See I’ve watched a lot of these superhero shows, and frankly, some of them are just plain bad. Filled with shoddy writing, mediocre acting, poor plotting and pacing, and cliched to the nines. Granted, I take it all a bit more seriously than most - I am a film geek, writer, and student of film theory. Fair enough. But at the same time I really like it when I can just sit down and really enjoy a series - really dig it you know? The problem here is that I actually have to be watching something of caliber in order to enjoy it as much as I’d like to.
So-far, Gotham has been exactly that sort of series. The writing is good overall, and in moments like the one in S2E2 where Alfred gives his amazing kippers speech (avoiding spoilers here), the writing and acting come together to create something utterly sublime. I mean oh-dear-lord-above. Such a confluence is almost enough to make me believe in the divine - certainly the divinity within a well-crafted script, embodied by an actor of poise and intensity, filmed by a DP who worked with the director to get just the right shot under just the right lighting, backed by a really fine set team. That sort of divinity I can believe in, because its effect is instantly noticeable on the screen.
Arrow, The Flash, Smallville, Daredevil, Agents of SHIELD - all these shows have moments I enjoyed. All of them, in the end, fall very short of being ‘art’ - a true experience of cognitive emotional value. An experience that lives in every fiber of your being, in the very essence of your soul. That sort of experience I usually only find in Kurosawa or Kubrick films. David Lynch’s Twin Peaks hits me on that level. I had been prepared for continued disappointment in Gotham - I had been prepared to find just another low-octane super-hero series that I could sink into like really nasty spreadable cheese. Something to watch after a long, hard day. And I found that in it, but instead of cheese-whip, I found a spread of winnimere, brie, and a collection of little cream-cheese and cucumber sandwiches. I found me some good eats. And I can say that I am not only satisfied and surprised, but honestly happy.
Who knows, I could get tired of it before long, or something could change behind the scenes and the quality could shift. But for the moment I’m going to relish this series one episode at a time, and I may even place it on my ‘need to rewatch’ list, which has gotten pretty damn slim in recent years.
As an artist, one of my favorite tasks is reviewing other artists work, especially when they're local. I've said and written about this before, but I believe that it is the task for all artists to support each other - and that means looking at one another's work, and being honest about what they see. So, in that light, it's always a pleasure when I get to explore a piece of art that I really ended up loving.
In this case, the work I read was Sweeping Changes by Mara Lynn Johnstone.
Sweeping Changes is one of those golden reads - the sort of book you can pick up when you're feeling blue and not at all in the mood to sit down and read, and end up thoroughly entrapped inside the narrative before you have any clue how you got there. Johnstone sets up the reveal from page one, and from there keeps laying the track for the twists and turns ahead. Never once did I put this book down, weary of thick prose, never once did I feel that the story had been rushed or slowed for my benefit - the whole piece moved together like a finely-crafted film, drawing me into each new scene at a steady and engaged pace.
Sweeping Changes sets up Johnstone's world nicely, providing an abundance of history and potential future character arcs, all within the body of a well-crafted story that feels refreshing and fun from start to finish. I find myself looking immensely forward to more works from this author, and hopefully more novels set in the "Sweep-verse", because there is definitely a massive amount of potential there for the reader to look forward to.
I'll be writing more on artist's commitment to one another, but for now do yourself a favor and buy a copy of Sweeping Changes asap. You won't be disappointed. Far from it - I think you'll find yourself comfortably mesmerized by this excellent short novel. To learn more about Mara, you can find her website listed under the "Community Links" section of my website.
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