Clifton Collins Jr. – Actor and Inspiration

This article has a few points to make. So if it had a secondary title it would be:

Unreliable Narrator: A Creative/Personal Reaction to Capote and 187.

In the world of literary criticism there is what’s called the Unreliable Narrator. This is the speaker. The writer. This fictitious person either doesn’t have all the information or has misinterpreted the events or circumstances of what they have experiences or witnessed.

Hang on to that a moment. It becomes important later.

Recently I’ve been watching my way through Clifton Collins Jr.’s filmography. Not only is he a very captivating and stunning performer, some of these films are just as powerful. His eyes draw you in like the inescapable event horizon of a black hole. With a look he can break your heart as easily as he can make you laugh. I will write about more of his films (like Boodock Saints: All Saints Day!) later, but today I’m writing about CAPOTE and 187.

Clifton Collins Jr. as Perry Smith

Sometimes, when I am profoundly affected by something I have watched I will write about it. After watching Capote, I wrote a short story as an outlet for all the emotions it stirred up. I will insert that short here, but keep reading after. I have more to say. And I have to tell you how Clifton Collins Jr. inspired me to give back.

Broke In. 

Six feet wide. Three sides as solid as my sentence. Six feet of steel bars. The same width as the length of my coffin. The same depth as hole of my grave. But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

Thing is, you have a lot of time for introspection in this concrete box. What if… this or that. Contemplations. Rationalizations. “Moralizations”. Maybe I should’ve prayed more. Read the Bible. Or something. Whatever. Problem is, thinking outside of this particular box only brings more pain. And the box I’m heading for is much smaller and nothing gets out of that one.

 So what do I say now? Sorry? Do I explain? Do I try to defend myself one last, fruitless time? 

No. See, you’re expecting a twist. You’re expecting me to lure you in and shock you with some sensational, heartbreaking story of betrayal and abuse. But the cold-blooded truth is I’m here for a reason. And as if by some sick joke, the sixes have it. Six feet across. Six feet long. And – soon to be – six feet under.

 Skid row to death row. That’s me. 

But in all reality, we’re all on the latter. Standing in a row, one long line, pointing directly toward a headstone. Well, if you’re lucky enough to get one anyway.

Guess what I’m saying is – I could’ve had worse. I’ve done worse.

Am I a product of the broken system? My broken family? Or some other broken something? Who the hell knows and who the hell cares… I’ve been broke and broken all my life. So when I broke in and shattered that family I couldn’t say that I knew any better. It isn’t an excuse. Call it a confession. That’s what you do before you die, right? 

I don’t want your pity. Hell, I don’t even want your mercy. Wouldn’t know what to do with it if I got it. I suppose I’m just talking because my minutes are numbered and I’d like to spend my last breaths saying something… truthful. This truth won’t set me free, but it can’t hurt me anymore either.

I played the hand I was dealt. I just wasn’t very good at the game and I had shitty luck. Maybe the deck was stacked against me from the beginning. They say the House always wins. Well tonight, the Big House will win again. And who says the die are any different? Go ahead, shake and let ‘em roll.

Yeah, the sixes have me. 

Remember the Unreliable Narrator? Well, guess who’s talking? Yeah. In my short story the unknown speaker has come to believe he/she belongs on death row. The speaker believes his/herself to have been trapped in an inescapable lifestyle.

In Capote, Clifton Collins Jr. plays a character who had a rough upbringing (and that’s putting it very lightly). It’s as if Perry, his character, was set off on a dark and brutal path that led him to the murders that put him on death row.

Then in 187, Collins Jr. plays another character (Cesar) who sees himself trapped by his own lifestyle. A violent world of gangs and intense cultural need to assert dominance Cesar is seen witnessing a young man get gunned down. He doesn’t even flinch. Toward the end of the film the teacher Cesar has set out to kill is wildly confronting him, calling his violent machismo out as “bullshit”. Cesar screams back, “It’s all I’ve got!”

Clifton Collins Jr. as Cesar Sanchez

After watching 187, I found myself crying. A lot. As someone who works hard to set myself on the best path I can it really affects me when I see a destructive downward spiral. My Dad worked in a jail ministry for years. I grew up hearing how he would see the same people over and over, returning after their release. He would talk about the problem with the justice system.

They call it a “correctional facility” but that isn’t what it is. It isn’t correcting anything. My Dad described the pattern. When a person is released from jail they more often than not end up going back to the same friends, the same neighborhood. They get caught up in the same activities that had put them in jail in the first place. Without an option, a way to break cycle, the system keeps pulling them in.

I’ve been aware of this fault in the system for a years. I’ve wanted to help, but how? My Dad always said that he wanted to create a place for people to go after jail. Teach them the skills they needed to change the course of their life. It just never worked out for him to do that here. But I recently learned of just such an organization. A place called Homeboy Industries. I had heard the name before, but Clifton Collins Jr. and his Instagram got me looking closer. And I love what I see.

Homeboy Industries does exactly what my Dad had always wanted to do here. So once I’ve moved back to Los Angeles I’m going to find a way to get involved. There are people who have helped heal me from my own internal battles. People who have saved me from self-destruction, from giving up. I’d like to repay them by giving back. And I think I’ve finally found a way to do that.

Clifton Collins Jr. his films and Instagram have been part of that inspiration. So, thank you. I felt the need to say so.

Coffee with Corissa: Web-content and My Future

Hello again, and sorry for the long absence in my writing!

This blog post includes the first episode of a “web-show” I’ll be calling Coffee with Corissa.  Pretty much, it’s me talking about what I’m up to and telling amusing stories. I’ve been told that I can be rather entertaining when I go off on a tangent or tell a story from my childhood. So I’m going to test this out. Oh, and you’ll get to see how geeky I can be. Enjoy!

This first “episode” is about Me, My Plans, and the stuff (and thangs) in Between… I’m going to tell you a bit about my background and what exactly has been taking so long to get my career started! Yes, it does all boil down to money. But there are specifics… After the video, I’ll go into a little more detail…

So there’s that. Let me add that my further attempts to give myself financial freedom to pursue my artistic passion included my becoming an ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer. This costed about $700. Then there was the further requirements of CPR and AED certification. Another $70. Simultaneous to this I consistently posted updates of “Badass Workouts” EVERY DAY for an ENTIRE YEAR to publicly share my journey and (as some have generously stated) inspire others along the way.

Now I should be able to make money with that, right? Um, well… Here’s the thing. I was “hired” at a local gym and began all the new employee training. Sounds good, right? Except… They didn’t actually pay. (Yeah…) Not hourly, anyway. I would be paid $10 for each fitness assessment (that takes an hour). I could get commissions from selling training packages… 5-10%, in 3-4 payments. Basically, $12 here and there. So I thought, well I’ll just figure it out to teach groups in a few classes… (Water aerobics, anyone?)

Just one issue there… I would have to get MORE certifications… AT MY OWN EXPENSE. Another $200 for a Group Training certification and yet another certification for the specific class I intend to teach. Well, okay. A semi-resonable “investment”, one would think… So, how much would I be paid to teach a class of 20 people for an hour? Um, $20…

Wait, so WHEN exactly does all my education and certifications actually start to MAKE me money…? Maybe I should just start taking my own clients, you say? Yeah, except that I don’t have legal protection in the form of liability insurance. Another $300+ expense. Thus leading me to the conclusion that I can’t afford to make money.

How messed up is that?

Well, now that I’ve vented in a slightly entertaining fashion, I will continue on with my various attempts of picking up freelance work as I slowly scrap together the funding to actually DO something. And if this has depressed you in any way, please stick around to watch the progress. It’s only an inspiring story AFTER the long, bloody, face-breaking battle is won. And remember one thing, Life plays by street rules.


TMI: City of Bones – Pre-Film Review

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
A Pre-Film Review

(Includes a special focus on character Luke Garroway/Lucian Graymark (to be played by Aidan Turner) at the end). Because: Aidan Turner.

THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES (by Cassandra Clare) begins a young adult fiction novel series of epic and inspiring magnitude. Our main characters are Clary Fray and Jace … uh, well… (Enigmatic moment!) The fandom support of these characters is wildly enthusiastic and not without reason. These characters are central to an underlining subplot that amplifies (to high heaven) the pre-adult drama of self-discovery and personal identity.

Clary is just a regular teenage girl, red-haired and wiry, who lives in New York. Nothing extraordinary happens to her… Or does it, and she just doesn”t remember…? A strange and mythical world begins opening itself to Clary when her mother, Jocelyn Fray, is attack and disappears (an event that happens while Clary is out but on the phone with her). She discovers a new place in this world behind the Glamour, soon realizing there”s much more to herself, her mother, and even her surrogate father-figure.

That”s the description. Here”s the part where I recommend this book (and it”s series) FOR ANY AGE. Well, teen and up anyway.

You see, I thought that I wouldn”t like it because I”m not a teenager. I thought it would be too young, in style, for me. But there are the adult characters and their stories. I found myself fascinated with the background of the mounting tension preceding war, a group called The Circle, in a country called Idris. See, while Clary (Clarissa) is young, the author – Cassandra Clare – does excellent work at making some adult insight possible, even if the main character doesn”t understand it.

For instance, Clary”s early interactions with her father-figure, (her mother”s best friend Luke Garroway), she believes that he is coldly shutting her out an abandoning her. My thoughts, as an adult, was to rationalize that he himself is in danger and has to push Clary away in order to protect her. Eventually we are told Luke”s story. My heart has yet to recover. Thing is, I really (I mean, really) identify with the character of Luke Garroway. So naturally he became my favorite character. Those of you who follow me on Twitter have been seeing my #LoveForLucian tweets, nearly daily. (Lucian Graymark is his real name).

Which brings me to my special focus section for the Aidan Turner Filmography series.

I knew from page one that Aidan Turner will be portraying Luke Garroway for the film. That made it all the easier to love the character. If you”ve been following my List series, then you know that I am a fan of Turner”s work. You”ll also have heard me talking about how impressed I am with his depths and intensity (it”s still not the eyebrows). So having seen his wide range from heartbroken sobs to terrifyingly ferocious, I knew they had made an excellent choice in casting him for this long-suffering character. And knowing the character (by having read the books) makes me that much more excited to see the film when it hits theaters (IMDb currently lists it for August, 2013).

I have one more thing to say before I wrap this up. I want to go on record to say how much I love and appreciate how Cassandra Clare creates a badass villain but NEVER PROMOTES HATING HIM. Luke Garroway is so inspiring in his talk and treatment of the villain, Valentine Morgenstern (formerly his best friend). Cassandra Clare complicates her world in so many ways, but this is the most challenging. Luke still retains his love and sense of loss for their friendship when he finally meets Valentine again. I”m going to make you read the books to learn why this is such a profound thing, but it makes you love and support Luke all the more. (Thus, daily tweets using the #LoveForLucian hashtag).

So: THANK YOU Cassandra Clare. In a moment of true, raw honesty – this aspect/storyline (Luke/Valentine) of your Shadowhunter world parallels some old wounds of mine and has helped speed the healing (werewolf style!) of deep scars. (Also: Give Aidan Turner a hug for me, will ya? ^_^ ). I am a loving, loyal subject to the TMI fandom.

Right, so!

Ending Remarks (the recap!):

Who are you, behind the Glamour?!

Luke Garroway, I love you. You are my Alpha.

Best friends are the worst enemies. But keep your love for them.

A Poem Called Terror

it’s the tick of a stranger-clock
in an unfamiliar room
the scratch of enchanted bones
in a dark and haunted tomb

uneven steps of a gallows-walk
and the dancing of the dead
the cries and un-stifled moans
you hear inside your head

it’s the shrieks in the blood
of silent screams in red
the running of Vein’s exiles
on a back-alley deathbed

being buried underneath the mud
on a street without a name
the curses spoken to defile
and goodness gone in flame

it’s mass production of The Same
a reconstruction of the soul
whip held high to keep you tame
when fear is in control

Have a Happy Halloween!

A Cowboy’s Funeral

Billy Kaye was my Dad’s friend first, but was really a friend of the family. My family has a habit of adopting people whose own family lives too far away to get together frequently. So I got to know Billy Kaye at Thanksgiving dinners, though I’d see him and his wife around town. That’s the benefit of a small town. Now Thanksgiving is going to be missing Billy and his guitar.

See, Billy Kaye was a cowboy. He was a classic country singer, playing Waylon Jennings as well as his own songs. He had one of those rough cowboy attitudes that is as amusing as it (can be) offensive. I say that last part with a smile, because Billy was always, only Billy. And I love that in people. You never had to question what he was thinking, because, well, he always “said what he meant and meant what he said, and if you didn’t like it, then you could lump it.” He was fond of talkin’ like a cowboy and it made sense. That’s what he was.

Billy was in a guitarist and a singer in his band, Billy Kaye and the Outlaw Country Band. He was a racecar driver and sponsored my brother in his dirt-track racing, always there for the races when ever possible. He loved life and he made you love it to. I didn’t know him that well, since he was more my Dad’s friend, but I’m going to miss him just the same.

Now I reckon I oughtta tell you’s a bit about Billy and my Dad, his cowboy compadre (in the cowboy slang, not the Spanish meaning). Billy taught my Dad to play guitar. This was something my Dad had always wanted to do; to play guitar around the campfire in the backyard, wearing cowboy boots and a Stetson (Stetsons are cool). And now he does. These are memories the whole family, but especially the grandchildren (my nieces and nephews), will now cherish. Billy had a huge part in that. He and my Dad enjoyed the same things, the same music, cowboy memorabilia, and Winchester rifles. And as Billy began to lose his struggle with cancer (after 12 years) he had a special request for my Dad.

See, my Dad is a custom woodworker (among other such skills). And being a fellow cowboy himself, he was honored by this request. Billy asked my Dad if he wouldn’t mind building a cowboy’s casket for him. My Dad agreed.

This may sound morbid and possibly a little cruel, but you wouldn’t think so if you knew Billy, or my Dad. To me it was a profound testament to the friendship between these two men. These cowboys. My Dad was honored, and said so in plain terms. ‘Cause cowboys, these weathered midwestern men had an understanding. So my Dad built Billy a cowboy’s pine box, a beautiful casket with a decorative cross on the cover. At the wake and the funeral he was complimented many times, but he only responded with, “Well, it’s just built to Billy’s specification.”

After the funeral ceremony we all followed the casket out while Roy Roger’s Happy Trails filled the church sanctuary. It was a perfectly gray, but beautiful autumn day at the cemetery where Billy’s personality still filled the crowd. It was in the cowboy hats amongst friends and family. The cowboy boots on his grandson. And that simple pine casket covered in the flowers set atop the cross by his eleven grandchildren, his wife, daughters, and sister.

I wanted to write this, to share this with whom ever may be interested, because for reasons I’m not sure I understand yet it really effected me. Billy was rough around the edges, but filled to the brim with love. You could hear it as he sang and as he played guitar. He had such a full, unique personality and he will be missed. I wish you all could have known him. And I wish I could have known him longer.

Aidan Turner: Desperate Romantics [Episode 6]

Aidan Turner: Desperate Romantics
Episode Six
(Part of The List series for Aidan Turner)

 SPOILERS, ye be warned. Click HERE for review of Episode Five.

Episode Six bring the Desperate Romantics series to an end. This is a powerful episode for Aidan Turner and Amy Manson, even more that previous episodes. I like how I started writing this to take about what I liked in Aidan Turner”s performances but the strength of Amy Manson”s acting forced my hand to include her. So we”ll tie that into chemistry between the actors. Hard stuff, this episode.

Right, so. Lizzie Siddal and Dante Gabriel Rossetti are married. They return from their honeymoon to a new place and new responsibilities, such as rent (since Rossetti was stealing living/studio space before). Any excitement they had at being married doesn”t last long. Lizzie discovers that Ruskin has no intentions of continuing his financial support (beyond buying their art).

Now that she”s married, Ruskin says it”s no longer his place to support her. That”s Dante”s job now, well, Gabriel”s (as he”s more frequently called). Lizzie is dejected and driven to laudanum, again. She resents Gabriel saying, “By marrying you I”ve lost Ruskin!” She blames him and this starts coming between them.Amy Manson is amazing to watch her sudden and horrific downward spiral. And Rossetti isn”t there to catch her (Lizzie).

Likewise, Aidan Turner is shocking in the raw emotions his brings to Rossetti. The character resents Lizzie in return, for the weight of responsibility, fidelity, and (I think anyway) a certain loss of identity. He was known as a wildly passionate man, given to drink and lust. But once he was married, he was only meant to show that to one person. He felt forced into it, especially under the deathly circumstances that brought about the proposal and sudden marriage (so save Lizzie from herself). Both were aware of this lackluster rationale for a wedding. And both had started hating the other for it. All of this was played deftly by the respective actors.

So, the thing is, Rossetti… He, well, he has a way with words. With women, usually he was charming and affirming. But with Lizzie, Gabriel started to turn on her. I mean, his poems were great. They were beautiful. But the way he talked to her in fights… He found the ways to cut right down to the deepest parts of her soul and sliced away. This was more of Aidan Turner”s stunning commitment to the truth of the character. He does hold back or try to make Rossetti a sympathetic character in these scenes. He unleashes Rossetti, the resentful and frustrated man. And it”s Lizzie who bears the brunt of it.

Remember how Dante used to call her Sid? There”s one scene when he calls her that again. Only it”s too late. Lizzie and her laudanum… See, Dante just goes too far with his biting remarks (there”s a Being Human reference in there somewhere). Lizzie decides to use her weakness, the laudanum, to commit suicide. Gabriel and Fred discover her lying, death-like, on the floor. Dante is horrified and sobs over her, calling her Sid and begging her not to die. But it”s already too late…

Aidan”s performance from this point on…is art. It is as beautiful as it is evocative. With such a deep mixture of grief and guilt, textured with the most severe regrets, Turner“s work is something to be marveled and respected. I wasn”t sure I”d ever pity Rossetti, preferring to believe he”d get was he deserved, but that… Wow. No, Rossetti didn”t deserve that. (Mind you, Lizzie didn”t deserve how he treated her). This all culminates at the funeral scene when Gabriel screams that Lizzie isn”t at rest because “she thinks I didn”t love her!” Painful and dramatic work. Brilliant.

You think that Rossetti must have learned his lesson the hardest possible way. Surely he”ll be better now. A more decent human being… But no. Not really. Not when you see him dig up Lizzie”s fresh grave to retrieve the poems he had thrown in with her coffin. He had been told they were his best work, “clearly publishable.” And Rossetti craved artistic success more than the (recent) memory of his dead wife. And, like Fred, we are freed of him. Rossetti no longer has the power to manipulate us because he”s just gone too far this time.

Though I”ve spent most of my time talking about Aidan Turner and Amy Manson I do want to be clear that I thought every cast member”s performance was just as excellent. One of my favorite moments was withJennie Jacques as Annie. In an earlier episode she slaps Hunt in front of his audience and storms out. When he chases after her, she screams at him in confrontation and her face flashes to a bright, ferocious red before your eyes. It”s awesome. I loved it. Hell hath no fury like Annie Miller. Epic anger.

Anyway. Every episode is complete worth watching. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. Even when I wanted to slap Rossetti myself.

Final touches, Episode Six:

Man, can Aidan Turner cry… Which, in turn, makes me cry. Damn it.

The entire cast of Desperate Romantics is brilliant. Great stuff all around.

Don’t enrage Annie Miller.

Watch this show. Unless you”re squeamish about nudity, I guess.

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Aidan Turner: Desperate Romantics [Episode 5]

Aidan Turner: Desperate Romantics
Episode Five
(Part of The List series for Aidan Turner)

SPOILERS and all that. Click HERE for Review of Episode 4.

If you thought that I was always going to retain some small bit of sympathy for the charming, deceptive Dante Rossetti, well this is the episode where I lose it. Continuing my reviews of Desperate Romantics with Episode Five, we finally watch the House of Cards falls. And not just fall, but also scatter in the winds of deception, betrayal, and karmic payback. The talented Aidan Turner and Amy Manson reveal they have even deeper reserves to draw from. Their characters are pushed even further in this episode, starting at the highest heights and falling nearly as far as the grave. Turner and Manson never miss a stroke of the brush, bringing every scene painfully to life.

With Ruskin”s patronage, and therefore the money from that, has afforded Lizzie and Dante a wild and extravagant life. They party and parade their success around, forgetting entirely that they are meant to be producing art in return for this social and monetary support by Ruskin. Of course, dear Fred Walters (who continues as our narrator) does what he does best and writes of their escapades in the Illustrated London.

Naturally, this draws Ruskin”s attention. Now, he is a man of the conviction that women should be tame, settled, and quiet – especially if they are associated with him. That would include Lizzie now. So she and Dante are reprimanded by Ruskin and Lizzie is given certain terms to comply to. Practicing her art at his house and returning to her parents house when she finishes. You see, Ruskin doesn”t like that Miss Siddal and her fiancée, Dante Rossetti, are…. Well, he finds them stark naked, sleeping in, and muttering about insatiable desires. He was not pleased.

Thing is…Lizzie has developed an insatiable desire…for laudanum. Dante is too self-absorbed (as usual) to notice. He takes Lizzie”s compliance to Ruskin”s terms as allowing herself to be controlled (ignoring that this is what he, himself, does to her) and accuses her of becoming just like one of them. In truth, Lizzie was taking full advantage of her options and this just points out to Rossetti that she is the more successful.

Dante is not without self-awareness though. In an apology to Lizzie he says, “Jealousy makes me petulant to the extreme.” And he told Fred, “You took advantage of my shallow nature.” These moments have Aidan Turner speaking in simple, natural deliveries that makes the character of Rossetti feel so real. A character like Dante Rossetti could easily have become ridiculous and more like a caricature than anything believable, if Turner had not grounded him so firmly in truth. And he does it so well you never think about it; you just believe it. Bravo, indeed, Mr. Turner.

Amy Manson”s character Lizzie Siddal is equally grounded in truth. We see even more of the character”s frustrations, rage, and complete despair. In this episode Lizzie nearly drinks herself to death with laudanum. Fred finds Dante with another woman to inform him of Lizzie”s sickly state. Such are Fred”s affections for Lizzie that he tells Dante to express his love for her. This leads to Dante proposing (again, since it had briefly been called off). Lizzie shows she is not void of her own awareness and asks, ”You”ll forsake all other lovers?” When Rossetti agrees, she agrees to marry him. Then her sister promptly beats the hell out of Dante screaming, “You”re killing her!”

Well, if you think that maybe Dante really does love Lizzie and this was a wake-up call…then hear this. On the day of the wedding he”s having a panic moment, confessing he can”t do it (naming fidelity and the prime concern). His friends ask him why he proposed then and Dante says, “I panicked! I thought she would die before I got her to the altar.”

Okay. Let me at him. It”s MY time to beat the libido out of him!

Anyway. Whatever. There”s no stopping this train-wreck wedding…and so it goes. Interesting for Aidan Turner and Amy Manson being the one”s involved in the marriage massacre. But that”s just another reference to Being Human.

Final touched, Episode Five:

Aidan Turner plays Dante with excellent balance of subtly and extremity.

Dante is a live-wire grounded in truth.

This episode would make a great gender issues study of Lizzie Siddal. Just sayin’.

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Aidan Turner: Desperate Romantics [Episode 4]

Aidan Turner: Desperate Romantics
Episode Four
(Part of The List series for Aidan Turner.)

SPOILERS and all that. Click HERE for the Review of Episode Three.

So this is the episode when tides begin to turn on Aidan Turner”s character Dante Gabriel Rossetti. He also starts to go to other…models…for, well, for “inspiration” (if you catch my meaning). As usual, Dante is able to talk his way out of most of the repercussions of these betrayals (I call “em like I see “em). And this is frustrating. No. It”s infuriating. But perhaps that”s because I”m a woman and Dante is evil. (Haha).

Alright. So Aidan Turner does a fantastic job of playing the subtly between his character”s disappointment and complete frustration, both of which he tries to make (most of the time). You see, this is the episode when Lizzie Siddal”s artistic career – and we”re not talking modelling anymore – shoots far beyond that of Rossetti”s. Right, basically Dante had manipulated the situations to put himself next in line for Ruskin”s favor (and therefore patronage). It all appears to be going well at first. Ruskin stops by when Rossetti is away from the studio, leaving Lizzie to talk to him and showing him her work. It seems Ruskin is impressed with Rossetti”s work and promised to stop by again. Aidan Turner plays Rossetti”s with an infectious enthusiasm. Then, in this mood, Dante proposes to Miss Siddal. And she accepts.

Thing is, Lizzie still wants Rossetti to do the proper thing and talk to her father, as is the custom of the era. He agrees and does so. His smile is sweet. His happiness at the consent given appears genuine (and probably is). But certain aspects of this interaction unnerve Dante. So he talks this through with Lizzie, right? Ha! No. Oh no. He “deals” with this anxiety by leaving the Siddal house. Returns to his studio (a place he broke into, not renting). And promptly has unbridaled…inspiration…with William Hunt”s (ex)fiancée.

I”m going to avoid simply walking through the plot points of this episode, but this next point offers a small sense of justice. When Ruskin returns again, he is so impressed with Lizzie Siddal”s art that he offers her his patronage and gives Dante Rossetti a teaching position. Sid is so in love with Dante that she views this as a success for both of them. She intends, as a natural course of thought, to use the pay from Ruskin to supply them both with paints and such. But Rossetti struggles to set aside his selfish ambitions to allow Lizzie to truly feel her happiness. Instead she is comforting him with…inspiration.

Still, Rossetti uses his friend”s (Millais this time) pain to make himself feel better. This is also a great episode for Fred Walters (our even faithful and sympathetic narrator). Amy Manson has wonderful character moments in this episode as well and she plays them with profound delicacy. Rossetti”s proposal is one of those moments. You get a full sense of what this means for her: security, protection (having given her, well, innocence, to him), and Dante”s commitment – something he had previously never been willing to do before her. It”s as beautiful as it is horrific (given what we know that she doesn”t).

Aidan Turner never falters in his performance. Playing a character like this, I think, is probably the most difficult of character types to play. We all want to be liked, so there may be the urge to soften the terrible flaws the character has. But Turner doesn”t do this. As I said about the previous episode, his is bold with his dialogue and actions. He doesn”t make them overtly cruel, which is the other instinct, I think.

It”s fun to play evil. It”s great to play the hero. But Dante Rossetti has to retain likeability despite the horrible betrayals and deceptions. Aidan Turner proves to be more than capable in this tightrope walk. Really, I”m amazed I still care about Rossetti this far into the series. But Turner”s commitment to truth does it. He makes Dante so real – the flaws, the frustrations, all of him – that even after all he”s done you are still able to sympathize with the artist who is feeling left behind by the Brotherhood (and now his own fiancée). In a word: Amazing.

Finishing touches, Episode Four:

Dante is evil. Or a liar and a cheat, at least.

Aidan Turner shocks you with the truth of the character and still makes you fall for him. Fall for the character, of course…


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Aidan Turner: Desperate Romantics [Episode 3]

Aidan Turner: Desperate Romantics
Episode 3

Aidan Turner as Dante Rossetti; Amy Manson as Lizzie Siddal

Aidan Turner as Dante Rossetti; Amy Manson as Lizzie Siddal  [Image: Property of BBC]

Click HERE for review of Episode 2.

Episode Three of Desperate Romantics is full of deception and revelations. This is the episode when fiery Lizzie starts standing up for herself, challenging Dante more than he’s probably ever been challenged before. She calls him on his lies and his affection for her is genuine enough to want to change for her. Yet she is insightful enough to know that he hasn’t changed at all. So that train wreck we felt we were waiting for suddenly feels like it may be avoidable after all.

These reviews are meant to focus on Aidan Turner’s performance (as part of The List series) therefore I won’t go into much with the other characters. But I do want to say that this particular episode has a lot going on with each of them. I enjoyed this one very much. No, seriously. I love this episode.

So! Poor, jealous, and frustrated Rossetti is having a hard time actually progressing in his trade. Where, before he had insisted that he needed Lizzie as a model to be able to paint, now Lizzie’s modeling (for William Hunt) is the thing that pays for his painting supplies. Dante Rossetti somehow always finds people he can use, manipulate, deceive, and blatantly lie to in order to make money or connections (this time with Ruskin). Aidan Turner has such talent to still make Dante a likeable in the face of all the character’s many flaws. He lets vulnerability and frustration surface at all the right moments. His acting is as precise as it is evocative. In my humble opinion, Turner continues to impress.

Amy Manson and Aidan Turner have an attracting and fascinating chemistry as the relationship between their characters develop beyond the early stages of attraction into something stronger. This episode is when you start to believe that Lizzie Siddal may actually be the one woman able to tame the wild and crass-mouthed Dante Rossetti. And you start hoping that their relationship works. Seeing Sid and Dante sketching in opposite chairs creates the impression of two artistic equals enjoying their lifestyle together.

Yet Rossetti’s harsh and demeaning treatment of Fred (our faithful narrator) leave an uneasy edge of distrust; and rightfully so. Aidan Turner’s ability to deliver such harsh and at times crude dialogue with complete ease makes Dante all the more believable. You believe that he gets away with treating people who way because of the bold truthfulness in the way Aidan Turner personifies him. Rossetti belittles Fred by saying he’d be incapable of handling a relationship with Lizzie Siddal (in fact, saying she’d “destroy” him). When Turner performs this dialogue he is not cruel in the mannerism or inflections. He is simply stating this as an open, obvious truth. Actually, his tone is apologetic and pitying. And that is exactly what makes it so much crueler than any other reading of the line. Again, in my humble opinion, that is.

By the end of this episode I felt my willingness to cheer for Dante slipping. His manipulations and deceit have started to grow beyond my willingness to overlook. Granted, the motivations for his actions are clear and even sympathetic. He himself plainly states that everyone else is finding success much more easily and that he struggles under the pressure to try to keep up. Miss Siddal appears to be the only source of support and relief he has in all this; which is probably way he is so effected by her bold confrontations.

See? Aidan Turner plays Dante with such excellent command that though I intend to write about him I find myself writing about the character instead. Drat. Dante is even manipulating me now…

Final touches, Episode Three:

Frustrated, Wild Artist looks good on Aidan Turner. (Come on, someone was going to say it eventually).

Amy Manson’s Lizzie Siddal is an indomitable delicate terror, whom Dante may actually (really, truly) love. That is, if you could know what Dante really, truly felt. (Haha).

Dante is so manipulative that he even got to me, the biased reviewer. That cheeky little charmer…

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Aidan Turner: Desperate Romantics [Episode 2]

Aidan Turner: Desperate Romantics
Episode Two

To continue my review of Desperate Romantics with Episode Two finds the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in a desperate struggle to further their artistic ambitions. Previously they had received the high praise needed from Ruskin. The next step was to obtain his patronage. This would grant them all the much-needed respect and social status needed to truly be considered great artists. Model Lizzie Siddal becomes even further entwined with the Brotherhood, and more so with one in particular.

So, adding to Aidan Turner“s page (as part of The List series), I”ll talk about his performance now. Of course, for this episode (as well as the rest) it will be impossible to talk about his performance without including that of Amy Manson who plays Lizzie Siddal, or “Sid” as Dante comes to call her. Click HERE for Episode One”s Review.

Some SPOILERS ahead.

Each member of the Brotherhood seem to be quite adept in playing off of and manipulating each other to their own benefit. All, I suppose, except Fred. He”s getting there though. But Aidan Turner”s Dante Rossetti appears to be the most deceptive and self-serving in his ambitions. In Episode One this was almost simply amusing to watch. But the amusement fades in this episode when Lizzie Siddal”s life is threatened.

Turner is given excellent opportunity to show Dante”s love of Sid and his intense horror at the prospect of losing his new obsession to pneumonia; a situation created by her modelling career. Turner takes that opportunity with such a command of his emotions and completely wins me over (again). I phrase it this way because he is playing Rossetti, a character that should make you dislike him. But yet, somehow, you can”t. We are caught up in his charm just like Fred. Just like Lizzie. I was actually brought to the point of audibly saying, “You are such a dangerous man.” Rossetti knows exactly what to say and Turner knows exactly how to say it. I mean, of course, that Rossetti is the dangerous man. Of course, Rossetti…

After Rossetti brings the soaking wet and freezing Miss Siddal to her parent”s place the Brotherhood is gathered at their usual bar (pub?). This moment is one of the few times that I actually believe Dante Rossetti is being real. He is distraught at the thought that Lizzie, the Sid, may die. But further than that, he”s heartbroken at realizing she will (most likely) never be allowed to model for them again. Rossetti claims, in an emotional rage, that all he has in the world is Lizzie”s affection. And I believe it.

Lizzie survives and with Dante”s charm and monetary negotiations she is allowed to resume her modeling career. She thanks Dante for this and he downplays it as just something anyone would do for their sweetheart. Then basically implies a marriage proposal. Doesn”t actually propose, mind you. Just implies it. And Amy Manson”s performance of the fiery, yet naive, Lizzie Siddal is perfect in her assumption that this is as solid as formal proposal – arguing that Dante”s artist temperament would never allow for such a predictable form of engagement.

This budding relationship between Dante and Miss Siddal is performed so extremely well that the best way I can describe it is like watching, in painful building suspense, for a terrible and spectacular train wreck. You want to tell Lizzie to stay away from Dante Rossetti, but Aidan Turner plays him with such a delicate balance of deception and genuine affection that you hypocritically want her to return that affection. And you can”t tell (and won”t until it”s far too late) which reaction is right. And so, like a Hollywood blockbuster, you wait and watch in anticipation for that train wreck, because it”s exciting and shocking. And it won”t disappoint, sadly.

I think it”s the ease that Rossetti apparently has in using his genuine warmth for manipulative means that makes me so uncomfortable when seeing it in his building relationship with Miss Siddal. This is especially true when the time period is brough into consideration. Lizzie has already pushed the boundaries of respectability by accepting a career in modeling. Her utter willingness to break past that boundary with Rossetti would mean complete and lasting ruin for the rest of her life. It”s horrifying watch. But like the spectacle of a tragic accident on the roadside, you can”t bring yourself to look away. That is the power of the performances both Aidan Turner and Amy Manson bring to these characters.

So, finishing touches (Episode Two):

Aidan Turner is a dangerous man. No, I mean, Dante Rossetti… Yeah, that one.

Amy Manson is strong and easy to sympathize with as Lizzie Siddal.

This relationship feels like a train wreck waiting to happen. Trains and Aidan Turner are rarely, if ever, a good combination. (But that”s just a reference to Being Human).

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