The Man in the High Castle premiere recap: ‘The New World’

20 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘The Man in the High Castle': Here’s why pop culture keeps returning to Philip K. Dick.

After the relative cliffhanger ending of the series premiere of The Man in the High Castle, “Sunrise” dives right back into the action, showing the fallout from Juliana’s decision to leave with the subversive film and head to Canon City.Frank Spotnitz found fame and fortune straight out of film school with The X Files, helping it grow into one of most successful shows of the late 20th century and making stars of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.

It’s 6am on a chilly Sunday morning and Berlin’s Siegessäule – the 67m-high column just west of the Brandenburg Gate, topped with a golden statue of Victory – is ready for its close-up. Dick’s 1962 Hugo Award-winning alternate-history novel of the same name, imagines a world in which Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan triumphed in the Second World War, and possession of illicit fictional accounts of an Allied victory are grounds for execution. While she hasn’t found Trudy’s contact just yet, she is enjoying her life in Canon City, even watching the sunrise with Joe and landing a waitressing job at the Sunrise Diner. Decades of political, cultural and economic change here and abroad, decades in which enemies have become friends and a new threat, a different type of warfare, has emerged. Based on Chicagoan sci-fi legend Philip K Dick’s 1962 book, the show’s executive producer is Ridley Scott (who turned another of Dick’s stories into the seminal Blade Runner in 1982) and it’s written by The X-Files don Frank Spotnitz.

What if the Axis powers then divided the U.S. and occupied their new territories: Greater Nazi Reich in the east and the Japanese Pacific States in the west? The series, set in 1962, benefits from a fantastic high concept — in the show’s alterna-history, America lost World War II and the country was divided, with the Germans taking over the Eastern half and Japan taking over the West with a neutral zone in the Rockies — and breathtaking production values. Set in occupied USA in 1962, it stars Alexa Davalos as Juliana Crain, a woman scooped up into the resistance fight, and Brit actor Rupert Evans as her boyfriend Frank Frink.

The production design alone, showing a Japanese-ruled San Francisco and swastikas adorning billboards in New York’s Times Square, is worth tuning in to see for the unnerving shock value. But it wasn’t until Amazon asked him in 2013 if he had any spare scripts for its budding production arm Amazon Studios that the project finally got off the ground. Back in New York, specifically Long Island, we see a traditional American breakfast unfolding, with a family gathering around the table for some bacon and eggs. Why did the broadcasters back off? “It is a massively expensive show,” says Spotnitz, who is in London, where his company is based, for a press screening of the show. Whether the films are proof of an alternate universe or simply an attempt to inspire hope does not appear to be the point — it is the actions they spark that the series follows.

In the case of Amazon, they are looking to stand out in a crowded market.” His adaptation includes injecting an action storyline and adding more characters including a Nazi officer, played by Rufus Sewell, who is depicted “as a loving husband and wonderful father”, despite his horrific actions and ideals. “It was critical it looked real and believable, I talked about it to the entire cast. It is easily the most unsettling—but also the most interesting—new drama of a dismal fall season cluttered with high-concept dramas with little actual intrigue. This is science fiction but it had to look very natural, with no grand moral mission, you see how the characters respond to an inhuman world.” Amazon’s way of working is to make a pilot, (released last January), and then analyse audience data. The story’s characters begin to question the authenticity of their own world when a fictional work presents an alternate-history within an alternate-history that looks eerily like our own world.

He tells him that they have intelligence that suggests Joe may be looking for a woman, and it isn’t long before he realizes that Juliana is likely the one with the film. After the success of Amazon’s moody, atmospheric pilot a year ago – the most-watched programme in the company’s short history as a production studio – the 10-part series feels like a conscious bid to launch a drama as buzzy as any on its streaming rival Netflix. Juliana doesn’t even rush to tell her mother about Trudy’s death before she leaves town to fulfill Trudy’s mission, much to the chagrin of Juliana’s boyfriend, artist Frank Frink (Rupert Evans, “Rogue”). It is a system and distribution model new to Spotnitz, he says later over the phone from his home in Paris. “My entire career has been in episodic television.

The man with the high budget is showrunner Frank Spotnitz, who, when we meet, is just grateful that the production – based in Vancouver – has squirrelled away enough cash for a day’s shooting in Europe. “Period shows are always expensive, but to do a period show in a time that never was is even more challenging,” he says. “So I’m thrilled. Millions of American Jews and political dissidents have been slaughtered, the old and infirm are regularly incinerated, the press has become a mouthpiece, the populace is controlled by fear and identity papers, and yet life continues. You can’t fake this, the best CG in the world isn’t going to recreate being here in Berlin.” Spotnitz, who cut his teeth working on The X-Files, first experienced Dick’s novel in college. “It sounds dumb, but it was the first time it occurred to me that the good guys don’t necessarily win. Can you change things?” “There’s something about the idea of ‘what if?’ that we do in our daily lives as well,” Alexa Davalos, who plays Juliana Crain in the series, adds. “‘What if I left the house five minutes later? While a high-budget, high-concept adaptation of an obscure book from the 1960s may have made TV networks leery in the past, long-form genre fare like HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and AMC’s “The Walking Dead” may have paved the way for the show’s production.

After all, the man lends her money to go and buy a Bible, which is illegal to own outside of the neutral zone, and he says there’s a clue in a certain verse to his outlook on life. Yet as even Dick’s dystopian map makes clear, the United States is too vast to be overthrown by invasion or even the bombing of its capital; internal sympathy and collaboration on a massive scale is required and provided. That is really unsettling and frightening, to realise that there’s nothing inevitable about victory for the virtuous.” The Berlin scenes occur in the season one finale: predominantly, the drama unfolds in the US where, after 17 years of occupation, life under the Reich has become almost normalised.

Hitler, we learn, is ailing, and though there is much discussion over who will succeed him and what that will mean, the chief villain of the Reich is not German. Obergruppenführer John Smith (Rufus Sewell) may have the hooded eyes, frozen mien and casual sadism of a Hollywood Nazi, but he is as American as “Mad Men’s” Don Draper, with a similar compartmentalized life. And try not to gasp when you’re introduced to the Nazi-occupied Times Square, still bustling as ever but with one pointed message written on a sign: “Work Will Set You Free,” the slogan that, though in German, hung at Auschwitz.

He’s stalking her at the bookstore and asking the owner about her purchase — he feigns ignorance —and watching her in the diner while Nina Simone’s “Strange Fruit” plays on his turntable. Three Americans – Juliana Crane, her lover Frank Frink and mysterious stranger Joe Blake – are sucked into a plot surrounding the title character, a situation that makes their second-class status even more precarious. But then he is radicalised by the very actions of the regime he’s trying to toe the line with.” “It was mostly because of the journey that she’s on, and Philip K. There’s paranoia in the one that sees Juliana trying to find out who her contact is, with the added factor of Joe trying to determine who Juliana — or Trudy, to him — is and if she’s his target. Alexa Davalos, no stranger to period pieces after starring in Frank Darabont’s 1940s-set Mob City, plays Juliana, downtrodden aikido expert and impromptu fugitive.

Local actress/educator Chris Laitta’s TV Tunes, a singalong revue of popular TV theme songs from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s that debuted 10 years ago, returns for a one-night show Saturday at 8 p.m. at the James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy, 422 Foreland St., North Side. But she’s an incredible character, very different from me, emotionally, which I was quite intrigued by, being that she has to keep everything contained and controlled, which is not really my instinct. But beyond the sheer scope of it, Evans jokes, “I think a lot of networks wouldn’t put Nazis on TV.” “I think probably one of the reasons they had a hard time getting it made all those years is that it’s very dangerous material,” Spotnitz adds. “It’s potentially very offensive.” It’s a huge consideration, he says, when you commit to portraying a universe like this. While most DOA new fall series remain on the air, even though their episode orders were cut, ABC yanked low-rated serial killer drama “Wicked City” after last week’s third episode aired, making “Wicked City” the first true official cancellation of the fall TV season. For Davalos, the show taps into a common impulse to ask ourselves ‘what if?’. “As human beings, we have this propensity to ponder the different path, wondering that if we made a different decision, how it might have had a domino effect,” she says. “So there’s this palpable, relatable feeling within the story except in this case, it’s global.” The opening episodes feature some standard action beats: Sten gun shootouts, a truck chase, an assassination attempt.

There’s a certain power in portraying an alternative history centered on a war that every single person, regardless of age, is not just aware of, but has visceral feelings about. Kurt Sutter, creator of FX’s “The Bastard Executioner,” announced in an ad in The Hollywood Reporter he was self-canceling the series due to the audience’s “meh” response (e.g. low ratings).

In advance of that, WPXI announced plans for the 35th anniversary edition of “The WPXI Holiday Parade Presented by Pittsburgh Public Schools” (9 a.m. It doesn’t move like a hero tale — this isn’t “Hogan’s Heroes” or a serialization of “Independence Day” — because heroism is not the default setting of its characters, or, indeed, of the country in which it is set.

Dick has many, many characters, but the female characters, this is one of his strongest, most fleshed out, I suppose.” “Science fiction is something that’s been in and out of my life, definitely. And it goes deeper as the series goes on, it really pushes the envelope.” The fact that they were fictionalising real-life horrors was never far from Kleintank’s mind. “There are moments where I had to stop and sit down for a minute. Actor Patrick Warburton (“Seinfeld,” “Rules of Engagement”) will appear as “parade celebrity honoree.” Cable’s Destination America will revive the former truTV reality series “Full Throttle Saloon,” set at a Sturgis, S.D., biker bar with four new episodes debuting at 10 p.m. The Germans come to the embassy to meet with Tagomi, a Japanese official, and basically imply that if that involves bringing Nazis to Japanese soil to find Juliana and the film, so be it.

She hands Juliana a package of some sort and tells her that “it’s a way out.” As Trudy turns the corner, she’s chased by the Japanese police and shot dead in the street; Juliana’s hiding around the corner but witnesses the whole thing. There are few who would openly disagree with Edmund Burke’s famous proclamation that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing, but actions, and inactions, matter far more than platitudes. When Juliana abandons his character Frank, he’s left to answer to the authorities. “I had a pretty harrowing couple of days naked on a concrete floor getting tortured,” says Evans. “It wasn’t fun, but you just have to commit to it or it looks stupid.” The British actor has valuable experience when it comes to Nazi-smashing: he battled steampunk SS in the first Hellboy movie and took them on as Ian Fleming’s brother in Sky Atlantic mini-series Fleming. There’s a scene in which a Jewish San Franciscan family is persecuted at the end of the second episode that’s so gutting it won’t soon leave you. “It’s really awful,” Spotnitz says about the scene, which we won’t spoil. “But I felt like you had to do that, because that’s what they did. Dec. 1 and chronicling the aftermath of a September electrical fire that destroyed the bar. … A Thanksgiving-themed episode of PBS’s “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” will debut at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving on WQED-TV. … NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” ends 2015 with Ryan Gosling hosting Dec. 5 with musical guest Leon Bridges; Chris Hemsworth hosts Dec. 12 with Chance the Rapper; Tina Fey and Amy Poehler host Dec. 19 with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. … CNN’s documentary “The Hunting Ground” (8 p.m.

With words that should resonate deeply with viewers at this time, America’s surrender to fascism is repeatedly explained as a necessity to end war, to preserve peace. How do Sewell and the rest measure up here? “They’re probably even more intimidating, and I’ll tell you why,” he says. “Most of them speak with American accents, and they arrive in scenes with a smile. When she hooks it up to a projector, it shows quite the sight: It’s newsreel footage of America winning the war, complete with celebrating American soldiers in Times Square. He’s driving potentially game-changing cargo across the country, something that could spark an uprising against the fascists ruling America, when he gets a flat tire.

A very friendly, very all-American Midwestern cop stops to help Joe change the tire, when Joe notices what appears to be ash falling from the sky. “I think more people have talked about that scene than anything else,” Spotnitz says. “It’s not even a plot scene. When he arrives at the Nazi headquarters, though, he makes it clear that this attack was coordinated, like many others, and meant to hurt the ranks of the Nazis.

Shooting a TV show about Nazis, even briefly, in Berlin raises certain sensitivities. (Due to German law, any swastikas were added later digitally.) But the show will launch in Germany at the same time as in the UK and US. You can take that out and it doesn’t even change the course of the show.” But it’s necessary to illuminate how harrowing the circumstances are—and how quickly a culture can normalize itself to such things. This week’s Tuned In Journal includes posts on “NorthPole: Open for Christmas,” “The Art of More,” “The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar” and the Jim Henson Company.

It’s a place where the subject of Nazism is contentious but not taboo according to Spotnitz, who has been teaching a TV production and writing course in Berlin for the past two years: “I’ve had pitches from many German producers involving the Nazis, they talk about it all the time, more than anybody else. It can often be a paint-by numbers thing with network shows.” “The sets and the costumes, everything down to the tiniest prop, it was all so beautifully done, and so detailed.

You actually like him, and maybe root for him. “It messes with your head,” Spotnitz says, before cautioning, “I don’t want humanizing these characters to be mistaken for endorsing these characters. While Juliana is sure this man is the contact she’s meant to find, Joe has the Obergruppenführer look into who he is, thinking he may be part of his mission.

Even taking the terrifying circumstances out of the equation, there’s something endlessly fascinating about entertaining the question of what if? “It’s such a fine line with history going one way or the other,” Evans says. “You realize how we are just at the whims of that. While Frank pleads with her to turn the film over to the police and plead ignorance about what it is and where it came from, Juliana doesn’t want her sister’s death to be in vain. Inside he reads about the “film that will change the world” that depicts a better state of living than they have now, removed from Nazi and Japanese occupation. It looks as though Joe has dedicated himself to the Nazis without really knowing the truth of the matter, and this film calls his loyalty into question.

The two strike up a conversation, with Juliana introducing herself as Trudy. “You weren’t looking for anyone named Trudy, were you?” she says, to which Joe says no. That bit of coincidence saves Frank’s life, but sadly, his sister and her children are still killed. “We found out too late,” says Kido before telling Frank that he can still go free because, and I quote, “I’m not a monster.” We know he is, though.

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