Tag Archives: Jane Schoenbrun


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I Saw the TV Glow is currently available for VOD rental (premium pricing) or purchase.



FEATURING: Justice Smith, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Ian Foreman

PLOT: Two misfit teenagers become obsessed with a paranormal TV show, leading them into delusions that persist into adulthood.

Still from I saw the TV glow (2024)

WHY IT MIGHT JOIN THE APOCRYPHA: Glossy yet staticky, ever-glowing with pinks and purples, I Saw the TV Glow broadcasts lo- and hi-fi visuals that always threaten to drift away into dreams and nightmares. Paired with its melancholy psychological depth and extreme narrative ambiguity, Schoenbrun‘s plucky hallucination is a clear contender for one of the weirdest low-budget, high-impact films of 2024.

COMMENTS: To sophisticated eyes, “The Pink Opaque” doesn’t seem too entrancing; but when you’re a teenage outcast yearning for an escape from reality, you cleave to any alternate reality you can. The fake TV show within the movie is about two teenage girls who communicate through a psychic bond; in each episode they fight a different “monster of the week” sent by the “big bad,” Mr. Melancholy, who is also the Man in the Moon. The show’s theatrical character designs are culled from “Pee Wee’s Playhouse,” Nightbreed, and A Trip to the Moon, and the mythology and general vibe resemble “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” or a juvenile version of “X-Files.” Or does it? Owen’s memory may be unreliable. The show’s stylistic characteristics aren’t stable, but get jumbled up in his mind. The series finale he remembers seeing—or maybe which Maddy only convinces him he saw—includes the main characters being drugged with amnesia-inducing “luna juice.” It has a much darker tone than the rest of the series, more indigo than pink and more murky than opaque. It seems highly unlikely the Young Adult Network would greenlight this disturbing ““-adjacent finale.

Owen is drawn to the program for several reasons, the most important of which is that he has trouble making, and keeping, friends, and Maddy is so obsessed with the show that she showers anyone who expresses the slightest interest in it with attention. “The Pink Opaque” also has a forbidden allure for Owen: it airs in the latest original programming slot on the Young Adult network, after his strictly-enforced bedtime, and his stern father disapproves of it, scoffing that it’s a “show for girls.” Sneaking over to Maddy’s house to watch it, or secretly watching the clandestine VHS copies Maddy leaves for him, is an adventure. Maddy’s attachment to “The Pink Opaque” is even unhealthier: although we are spared direct evidence, there’s a strong implication of abuse and neglect in her home life. The show is the most escapist form of escapism for her—that is, until she decides to actually run away from home, leaving a burning husk of a TV on the lawn in the wake of her disappearance. Coincidentally, “The Pink Opaque” is canceled when Maddy leaves town.

While the following paragraph may be spoiler-ish—so zip out of here if you wish to go in blind—it is likely you’ve already heard that I Saw the TV Glow is a metaphor for gender dysphoria. The allegory, however, is not too on-the-nose. If I didn’t know writer/director Schoenbrun was trans1, would I even pick it up? Given the clues scattered about, I think I probably would, but I can’t say for sure. Owen’s backstory is only revealed in hallucinations and hallucinatory flashbacks. All we really know is that he feels like he doesn’t fit in—that pervasive teenage affliction that, in his and Maddy’s cases, is simply more pathological than their peers. Meanwhile, the theme of the effect of media on vulnerable populations—which was also explored in Schoenbrun’s debut, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, wherein a similarly alienated teenage protagonist gets delusionally swept up in a viral Internet phenomenon—is more at the forefront. By the film’s end, imagery merging humans and TVs, reminiscent of Videodrome, reinforces the focus on pathological fandom in the face of pervasive media—but leaves a crack for Schoenbrun’s underlying metaphor to shine through.


“…a trippy experience about soothing teen angst and existential uncertainty with media… the narrative doesn’t always engage, and some choices feel broad or more like weird-for-weird’s-sake flourishes. Still, there’s enough here to applaud and consider for days afterward, particularly the raw performances by Smith and Lundy-Paine, who each have a magnetic screen presence.”–Brain Eggert, Deep Focus Review (contemporaneous)

  1. The original text of this review read “Shoenbrun was a trans woman.” Further research, inspired by a reader, showed that Schoenbrun does not specifically identify as a “trans woman.” Most common they refer to themselves as “nonbinary, using they/them pronouns.” However, in interviews Schoenbrun does identify as “trans” or “transfeminine,” though not specifically as a “trans woman.” Since “transness” is so essential to the movie’s theme, I have chosen to use the word “trans” here. ↩︎


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Here’s a roundup of four notable genre films screening at this year’s Fantasia Film Festival that, for one reason or another, did not receive full-length reviews. If the descriptions intrigue you, look out for these in the coming months.

We’re All Going to the World’s Fair: As an indie melodrama wrapped in the guise of a horror story, World’s Fair maintains an uneasy ambiguity up through its melancholy epilogue. Casey (portrayed by the age-ambiguous Anna Cobb) is a young high schooler who joins the “World’s Fair” horror cult during a ritual that begins the movie. The eight-minute opening shot cements Casey’s mien and milieu: shy awkwardness housed in an attic bedroom with a glow-in-the-dark-star-covered ceiling. She seeks the unsettling changes promised by a community of horror thrill-seekers, whom we meet through posted videos of “the change.”

On the cusp of adulthood, Casey has yet found no place for herself. Dysphoric, she flirts with suicide. World’s Fair manages to be neither heavy-handed with moralizing, nor tedious with its insistent lack of clarity. That is a narrow path to walk, and transgender “writer, editor, and director” Jane Schoenbrun guides us through this journey with a sure hand. I bring up Schoenbrun’s circumstances because even before reading the director’s statement, I could sense that she unpacks her past confusions and sufferings through storytelling in the intimate depths of this film. The film was a novel experience for me, being the only example of “ominously quirky” cinema I’ve ever seen.

Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It: I love coming across movies that make for deadly drinking games. Take a shot every time Ernar Nurgaliev’s Brother Kooka shares an old Kazakhstani saying; you’ll pass out in the first twenty minutes. But the story? Oh yeah, the story. Das and his two buddies go on a weekend fishing trip. Das is dying to escape harassing calls from his creditors, constant arguments with his pregnant wife about a baby name, and the general crush of day-to-day existence. When this happy-go-lucky crew accidentally toss a bottle of urine at the car windshield of a four criminal brothers (all perfectly understandable in the frantic context), things begin to go awry. The thugs hit a dog in the confusion, and so enters the Psycho Rural Archetype. This is all very silly, and thank goodness. It is also superbly shot, with balanced frames, clever angles, and also a stylistic touch that particularly tickled my love for tidiness: the opening credits were nicely aligned on various horizontal surfaces. All said and done, a highly recommended romp.

Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break: “This lunch break, I’m going to right all the wrongs that have happened to me and my mum,” threatens the titular reality-star-wannabe. And he does, in a way. This movie is an unabashedly droll mash-up of Falling Down and Airheads, hitting all the expected notes of vengeance and comedy, mightily holding its sequined head high. You’ve seen this story before: aging loser hits back against the system, this time in the form of a dictatorially officious train platform attendant, a racially ignorant tea-shop owner, corrupt church officials, and that scummiest of scumbags, the reality talent show host. I found it impossible not to enjoy, though, as Nick Gillespie is a master of comedy craft, cramming together chuckle-time vignettes and sprinkling lyric-references throughout. Like a classic tune you can’t help bopping your head to, Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break is a breezy number that forces a smile to your face.

Hayop Ka! The Nimfa Dimaano Story: One cat, two dogs, an exotic city—Avid Liongoren’s animated send-up of telenovelas has it all. Nimfa is a perfume counter cat (of course) dating a burly janitor canine, but has a meet-cute with a very wealthy property mogul (also canine) and her life is up-ended. Liongoren delivers playful pokes to Filipino society, particularly the serialized soap operas so prevalent on television. Animation is the perfect medium for the surreal silly touches (cue rubber-ducky drop exposing the hunky male lead after he declares, “let us give in to our burning desires!”) as well as the video-game inspired battles that erupt whenever Nimfa is pushed too far. Clocking in at a swift seventy-four minutes, Hayop Ka! (translation: “You Animal!”) lands in that difficult sweet spot: nothing skated over, no loose ends, and you’re left with that pleasing sensation of wanting a little more.