Long Live Spartacus!

SpartacusTonight is the series finale of the Starz’s Spartacus, and as Batiatus (John Hannah) once said, “The Gods have seen fit to spread cheeks and ram cock in ass.”

In the wake of Sparatucs’ impending conclusion here’s a list of my favorite moments and characters:

Favorite Battle Scene: Spartacus vs. Crixus – Season 1:  Blood and Sand

No two men were as integral to the success of the series as Spartacus himself (Andy Whitfield’s version) and Crixus (Manu Bennett).  The two gladiators fluctuated between being at odds and being brothers – but this, the moment when Spartacus makes an example out of Crixus, is easily one of my favorite encounters of theirs, and of the series.

Favorite Female:  (tie)  Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) and Ilithyia (Viva Bianca)

Lucretia and Ilithyia were sexy and devious.  Both women were smart, and fortunately, both were intertwined throughout their runs on the series.  I loved the different dynamics created by Steven DeKnight (creator and executive producer).  At any given moment during Blood and Sand or Vengeance, Lucretia and Ilithyia were indebted to one another and scheming against each other – veiling their intentions as friendship.  So it made perfect sense that both women would meet their ends together.  What remains are two of television’s sexiest and most powerful female characters – and I for one was surprised that Lucy Lawless was able to find a role that eclipsed her most famous part, Xena. Gratitude.

Favorite Sex Scene: Spartacus and Ilithyia – Season 1: Blood and Sand

Spartacus and Ilithyia were tricked into this ultra-sensual sex scene.  The mystery, eroticism, and escapism created by this moment of the series epitomized the sexiest side of this show.  I loved the gold paint, the masks, the aura and overall allure – this scene had scorcher written all over it from the moment it was orchestrated by Lucretia.  The result – one of television’s most daring and beautiful sex scenes ever recorded (because it is a sex-scene, age verification is required for viewing).

Favorite Male Villain:  Claudius Glaber – Season 1: Blood and Sand and Season 2: Vengeance

Claudius Glaber (Craig Parker), Ilithyia’s husband,  is introduced in Blood and Sand and assumes the role of series villain in Vengeance.  Glaber becomes a feared name and tough adversary of Spartacus, but ultimately falls to the legend of Capua.  There is a softer side to Glaber that vanishes as his character arcs throughout season two – and this is what sets him apart from War of the Damned‘s Marcus Crassus (Simon Merrells).  Crassus has been an excellent villain and finishes just behind Glaber – hell, even his son, Tiberius (Christian Antidormi) is a diverse, multi-layered villain that made a bid for the top spot – but it helps Glaber’s cause that he was paired with Ilithyia and Lucretia – if only Tiberius or Crassus had such enchanting women to boost or betray them on the same scale.

It’s a brief list, I know – but I don’t think any list could ever do it justice.  These are just some of my favorite characters or moments created in the last four years, from one of my favorite television shows.  Spartacus was full of action, betrayal, sex, love, and blood.  There were strong, memorable characters, male and female, and the storylines and arcs were seamless.  It’s been a journey, from the House of Batiauts to the battlefield just outside Rome, but as sad as I’m going to be to see it end, I’m just thankful the show is able to end on its own terms, in its own time.

Thank you Steven DeKnight and crew for creating such a monumental show, and thank you to the cast, including Lucy Lawless, Viva Bianca, and the late, great Andy Whitfield for drawing me in and anchoring me to Spartacus.  I’d also like to say thank you to Liam McIntyre – it couldn’t have been easy coming into the series how you did, but I appreciate the work you’ve done to make it your own.  As a fan, I respect that.  Gratitude to you all.  I’ll be watching.

Bobby-james

The Chilling Warmth of “Snow Fall”

snowfall nytimes image2Winter has ended.  Her snow gives way to the blossoms of spring, and her chilling air has been replaced by a cool pollinated breeze.  Spring rains and sunshine inspire life and growth as activity resumes.  The afternoon is partly cloudy – storms are approaching.  A tornado watch has been issued and the breeze increases its speed.  Blossoms are torn from the branches.  Despite what’s happening just outside my window, I can’t take my mind off a story I read this morning.  “Snow Fall,” a six part event from the New York Times captured my heart and my imagination.

The story documents an avalanche at Tunnel Creek, a section of the Stevens Pass in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state.  A group of sixteen skiers was on the slope that day when disaster struck.  “Snow Fall” introduces “The Group” in a narrative way that feels warm, and friendly.  I feel like the essence of these people has been captured – and I developed a sense of caring for each of them.  For me, this engagement created hope, despite the forthcoming reality revealed by verb tense.  I still hoped that somewhere in the story, there was a happy ending, that after becoming so involved I wouldn’t have to confront what I knew was certain.

Watch the “Snowfall” documentary short

Structurally, I was positively overwhelmed by the intricate details and interaction of this story.  It was breathtaking and totally immersive.  The in-motion headers for each part of the story were strikingly magnificent – but at the same time, they were ominous.  I could sense the risk – the danger – just from those images and the section titles.  I knew this story would end how it did, but I tried convincing myself otherwise, by strengthening my connection to “The Group” through the interactive pieces.

This “act of journalism” is revolutionary because of its narrative form.  It felt like I was reading a book that I couldn’t put down.  I couldn’t wait to see the outcome, or how the avalanche was faced – or conquered – or if the skiers would even overcome at all.  I was anxious and worried, but most importantly, even though I recognized the grim reality – I was hopeful.  In this bleak, cold world set in Tunnel Creek, I found warmth and hope – which is an amazing feat, and ultimately a spectacular way to create a legacy and legend for those skiers.

Derek Thompson: “Snow Fall Isn’t the Future of Journalism”

avalancheAs a storyteller myself, what I realized complimented what I’ve been taught – the more interactive the story, the more a connection can be made.  These were real people who I learned to care about through video interviews, audio segments, and slideshows.  I felt I had known them, and by the end – while not on the same scale as those directly affected – I felt – joy, hope, fear and sorrow.

Most importantly, what I ultimately felt was inspired.  As a storyteller, I know I’m capable of telling stories like this, true or imagined.  The style – the connection – the passion – and the sense of anxiety to see what’s next are all traits any storyteller can only hope to convey.  We want people to read our work – love our work – and be inspired by our work.  This is something “Snow Fall” achieved, at least for me.  Its impact was both realistic and artistic, both ugly and beautiful.

 I was particularly fond of the story’s packaging.  I felt like the interactive maps, interviews, 911 calls, and slideshows added to the urgency and importance, and my overall experience and reaction to “Snow Fall.”  It was more than a news story, or a narrative.  It was and remains an experience.

Snowfall NYTimes Image

Read “Snowfall” by John Branch of the New York Times

WrestleMania 29 Predictions & Results

WrestleMania 29

Fast Results:

The Miz def. Wade Barrett to become the new Intercontinental Champion

The Shield def. Randy Orton, Sheamus, Big Show

Mark Henry def. Ryback

Team Hell No def. Dolph Ziggler & Big E Langston w/ AJ Lee to retain Tag Team Championships

Fandango def. Chris Jericho

Alberto Del Rio def. Jack Swagger to retain the World Heavyweight Championship

The Undertaker def. CM Punk w/ Paul Heyman, making “The Streak” 21-0

Triple H def. Brock Lesnar

John Cena def. The Rock to become the new WWE Champion

- the 8-person mixed tag match was scrapped from the show

56% Prediction accuracy this year – sadly, I was predicting with a bit of wishful thinking I suppose and hoping WWE wouldn’t be as predictable as they ended up being.

Thoughts: 

WWE WrestleMania is resting on stars of yesterday to add “umph” to their PPVs it seems.  If WWE is shooting for high marks in the predictability category, then they’re doing well.  Sadly, the product is suffering and is far-removed from its more glorious days.

I was none too happy to find that the match involving the Diva’s was cut from the show.  To me, I found it really ironic that the year you induct Trish Stratus into the Hall of Fame for being a trailblazer for women in the WWE – you cut women from the card.  Sad really.

That said, the set design for the show was spectacular, and as expected, CM Punk vs. The Undertaker was the show-stealer.  Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar was a has-been feud that ran its course last summer – and the match, despite having some stellar spots, suffered from a lengthy run-time.  Same for Rock vs. Cena.  Too much resting and inaction – we saw that last year, too.  This led to a mediocre WrestleMania main event that gave nothing new to fans.  Same Cena.  Same 5 moves of doom.  Different outcome this year – but that’s only because the WWE Championship was at stake – and now Cena has something new to gloat about.

I was thrilled to see Trish Stratus on the ‘Mania stage again, and to see the classic Punk-Taker match… and happy that WWE featured so many young talents on the show.  Sadly, WrestleMania isn’t amateur hour – and that’s kind of what it felt like.  The performers are in place – and their hearts are in the right place, but the booking and writing is severely lacking.  And the lack of feud depth and character development by creative are what has made the past few WrestleManias feel like extended Monday Night RAWs.

PREDICTIONS

1.  Intercontinental Championship

Wade Barrett (c) vs. The Miz

Predicted Winner:  The Miz

2.  Tons of Funk & the Funkadactyls vs. Team Rhodes Scholars & the Bella Twins

Predicted Winner:  Team Rhodes Scholars & the Bella Twins

3.  Chris Jericho vs. Fandango

Predicted Winner:  Fandango

4.  Brock Lesnar w/ Paul Heyman vs. Triple H w/ Shawn Michaels

Predicted Winner:  Triple H

5.  WWE Tag Team Championships

Team Hell No vs. Dolph Ziggler & Big E Langston w/ AJ Lee

Predicted Winners:  Dolph Ziggler & Big E Langston

6.  Ryback vs. Mark Henry

Predicted Winner:  Ryback

7.  Sheamus, Randy Orton, Big Show vs. The Shield

Predicted Winners:  The Shield

8.  World Heavyweight Championship

Alberto Del   Rio (c) vs. Jack Swagger

Predicted Winner:  Alberto Del   Rio

9.  CM Punk vs. The Undertaker

Predicted Winner:  CM Punk

10.  WWE Championship

The Rock (c) vs. John Cena

Predicted Winner:  The Rock