Cruces, New Mexico and walking away with over $40 million in kickbacks paid by the drug lords to the CIA. The agency dispatches Earl (Bill Paxton) to recover the money and he cuts a bloody swath as he nears the truth and the cash. Along the way, the friends discover the truth about one another but then the revelations keep on coming as Bobby realizes he’s been set up by his sometime lover Deb (Paula Patton) and Stig discovers the Navy would rather sweep the scandal under the rug than do the honorable thing.
And chasing them all is Papi, who wants revenge for being robbed and humiliated by the pair. Olmos looks like he’s having the most fun although the two lead performers also banter nicely. The problem with the film is that Blake Masters’ screenplay never properly develops a single character so they feel sketchy. We don’t know what drives Bobby to spend three years undercover and what he’s had to give up or why Stig thinks it’s okay to use drug money for government purposes.
Under Baltasar Kormakur’s direction, we get lots of nice scenes set in New Orleans, and New Mexico and some inventive action sequences but everything feels like it’s on the surface. It’s a cleverly constructed plot and no one seems interested in exploring the larger themes or motivations. Maybe this is why it was aimed at late summer, when most audiences stop thinking and accept whatever’s on the screen.
Watching at home, you stop and realize how little of the story holds up under scrutiny, especially the whole Deb betrays Bobby sub-plot. The disc includes several extended and deleted scenes, none of which add anything to a deeper understanding of the story. Koramakur and producer Adam Siegel provide a standard commentary that shows no one seemed interested in making this a more complex tale. The movie comes with “Undercover and into Action”, a fairly by the number Making Of featurette.
Pretty day outside, if you like bleak. Mist, rain, a world of grey. October in the northeast. Bleak.
Not much better inside. It’s becoming a chore to watch some of my favorite television programs. The other night, after sitting through about 10 minutes of The Daily Show, I walked out of the room. I deeply admire Jon Stewart: he’s a national jester and as such, one of our treasures. Four nights a week, he manages to inform and entertain simultaneously, and he does this nifty trick consistently, show after show. He was riffing on the shutdown of the national government and suddenly I didn’t want to hear about it anymore, not even when Jon Stewart was the messenger and the message was leavened with comedy. To hear yet again of the antics of that herd of egotistical narcissists who are our elected leaders – enough! Let them take the nation to hell. I’ll just shut my eyes and cover my ears and try not to breathe in the dust.
Remember the words of Thomas Jefferson: “Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice can not sleep for ever.”
I’m not blaming the politicians. They are what they have to be. In a system that values greed above all else, in which congressmen, who are charged with regulating an enormous and ever increasingly complex commonwealth must spend 30 hours a week on the phone begging for money instead of learning what they should know, and in getting what they beg for place themselves in indentured servitude to the check writers, who were taught that education is passing tests, whose egos might need to be damaged before they can even aspire to the jobs they hold, and who have begun to behave like history’s great mischief makers, zealots who are incapable of questioning their zealotry, who are unable to identify with human suffering other than their own…yeah, they are more to be pitied than hated. But such creatures can foster ruination, pitiable or not.
There’s nothing I can do about the Washington mob that’s shaping our collective destiny. But please don’t ask me to share an elevator with any of them.
So I ducked an episode of The Daily Show. Then, the following evening, I got over my snit, stopped wishing that reality to be something other than what it is, and tuned in for my eleven o’clock Jon Stewart fix.
• • • • •
And now to answer a question you may or may not be asking: can’t we please, for the love of Pete, end on a cheerier note? Okay, how about a dose of…
When last we checked in, former CIA Agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) had figured out the truth regarding an attack in Washington, D.C. but no one took her seriously as events caused her bipolar self to meltdown, requiring hospitalization. Therefore, she is the only one to realize that something is serious amiss with Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis), the recently returned POW who has actually been turned by Al Qaeda bigwig Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban). Brody is poised to run for office, his wife unsuspecting, Vice President Walden (Jamey Sheridan) (the real target of all this) backing his run. Left to pick up the pieces is Saul (Mandy Patinkin), who is distracted by his wife’s departure for India, possibly taking their marriage with her.
Homeland’s inaugural season arrived with good buzz which grew in volume as audience’s glommed on to the show and Danes’ brave performance of a woman undergoing a total breakdown. It earned numerous nominations and awards at this past weekend’s Emmy awards and season three is ready to kick off. Thankfully, Season Two is now out in a handsome box set from 20th Century Home Entertainment. All dozen episodes are contained on three discs along with some bonus story material and a small number of extras.
Adapted from an Israeli series, Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa took full advantage of the adless premium cable opportunities and created taut hours of storytelling with rich characters and inter-relationships, anchored with an excellent cast. They moved things along at a nice clip and positioned all the pieces so the second season would move even faster. Carrie knows Brody more intimately than even his wife Jessica (Morena Baccarin), although his daughter Dana (Morgan Saylor) is rapidly coming to realize something is seriously off about dad.
We open months later with Carrie seemingly “normal” after ending last season with electroshock therapy, which gives Saul enough confidence to send her to Beirut when her former mentee has information she will only disclose to the former agent. Brody is in Congress, now receiving orders via Washington reporter Roya Hammid (Zuleikha Robinson), and still morally tortured over helping Nazir exact vengeance or be the perfect dad and all-American boy.
Things are nicely stirred although the trajectory of Brody from POW to hero to replacement Congressman to potential Veep candidate is way too fast and lacking the suitable background checks that any politician would do before committing (especially this early in a campaign). There’s also not really enough with Brody and Jessica compared with last season. All minor quibbles though compared with enormously entertaining episodes, well-written and strongly performed. Of course, the explosive concluding moments made us wait way too long for the next installment.
As one would expect, the video transfer to disc is fine both visually and aurally. Scattered throughout the disc are episode specific Deleted Scenes and several bonus features starting with
Returning to the Homeland: Filming in Israel (7:52) showing how it doubled for Beirut and honoring its roots. On disc three there’s The Border: A Prologue to Season Three (1:40) which becomes moot in a matter of days. Of more interest is A Super 8 Film Diary by Damian Lewis (11:05) with a lighthearted look behind the camera. Wrapping things up is The Choice: The Making of the Season Finale (15:41) which is fascinating for those of us who love to understand the creation process.
When I started writing this column, I was also in the midst of excitedly making plans for Awesome Con, which took place this weekend in Washington, DC. Plans for seeing friends I hadn’t seen in months; plans for meeting up with people I’d only talked to on the Internets; plans for dinner with awesomesauce con guests; plans for what panels I wanted to try to see; and plans for what costume(s) I was going to wear. My head was full of happiness and excitement and anticipation for a local convention that focuses on so many of the things I love.
And then as I was catching up on general geeky news, I read this. It’s something everyone should go read in full, along with this second account of the incident, and with this account of an earlier incident that’s even worse. Seriously, go read it. I’ll wait.
• • • • •
Now that you’re back (and just in case you didn’t follow my instructions to go read those posts) what is recounted in the most recent links is yet another account of female cosplayers (a group of Tomb Raider cosplayers in this instance, ranging in age from fifteen to thirty-one) being treated inappropriately at a con, which is the short-hand or mild way of saying that they were, with a single question from some random male “reporter,” embarrassed, dehumanized, harassed, discomfited, unwillingly sexualized, and disrespected (at the very least) because they chose to wear costumes at a convention.
The best part of this (and by “best” I mean absolute worst. Worst!) is that when this asshole was confronted by Meagan Marie, Community & Communication Manager at Crystal Dynamics (developers of Tomb Raider) about his inappropriate behavior, he had the gall to call her an “oversensitive feminist” (forget the fact that she was there as a professional, representing the actual, official product; she’s a giiirrrrrl so it’s okay to dismiss her words and actions) and then to say that “the girls were dressing sexy, so they were asking for it.” (Otherwise known as the “cosplay is consent” argument.)
Seriously, this stuff makes me so mad it takes away my coherency, leaving me spluttering things like, “What the – Where do these guys come from? Were they raised by wolves?? Lecherous wolves???” Or, slightly more coherently: What goes through a man’s mind that makes him think it’s acceptable to treat a total stranger as an object, and make her uncomfortable like this? And to think that it’s actually funny, or clever, or…whatever? And do these men want to be perceived as terrible, sexist jerkwads? Because that’s how it works out, though I can’t imagine that’s the goal. What is the goal? I don’t know.
I’ve actually seen some of these guys post online in response to women speaking out about such behavior, saying, “But how can we knowwwwwww what someone will take offense to? It’s like all the ruuuuuules have changed since yesterday when it was the fifties. And nobody told me!!”
Well, I can’t speak to every situation, but I can provide a set of general guidelines. Everyone has their own level of comfort with sexual behavior, but when you don’t know someone, you can’t assume their level of comfort. Therefore, if you want to be “safe” and not harass strangers (a fairly simple-seeming proposition to me, but apparently many people don’t know how not to harass strangers), then here’s a basic flow-chart style guide you can use to ensure you’re not being a harassing jerk to strangers, and more particularly women, you don’t know:
(1) Do you know the woman you’re about to speak to or interact with?
(2) If answer is (a):
–> Behavior you should not engage in:
(i) Do not touch the woman. No, not there. Not there, either! And not there!! Don’t. Just don’t. (Addendum: if the woman touches you, e.g. for a photo they’ve consented to where they put an arm around you or something, do not touch the woman anywhere that they are not touching you, or in any way that they are not touching you.)
(ii) Do not make specific comments about (or stare lecherously at) the woman’s body, body shape, body parts, etc. (e.g. “You have such a great ass!” *leer*)
(iii) Do not comment on the woman’s looks in a general sexual way. (E.g. “Daaaamn, you’re hot.”)
(iv) Do not make sexually explicit or suggestive comments about you and the woman or what you want to do to or with the woman. (e.g., “All I can think about right now is fucking you.”)
(v) Do not take inappropriate photos of the woman. (e.g. “upskirt” photos or other things that are voyeuristic and often actually illegal.)
(vi) Do not act like something is “all in good fun” or pretend it’s okay when the woman is clearly uncomfortable or unhappy about it or has asked you to stop whatever you’re doing. Stop what you are doing, and apologize if you can see or have been told that you’ve made the woman uncomfortable.
(vii) Do not put a woman on the spot while doing any of the other things listed here, e.g. by doing any of these things while recording the woman on camera or voice recorder or while talking to her in front of a crowd of other men who you know and/or who are paying attention to the conversation.
(viii) When in doubt, pretend your grandmother and/or mother and/or someone with actual manners is standing next to you. Adjust your behavior to what it would be in the presence of your female family members or someone with respect and consideration for other people. Stay in that zone.
–> Behavior you may engage in:
(i) Compliment the costume itself! (e.g. “That is a fantastic Spider Woman costume! It looks so authentic! Where did you get it? / Did you make it?” and similar.)
(ii) Talk further with the woman about your mutual love of the character/comic/show/etc. if they initiate further conversation or show interest in it.
(3) If answer is (b):
(i) If you know the woman slightly (have just run into them at a con before, or exchanged a few sentences, or chatted briefly about generic topics), see (2).
(ii) If you know them fairly well and/or are actually friends, stick with (2) until you’ve gauged their comfort level with comments or compliments that have a sexual component, based on their actual interactions and conversation and statements. When in doubt, see (2), and bear in mind that not only do women have different comfort levels, but that these levels also vary based on the person they’re interacting with, factoring in things like how well they feel they know the other person, whether they trust them, whether they are comfortable with them, etc. (e.g. a woman may feel comfortable joking around about sexual topics with, or receiving a physical compliment from, one person and not another.)
(4) In all situations, remember to treat women as people, not objects.
Well, there you go! This may not be a perfect guide, but for anyone out there who desperately needs a clue about this stuff, it is a good place to start.
On a personal note, the stories shared by cosplayers who have been harassed resonate with me, because I have been harassed, too. I have had experience with examples (i) through (iii) of my guidelines for things not to say or do to total strangers/women you’ve just met at a con, and I was actually the recipient of the exact example statement I used in (iv). Years later, I still remember how dehumanized and uncomfortable I felt at that moment, and I doubt I’ll ever forget it.
I also identify with the point Meagan made in her post regarding how differently she reacted when harassment was aimed at her versus at another woman, and how when she was the recipient of harassment, she often laughed it off or let it pass. For my own part, while I have told people off for acting inappropriately towards me, sometimes I am so shocked at what’s just been said to me, completely without justification or permission, that my brain literally doesn’t process it until it’s too late to react as I should. I’d imagine I’m not the only one this happens to. This is when it’s good for others to step in if they witness the situation, and when it helps to be “prepared” (sadly) for things like this by thinking ahead as to how you would want to react.
And now, on to something slightly “positive” regarding this topic; which is that the unfortunate incidents linked above, and others like them, have spurred a neat idea, the Cosplay =/= Consent (“Cosplay does not equal consent”) photo project, as outlined here. Essentially, the blogger is collecting photos of people in costume at cons holding a whiteboard that says, “Cosplay =/= Consent” and then posting them as part of a photo . I think images like that and comics like this one are a great way to distill the points that I’ve made above regarding the treatment of cosplayers at cons down to a simple rule that everyone can remember. And the idea is already catching on! While at Awesome Con (which was, indeed, awesome) I actually ran into someone who had one of these signs (yay!) and took some pictures to share here. I encourage people to continue enforcing these ideas about behavior through the signs or any other means they find effective.
Maybe if enough people do that, we won’t even have to talk about this anymore, and can instead just focus on awesome convention things, like, e.g., the fantaaaaastic interviews with Phil LaMarr, Billy West, and Nick Galifianakisthat I did at Awesome Con and will be sharing with you over the next few weeks.
Until then, keep promoting the idea that cosplay does not equal consent, and Servo Lectio!
It’s taken all month, but after seven rounds of voting and over $3000 of donations, we’re down to the last two contestants in the 2013 Mix March Madness Webcomics Tournament— Sandra and Woo vs. Bittersweet Candy Bowl!
We’ve gone from over 300 webcomics down to the Elite 8, and with your help we’ve raised over $2000 for the Hero Initiative since the tournament started. Voting for this round lasts until 9PM EDT on Saturday, March 23– get your votes in!
UPDATE: Round 4 has ended. Check back soon for the Quarterfinals Round!
Here we go again… it’s Round 4 of the Mix March Madness 2013 Webcomics Tournament!
Now… it starts to get brutal.
We’ve gone from over 300 webcomics down to the Sweet 16. We’ve raised over $750 for the Hero Initiative in this round alone, so far you’ve bought over $1500 in votes. Voting for this round lasts until 9PM EDT on Wednesday, March 20, so get your votes in.
We started with over 300 webcomics, and we’re down to 32, while we’ve exposed thousands of people to new webcomics and raised over $750 for the Hero Initiative. Voting for this round lasts until 9PM EDT on Saturday, March 16, so get your votes in.