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« Amelia,Nixon,Byrne,Wonder Woman,and the Original "Death of Superman"| Main| Review: Don't Think Twice »
Saturday
Jul 23 2016

Ten Favorite Things About Stranger Things

Kieran,here.  There's something to be said about earnest storytelling in television.  It often comes packaged in projects that are deeply flawed,but somehow those flaws contribute to what make the show a singular experience.Such is the case with Netflix's "Stranger Things,"which premiered a week ago to much fanfare and online discussion.

Though "Stranger Things,"created by Matt and Ross Duffer very blatantly poaches elements from some very familiar markers it doesn't resemble anything else on television at the moment.The aforementioned earnestness of this series about supernatural and…well,stranger things happening in 1983 small town Indiana could have easily served as a liability,but becomes one of the show's greatest strengths.

All of my defenses were up going into my viewing of "Stranger Things".80s-era Spielberg holds little personal resonance as it does for others.I've never seenThe Goonies.I have a really sensitive gag reflex when it comes to inauthentic portrayals of children in movies and film.I was suspicious in the beginning,but "Stranger Things"won me over...

So much has been written about the series so rather than delving into specific spoilers or theories,here are my ten favorite things.That feels fitting,since so much of the show's appeal is about mood and atmosphere rather than specific story points.

Ten Favorite Things About "Stranger Things"

10.The soundtrack– The eerie John Carpenter reminiscent score,composed by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein and the use of popular music (Corey Hart's "Sunglasses at Night"has never sounded more ominous) make for a tonally note-perfect soundscape.

9.Female writers on staff?Yes,please– It's so sad that this is something that should be highlighted as novel,but the number of television shows currently airing that don't employ any women as writers or directors is staggering.Though all of the episodes are directed by either Shawn Levy or The Duffer Brothers,three of the eight are penned by women.

Newcomer Caleb McLaughlin as Lucas

8.The handling of race– It's not a belabored plot point,but the inclusion of Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) a black character among the core group of children feels rare.He's every bit as vital as the other two members of the group and the implications of being black in largely white environment are actually addressed.A great example to fly in the face of the vile "But,non-white characters distract from the story"argument that seems to be dying a slow death.

7.The kids– The kids feel real and they inhabit the universe of this show believably.  Gaten Matarazzo (who plays Dustin) feels like a particularly great find.

6.The production design– If only one element of the show garners Emmy consideration next summer,I can honestly say I hope it's this.From the perfectly adorned houses that transport you back the late 70s/early 80s when burnt orange and brown abounded to the ingeniously designed other dimensional worlds.This is top notch work.

5.The sexual politics– Teenage sexuality,unless its being played for humor,is usually presented through a puritanical lens in film and television.The frankness here about the simple fact that teenagers sometimes have sex is refreshing.

4.David Harbour– Forever emblazoned in the mind as Anna Faris' taciturn husband who propositions Jake Gyllenhaal inBrokeback Mountain,he's an unexpected standout.The role seems rote and predictable in the beginning,but he turns out to be the ace the show has up its sleeve.It's always great to see character actors finally get a large role in a high-profile project.Especially when the role and the project are worthy of their talents.

3.The effects– A perfect mix of practical and CGI that sometimes looks cheesy,but in a way that totally fits the series as an homage to 80s sci-fi and horror.It walks a tightrope,but it's handled well.

2.Barb– Like Viggo Mortensen inWitness(stay with me for a moment) it's a small role that pulls focus in nearly every scene because of the performer's magnetism.Played by newcomer Shannon Purser,Barb leaps off the screen.Dripping with geek-chic style,not here for basic antics of mean-spirited teenage boys,Barb is all of us.

Shannon Purser as Barb

1.Winona Ryder– She's back in the type of large role that diehard Winona fans (guilty) have been starved for for too long.Seeing her on-screen fills me with immense joy and I hope this marks the beginning of a career renaissance for Ms.Ryder.

"Stranger Things"is currently streaming on Netflix

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Reader Comments (15)

80s-era Spielberg holds little personal resonance as it does for others.I've never seen The Goonies.

When were you born?The 80's is a strange decade content wise if you weren't there or old enough to comprehend what was going on then.

July 24,2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Kieran,nice write-up,but how did Caleb McLaughln as Lucas become "Lucas Sinclair as Caleb"?

July 24,2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I am her for Wino's renaissance.Get that Oscar baby!

July 24,2016 | Unregistered CommenterCraver

How scary is it?I love watching horror movies but have jumpiness and nightmares after watching them,to such a degree that it's often just not worth it.

July 24,2016 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

I enjoy the show,but the Duffers need to do their research.'Hazy Shade of Winter'?1985.'Sunglasses at Night'?1984.'The Thing'?Would not have been on TV in 1983.C'mon guys.Those of us who grew up in the 80s are gonna catch this stuff!

July 24,2016 | Unregistered CommenterJen

I watched three episodes and didn't really care for it.Winona,who I normally really like,is way over the top.Dunno if it's how she's being directed but the performance is an overloud,tic-filled wreck.

July 24,2016 | Unregistered CommenterDrew

Winona Forever!

July 24,2016 | Unregistered CommenterIan

1.All of the kids were absolutely brilliant.
2.It is always lovely to see Winona on screen.
3.David Harbour.Yes,I would.
4.Barb forever.

July 24,2016 | Unregistered CommenterErko

Winona does an amazing job.It's a role that could have been a rote,hysterical mother part,but it is written so well and expertly acted by Ryder that it transcends the stereotype.She brings toughness and vulnerability to the role.I hope this is the start of bigger things from her.

July 24,2016 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

Paul -- Whoops!Mixed up character and actor name.Fixed.Thanks for the heads up.Embarrassed :/

July 24,2016 | Registered CommenterKieran Scarlett

Hmmm.I didn't love it half this much but agree with the points on Harbour and the production design.I didn't think the kids were good though and i have the same allergies to child actors.I thought they were all over the top.

I am a Winona stan from way back but,like Drew,she felt to me at top manic mode at all times so it was difficult for me to see the character arc because she was always so much.

July 24,2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

1 - 10.Barb

July 24,2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoFo

I hope Hollywood will look beyond far her past and start giving her work.She's an excellent gifted actress.

July 24,2016 | Unregistered Commenterchand

@jen: I think they were watching The Thing on VHS!

July 24,2016 | Unregistered Commenterhaajen

I was an 80's kid and It was like a nostalgia ride for all the 80's people,I would love to watch this show in season 3.

March 28,2018 | Unregistered CommenterNishant

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