Heeeeeeeerrre's Osama…

March 27th, 2008

Tonight's episode of House M.D. opened with a note-perfect homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey. You don't see that sort of thing on E.R.

Also, it's good to see Anne Dudek, formerly of The Book Group,1 getting another regular gig.

  1. See previous comments here and here.

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The Other Other OTHER America

March 21st, 2008

Paul Ford is all fired up:

You know what, DavidSimonCreatorOfTheWire? I just read the five-thousandth interview with you and enough. And you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to create a TV series myself and my show is going to last five MILLION seasons and it is going to BLOW YOUR MIND. It's going to be set in even worse parts of Baltimore, maybe in the sewers, and it will show HBO viewers not just the “Other America” but the Other Other OTHER America. The America that's so other that the Other America will watch one episode and say, what the fuck? How amazing is it that he is paid well to show us this despair? Get us our laurel wreath because it's crownin' time. […]

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Meanwhile, Lord Voldemort gathers his forces…

March 15th, 2008

Slate's readers suggest sports metaphors that explain Clinton versus Obama:

Fictional Winner: Quiddich from the Harry Potter novels. Its rules are opaque to most outside Hogwarts and many within it. Teams fly around on their broomsticks, scoring 10 points for making a "basket" by putting the quaffle through the hoop (winning a state). At the same time, 150 points is awarded for catching the snitch, a tiny gold ball that buzzes around elusively (like the superdelegates). A Seeker is the only player on each team who can catch the snitch. Obama, a first-year seeker like Harry himself, is likely in the house of Gryffindor. Hillary is from Ravenclaw, the smart, hard-working, teensy bit dull house. While everyone zooms around on their brooms, two enchanted balls (the press) fly around trying to knock them all off.

[Via rc3.org]

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"He's got total control of our Geocities page."

March 2nd, 2008

24: The Unaired 1994 Pilot.

[Via Andrew G, posting to a comment thread at Charlie's Diary]

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"Is that it?"

February 28th, 2008

People in Order:

People in Order's Age is part of a series of short films that assembles the people of Britain in a given order. In just 3 minutes, we meet 100 different people who are arranged according to their age, starting from age 1.

Quirky. Eccentric. Fun.

[Via Very Short List]

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The Last Movie Star

February 27th, 2008

A dissenter from the Cult of Clooney speaks out:

[George…] Clooney seems to have inherited the mantle of the supernova movie star. One way you can tell he’s being groomed to replace Jack Nicholson as the Zeus of the Hollywood Olympus is the deference he is paid at awards events. He’s the guy that the emcee and the other actors give a shout out to from the stage, that the camera constantly seeks out. Last night on the Oscar red carpet, Regis Philbin gushed that it used to be "everyone in this town wanted to be Cary Grant, and now they want to be George Clooney”. This week's Time magazine has a cover story titled "George Clooney: The Last Movie Star" in which the author says "this guy… really is a movie star. Maybe the only one we have now."

The only one we have. Wow. There's one teensy-weensy problem, though, that nobody seems to have noticed. One tiny little thing missing from the George Clooney is the World's Biggest Movie Star storyline…nobody watches his movies. […]

Basically, his argument is that few of Clooney's films have made big money, and those that did so owed as much to Clooney's co-stars as they did to the man himself. The contrast with Will Smith – a.k.a. Mr Fourth of July – in terms of box office takings is striking, but completely misses the point.

Quite apart from the general objection to treating box office take as a measure of anything meaningful to those not entitled to a share of the gross, there's the question of why people are film stars. It's not the money, it's the quality of the films, the iconic roles. We don't remember Cary Grant for his films' box office takings, but for his performances. Half a dozen of Clooney's films are going to be both remembered fondly and regarded as at least minor classics thirty years from now.1 Thus far Will Smith's best shot at immortality is probably Ali; his biggest box office hits are destined to look somewhat quaint at best thirty years on.

If you're going to argue for anyone as a rival to George Clooney in the World's Biggest (Male) Movie Star stakes, it'd be Tom Cruise: although his star has fallen somewhat lately, when he was on the way up Tom Cruise mixed big, commercial films and films with more adventurous directors.

[Via kottke.org]

  1. Whilst it's certainly true that in some cases Clooney benefited greatly from working with the likes of the Coen Brothers or Steven Soderbergh, that's no different to Cary Grant's good fortune in working with Hitchcock and Howard Hawks and Frank Capra. Other than Michael Mann, which top-drawer writers and directors has Will Smith worked with?

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The Amateurs

February 25th, 2008

I completely missed The Amateurs1 on its UK release. This review suggests I'm going to have to track it down on DVD some day:

[The revelation…] to me was William Fichtner as Otis the church janitor who owes his lowly and desperate station in life to his being the most relentlessly, brutally, and compulsively honest man in town.  He knows what’s right and what’s wrong with everyone, and he can’t help telling them.  But the person he’s most honest about is himself, making the case that one of the key qualities of a successful person is a large capacity for self-delusion.  When Otis asks for a job on the movie he’s careful not to request anything that would require real talent or skill because he knows he doesn’t have any of either.  "Is there a guy on a movie," he asks Andy, "whose job is to just stand around?"

He’s made executive-producer.

Fichtner handles Otis’s merciless truth-telling with a mixture of anger and self-loathing that is somehow charming and admirable and necessary because it both keeps his friends grounded in reality when they are about to float away on the balloons of their dreams and keeps them going when after crashing to earth they are tempted by despair into giving up.

Beyond that there’s not much to The Amateurs.  It’s a slight, if pleasant, film, and I only recommend it to die-hard fans of Jeff Bridges, great ensemble work, the Northern Exposure School of Film and Television making – ensemble dramadies set in impossibly crotchety and eccentric small towns – Glenne Headly’s spectacular cleavage, and the idea of Judy Greer getting her thong spanked by another woman.

  1. Also known as The Moguls.

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February 24th, 2008

Since I discovered podcasting I've increased the amount of spoken word broadcasting I listen to by about 300%. Now that I've found Speechification, I fully expect that figure to increase to around 500%.

A related site, Watchification points out TV programmes worth watching on the BBC's iPlayer and other online video sites.1

Now all I have to do is find the time to watch and listen to all this fascinating content…

  1. I was initially sceptical about the usefulness of the online version of the iPlayer; whereas Windows users can download programs to their PC to watch offline, Mac and Linux users are forced to watch a Flash version of the programme at the iPlayer site. However, in practice I've found the iPlayer site remarkably usable. The main problem I've encountered is that not all BBC programmes are available through iPlayer, presumably due to licensing issues.

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Then, as now

February 24th, 2008

Raymond Chandler on Oscar Night in Hollywood:

If you can go past those awful idiot faces on the bleachers outside the theater without a sense of the collapse of the human intelligence; if you can stand the hailstorm of flash bulbs popping at the poor patient actors who, like kings and queens, have never the right to look bored; if you can glance out over this gathered assemblage of what is supposed to be the elite of Hollywood and say to yourself without a sinking feeling, "In these hands lie the destinies of the only original art the modern world has conceived "; if you can laugh, and you probably will, at the cast-off jokes from the comedians on the stage, stuff that wasn't good enough to use on their radio shows; if you can stand the fake sentimentality and the platitudes of the officials and the mincing elocution of the glamour queens (you ought to hear them with four martinis down the hatch); if you can do all these things with grace and pleasure, and not have a wild and forsaken horror at the thought that most of these people actually take this shoddy performance seriously; and if you can then go out into the night to see half the police force of Los Angeles gathered to protect the golden ones from the mob in the free seats but not from that awful moaning sound they give out, like destiny whistling through a hollow shell; if you can do all these things and still feel next morning that the picture business is worth the attention of one single intelligent, artistic mind, then in the picture business you certainly belong, because this sort of vulgarity is part of its inevitable price.

[Via MetaFilter]

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"It's April, what do you expect?"

February 22nd, 2008

Jeremy Paxman's brief but eventful stint as a weather forecaster.

[Via The Sideshow]

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February 17th, 2008

Love in a Backward World.

Very nicely done.

[Via Very Short List]

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TV roundup

February 15th, 2008

Channel 4 and E4 have just started showing The Big Bang Theory, a show pretty much designed to appeal to a geek like me. Writer/producer Chuck Lorre has a pretty good track record1, and on the evidence of Thursday night's first episode his latest show has much to recommend it.

While I'm on the subject of this week's TV, I should note that Torchwood season 2 is getting better with every episode. This week's BBC2 episode was nicely creepy, and the BBC3 episode that followed immediately afterwards, whilst breezier in tone as Martha Jones was reunited with Captain Jack and bonded with the rest of the team, sneaked in a real punch to the gut at the end. It's still nowhere near as good as a Joss Whedon show or Farscape at delivering a combination of humour, melodrama and action in a single, deceptively compact package, but Torchwood is already a hell of a lot more convincing than the woefully inconsistent first season.

After a first episode that had me chortling gleefully from start to finish, the second episode of Ashes to Ashes got down to the business of having DI Alex Drake settle into her new role as part of Gene Hunt's team. There's much to like about the show, but fun as it is I'm still waiting for the show to reveal the reason we're exploring the ground Sam Tyler trod two years ago. Other than the fact that Alex Drake is aware of Sam Tyler's experience, what's really different this time round? We've got the officer trying to solve a mystery touching upon her parents' life, we've got Gene Hunt being a charismatic bastard with a well-hidden heart of gold, we've got tons of nostalgia-inducing period details ("Thanks, George."), and a really funny script that does a neat job of revealing how Gene and his crew have matured since we met them in 1970s Manchester2. OK, midway through that sentence I talked myself round: even if the show does end up as a recycled Life on Mars there are enough virtues to make it a worthwhile addition to the schedules.

And finally, a show I had no expectations for that I'm liking almost despite myself. Given that the Blade films ended with such a letdown of a third film, I had no reason to think that a TV adaptation would be worth watching. And yet, despite the lack of Wesley Snipes and a distinct downgrading of the special effects budget, Blade: The Series is turning out to be quite a decent show. Goodness knows it's not exactly an original concept for a show about vampires to reveal that ancient vampire families lurk in the shadows, plotting against one another whilst living a decadent life and viewing humans as cattle, but Blade: The Series still manages to pull me in every week. The style of the show's storytelling isn't much like the films; the films' plots had to be introduced and wrapped up inside two hours, so there wasn't much room for backstory. The TV series allows the writers time to stretch a story like that of Krista, Blade's woman on the inside of the bad guys' gang, over several episodes.3

Another welcome improvement is that whilst the Blade of the films was damned near invincible except when he was up against the Big Bad of that particular story, in the TV series Blade has to exert himself a bit to fight his way through the tidal waves of vampire cannon fodder the bad guys throw at him.

Blade: The Series is certainly no classic, but it's doing a decent job of bringing the concept to television in an entertaining manner. It's the least impressive of the shows I'm talking about in this post, but it's good fun nonetheless.

1 Except for Two and a Half Men. Everyone's allowed one catastrophic misjudgement, I suppose.

2 e.g. Gene upending our expectations by taking a detour rather than risk scratching his shiny new car, Chris being "cautious, not nervous" last week.

3 In the films Krista would have gone from being turned to the climax of her story in a total of maybe ten minutes of screen time, squeezed between scenes of an implacable, unruffled Wesley Snipes kicking vampire ass without breaking into a sweat. Now I'll freely admit that Snipes was hugely charismatic and played the role well, but I can't imagine the film version of the character keeping my interest over a couple of dozen hours of TV.

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"That's no moon…"

February 15th, 2008

Rejected ideas for Star Wars merchandise.

You know, I really like the idea of a Death Star Dartboard.

[Via Amygdala]

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Re-elect Kevin Kline

February 15th, 2008

Do We Really Want Another Black President After The Events Of Deep Impact?

We can't deny the facts, people. All we will get by electing an African-American is Texas-size space particles crashing into the Earth's surface, mega-tsunamis that barrel into the Appalachian Mountains, and 6.6 billion dead people.

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February 14th, 2008

Despite myself, the sight of the first trailer for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull makes me strangely hopeful that Messrs Spielberg and Ford might just still have it in them to show the likes of Michael Bay what a proper action/adventure movie looks like.

[Via Ghost in the Machine]

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Laura Kinney Stabs Everyone

February 12th, 2008

Found on the discussion boards at the IMDB:

by batmike22 (Tue Feb 5 2008 18:44:31)

Ladies and gentlemen, I submit for your consideration an idea for a comic book movie. I must first note this was not my idea. My friend Chris came up with what I think is an epiphany. Summer Glau is X23, directed by Joss Whedon. I can only hope one of them reads these boards and thinks this is a good idea.

You know, that's an even better idea than this.

See to it, Marvel…

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Waldo's Hawaiian Holiday

February 12th, 2008

Alex Cox has written Waldo's Hawaiian Holiday, a sequel to Repo Man:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was the genesis of Waldo's Hawaiian Holiday?

ALEX COX: In '94-'95, I wrote it as a film script and gave it to Peter McCarthy, who was one of the original producers of Repo Man. And he showed it to Jonathan Wacks, who was the other original producer, and they said, "Let's take it to [ex-Monkee and Repo Man executive producer] Michael Nesmith and have him present it to Universal officially." We all came down for the meeting at Universal, and the executive that we had been delegated to meet was, like, 21 years old and had never seen the original Repo Man. [Laughs] And so it was an absurd meeting of these four old men and this sprightly individual who just didn't know what we were doing in his office. Nothing came of it.

Not having been able to get the film produced, he and artist Chris Bones have turned it into a comic which will be published next month.

From the same Alex Cox interview, here's his take on how the studio handled Walker:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Walker is an amazingly political film about a real-life American soldier, played by Ed Harris, who became the president of Nicaragua in the mid-19th Century. It not only attacks the philosophy of America-knows-best, but was also made in Nicaragua at a time when the U.S. was essentially at war with the country. How on earth did you get Universal to finance it in the first place?

ALEX COX: I had had a bad experience with Universal on Repo Man. And Rudy Wurlitzer [Walker's screenwriter] had a bad experience with Universal on Two-Lane Blacktop [a James Taylor-starring road movie from 1971]. Within Universal, like with any large company, there were people who sought to do good. And they said, "Listen, these guys have got this project — maybe it's worth spending $5.6 million on them." I would guess the psychology might have been that by hiring me and Rudy for a second time, they were demonstrating that they weren't just a bad, evil studio, but that they were sensitive to the artist. This was 20 years ago, when such things mattered.

And at what point with Walker did they start becoming just a bad, evil studio?

They weren't really that evil. They didn't mess with the content of the picture at all. The evil occurs when they re-edit it or they fire a director. That's very naughty. Universal didn't do anything like that. They were very respectful of the piece. They [just] didn't really put a lot of energy into distributing it to cinemas. I viewed it as a very broad comedy — with a lot of violence but also a lot of jokes and beautiful women. We thought we'd made popular entertainment. But, obviously, Universal didn't view it that way, so they tended to sideline it domestically in art houses.

[Via Blog of a Bookslut]

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February 11th, 2008

The BBC's NowPlaying prototype looks very promising:

The idea is to take the basic now-playing data from our music radio networks, throw it at the web, and see what we can get back. We could then use this, and other BBC API’s to create a pretty rich visualisation console pretty much automatically. We had a quick brainstorm and decided that we’d use the excellent Last.fm, the incredible MusicBrainz, and the usual suspects Flickr, YouTube, and LyricsFly.

Now, before we let you take a look, some caveatsɉ۬

  • This is a functional data demo – there’s been no visual treatment at all. In fact, it looks pretty pants […]
  • There’s still some work to do to optimise the results (When we play ‘Oasis’ you can guess what kind of images we get back from Flickr…)

[Via cityofsound]

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Waiting for the cat bus

February 10th, 2008

Probably the best scene set at a bus stop in the history of film: Totoro waiting for the cat bus.

[Via VideoSift]

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John Cleese

February 10th, 2008

John Cleese talks to The A.V. Club:

AVC: You've gravitated toward smaller roles over the past decade.
JC: Well there aren't any bigger parts, by and large. For 48 hours, I was offered something that was very interesting. There was a marvelous movie that was done a long time ago, and Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks did a remake of it. The In-Laws. God, that's a funny movie. For two days, I thought I might be doing that. Which was quite exciting, 'cause that was a very good part. But apart from that and one or two terrible bits of writing, I haven't seen a good big part for years. And that doesn't surprise me. I'm too old! And in any case, if they want somebody who's older, then they can get somebody really good, like Gene Hackman or Donald Sutherland, you know.

AVC: Gene Hackman isn't acting much these days. He's semi-retired.

JC: Lucky old man. I mean, I don't like filming, essentially, because it does take your life over too much.

AVC: You turned down the role that eventually went to Bruce Willis in The Bonfire Of The Vanities.

JC: Oh my God, yes, you're absolutely right. I did.

NR: Beyond common sense and good judgment, what was the thinking behind that?

JC: I liked Brian De Palma's thrillers. I thought they were fantastic. But I'd never seen any sign of comedy in them. You might love those Bourne movies, but you wouldn't necessarily want to run off and do a comedy with their director. So I thought that was a bit risky. So I did turn that down. […]

[Via ]

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