May 8th, 2013
I'm never going to be able to unhear this:
[From a MetaFilter discussion of the use of different regional accents used by actors in Game of Thrones]
For everyone complaining about Dinklage's accent, and its terribleness/variability, I think it might be worth watching a couple of clips of Scottish actor Richard Wilson in One Foot In The Grave, because Dinklage's accent is – consciously or not – an almost exact replica. It has that clipped, haughty tone; it's different enough from a standard English RP accent to sound odd to someone not used to the accent; when he raises his voice, it takes on a kind of exaggerated, exasperated character that can sound oddly Transatlantic. And it's completely genuine: it's the accent of a working class, west coast Scot who has had the more guttural elements of his voice trained out of him by RADA, but who still retains strong vestiges of his background. And it's been put to use for the past four decades playing upper (or at least soi-disant upper) class Scots. That's the accent I hear when I watch Dinklage in Game Of Thrones. It may be capital A Acting, but it's not, in and of itself, a dodgy accent. [...]
posted by Len at 11:37 PM on May 7
May 3rd, 2013
I never had much time for the TRON universe: to my mind the original was an impressive technical feat but the story didn't grab me, and I wasn't even slightly tempted by the sequel from a couple of years ago. The animated spin-off from TRON: Legacy was barely on my radar, but I have to admit that this compilation of visually impressive moments from the show, compiled by art director Alberto Mielgo, makes me think that the visual style of the show was a bit special.
I have no idea whether the plot and performances were as strikingly good as the show's look – and judging by some of the comments I see it looks as if the show might not get past a first season so soon it could be a moot question – but it surely was pretty.
April 17th, 2013
Mr. Dalliard: Time travel in movies. Nice work.
I can't help but notice that the chart's title says "… in movies" but a couple of TV series are included. And yet no Doctor Who. Odd, that.
[Via The Great Escapism]
March 17th, 2013
Courtesy of Hugh Muir's diary column in last Thursday's Guardian, a delightful anecdote about an encounter with a certain recently retired religious leader:
Finally, at the end of a tumultuous week for the new archbishop of Canterbury, signs that his predecessor is settling in nicely as master of Magdalene College, Cambridge. This from students' union welfare officer Chris Page, on the Overheard at Cambridge Facebook group:
"In Sainsbury's, I ended up in the queue for the self-checkouts behind the former archbishop of Canterbury. Rowan Williams (pointing to my neck): 'Is that a Lord of the Rings pendant?' Me: 'Yes, it's a replica of the One Ring.' Williams: 'Ah, I thought so. More of a Game of Thrones man, myself.' Mind. Blown."
New job; street cred. Perfect.
February 23rd, 2013
The Big Whobowski.
How could I not link to "The trailer for The Big Lebowski re-imagined shot-by-shot (more or less) in the world of Doctor Who."
[Via Waxy.org: Links Miniblog]
February 2nd, 2013
Netflix, whose first piece of original planning is about to debut with all 13 episodes shown consecutively in a single day, are adapting the content of the show to match modern viewing habits:
"House of Cards," which is the first show made specifically for Netflix, dispenses with some of the traditions that are so common on network TV, like flashbacks. There is less reason to remind viewers what happened in previous episodes, the producers say, because so many viewers will have just seen it. And if they don't remember, Google is just a click away. The show "assumes you know what's happening all the time, whereas television has to assume that a big chunk of the audience is always just tuning in," said Ted Sarandos, Netflix's chief content officer.
I don't think the "if they don't remember, Google is just a click away" strategy is going to work very well. Imagine that you're 4 hours into a show and you suddenly realise that a particular plot development renders it important for you to know where supporting character Jim Martin works. You google to find out "Where does Jim Martin from $SHOW work". At which point you might well find that factoid, in a page which discusses just a few lines down how in the season finale it turned out that Jim Martin had shot the show's protagonist in the back and left him bleeding out in Jim Martin's office at $BIGCO. You get your answer, and an unwelcome bonus. True, there might be other search engine hits that point to a page with a detailed episode-by-episode synopsis or a fan site that has pages with profiles of the main characters, but it's still a bit of a lottery.
Also, the whole notion of dropping flashbacks that are only there to jog our memories is a little strange. Other than a "Previously on …" stream of clips at the start of an episode, does modern TV really use flashbacks simply to jog our memory all that often? As far as I can tell, if we're shown a scene again in modern TV shows it's because we the audience now know something we didn't the first time round about why a character was doing something, or whether he or she was aware of the consequences of their actions, or because now we'll recognise who the businessman in the blue suit ducking into that limo just as the police arrived at the scene of the crime was. That's not jogging our memory so much as doling out revelations in the order the storyteller intended.
With or without the inclusion of flashbacks, I hope the "broadcast shows in continuous, multi-hour chunks" strategy fails miserably. See here and here for my views on schedulers dumping TV on us in job lots.
[Via The Morning News]
January 25th, 2013
The BBC, courtesy of figures produced by More or Less, provides the hard statistics to demonstrate that Jessica Fletcher was the world's greatest serial killer:
|Midsomer County (assuming its population equivalent to Oxfordshire, where it's filmed)
||32 per million (average of 2.6 murders an episode, eight episodes a year – so 21 people murdered each year). So Midsomer's crime rate equivalent to Chile or Turkey)
||10 per million
|Honduras (world's highest murder rate)
||910 per million
|Cabot Cove (setting for CBS's Murder, She Wrote – pop: 3,500)
||1,490 per million
Granted she always managed to find some poor devil to take the fall, but you don't end up in the vicinity of so many murders by coincidence.
Seriously, the article makes some good points about how little murder as depicted on TV resembles the crime in real life.
January 21st, 2013
CollegeHumor's Lost RPG video makes me want to get my DVDs out and watch Lost all over again.
[Via io9, via Extenuating Circumstances]
January 18th, 2013
Three science fiction-related items for the price of one:
I saw Safety Not Guaranteed on Tuesday. I'd seen the trailer months ago and forgotten all about it, but when I noticed it was showing at my local arthouse cinema the intriguing plot hook – a journalist investigates a somewhat eccentric man who placed a small ad in a newspaper advertising for someone to accompany him on a trip back in time – had stuck in my mind so I gave it a look.
As we get to know our would-be time traveller the story goes off on all sorts of interesting tangents, balancing the journalist's quest to find out what he's up to and why he's doing it with reflections on how the various characters' pasts have shaped where they are now and where they're going. The whole thing could have collapsed into silliness at several points, but the performances of the cast – especially Mark Duplass as the man who wants a partner to travel back in time, Aubrey Plaza as the journalist who gets drawn into his scheme, and Jake Johnson as her boss who has his own reasons for making the trip to the small town where all this takes place – give real, sympathetic performances that draw you in and make you care about how this strange story is going to end.
(And no, I'm not going to say anything about whether there's a time machine and whether anyone travels back in time. Go and see the film if you want to find out.)
Word has it that the Syfy channel have cancelled Alphas after just two seasons, having left the story on one hell of a cliffhanger. For my money, Alphas is the show that Heroes should have been. Alphas may have had fewer splashy special effects sequences than the earlier show, but it had vastly superior characterisation and plotting and the potential to build on a pretty stellar first couple of seasons.
As a viewer in the UK I'm aware that science fiction fans in the States keep slagging off Syfy for not being interested in sustaining science fiction shows and filling their schedules with wrestling, cheap monster movies and reality TV but obviously from over here I have no first hand experience of the quality of their network and no detailed knowledge of how they do ratings-wise. I'll just note that a network that has cancelled shows of the quality of Farscape, Stargate Universe and Alphas must have either a hell of a strong lineup or a death wish.
I posted about H+ The Digital Series back when it was a quarter of the way through the first, 48 episode season. Now that we've reached the end of the first season, I'd say that it turned out to be a stronger show than I'd expected. I'm still not wild about getting the story doled out in 3 to 4 minute chunks, but over time the plot did settle down into a number of complementary strands that depicted an interesting world and left me wanting more.
If you couldn't take the prospect of jumping from story to story in 3 minute chunks at weekly intervals, the series web site does have an interactive timeline that lets you follow the different plots in order so you might find that view of the storyline more palatable. Upon reflection, my main problem was more with the length of the individual episodes rather than the fact that there were several plots taking place at different times and places over the course of the first season. Three minutes or so per chunk of story felt stingy: I'd have sooner had 24 episodes of 6 to 7 minutes each, so that the story had room to breathe. Still, there was lots to admire about the showL the ambition, the production values, the cast.
The question is whether we'll see any more of the story. There's been no announcement yet, but when you look at the way the number of viewers watching each episode has fallen away since the start (even making allowance for the fact that more recent episodes have been up for much less time) I have to wonder if Warners and the producers have made enough money to make it worthwhile to come back for another 48 episodes. I'm pessimistic on that score, which is a real shame given that the show ended up being better than I'd thought early on when they were still laying the foundations for what was to follow. A quarter of the way in, I rated it a C+: I'd say what we got was a solid B with clear signs that it would be a B+ show in season 2.
[Alphas cancellation story via The Medium is Not Enough TV blog]
December 31st, 2012
Plot Holes in World War II:
[There are...] some shows that go completely beyond the pale of enjoyability, until they become nothing more than overwritten collections of tropes impossible to watch without groaning.
I think the worst offender here is the History Channel and all their programs on the so-called "World War II".
Let's start with the bad guys. Battalions of stormtroopers dressed in all black, check. Secret police, check. Determination to brutally kill everyone who doesn't look like them, check. Leader with a tiny villain mustache and a tendency to go into apopleptic rage when he doesn't get his way, check. All this from a country that was ordinary, believable, and dare I say it sometimes even sympathetic in previous seasons.
I wouldn't even mind the lack of originality if they weren't so heavy-handed about it. Apparently we're supposed to believe that in the middle of the war the Germans attacked their allies the Russians, starting an unwinnable conflict on two fronts, just to show how sneaky and untrustworthy they could be? [...]
Not that the good guys are much better. Their leader, Churchill, appeared in a grand total of one episode before, where he was a bumbling general who suffered an embarrassing defeat to the Ottomans of all people in the Battle of Gallipoli. Now, all of a sudden, he's not only Prime Minister, he's not only a brilliant military commander, he's not only the greatest orator of the twentieth century who can convince the British to keep going against all odds, he's also a natural wit who is able to pull out hilarious one-liners practically on demand. I know he's supposed to be the hero, but it's not realistic unless you keep the guy at least vaguely human. [...]
There's an excellent comment thread at the Straight Dope where users expand upon the original thesis:
You want to talk about lazy writing? You want to talk about deus ex machina? The whole thing gets suddenly cut short by a new mad scientist invention that is orders of magnitude bigger than anything used up to that point. Why even bother with any fighting to begin with? Just pull a crazy ass big bomb out of your butt and obliterate the other side.
They more or less ended the European part of it with an exciting large scale invasion and takeover, then decided to abruptly end the Pacific part of it with some bad science fiction.
[Via More Words, Deeper Hole]
December 18th, 2012
A nice little Xmas present from the schedulers at ITV: the second and final season of Bryan Fuller's glorious quirkfest Pushing Daisies has just started a repeat run on ITV1.
Although I enjoyed the first season quite a bit, for some reason I never caught up with season 2 the first time round, so it was lovely to get reacquainted with the show's highly stylised world. It shouldn't work, but somehow it just does. Having a particularly able (and adorable) cast all of whom can keep it all just the right side of too sweet for words probably helps quite a bit.
Is it escapist, romantic fluff? Yes, in the best possible way.
As I did when I first saw the show, I can but endorse Gary Farber's thoughts after he'd seen the first episode:
IJWTS that Pushing Daisies is very strange, very different, and not particularly like any other American tv show ever done.
If I compared it to, say, Twin Peaks, you'd be misled into thinking it was different in a way similar to David Lynch, which it isn't; the only similarity is in that each was fairly different from any other American dramatic network tv fare.
As such, it's definitely not for everyone, and maybe not for you, but you might want to check it out.
There's a faint hint of Addams Family, as filtered through the Coens and Tim Burton, with a touch of Robert Altman's version of Raymond Chandler, and a dash of Princess Bride. Or something.
If you're in the UK, set your DVR and give it a try.
November 26th, 2012
TV critic Alan Sepinwall on the origins of Lost:
The story of Lost makes no sense.
And by that I don't mean the story on the show – though this is the point where you can feel free to insert jokes about the numbers, the outrigger shootout, or the reasons why Walt was "special" – but the story of how Lost itself got made.
The creation of Lost defies nearly everything we know about how successful television shows – or great ones – are made. The idea for Lost came not from a writer, but a network executive. The first writer on the project got fired. The replacement creative team had a fraction of the usual time to write, cast, and produce a pilot episode. The executive who had championed the show was himself fired before it ever aired. One of the two creators all but quit the moment the pilot was finished. Nearly every creative decision at the start of the show was made under the assumption that it would never succeed. Everyone believed it was too weird, too dense, too unusual to work. And it may have been. But it worked, anyway. [...]
This behind the scenes stuff is quite interesting, but in the end what counts is what ended up on screen. The procession of shows that have tried and failed to catch a little of Lost's magic over the last few years serves as a testament to just how right Messrs Abrams, Lindelof, Cuse and their cast got it. It might be best if everyone laid off trying to imitate Lost for a decade or so.
November 20th, 2012
My favourite part of Patton Oswalt's Random Roles interview has to be his account of the off-screen drama involved in working with Wesley Snipes on the set of Blade: Trinity…
A lot of the lines that Ryan Reynolds has were just a result of Wesley not being there. We would all just think of things for him to say and then cut to Wesley's face not doing anything because that's all we could get from him. It was kind of funny. We were like, "What are the worst jokes and puns that we can say to this guy?" And then it would just be his face going, "Mmm." "Smiles are contagious." It's so, so dumb. [Laughs.] That was an example of a very troubled shoot that we made fun. You have to find a way to make it fun.
November 16th, 2012
Tonight's Children In Need show included the customary tidbits for Doctor Who fans.
The Minisode/Christmas Special Prequel:
And the trailer:
Scary snowmen. A Sontaran declaring war on the Moon. Madame Vastra and her beautiful assistant Jenny Flint. The Doctor, retired. A first (?) appearance for the new Companion. It all looks highly promising.
[Via feeling listless]
November 8th, 2012
It's elfansafety gone mad at the BBC:
[Professor Brian Cox...], the former pop star turned particle physicist, wanted to use the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire to listen in to the planet, Threapleton Holmes B, on his BBC2 series Stargazing Live.
"The BBC actually said, 'But you can't do that because we need to go through the regulations and health and safety and everything in case we discover a signal from an alien civilisation'.
"You mean we would discover the first hint that there is other intelligent life in the universe beyond Earth, live on air, and you're worried about the health and safety of it?
"It was incredible. They did have guidelines. Compliance."
Methinks Professor Cox might be stretching the truth just a tad here in the interests of having an amusing anecdote to relate when doing publicity work for his show.
Besides, we all know that the BBC nowadays would be more concerned about a) making sure that the aliens hadn't arranged for their fees for participating in the programme to go via some shady tax-efficient offshore company, b) checking that intercepting radio signals from a distant star couldn't possibly be classed as a form of phone hacking, and c) ensuring that the aliens were wearing a poppy while broadcasting their message.
[Via The Awl]
November 2nd, 2012
They Might Be Giants' Fingertips meets Star Wars…
… and Buffy…
So, so good.
October 24th, 2012
Oxytocin and the Zombie Apocalypse:
If you've been watching AMC's riveting series about zombie apocalypse, The Walking Dead, then you're probably into blood and guts like me. You might also be watching because you're interested in the moral dilemmas that the characters face during each twist and turn of fate. As the misfortune adds up and the body count rises, some of the most honest and trustworthy people must do some pretty terrible things all in the name of survival! [...]
When I was watching the opening to season 3 this week, I couldn't help but think about how much the zombie apocalypse genre of television and cinema can teach us about oxytocin. That's right, we can learn more about the mislabeled "cuddle hormone" by thinking about both the benevolent and terrible things that people do in the name of survival. [...]
[Via The Morning News]
October 16th, 2012
Jenny Diski has posted a fine essay she had published in Harper's Magazine in January 2012 contrasting Mad Men's Don Draper with a couple of his fictional contemporaries:
The televison show Mad Men's central emptiness is heard in its echoes. The series derives directly from the movies of the time it is portraying. It doesn't just hint or casually nod at North by Northwest, or that film's near contemporaries The Apartment (Billy Wilder, with Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine) and Lover Come Back (Delbert Mann, with Doris Day and Rock Hudson), it rolls them as credits. The crucial difference between these movies and the modern series that nods at them is that each of the movies was made about their time in their time. They offer, as thriller, drama, romance, and high comedy, their contemporary view of social relations and notions of self-worth in the period that concerns Mad Men's makers and viewers only retrospectively.
October 13th, 2012
Doctor Who: P.S. is an unfilmed scene, depicted in storyboards with some voice work from Arthur Darvill, and written by Chris Chibnall, that acts as a neat coda to the story of the Ponds' departure from the show and their life in the 21st century. Filmed, it'd have made a lovely post-end title sequence for the latest episode. To my mind this latest mini-season was a bit lacklustre so they shouldn't have squandered the chance to give us this one.
[Via feeling listless]
September 12th, 2012