In Your Eyes, on your PC / tablet / TV

April 30th, 2014

The Joss Whedon-scripted romance In Your Eyes has been getting a bit of attention for having been given a global, online release rather ending up in cinemas. You can argue whether this is because Whedon's production company couldn't find a distributor for a film with no big stars based on a story idea he had back in the 1990s or because Joss Whedon is being paid so much money for Avengers 2 that he can afford to bypass the big screen entirely and indulge his artistic whims.1 Does Whedon see this as the way forward for all his non-Marvel work over the next few years, or just as a way of claiming a bigger slice of the smaller pie when he's not telling stories of superheroes? Beats me.

All that stuff about distribution is fascinating and five or ten years from now we're all going to be able to see that obviously this was [insert phrase according to taste: "the way of the future" or "a folly that only someone whose main job was making US$150 million blockbusters could get away with".] The question that matters right now is, how's the film we're being invited to send Joss Whedon and friends $US5 for?

The answer is, not bad at all. The film wastes no time clueing the audience in about the supernatural (and never explained) twist that our two main characters have never met yet each can experience life through the other's eyes. They can't read one another's mind, so they have to verbalise their thoughts. As the two characters conducted conversations as they shopped or walked along the street or just did their household chores the logical part of my mind2 wondered why they didn't carry round a mobile phone or better yet a Bluetooth handset, since nowadays we're quite used to people carrying on one-sided, sometimes quite animated conversations with other people who aren't really there. The dominant part of my mind didn't care, because Zoe Kazan and Michael Stahl-David sold their delight in the conversation, and in the escape this new relationship brings from their daily cares, so well.

I won't go into detail about how their story develops, but let's just say that this is a romance and once the introduction of their mysterious connection is out of the way the story develops in ways that you might expect. But that's not a problem; the idea isn't to throw us all off the scent with unexpected plot twists every twenty minutes or so, it's to let us get to know a couple of basically likeable, yet very different characters and ride along as their lives are changed by this unusual means of communication.

Which brings me to the one respect in which I thought the film fell short. We get a reasonable sense of the personalities and priorities of our two lead characters, but there's not much time for us to get to know more about some of the peopke in their lives. Above all, Kazan's character's husband is just a sketch of a character, and given that she clearly loves him3 I think it hurts the story that we don't get to see more of his personality and their shared history. I know that he's cast in the thankless romance movie role of an obstacle to the story we're really watching, but given that from an objective angle his worries about his wife's behaviour looked not unreasonable and the actions he takes in response drive so much of the film I'd have liked the film to have been 20 minutes longer to give us some more time to see the shape of Kazan's character's life prior to the events that kick off the main storyline.

Still, my misgivings shouldn't be allowed to distract from the basic point: this is an enjoyable romance with a twist and whilst I wouldn't go as far as Stu and make it one of the five best films I've seen so far this year, I certainly got my money's-worth. I hope we'll see more such experiments from Joss Whedon. I mean, if Marvel will insist upon dumping truckload after truckload of money on his front lawn that man's got to do something to keep himself busy. It might as well be making little, witty novellas like this and making it easy for us to see them.

  1. In Your Eyes is the second release from Whedon's Bellwether Pictures, the first having been last year's adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing.
  2. Or was it the sceptical voice of another person whose presence I haven't acknowledged yet?
  3. Albeit in a somewhat dependent way, as someone who is afraid that she can't be trusted to manager her own life.

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On the Edge of Slander

September 18th, 2013

Reading Stephen Greenblatt's NYRB review of Joss Whedon's adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing makes me keen to see it again, despite it being a fairly odd story to modern eyes:

In a curious way the central figure in the splendid new film of Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Avengers), is the house in which the events unfold. Not that the house – Whedon's own – is particularly remarkable. It is a comfortable, sprawling Santa Monica McMansion, no doubt very expensive, with more than a touch of a suburb about it. But that is the point: we are not in faraway Sicily, where Shakespeare set the story, or in glorious, technicolor Tuscany, where Kenneth Branagh set his admirable film adaptation twenty years ago. We are rather on familiar ground, and, as if to conjure up the ordinary accoutrements of modern American upper-middle-class life, the camera dwells lovingly on the kitchen counter and the wine glasses and the piles of dishes and the stairs that lead up to the pleasant patio and, discreetly hidden, the video screens scanned by the bumbling employees of a security company – Whedon's clever incarnation of Messina's night watchmen.

All of this familiarity makes the circumstances that set the story in motion in Shakespeare and in his sources seem particularly discordant and weird. They were strange enough to begin with. […]

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Wells on Metropolis

April 22nd, 2012

H.G. Wells gave the original 1927 release of Metropolis a truly scathing review:

Rotwang, the inventor, is making a Robot, apparently without any license from Capek, the original patentee. It is to look and work like a human being, but it is to have no "soul," it is to be a substitute for drudge labor. Masterman very properly suggests that it should never have a soul, and for the life of me I cannot see why it should. The whole aim of mechanical civilization is to eliminate the drudge and the drudge soul. But this is evidently regarded as very dreadful and impressive by the producers, who are all on the side of soul and love and such like. I am surprised they were not pinched for souls in the alarm clocks and runabouts. Masterman, still unwilling to leave bad alone, persuades Rotwang to make this Robot in the likeness of Mary, so that it may raise an insurrection among the workers to destroy the machines by which they live and so learn that it is necessary to work. Rather intricate that, but Masterman, you understand, is a rare devil of a man. Full of pride and efficiency and modernity and all those horrid things.

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Jane Eyre

September 21st, 2011

Cary Fukunaga's adaptation of Jane Eyre is about 90% of the way to being excellent. Michael Fassbender is a terrific Mr Rochester, Mia Wasikowska does well enough as our heroine,1 and there's a fine supporting cast featuring the likes of Judi Dench, Jamie Bell and Sally Hawkins.

There are really only two problems, so far as I can see. First, in a film that clocks in at two hours, there's not quite enough time for the plot and the relationships to develop. Not just Jane and Rochester, but Jane and St John Rivers and his sisters: I didn't feel enough of a sense of how thoroughly Jane had settled into her life with her new family by the time the prospect of going off to be the wife of a missionary came up. Fassbender and Wasikowska make their on-screen relationship work despite the lack of time, but it all feels a little rushed.

"Rushed compared to what?", you might ask. Which brings us to the second problem. My point of comparison is the 2006 BBC miniseries,2 which not only had the advantage of twice the running time but (more importantly) featured hugely accomplished lead performances from Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson. Fassbender is almost up there with Stephens, but Ruth Wilson was a revelation in her first major TV role; the chemistry between 1996's Edward Rochester and Jane Eyre took the entire production to another level. Mia Wasikowska, fine as she was, wasn't quite at that level.

For all that, the 2011 version is a handsome, highly enjoyable adaptation that's well worth a look.

  1. The simple fact that the actress is only 21 herself reminds us just how young Jane was when she set out in her career as a governess, but Wasikowska's performance is much more than her age.
  2. Previously.

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JBS meets Rambo (and Indy)

July 25th, 2011

Rather brilliantly, when Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull came out the BBC World Service invited Colonel John Blashford-Snell to review it:

In any way, do you have assignments that are as hairy, in a sense, as some of the scenes that you see in films like the Crystal Skull?

Well, yes, er, I mean, some of the, on the – a few years ago we did an expedition in Bolivia and, ah, Brazil; and that was actually looking for a lost city. It was Paititi in this case, the great city of gold. But Akator came into it, because we found -

- which is in the present film – the current film -

- yes, it's in the present film – and I thought: golly, where did they get this story from? They must have read our book. One of the things about it was that we were faced with a bunch of neo-Nazis. They were real. And we were followed about by chaps with red armbands with swastikas on and that sort of thing. And this was in 2001. And so they created a lot of difficulties for us. And luckily the Bolivians equipped us with a wonderful Bolivian colonel, Hugo Cornejo, who was, um, built like Rambo, and his nickname was Rambo, and he dealt with the opposition … very effectively.

Sadly, the interviewer forgot to ask whether JBS had ever sheltered from a nuclear blast in a fridge.

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Making the connection, a mere six years after the event…

April 18th, 2011

Over at Feeling Listless, Stu has been looking back at his reviews of the first season of NuWho to remind us all of how far we've come, but also of just how vigorously the show returned and how nerve-racking it was to see if RTD & Co could pull it off.1

It's been an interesting look back, but then Stu's comments on Bad Wolf went and made me feel like a complete idiot. How come?

That's closely followed by the best cliffhanger of the series, simply because it's not really a cliffhanger, it's an ultimatum and a moment when the audience for once takes the Dalek's POV as we watch Eccleston give the line that makes all of the Big Brother references worthwhile. How giddy must Davina McCall have been to see the Doctor says "Rose, I'm coming to get you …"

I watched that episode when it was first broadcast. I've re-watched it multiple times since. It's one of my favourite Eccleston moments. I was quite familiar with Big Brother. And yet I never, not once, made the connection between the Doctor's line and Davina McCall. What a maroon.

  1. I feel a little bad that the BBC hardly ever repeat the Eccleston season. I appreciate that it's more important to them to repeat the most recent season at this time of the year as a lead-in to the show's new season, but given that BBC3 seems to have some season of NuWho on a repeat run over about nine months of the year would it really kill them to show The Doctor Dances or Father's Day one more time? Or even to show some ClassicWho? I can only assume that they'd rather we buy the DVDs.

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Adventures with the Wife in Space

March 24th, 2011

Neil Perryman has embarked on a rewatch of Doctor Who from the very beginning. What makes this worth posting about is that he's persuaded his wife, who is a fan of SF shows from Babylon 5 to Battlestar Galactica and is familiar with NuWho but not with the classic era, to watch along, rate the episodes and comment on each story. So far, their joint reviews are proving to be good fun. Take, for example, this exchange about first season episode The Azteks:

Sue: So, why are all the Aztecs speaking English?

Here we go. Why it's taken her until now to question why everyone is speaking English (including Thals, Voords and cavemen) is beyond me, but here it is. I can either tell her to wait until the 1970s for an explanation or I can give her the official line now. Sadly, we end up debating this during one of Hartnell's very best moments and she doesn't hear his passionate warning to Barbara. Not one line.

Me: It isn't stated on screen for many years but the TARDIS translates for everyone telepathically. Look, this was a big plot point in David Tennant's very first episode, The Christmas Invasion, which you've definitely seen -

Sue: Like a Baffle Fish.

Me: Yes, exactly like a Baffle Fish. Very good.

Look, my wife is trying to drop references to Hitch Hikers into the middle of a black and white episode of Doctor Who – you try correcting her.

[Via Feeling Listless]

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Reputation and expectation are the MSG of fine dining

March 7th, 2011

A A Gill on dining at L'Ami Louis, the worst restaurant in Paris:

Our servant glides past and does a silent-movie double take. "Your snails!" he exclaims. "They have not come!" His cheeks bulge as he flaps his short arms. In all my years of professional eating, I have never seen this before. I have seen waiters do many, many things, including burst into tears and juggle knives, and I once glimpsed one having sex. But never, ever has a waiter commiserated with me about the lack of service.

Twenty minutes later, possibly under their own steam, the snails arrive. […]

[Via kottke.org]

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How Much Tramp? That Much Tramp.

February 17th, 2011

Molly Lambert, whose piece on Jack Nicholson I linked to a couple of weeks ago, has now turned her attention to the sexual politics of Dennis Hopper's The Hot Spot. Four quick points:

  1. I adore the title of Molly Lambert's post: In Which We Can Never Stay Out Of Trouble When It's Baited With This Much Tramp.
  2. I'd completely forgotten that Dennis Hopper directed The Hot Spot.
  3. I was never much of a Don Johnson fan, but he was pretty good in this from what I remember.
  4. I don't think I've seen The Hot Spot since it turned up in cinemas back in 1990. I should probably rectify that some time soon – ideally, in a double-bill with The Last Seduction.1
  1. It turns out that they made a Last Seduction II. Linda Fiorentino's part was played by Joan Severance, which I think tells you all you need to know.

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Explaining Lost

February 15th, 2011

I wonder whether anyone has brought this Craigslist post to the attention of Messrs Abrams and Lindelof:

Obviously this is a one-time deal. My offer is that I will buy you breakfast (anywhere you want) in exchange for an hour of your time and intimate knowledge of the TV series Lost. First, a bit of background: 1) I HAVE seen every episode of Lost, repeat I HAVE watched the entire series. I just can't tie it all together 2) I'm not a complete idiot 3) But I'm not a Mensa member either. Also, you're probably asking yourself, "Why don't you just look the information on the 'ol World Wide Web?" Well, I have a series of questions that aren't really answered by specific web posting(s). And while one posting might answer one question it can, at times, contradict another answer I thought I had nailed down. So I want to be able to ask follow up questions, in real time, as they arise. My main confusion (read: frustration) is the last season's crescendo of disappointment that climaxes with the last episode. I want to move on with my life; I need a healthy relationship with a new TV series, but I have baggage I need to check. This will be as cathartic as it is educational for me. That is also why it is of absolute importance that this happen with a stranger. I don't want to be reminded of this experience every time I see someone I know; it needs to be a clean break. What I need from you is a healthy and macroscopic understanding of the Lost universe along with grasp on tertiary plots/character arcs/unexplained island phenomena, a sympathetic attitude that understands why I might feel incomplete with the Lost anthology and a workman like attitude in tandem with razor sharp analytical skills.

The bottom line here is I basically need a therapeutic closing as it has been months and I can't shake this feeling that I've been given the business by this show. Also, yes, it must be breakfast as I am a morning person and my mind works best between my first and second cups of coffee. It is paramount that my mental agility be at its apex for this exercise. […]

I finally1 saw the Lost series finale over the weekend, so I have some sympathy for this guy.

I'd deliberately avoided all online discussion of the show during and after season 6 and fled any offline discussions that started up within earshot, so I came to season 6 with nothing more than a vague awareness that a lot of fans really, really hated the way the story ended.

Having seen the finale, one one level I can understand why some viewers felt cheated that we never got a proper explanation of why and how the island worked. On the other hand, as I stopped expecting anything of the sort some time ago I can't get too worked up about the omission. People appeared to come back from the dead. The island was home to a smoke monster. From time to time the island changed location. There was a wheel you could turn that would transport you to a spot in the Tunisian desert. Did anyone watch as far as season 6 and still seriously expect that the writers were going to come up with a coherent explanation for all that? It was a magic island. Accept it.

My take on the final season is that, having followed these characters for this long I simply wanted to see what would happen to them and trusted the writers to give me an enjoyable ride along the way. I think they succeeded admirably with the finale. Pretty much every time two characters 'connected'2 and remembered their shared history brought a lump to my throat. Eloise's concern that Desmond was going to take her son was immensely touching, not least given how much guilt she must have felt at what she did to him back on the island in 1977. Desmond-on-the-island's bewilderment that he hadn't been transported back to Penny. Jack's comment about disrespecting the memory of John Locke. Ben pushing Hurley out of the path of a falling tree. All immensely satisfying moments for anyone who has been following these characters since 2004.

I could nitpick all sorts of issues about the way the show ended3 but emotionally they got it right, from Doctor Linus making sure Alex got her letter of recommendation to Yale, to Hurley's fate, to Vincent lying down next to Jack at the end. Great moments, every one.

Lost isn't the best TV show ever made, but for my money it was clearly one of the 'event' programmes of the last decade. Perhaps after a few more years of seeing shows like FlashForward and The Event try and fail to pull off a similar trick we'll come to appreciate just how good Lost was.

[Via The Awl]

  1. As the show isn't on free-to-air TV and I refuse to sign up to a subscription service, I've been following seasons 3-6 on DVD. I wasn't prepared to pay the full price for the season 6 box set when it was released last August, so I've been waiting for the price to come down in the sales and finally picked up a copy a week ago.
  2. Especially Sawyer and Juliet, and Jin and Sun. Charlie and Claire. Sayid and Shannon. Even Daniel and Charlotte's kinda-sorta connection. OK, so I'm a sap.
  3. Why was baby Aaron with Claire in the church at the end? Kate's shoulder injury healed really fast when she and Sawyer had to jump off a cliff and swim out to a boat, didn't it? Didn't the smoke monster realise that he'd be mortal again once the plug was pulled, and what did that imply for his ability to wreak terrible acts of vengeance upon leaving the island? How did Allison Janney's character know how the island worked: did someone tell her? Was she an earlier protector of the island who went mad through a lack of human interaction once the smoke monster was trapped in that cave? Did she have her own Jacob-equivalent whispering in her ear?

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Among Others

February 4th, 2011

Martin Wisse adds another book to my To-Read pile:

Have you ever read a book you just wanted to gulp down in one sitting, so eager to get on with the story that everything else has to wait? Or alternatively, have you ever read a book you didn't want to end, stretching out your reading so you could savour it, making excuses not to read it just now, so as not end it too soon? I'm sure you have and so have I, but much rarer are those books where you want to do both, gulp down the story and stretch it out because once the book is finished you can never read it for the first time again. That's how Among Others was for me, a book I wanted to stay in, but also wanted to keep turning the page to see how it would all turn out. Jo Walton has always been a good writer, but here she's surpassed herself. […]

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A rant, animated

January 12th, 2011

Dot Dot Dot – Animated. Highly entertaining.

[Via James Nicoll]

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"We live underground. We speak with our hands. We wear the earplugs all our lives."

November 28th, 2010

The AudioQuest K2 terminated speaker cable – a snip at just US$6,800 a pair – have attracted a fine set of snarky customer reviews. See, for example, this epic:

616 of 624 people found the following review helpful:

1.0 out of 5 stars I have only a little time…, November 15, 2010

By Whisper (CA USA) […]

We live underground. We speak with our hands. We wear the earplugs all our lives.

PLEASE! You must listen! We cannot maintain the link for long… I will type as fast as I can.

DO NOT USE THE CABLES!

We were fools, fools to develop such a thing! Sound was never meant to be this clear, this pure, this… accurate. For a few short days, we marveled. Then the… whispers… began.

Were they Aramaic? Hyperborean? Some even more ancient tongue, first spoken by elder races under the red light of dying suns far from here? We do not know, but somehow, slowly… we began to UNDERSTAND.

No, no, please! I don't want to remember! YOU WILL NOT MAKE ME REMEMBER! I saw brave men claw their own eyes out… oh, god, the screaming… the mobs of feral children feasting on corpses, the shadows MOVING, the fires burning in the air! The CHANTING!

WHY CAN'T I FORGET THE WORDS???

We live underground. We speak with our hands. We wear the earplugs all our lives.

Do not use the cables!

[Via Making Light]

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Generation Why?

November 8th, 2010

Zadie Smith was teaching at Harvard seven short years ago, right when Mark Zuckerberg was inventing Facebook:

At the time, though, I felt distant from Zuckerberg and all the kids at Harvard. I still feel distant from them now, ever more so, as I increasingly opt out (by choice, by default) of the things they have embraced. We have different ideas about things. Specifically we have different ideas about what a person is, or should be. I often worry that my idea of personhood is nostalgic, irrational, inaccurate. Perhaps Generation Facebook have built their virtual mansions in good faith, in order to house the People 2.0 they genuinely are, and if I feel uncomfortable within them it is because I am stuck at Person 1.0. Then again, the more time I spend with the tail end of Generation Facebook (in the shape of my students) the more convinced I become that some of the software currently shaping their generation is unworthy of them. They are more interesting than it is. They deserve better.

I wish she hadn't twice used the phrase "open internet" to describe Zuckerberg's vision of a world wide web where every web site that matters is linked via Facebook Connect1 but her essay reviewing both David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin's The Social Network and Jaron Lanier's You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto is still well worth a read.

Coincidentally, I read another account of technology exposing a generation gap today over at Crooked Timber. The post was prompted by a study suggesting that the average US teenager between the ages of 13 and 17 sends or receives a total of 3,339 text messages per month. As was pointed out in comments, this figure isn't quite as shocking as it first appears, once you consider that it's effectively counting every single sentence in a conversation as a distinct text message (and possibly counting each message sent to multiple recipients multiple times). The really interesting generational difference was pointed out by cj in comment #36, who linked to an anecdote at Alas, a blog about how students reacted to the notion that it had once been commonplace for couples to communicate by writing one another letters:

"But so much will have happened between the time the letter was sent and the time it was read. How did you remember what you wrote about?"

  1. The concept of an "open internet" is a) much more all-encompassing than the world wide web, b) very much not what Facebook is all about, and c) is already a contested term and is only going to become more so in the next few years.

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Egg versus the zombies

November 5th, 2010

Alyssa Rosenberg's review of the first episode of The Walking Dead draws an unexpected parallel between Frank Darabont's adaptation of Robert Kirkman's comic and Gone With the Wind:

AMC's new series The Walking Dead is everything you've heard: the queasiest show on any television channel, anywhere; a well-written pitch-black comedy; and a revitalization of the zombie genre on the small screen. But while the gore's gotten much of the attention, Frank Darabont's adaptation of Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard's comic books also lies at a fascinating intersection of two genres that are having hot moments: Westerns, and shows set in Atlanta.

[…] The Walking Dead is situated squarely, and consciously, in the [post-apocalyptic] tradition. From the moment Rick Grimes (the excellent Andrew Lincoln, utterly transcending his sweet blandness in the role he's best known for in Love, Actually) awakens – gut-shot, in an abandoned hospital, only to find the parking lot full of executed corpses, a vivisected body crawling through a neighborhood lawn and his family gone – we're waiting for him to shower, get back in uniform and ten-gallon hat, and mount a horse headed back to Atlanta.

[…] Given the role the Civil War plays in so many Western stories, whether it's the lost Confederate gold in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly or the origins of the James gang as Confederate guerrillas, it's fitting that one of the best recent Westerns set in the present day should return to the site of one of the Civil War's most famous campaigns. Only this time, it's the zombies who will never be hungry again.

I trust that one of the free-to-air channels will pick up the UK rights once FX has done with it.

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Lazy Self-Indulgent Book Reviews

October 25th, 2010

Lazy Self-Indulgent Book Reviews is worth a look. See, for example:

The Wave, Susan Casey

[…]

There was far too much about surfing in Susan Casey's newest. But I did appreciate that she fleshed out more details on the tsunamis in Lituya Bay, which have always fascinated me. What do you do, psychologically, with a 1,720 ft wave? You can say, oh, well, it's like x times the size of y, but that's not particularly interesting. You can say, well, it's bigger than the wave in "Deep Impact" that took out Tea Leoni and her dad, but, really, it's so much bigger than that. It's like the sort of wave you see in your dreams, if you dream about waves. I personally mostly dream about graduate school, and suddenly realizing I have forgotten to go to graduate school, and being terrified and lost, and then I wake up, panicked, and realize that I have absolutely zero desire to attend graduate school. […]

[Via The Awl]

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Parting Shots

September 30th, 2010

BBC Radio 4 has just started broadcasting a second season of Parting Shots, in which Matthew Parris delves into the archives of the Foreign Office to reveal the confidential valedictory despatches submitted by senior British diplomats upon leaving their postings.

The first ten minutes or so of the first episode spent a little too much time quoting ambassadors being unimpressed with foreign cuisine and manners and even architecture, but it did include one absolute gem of an anecdote:

Sir Julian Bullard: Bonn, 1998

There are the regional differences, which become more evident as one learns to recognise the surnames, accents and facial characteristics which go with certain attitudes of mind, but I think it is still possible to talk of German national characteristics. One of these is the seriousness, thoroughness, humourlessness, perfectionism and pedantry which have made the German the butt of so many anecdotes.

To quote a true one: the artist Philip Ernst painted the view from his window, leaving out a tree which spoiled the design. That night he was attacked by remorse, got up from bed and cut down the tree.1

The latter part of the episode was considerably better, focusing on the way that until very recently the Foreign Office simply expected diplomats' wives to act as a sort of unpaid hotel manager/hostess/event organiser/auxiliary diplomat2 and the way that modern spouses – having their own careers, and being less willing to pack their children off to boarding school for the duration of a tour of duty overseas – had organised a campaign to at least be paid for doing all that work, or to have a professional event manager paid to take on that side of the embassy's functions instead of everything falling to the ambassador's partner.

Assuming that they don't spend a third of every episode quoting British diplomats being undiplomatic about their hosts – the first season wasn't like that, so I hope this one won't go down that road – Parting Shots is going to be well worth a listen over the next few weeks. The first episode is available on BBC iPlayer3 for another six days.

  1. For what it's worth, I can completely see where Ernst was coming from.
  2. One diplomat's wife observed that traditionally one of the jobs of the ambassador's spouse when attending a function was to engage the dullest VIP in conversation, presumably so as to prevent their boring the pants off anyone important.
  3. For UK residents – or, more accurately, for those whose connection to iPlayer is coming from an IP address located in the UK. Correction: it turns out that you can listen to most iPlayer radio content regardless of whether you're in the UK. Thanks to Martin Wisse for the correction.

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Blackmail would be the least depressing explanation…

September 4th, 2010

Marina Hyde demonstrates once again that she's the best TV reviewer since Clive James:

[…] And so to the promised footnote on The Michael Ball Show: has anyone seen this thing, which I am told has been airing daily for more than a fortnight, though I only stumbled upon it two days ago? I initially assumed I was having some sort of malarial nightmare, but it seems that shortly after 3pm on Wednesday, Aspects of Love legend Michael Ball really did ask Colbys legend Maxwell Caulfield for his view on whether Tony Blair was deliberately misled, by agents unknown, over the existence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

I can't remember what Miles Colby thought about it all, I'm afraid, because I was too busy hurrying my loved ones into the Anderson shelter in preparation for the endtimes the development clearly foreshadows. But if anybody has any information as to how The Michael Ball Show got commissioned – I am big and brave enough to accept it might involve me looking at blackmail photos of ITV director of television Peter Fincham doing something unspeakable – then they are invited to get in touch as a matter of urgency.

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"… makes Phyllis Schlafly look like Andrea Dworkin."

May 27th, 2010

Lindy West's scathing review of Sex and the City 2 is really rather wonderful:

In order to escape their various imaginary problems, our intrepid foursome traipses off to dark, exotic Abu Dhabi […] Each woman is immediately assigned an extra from Disney's Aladdin to spoon-feed her warm cinnamon milk in their $22,000-per-night hotel suite. Things seem to be going great. But very quickly, the SATC brain trust notices that it's not all swarthy man-slaves and flying carpets in Abu Dhabi! In fact, Abu Dhabi is crawling with Muslim women – and not one of them is dressed like a super-liberated diamond-encrusted fucking clown!!! Oppression! OPPRESSION!!!

This will not stand. Samantha, being the prostitute sexual revolutionary that she is, rages against the machine by publicly grabbing the engorged penis of a man she dubs "Lawrence of My-Labia." When the locals complain (having repeatedly asked Samantha to cover her nipples and mons pubis in the way of local custom), Samantha removes most of her clothes in the middle of the spice bazaar, throws condoms in the faces of the angry and bewildered crowd, and screams, "I AM A WOMAN! I HAVE SEX!" Thus, traditional Middle Eastern sexual mores are upended and sexism is stoned to death in the town square.

I'd assumed this portion of the review was an extended joke, but apparently that subplot really is in the film. I liked the TV show but didn't get round to seeing the first film: somehow, I don't see myself rushing to my local multiplex to catch up with the franchise.

[Via MetaFilter]

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Lost in Lost

January 30th, 2010

In anticipation of the final season of Lost, Anna Pickard decided it was long past time for her to acquaint herself with the show. Here's what she learnt in episode 1:

  1. There are very good reasons one should never stand in from of a moving jet engine. It sucks.
  2. If your best way of identifying yourself to other people is by popping out a couple of lines of squeaky falsetto, you might want to start considering the benefits of anonimity.
  3. If the amateur stitching your wound is threatening to vomit in the gash, do not seek to reassure them by telling them a story about someones guts pouring onto the floor. It is not wise.
  4. If your beach holiday brochure promises untouched beaches and exotic far-off peacefulness, always ALWAYS check the small print for monsters.
  5. Hot jack, Doctor of Medicine, likes his booze.
  6. Charlie, inadvisable male soprano of Manchester, appears to like his smack.
  7. So far then, I think there are eleven recognisable characters, though there were more random screamers who may soon turn into beloved friends, and probably will: I recognised many of them from the articles I’ve tried not to read over the years.

I've only seen up to about three-quarters of the way through season 3. I saw the first two seasons on terrestrial TV, then swore off the show when Sky bought the exclusive UK rights only to pick up the season 3 DVD box some time well after its release. I stopped working my way through the episodes quite some time ago, when I got distracted by the need to keep up with some show that was in its first run on terrestrial TV. Once I had some time in my TV-viewing schedule again, I was acutely aware that if I did start watching Lost again I'd end up wanting to watch season 4 right afterward. At that time, the season 4 box set was still (IMHO) quite expensive, and with a full DVR I really couldn't justify the expense1 so I let it lie.

We'll see if following these belated episode reviews rekindles my enthusiasm for picking up season 4.

[Via Anil Dash]

  1. I still can't, quite.

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