The Wire in the Blood

February 21, 2011 at 8:47 pm (BBC, TV) (, , , , , , )

For a while now, two or three (or four) at a time on the weekends, I’ve been watching the British drama Wire in the Blood, streaming on Netflix. I’ve just finished watching the fourth season of the six produced (the show having been canceled after 6, in 2009, because it was “too expensive”. Really? How?). It’s based on the novels by Val McDermid, of which I have the first, and haven’t gotten to it yet; I don’t know if the books are going to go on my List, as I gather they’re far more graphic than the serial, and the serial is quite graphic. (Being British, it has far more leeway in that area than American tv.) It’s a bit Criminal Minds, a bit Mentalist, a bit Monk, a bit Sherlock Holmes, and all excellent. (Oh my God – from Wikipedia: “An adaptation for U.S. television is being developed by CBS Television Studios and DreamWorks Television.” For the love of heaven, people, come up with your own damn shows instead of messing with British ones! I wonder if it’s still in the works, and when it might show up on the schedule.)

Dr. Tony Hill is a clinical psychologist who is better working with information than people; his forte is to examine the details of a crime and interpret the characteristics of the person who committed it. In other words, he’s a profiler – but he always corrects people who label him as such, so I’ll respect his preference. He is a unique individual, is Tony, socially inept, more likely to tell the unvarnished and perfectly blunt truth than to take into account the feelings and sensitivities of the person he’s talking to, and to all appearances uninterested in pursuing a personal relationship with anyone, male or female. He’s brilliant, almost Holmesian brilliant, and this is part of what makes him so very impatient with ordinary dull mortals – when he knows he’s right, what difference does a lack of evidence make? In lieu of anyone of his intellectual equal with whom to work through ideas, he often talks to himself – often dividing himself in two, roleplaying a conversation with the unknown subject in question. In other words, to the casual eye he’s completely barmy, and doesn’t try to disguise it; he’s straightforward and unselfconscious in his barminess – but he makes himself indispensable to the (fictional) Bradfield police.

Another reason I’m hesitant to approach the novels is Robson Green’s stunning job of portraying Tony. His depiction is ingrained now, and it will be difficult if the Tony Hill of the books is very different. He presents a character who is deeply alone, deeply damaged, deeply vulnerable and yet very very strong – but whose strength has limits. He is confident in his abilities to the point of an appearance of arrogance, but acutely aware of the consequences if he is wrong, or slow, or unable to force action to find or to stop the people he determines are guilty. It was, I’ll admit, Robson Green’s bonny blue een which were a draw in the beginning, but he’s a gorgeous actor in more ways than just that – the writing and the cast as a whole kept me once I’d been caught. Green has managed to make Tony Hill a hugely sympathetic character with whom I’m delighted to spend a couple of hours on a weekend night, but with whom I’m very happy not to have to deal in person.

The series starts him out partnered with D.I. Carol Jordan, played by Hermione Norris. She presented a Place the Face moment – I knew her, I knew I knew her, I could not for the life of me figure out where I knew her from; I had to resort to for the answer: she played the horrid, adulterous, and much frillier Mrs. St. John in Berkley Square. I truly hated Mrs. St. John, which means Ms. Norris is a very gifted actress, because Carol Jordan is fantastic. She starts off the series completely unwilling to depend on Tony Hill – until he is able to prove to her that he is as good as he thinks he is and says he is, and her case closure ratio
increases dramatically. She’s much like Tony, in a way – alone, and strong-yet-vulnerable, with the added necessity of proving she’s not just a good cop but a good woman cop. She and Tony have what is usually called chemistry, in spades – there is always a cloud of will-they/won’t-they/did-they trailing along after them, and on that subject I’ll say no more. (I do wonder what goes on in the books; from what I’ve seen, the series of books and the series of tv programs begin at the same point, but diverge rather drastically.)

Put it this way – the show is so well done I only barely scoffed at Carol’s brother Michael, just enough for form’s sake. (In case I’m less than clear, they have the same last name. The result was not a problem in the UK, apparently, though somewhat more to be avoided when possible here.)

The rest of the cast is excellent as well:

Doreene Blackstock is Annie, often in the background and not used as much as she might be, but enjoyable when she is – and then gone after the first season.

Alan Stocks plays D.S. Don Merrick, an older detective (older than the kids Annie and Paula and Kevin, anyway) for whom the first adjective that springs to mind is “reluctant”. He is slow to accept Tony Hill’s help, in general and on specific cases, unwilling to diverge from procedures he’s used to, and at times downright sullen or obstructive – but I liked him. He still made a good cop, and someone you’d want at your back, while still showing the strains of the job: the constant barrage of evil and pain get to him.

D.C. Paula McIntyre (Emma Handy) joins the squad in the second season, and while she still isn’t being given a great deal to work with her role has (happily, in part) expanded a bit by the end of the fourth season. She’s solid, and while it might be a good thing for the series if she were to show some effects of what happens to her in one episode, then again Tony never does either, so we can just assume it all goes on behind the scenes.

One character I never expected to like is the ambitious and not always bright D.S. Kevin Geoffries (Kev – played by Mark Letheren). He’s not stupid on the job – Kev is a damn good cop. He can just be a right moron at times. He does something appallingly stupid in the first episode, but works his way back to a second chance – which he almost blows by doing something almost dumber at the end of season 2 – and yet when all’s said and done I really like him.

And despite the violence and the long hard look at depravity, I really like the show. I like it for many of the same reasons I love Criminal Minds: the fight against evil, intelligence pitted against horror – and, of course fine writing and acting. I’ll miss it when I’ve gotten through the six seasons. 

As to what the title means … It comes from  T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets”: “The trilling wire in the blood/sings below inveterate scars/appeasing long-forgotten wars.”  Meaning?  Who knows?  “Robson Green said the phrase ‘wire in the blood’ was taken to mean a genetic kink, something impure and unusual in the blood, that leads to the kind of psychosis Hill might deal with. 

“Val McDermid says: ‘Who knows what Eliot really meant by that line? Robson’s explanation is as good as any… For myself, I’ve always taken it to be a metaphor for the thrill of adrenaline surging through the bloodstream. But we’ll never know for sure.”  OK.

My impression of the title is of something alien and electric running in the veins of the unsubs the show deals in, something which shouldn’t be there, and the presence of which creates the sort of – yes, thrill a psychopath feels with a kill.  The imagery it gives me is of a literal, very fine wire inserted by some means through the vein of the arm, jolting like a needle hitting the side of a vein (nasty feeling), coloring the perceptions and reactions of the owner of the arm.

I was glad, for once, to have been accidentally spoiled for the information that Carol Jordan inexplicably leaves Wire in the Blood after Series 3. There is a rather feeble excuse given that, while Tony was away from the force for a time, not only did the Bradfield police offices move, but … so did Carol. All that was ever said was that she was offered a job she could not turn down – in South Africa. Whatever happened – whether Hermione Norris left for another role or the producers decided to replace her, the switch was made in a horrible fashion; not only was there little explanation for the viewer, but Tony was never told until he showed up at the station and found D.I. Alex Fielding (Simone Lahbib, who was apparently Isobel Anderson in Monarch of the Glen, though I have absolutely no memory of her) in Carol’s office. She just left without a word. And that’s terrible. Poor Tony.

And it’s part of what I mentioned above, about the tv serial diverging from the books; on paper, Carol never leaves. As usual with any change like this, I wanted to hate Alex Fielding … but she’s very good, is Simone Lahbib, and the character is, well, perhaps too much like Carol, but good nonetheless. Her soft brogue is delightful, and she put up a hell of a fight to making use of Tony’s skills – although she might have capitulated a little too quickly, still, he proved himself.

Again. Poor Tony.

They start Alex out in season 4 with a very interesting mystery about her: she does not work over. She is always available, always conscientious, probably works more than an 8-hour day – but where Carol was at the office first thing in the morning and well into the evening, Alex seems to leave promptly at the inner limits of her job description. It was pretty clear that she had somewhere important else to be, but we aren’t shown why until the very end of the episode, when we – very briefly – meet her young son. He is given a couple of scenes – his first being with Tony, to boot, who is bemused by the presence of a child in his new partner’s life – but is rarely otherwise mentioned; Alex is apparently one whose personal life is just that, and if we ever find out who and where the father is it could well be in the course of a case. That’s my prediction, anyway: we’ll see if I’m right.

Another casting change was the – also unexplained – disappearance of D.S. Don Merrick (Alan Stocks) a season before Carol’s departure. It can be explained logically within the show’s universe as a result of his attack on Kev at the end of season 2, with good reason; but it very simply never is mentioned, much less explained. Paula and Kev simply gain rather larger roles, and that’s about it.  It was a shame, but they do well making up for his loss. 

Did I say “poor Tony” up there a couple of times?  Make it three, because what they do to him in the third season is beyond the rest: brain tumor.  In the end of season 4 there’s the possibility that it has returned – and in the end he is distraught and depressed and considering death, and berates himself, something about how he’s so full of himself that he thinks a migraine is a brain tumor … Which wasn’t fair.  There’s the old Arnold Schwarzeneggar line “It’s not a tumor!”  Well, in Tony’s case, it was a tumor, and if it was me every twinge I would immediately think “it’s back”.  Poor, poor Tony. 

I look forward to the remaining two seasons… And, as I said, I’ll miss it.


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The Prestige (recycled review)

February 20, 2011 at 10:49 pm (Movies) (, , , , , , , )

Are you watching closely?

While I had bronchitis a while back (as I said in the last post), I rented The Prestige and The Illusionist at the same time.  On The Illusionist, I was … meh.  The Prestige, though… I loved every minute of The Prestige.  While I’m not a fan of Christian Bale, he was extremely good in this – and: Hugh Jackman!  Andy Serkis!  Nikola Tesla (played by Bowie!)!  Michael Caine! 

Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called “The Pledge”. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course… it probably isn’t. The second act is called “The Turn”. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t ant to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back. That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call “The Prestige”.”

It was the slow spiral downward of the rivalry which started as just that: a simple professional rivalry – but which developed into a hate-filled pattern of revenge and retribution… it was dread-ful and fascinating to watch.  I’ve been a proponent of Tesla (and a despiser of Edison) since Spider Robinson brought him into my life, and that made this a sheer geeky joy. Any time Andy Serkis is on screen in any role is marvelous – and I had no idea going in that he was in this. I loved the portrait of magic in the time period (poor doves).  I loved that a key to the whole movie is given to you, gratis, when you least suspect it, and you don’t know it till the end – but it’s not the only key.  I loved that the very last shot of the film simultaneously answered all the unanswered questions and knocked the viewer sideways – well, it did me at any rate; I walked around for an hour with a slightly stunned look on my face randomly saying things like “Holy crap!”  Eloquent, I know, but – wow.  Wow.  Loved it.

I mentioned in the last post that after I talked about these two movies on TBWSRN, ugliness ensued; it was particularly odd, because I also talked about Stranger Than Fiction  and other things as well (I was sick, and watching a lot of movies).  But once I had brought them up, many of the posts that followed seemed to consist of “oh, I figured out the twist to The Prestige before it was half over, and my kids got it before me”, which I found just rude – or of expressed opinions that while Illusionist was beautiful and wonderful, Prestige was nasty and sordid, with an underlying cargo of “therefore anyone who liked the latter better than the former must be twisted and nasty too”.  And – though I loathed the manner in which it was said, and loathed the sentiment expressed – there was a nugget of truth to the hateful opinions: the two protagonists in Prestige do fall very low.  Once they were friends – – and by the end of the film it looks like if they both survive it will be a minor miracle.  But that was a part of why it was so fascinating.  The story of two men, both decent though one started out on somewhat higher moral ground than the other, knocked down by a terrible event, and never able to forgive or be forgiven, interwoven with illusion and deception – it was gold.  Two men for whom magic is a science, and one man for whom science is magical: I found The Illusionistto be utterly lacking in passion, and perhaps it was because The Prestige used up the season’s quota.  I couldn’t entirely buy into the deep love Ed Norton’s Illusionist was supposed to harbor for the girl he sought after – but Hugh Jackman’s insane grief for his wife was believable, as were both his and Bale’s characters’ obsession with their art.  

Despite the ugliness of the battle between the two performers, the element of real magic in The Prestige was what drew me and kept me, and left me rocked at the end.  The Illusionist was coy and stand-offish, and gave the appearance of dangling its secrets just out of reach – when really it never intended to give anything away at all.  Here, though – The Prestige may not, in the end, have divulged as much as it appeared to – but it was in its way a more honest story, and if the story wasn’t as pretty or didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to … that was because the truth was not pretty, and couldn’t go as I wished. 

And I really am a huge fan of Tesla. 

Hotel Manager: I thought they might work for the government.
Robert Angier: No?
Hotel Manager: Worse. They work for Thomas Edison.

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The Illusionist (recycled review)

February 20, 2011 at 7:48 pm (Movies) (, , , , , )

A few years ago, in one of those odd little quirks of Hollywood, two films were released almost in tandem which echoed each other’s themes and settings; this happens now and again, and I wonder if it’s coincidence, and if not which came first, and why this would be thought to be a good idea… Regardless, in 2006 (so long ago?) both The Prestige and The Illusionist came out, each focusing on magic real and stage and its practitioners. 

While in the throes of bronchitis a while later, I rented and watched The Prestige and The Illusionist together.  I am now able to find it funny that a passing remark on TBWSRN about how much more I liked The Prestige led to one of the ugliest episodes I witnessed on the board – something that could have been avoided by more thought put into any number of posts, including a couple of mine – though I still don’t think I was entirely in the wrong …

Anyway.  What I said at the time – which seemed to be part of why I ticked off a few people – was that I didn’t much care for The Illusionist.  I thought it was fascinating, and beautiful, but it left me cold.  The acting – from a cast headed by Edward Norton as Eisenheim (the Illusionist), Paul Giametti, Jessica Biel, and Rufus Sewell)  was fine (in the better sense of the word), the story was good, but I didn’t much care what happened to the Illusionist, and I found the extreme passion he had for his lady a little hard to swallow given the almost entire lack of passion he showed everywhere else.  It was a clever film, and I felt like I should have seen the ending coming (I figured part of it out, but not all), but it seemed a little too clever for its own good: it archly declined to explain anything at all, circling around its own myths, and ended up coming off as more fantasy than it seemed to be intending to.  It reminded me strongly of Big Fish, without the sense of fun that film had.

I would like to see it again – and at one time I wanted even more to see The Prestige again, but scars from the flamings made it less desirable.  It’s been several years now, though, so maybe one day soon I can watch them both sometime this year, and see if I still feel the same.

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Stranger Than Fiction

February 18, 2011 at 1:32 am (Geekery, Movies) (, , , )

Oh, wonderful.  I loved every minute, and could not for the life of me figure out where they could go with it. Hee. Fantastic.

Harold Crick (Will Ferrell), IRS agent, obsessive compulsive, begins one day hearing a voice narrating his life as he goes about it.  He discovers that he is the main character in a book Emma Thompson’s author Karen Eiffel is writing – which is unsettling enough, but Karen Eiffel is known for killing off her characters in unique ways.  And Harold needs to find out what exactly is going on – and keep his author from bumping him off.  Meanwhile, as she is trying to work with – or around – the assistant her publisher has sent to keep her on track (Queen Latifah), he finds himself falling in love with the victim of an audit (Maggie Gyllenhaal). 

I want a watch like Harold Crick’s. And I would love someone to give me flours. Did I mention I loved this movie? I’ve read reviews that said that Queen Latifah was wasted in her role, and I see what they mean – but I don’t agree, except for the part of me that was waiting the whole time for some outrageous sign of her usual personality; she was fine (again, in the better sense of the word). Will Farrell never ceases to amaze me. I have a heck of a time reconciling the Will Farrell I really enjoy in this and in Elf with the one I’d have to be paid to watch in movies like Talladega Nights and that skating movie thing. And I adore Emma Thompson, so, yay. It was a joy.  Oh, I need to see this again soon.

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The Cape premiere & origin

January 10, 2011 at 1:44 am (TV) (, , )

Spoilers avoided as much as possible – –

I love comic books.  I didn’t know girls weren’t supposed to love comics, so back before I had to pay bills and such I had an order going out every month to Westfield Comics: X-Men, the Justice League; the Blue Beetle and … (*goodsearch*) Oh my, Booster Gold. Captain Britain – Excalibur!  I loved Kitty Pryde and Nightcrawler and Wolverine.  The Watchmen.  Green Lantern and Green Arrow.  Batman, of course.  Oh, and ElfQuest, but that’s a whole nother thread.  The X-Men movies are some of my favorites – one of the happiest things film has ever done for me was to give me a “real” Wolverine to adore.  (I need to dig out my old books someday.)

So I was – cautiously – looking forward to The Cape on NBC.  Superhero stories can go disastrously wrong, of course… But I can’t help but be interested in a superhero story which involves Summer “I can kill you with my mind” Glau.

And – cautiously – I’m happy.  I’m really happy.  It’s dark – excellent.  It has a healthy dose of the glamour that makes a comic book special – the idea that a relatively ordinary man can, with nothing but anger and a good set of teachers, make himself into a Hero.  The idea that one man can make a difference.  That a man can partner with a group of carnies and learn their skills and, through sheer intelligent and desperate use of skill and illusion, can become something more.  There is a vein of fantasy running through a gritty cityscape, magic that they ask the viewer to believe is achievable through hard work and skill and technology (pure spider silk!).  It’s a good look.

The basic plotline is great fun: crime in Palm City is growing out of control, with a masked villain named Chess hunting down top officials.  Meanwhile, a mysterious, highly tech blogger calling himself Orwell is outing bad cops.  In the midst of this is Vince Faraday, who is a great cop – until Chess frames him, and makes it appear to the world that he a) was the supervillain Chess and b) was killed in an explosion. His name is destroyed, and the bad guys know who and where his family is – if he resurfaces before the bad guys are taken care of, his family is doomed.  Nice.

When Vince wakes up from the explosion he finds himself in the hands of a group of carnival folk – the Carnival of Crime, to be exact, who want money from the archvillain they’ve been lucky enough to get their hands on.  He manages to convince them he’s useful to them, and they prove to be useful to him as well.

The first five minutes were pretty terrific, economically informing me that Vince Faraday is a loving husband and a great father, reading comic books (“The Cape”, of course) with his son Trip.  It’s good story-telling.  And it didn’t slump.

David Lyons plays Vince Faraday, and he’s good.  Pleasant to look at, which never hurts; believable as a strong and straight-arrow cop who becomes a Hero.  His wife, Dana, is played by Jennifer Ferrin – and she does a nice job with the pain of having lost the love of her life, as well as his good name.  I like the son, too – Ryan Wynott.  He’s the driving force of Vince’s becoming the Cape – he can’t be allowed to believe his father was a bad person.

The leader of the folk who become his new partners is Keith David as Max Malini – he’s awesome.  And also awesome is Martin Klebba as Rollo; I think Rollo is my new hero, never mind the Cape.  And Izabella Miko is Raia, who thinks Vince is cute.  Smart girl.  There are no duds among the actors, and there are the possibilities of stories to be told among the characters.  I won’t mind seeing more of any of them.  (And Toby from The West Wing has a guest spot – nice.)

The supervillain is James Frain, playing Peter Fleming, who has a lovely psychotic thing going.  I don’t know what the deal is with his eyes, but I’m sure we’ll find out.  To help him in his evils he hires a poisoner called Cain – and Orwell digs up evidence that Cain must be part of a secret society of killers.  Which means that the show is well stocked up with bad guys for the Cape to battle.  Nice.

Relying on the shadow from a hood and a little stubble to disguise himself from anyone who knew him made me very nervous.  I kind of liked him not using a mask – but reason and logic have to be at least nodded at in passing.

I really enjoyed the premiere.  I like Vince, I like his family, I like the Carnival of Crime.  I enjoy disliking the bad guys.  I like the writing – I like that there is an underlying awareness that “the Cape” isn’t exactly “Captain America” or “the Green Hornet” as superhero names go.  There were some really good moments in the two-hour opener, and no bad ones – the cheese inherent in a superhero story never becomes limburger (until the very last shot, which without revealing what it was I will say is one which is just about obligatory in any show featuring anything remotely like a superhero; that was a little whiffy, I have to say).  I had fun … I’m going to watch upcoming episodes… and I’m going to keep my fingers crossed.  And I won’t get too attached; if it’s good, and I like it, it’ll be gone in twelve episodes.

Who knows, though?  Maybe this can break the curse.  I wish it all kinds of luck.  And positive blog reviews.

Some moments, some of which might be spoilerish (wording to be corrected as needed when the episode airs again):

“‘Pammy Pees – Hours of toilet training fun’…”

“Do you think the raccoon acted alone?”

“You help me rob Peter Fleming, and I’ll help you get your family back.”

“I’ve broken 92 bones in pursuit of the perfect illusion.”

“You give me your soul, Vincent Faraday, and I’ll make you the greatest circus act that’s ever lived.”

“Why the getup?”
“It’s an unconventional war.”

“Damn it, I thought that was it. Wasted that great speech.”
( – one of my very favorite things about this show.)

“You’re a superhero! What do they call you?”
(a little hesitantly) “The Cape.”
(disbelievingly) “The Cape? Well, you’ll work on it.”

“People in glass houses – ”
“Get thrown out windows.”

“What the HELL were you thinking?”
“Nice ride.”

“The Cape? You’re not wearing a cape.”
“I’m aware of that.”
“No offense.”
“None taken.”

“Peter Fleming is just the gift that keeps on giving.”

“Don’t ever forget who it is that’s wearing the cape.”

And, for future reference, here’s what Wikipedia tells me is the significance of the tarot card The Tower:

Tarot – a secret society of killers; Cain is their poisoner.
Chaos —– Sudden change —– Impact —– Hard times
Crisis —– Revelation —– Disruption —– Realizing the truth
Disillusion —– Crash —– Burst —– Uncomfortable experience
Downfall —– Ruin —– Ego blow —– Explosive transformation

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Rewatching Doctor Who: Christmas Invasion

January 1, 2011 at 7:14 am (BBC, Geekery) (, , , , )

May the heavens rain odours upon them, BBC America is capping off my year very nicely thank you by making the Doctor Who Christmas specials available On Demand.  Better – the 2010 Christmas Special was available, did I but know it, on Christmas, rather than months from now. 

New Doctor, #11, 2010 special: “A Christmas Carol”.  I loved it.  I need to see it again before I say much – much beyond why in the name of heaven has everyone on this planet not heard of Katherine Jenkins??  I laughed, I cried, I was surprised – I loved it.  I’ll come back to it.

#10, 2005 special: “Christmas Invasion”.  Ohhhh.  I know I’ve said it (ad nauseam), but it’s my blog and I’m sick, so I’ll say it again so there: I was inconsolable when the Ninth Doctor went.  It wasn’t just because poof there went another regeneration, but because Christopher Eccleston had done amazing things with the role when I was expecting another Paul McGann-style debacle.  (Which may not be fair; I like McGann in other things – like Luther – so maybe with a little time and space, so to speak, between me and my original outrage I might … nah.)  At the time I finally had the chance to watch the first season of New Who I was certain that it was better just to let the sleeping series lie rather than stir it up – raise hopes – and crash and burn.  I didn’t know Russell T. Davies, or Christopher Eccleston, or Billie Piper, and I did not have high expectations.  But Eccleston won me, heart and mind, and when he went … I was back to square one.  As witness my fussing with the advent of #11, change is difficult.

I suppose I should have known better, but – well, look at Peter Jackson.  He created something lovely in Fellowship of the Ring, and then … oh well.  So there I sat ready to watch “Christmas Invasion”, with my arms folded, waiting for them to take something I loved and screw it up. 

And they didn’t.

It was wonderful.  Full of wonders, and – fantastic. 

Watching it again, for the first time in a long while – only the second time? – was a joy.  Enough time (and space) (and Eleven) has gone by that I could look at Ten, at Tennant, on the screen and say “Oh, I do miss you”, and not feel quite the depth of sadness.  I like Eleven a great deal – but second only to #5, this was my Doctor. 

It was beautifully done in that it gave the fan – me, that is – the chance to get used to the idea.  The new Doctor was offscreen for most of the first, what, two thirds of the episode, and the screen time he did have was calculated to rouse sympathy and concern.  And he was impressive, and he was funny:

The Doctor: My head! (groans) I’m having a neuron implosion… I need…
Jackie: What do you need?
The Doctor: I need…
Jackie: Just say it!
The Doctor: I need…
Jackie: Tell me, tell me, tell me!
The Doctor: I need…
Jackie: Painkillers!
The Doctor: I need…
Jackie: D’you need aspirin?
The Doctor: I need…
Jackie: Codeine? Paracetamol? Oh, I dunno, Pepto-Bismol?
The Doctor: I need…
Jackie: Liquid paraffin? Vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E?
The Doctor: I need…
Jackie: Is it food? Something simple? Bowl of soup? Nice bowl of soup? Soup and a sandwich? Bowl of soup and a nice ham sandwich?
The Doctor: I *need* you to *shut up*!
Jackie: Oooh, he hasn’t changed that much, has he?

And all the while Jackie and Mickey and especially Rose are trying to wrap their heads around the fact that this skinny bloke is the Doctor.  Just as I was.  Sitting alone watching it, it was nice not to be alone feeling that.  And God bless Jackie, her mothering instincts were brought out full force.  She may have hated him in the past, but by God if he was that important to her daughter she was going to look after him.  (I adore her line after all the excitement, during the group hug at the end: “Are you better?”  It’s very dear.)

Then, when the Tenth Doctor makes his real entrance late in the show, he sets the tone for the rest of his reign.  That whole first scene – because the scene starting with “Did you miss me?” (YES)  feels like his first scene – is a marvelous encapsulation of him. 

See, that’s the thing – I’m the Doctor, but beyond that I just don’t know. I literally do not know who I am. It’s all untested. Am I funny? Am I sarcastic? Sexy? (gives a wink and a click of the tongue at Rose, who grins) Right old misery? Life and soul? Right-handed? Left-handed? A gambler, a fighter, a coward, a traitor, a liar, a nervous wreck – I mean, judging by the evidence, I’ve certainly got a gob!

Funny? Oh, yes.  Sarcastic?  “Oh, yeah, that helps! I wouldn’t’a thought o’that otherwise, thanks!” Yes.  Sexy? Yeah.  Right old misery?  Not yet.  Life and soul?  Yeah.  Right- or left-handed … huh.  I don’t know.  A gambler – sometimes; a fighter – always; a coward – never; a traitor – never; a liar – when need be; a nervous wreck – now and then … He is the Oncoming Storm, and that applies to words as well as mayhem against Daleks.  And then there’s the Lion King

But what this episode does best, among a lot of greatness, is to underscore what Rose says – “Thing is … I thought I knew him, Mum. I thought me and him were… And then there’s this. I keep forgettin’ he’s not human.”  It is easy to forget.  He’s fun and funny, and the second heart isn’t visible, and neither are the 900+ years.  There’s the small fact of the time machine, but for the most part he seems more human than, say, Sherlock Holmes does.  And then a situation arises in which the surface of his humanity is scratched.  As it does here – twice. 

He goes into the challenge against the Sycorax leader joyously: this is what he does.  He fights the warrior around the chamber and out for “some fresh air” onto the hull of the ship, and loses his hand (and I love that it comes back into the story), and regrows it, and beats the Sycorax.  “There we are then. Thanks for that. Cheers, big fella.”  This was possibly the best scene in an excellent show: he walks away, Rose joining him, and launches into a natter:

Not bad for a man in his jim jams. Very Arthur Dent. Now, there was a nice man. Hold on, what have I got in here? A satsuma! Ah, that friend of your mother’s, he does like his snacks, doesn’t he. But doesn’t that just sum up Christmas? You go through all those presents, and at the end, tucked away at the bottom, there’s always one stupid old satsuma. Who wants a satsuma?

We can see behind him as he comes to this point that the Sycorax isn’t going to abide by the sanctified rules of combat.  And the Doctor knows it.  The smile vanishes from his face, all of the silliness is erased, and he pitches the satsuma and (rather conveniently, but who’s counting) collapses the section of hull under the warrior’s feet, letting him plummet.  And in that moment he’s a little scary – more than a little – grim, and hard, a direct 180 degree turn from just a second ago.  “No second chances. I’m that sort of a man.”

That resolve is tested very shortly.  He sends the Sycorax off with a classic Doctor-as-Earth’s-champion (“Thank you. I have no idea who I am, but you’ve just summed me up.”) speech: “When you go back to the stars, and tell others of this planet – when you tell them of its riches, its people, its potential – When you talk of the Earth, then make sure that you tell them this: ‘It. Is. Defended.'”  He and the others are returned to London, and all is rejoicing.  Until the Prime Minister’s assistant gets a call from … Torchwood.  And the decision is not an easy one, but Harriet Jones makes it: “Tell them to fire.”  And Torchwood does.  And the ship is obliterated.  And the Doctor rounds on her. 

And there comes the second illustration of the Doctor’s Otherness.  Because although they were friends, although they saved the world together, and although she adores him – “My Doctor!” – although she is a very good Prime Minister (“I’m 18 quid a week better off.  They’re calling it Britain’s Golden Age”) … despite all of that, despite the reasons she gives him, which are actually very good reasons … That look returns to his face, that cold, hard, inhumanity, and he takes her down.  In his plush borrowed blue robe he begins the rot which will take down the British Prime Minister.  And which will open the door for Harold Saxon.

Doctor: I should have stopped you.
Harriet: What does that make you, Doctor? Another alien threat?
Doctor:  Don’t challenge me, Harriet Jones, because I’m a completely new man. I can bring down your government with a single word.
Harriet: You’re the most remarkable man I’ve ever met. But I don’t think you’re quite capable of that.
Doctor: No, you’re right. Not a single word… Just six.
Harriet: I don’t think so.
Doctor: Six words.
Harriet: Stop it.
Doctor: Six. (walks past her to Alex, takes earpiece off him and hands it to him, and says quietly) Don’t you think she looks tired?

And it works.  He’s enlightened her to the fact that there are hundreds of species out there which may or may not have tidings of goodwill for the Earth.  And we’ve been SETIing like mad, trying to get others’ attention.  By golly, it’s working.  And she was right – the Doctor isn’t always there, isn’t always reachable; apparently the Doctor’s telephone number isn’t given out to all Prime Ministers.  He has other battles to fight, and would not want to be at the Earth’s beck and call even if he could be.  But he did make a bargain with the Sycorax, and they seemed to be abiding by it; whether they would have continued to do so is an open – and moot – question.  It was defense – and it was murder.  And it allowed for no second chance. 

It’s a painful moment.  It’s difficult to feel hard against a woman who feels about the Doctor much as I do. 

But the episode is lifted back up to where it ought to be, for a Christmas episode and for a Doctor’s first outing.  With just one little hiccup – “This isn’t snow, it’s ash” – it looks forward in a way reminiscent of a Star Trek movie or two:

Mickey: You’re never gonna stay, are you?
Rose: There’s just so much out there – so much to see. I’ve got to.
Mickey: Yeah.
Jackie: Well, I reckon you’re mad, the pair of you. It’s like you go looking for trouble.
Doctor: Trouble’s just the bits in between! It’s all waiting out there, Jackie. And it’s all brand new to me. All those planets and creatures and horizons – I haven’t seen them yet, not with these eyes! And it is gonna be … (looks over at Rose, and grins) fantastic.
(She smiles back. He holds out his hand – the right one)
Rose: That hand of yours still gives me the creeps. (His smile widens and he waggles his re-regenerated fingers. She puts her hand in his) So – where’re we gonna go first?
Doctor (studying the “snowy” sky): Ummm – that way. (points) No, hold on – (redirects his point by a couple of degrees) that way.

Rose: That way?
Doctor (looking at her): Nhm.
Rose: Yeah. That way.

 It’s not a very Christmas-y Christmas episode, despite the robotic Santas (which, while being explained as “pilot fish”, were never explained, really) and the killer tree (ditto), and the crackers and turkey and paper hats at the end.  It is, like RTD himself, rather nonsecular, which in a way is as it should be; it isn’t as though the Doctor even ought to be intimated to be Christian.  But comparing it to this year’s is like night and day. 

Still and all, it was a gift, this episode.  It was a new Doctor, even, amazingly, better than the last – young and bold and funny and exciting.  A new Doctor – but everything else just, comfortingly, the same.  There were the mentions of Torchwood – not that they were pleasant mentions.  There was the first appearance of the “brainy specs”, which geeked me deeply.  One of the nicest things they did for the Whovian, though, was the glimpse into the TARDIS wardrobe.  There’s the delight of watching as he rejects a leopard-furred coat, and a Sergeant Pepper coat, and then happily picks out the brown suit and long coat.  And as he examines the results of his sartorial and regenerative transformation, there are holiday ties draped over the corner of the mirror and a feather boa draped over the neck of a suit of armor.  But best of all is this gift:

Now that’s a Christmas present. 

And a New Year’s present.

Happy Who – er, New Year!

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Dead Poets Society

December 18, 2010 at 11:59 pm (Movies) (, )

I watched Dead Poets Society not long ago, for the first time in … lo, these many years. 


And … huh. 

This was a very early film for both Ethan Hawke and Robert Sean Leonard; the latter is still pretty wonderful, while the former has disappointed me deeply (two words: Great Expectations).  And this was where I fell for Robin Williams in a fair way. 

This was another movie, I believe, that I started watching on HBO after we first got it, along with STII and Ladyhawke and a couple of others.  I learned a lot from that movie.  I don’t recall ever having learned a single poem from school.  Seriously – not one.  (*ponders again*  Nope.  Zip.  We might have read some here and there, but learn any?  Heck no.)  Happily, I’m a geek; all the poetry I know I learned because of Star Trek (researching quotes and title sources) and Beauty and the Beast (the ’87 tv series, of course – poetry rich), and, yes, DPS

It was easier to watch when I was twenty, I guess; I still had my attempt at art school ahead of me.  I have since learned that teachers like John Keating are purely fictional.  In my life, at least; I guess it’s sort of like true love and coffee that’s really worth $5 a cup – it exists out there somewhere, but I haven’t seen it yet. 

This movie meant a tremendous amount to me when I first saw it.  Todd Anderson was, basically, me: “Mr. Anderson? Come on! Are you a man or an amoeba?”  He’s an amoeba – he can’t bring out an answer.  Picked like that, I never could either.  “Mr. Anderson! Don’t think that I don’t know that this assignment scares the hell out of you, you mole!”  The sheer agony of terror in his face when the assignment of writing a poem and reading it aloud came down – I know that feeling, know it well.  The difference is, I never had a teacher who recognized that I would have particular trouble with an assignment like this.  I never, ever had a teacher who used humor and trust to drag me up in front of a group and sound my barbaric yawp.  Hell, even with repeated watchings of the movie I didn’t even have a barbaric yawp until a few years ago. 

I needed a John Keating so very badly when I was in school.  There were glimmers, here and there … 10th grade World History had moments, but it was more a matter of “Get Mr. M. talking and that’s the whole class taken care of”.  (*Goodsearch*  Holy God – he’s still teaching at NHHS??  That’s … insane.)  The closest anyone ever came in my school career was the admissions director and Art History teacher at Paier.  Not that Art History teacher, the good one.  She was amazing, was Debbie.  She was John Keating packed into a tiny boyish female spectacled form.   Not particularly for me, really – but she was able to make me leave that classroom and drive home with a fire in my heart.  I wanted to go create things.  I wanted to go and learn things.  I felt like I could go and conquer the art world when I left that class.  And then I’d go to the painting classes, where I wanted so badly to idolize the teachers and gain their … if not respect, then support… and it didn’t go that way.  I suppose it’s my own weakness that I required it – but a few words from any one of them would have been so valuable to me. 

This is one of those films that stopped being just a movie to me.  There are movies like Princess Bride and STII and Ladyhawke and such that are inextricable parts of me; they cast shadows all around me.  The shadows DPS cast were such that it raised my expectations far too high – it set goals which, apparently, no real teacher can meet.  Damn. 

It had a terrible influence on me … There’s the American dream of “if you try hard enough you can do anything!“, and then there’s John Keating’s use of poetry in DPS.  “Carpe diem”, he says.  “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering — these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love — these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman: O me! O life! of the question of these recurring, Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish… What good amid these O me, O life? Answer That you are here–That life exists and identity, That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.  “That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” What will your verse be?”  Ouch. 

No pressure.

There’s a scene that resonates a lot more now than it did once – at least, more fully.  Once I saw only Keating’s side of it.  Now I see both:

 McAllister: You take a big risk by encouraging them to become artists, John. When they realize that they’re not Rembrandts, Shakespeares, or Mozarts, they’ll hate you for it.
Keating: We’re not talking artists, George. We’re talking free thinkers.
McAllister: Free thinkers at seventeen?
Keating: Funny. I never pegged you as a cynic.
McAllister: Not a cynic. A realist. “Show me the heart unfettered by foolish dreams and I’ll show you a happy man.”
Keating: “But only in their dreams can men be truly free. ‘Twas always thus, and always thus will be.”
McAllister: Tennyson?
Keating (with a grin): No. Keating.

I am, heaven help me, becoming more McAllister than Keating – more cynic/realist than free-thinker.  This is where one of my issues with American Idol kicks in: “When they realize that they’re not Rembrandts, Shakespeares, or Mozarts, they’ll hate you for it.”  The overly confident ones, the ones with the voices like cats in a sack who show up expecting adulation and shocked – shocked, I say – that the judges think they’re terrible.  It’s the flip side of trying to inspire: sometimes inspiration backfires on the universe. 

Oh, right – here’s the other area where my expectations were raised too high, where I never found what I needed in school:

Todd: Keating said that everybody took turns reading and I don’t wanna do that.
Neil: Gosh. You really have a problem with that, don’t you?

Neil’s tone of voice as he says that line isn’t what you might expect; it’s genuinely concerned.  If my high school “friends” ever said anything like it, it wasn’t in tones of concern.  But I can only deal with one source of bitterness per post … the scenes with RSL and Hawke are beautifully played.  They’re two boys with difficult families and high pressure at school, and Todd’s shyness and complete lack of confidence gains a bolster in Neil; Neil’s big heart and romantic (see Anne of Green Gables, not Harlequin) disposition finds grounding in Todd.  The performances are lovely, by them and all of them.  (I love Meeks.)

Back to the inspiration. 

“I’ll now read the traditional opening message by society member, Henry David Thoreau. ‘I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life. … To put to rout all that was not life, and not, when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived.'”

Neil: Alfred Lord Tennyson:
Come my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world
for my purpose holds to sail beyond the sunset.
And though we are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;–
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will.
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

So very inspiring.  So very hard to live up to. 

Aaand there are some basic writing tips:

Keating: (So avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy.)  A man is not very tired, he is exhausted.  Don’t use “very sad”, use – Come on, Mr. Overstreet, you twerp –
Knox: Morose?
Keating: Exactly! Morose.

– Words to NaNo by. 

Keating: Mr. Hopkins, you were laughing. You’re up.
Hopkins: “The cat sat on the mat.”
Keating: Congratulations, Mr. Hopkins. Yours is the first poem to ever have a negative score on the Pritchard scale. We’re not laughing at you, we’re laughing near you. I don’t mind that your poem had a simple theme. Sometimes the most beautiful poetry can be about simple things, like a cat, or a flower or rain. You see, poetry can come from anything with the stuff of revelation in it. Just don’t let your poems be ordinary.

Very true.  Very nice. 

Ah – and here’s the part that haunts my days and shadows my nights:

“I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.  You see, the world looks very different from up here. You don’t believe me? Come see for yourself. Come on. Come on!  Just when you think you know something, you have to look at it in another way. Even though it may seem silly or wrong, you must try! Now, when you read, don’t just consider what the author thinks. Consider what you think.  Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, ‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.’ Don’t be resigned to that. Break out! Don’t just walk off the edge like lemmings. Look around you…”

More words to live by:

Charlie: Knoxious, you’ve gotta calm down.
Knox: No, Charlie. That’s my problem. I’ve been calm all my life.

There is just so much to love.  The music as Neil opens the book.  The scene in which Todd is trying to write his poem, beating the meter out on the air, walking in a circle between the two beds.  As he faces outward on each circuit his face changes – he’s excited, and then comes around again and is a little more thoughtful, and then comes around again and is crestfallen.  It’s so well done. 


Poor Knox … He experiences the worst evening of his young life, meeting the most beautiful girl he had ever seen, Chris.  What’s wrong with that?  She’s dating a football hero from the co-ed public school.  She’s not going to look at a Dead Poet.  Unless, sparked by Mr. Keating’s lessons, he makes her look at him.  He nearly gets himself killed by placing a gentle kiss on her brow … he did *not* feel her up.  Poor Knox.  But, in the end, he’s the only one with the possibility of a happy ending.  One of the special features on the dvd pointed out that there are four storylines followed through the film: Knox and Chris, Charlie Dalton, Todd, and Neil.  Todd might be strengthened by this; he learned how to speak out and speak up and stand up, for himself and what he cared about – but it won’t be easy.  Charlie: expelled; maybe he could go on from there to a public school; his family had money, so that might smooth his way.  Neil … ah, Neil.  Neil broke my heart years ago, and again watching it now.  Not only the vision of the next ten years yoked to a course he desperately does not want (“that’s ten more years – that’s a lifetime!”), but … He just gave his maiden performance.  He did it really, really well.  And he was yanked literally from the wings and had it all taken clean away from him.  He had his treasure in his hands and it was taken away.  It was a warm and living thing with blood flowing and a strong heart pumping – and his father took it away and killed it.  He knew what he wanted to do with his life, knew it in his bones and found great joy in it – that’s one of the most amazing feelings there is, to find something you love and know, know, that this is what will occupy you for all the days of your life.  Having that taken away – whether slowly and gradually as it was for me or abruptly and savagely as it was for Neil – is one of the deepest pains there is.  Knox, though … Knox is beginning to make inroads with the girl he’s infatuated with.  It’s nice to think he might also be strengthened and come out of this wiser and still aflame. 

Though Nolan’s administration seems likely to do its best to quench it.

In a lot of ways I can’t believe I love this movie as much as I do, then and still.  It’s not a happy movie, in the end, at all, and the kind of ending DPS has is almost letter for letter the kind of ending I hate.  But somehow this pulls it off; it creates an atmosphere in which what happens is inevitable, and somehow doesn’t leave a sour taste.  Grief, yes; regret, yes.  But it’s what must be.  And the last scene was a balm, of sorts.  Yes, Todd will be all right, and so will Knox, and Pittsie.  Maybe even Keating, because of this. 

Cameron?  Scum, and always will be.

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Grimmauld Film

December 10, 2010 at 10:32 pm (Geekery, Movies) (, )

First of all –

It’s been a good while since I saw Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone; it was on all last week, with the rest of them.  What a joy.  I didn’t get the chance to watch any of them from beginning to end, but I watched bits and pieces every chance I did get.  I’d love to do a marathon soon. 

Every entrance in Sorceror’s Stone was spot on; every casting choice just super (where did they find such marvelously perfect red-headed twins?)

– The Main Three’s reactions to their Sorting – Ron just melted in relief and joy
– Ron with a drumstick in each hand at the feast
– Snape’s entrance into his classroom
– You mount from the left of a broom, as with a horse
– “As long as Dumbledore’s around, you’re safe.”  Oh dear. 
– Hagrid playing a flute – the Harry Potter theme.  Just gorgeous.I never remembered that.  Makes me want to go find my elementary school recorder and learn to play that.

What a lovely world that is.  It’s one of the very few mondo-bestsellers I can put my full support behind; I love the Wizarding World of J.K. Rowling, very nearly as much as I love Middle-earth.  Once I would have thought that was blasphemy.  *shrug*

Last weekend the lot of us – sans Mom, who would end up with nightmares (no, really) – went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1.  No 3-D crap, nothing fancy, just the ordinary movie. 

First there was half an hour of trailers, of course:
Yogi Bear, seriously?  I can think of a hundred movies that *should* be made – honestly, hand me a pen and I could come up with at least 100 books and tv shows and old movies I’d pay serious money to see adapted –  and instead they’re making Yogi Bear?  Okay. 
Red Riding Hood … I was interested, of course: it looks very pretty.  It looks right up my alley.  “From the producers of Twilight” worried me – and then the worry was verified by every word out of the lead actress’s mouth.  It has the look of a fairy tale, it has the look of something set in a prettified Dark Ages – but every word out of her mouth made it sound like … Twilight.  No.  Thanks.  Please. 
– But – – Kung Fu Panda 2!  Now that was a clever trailer.  Ninja staring contest!  “You guys look amazing, by the way!”  Adorable. 
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader looks fantastic; I missed Prince Caspian, and I haven’t read the books in donkey’s years, and this trailer sparked off all sorts of nostalgia like I haven’t felt since … Fellowship.  (I miss LotR.) 

Aannd … Harry Potter.  Overall impressions: Very good.  Very faithful.  Very long.  And very grim. 

Actually, it was only about two and a quarter hours; it felt like we were in there for a day and a half.  Maybe it was the sort of randomness of the story – they knew they had to find the horcruxes, didn’t know where to begin to look, and didn’t know how to find out, who to trust, where to go; I remember being frustrated with it in the book, but here (possibly because I knew what was coming) it was handled well enough that I don’t think that was the problem.  I wasn’t bored … it just felt like the movie was twice as long as it actually was. 

The story stuck beautifully to the book.  They did put everything in, as advertised – except did people know about Tonks and Remus’s baby at this point?  She started to make the announcement, and I think Mad-Eye stomped in and interrupted her.  No matter – it was a tidbit tossed to the geeks, which would probably fly right over anyone else’s head unnoticed.  (When did the Radio Free Hogwarts begin?  I kept expecting Fred and or George every time they showed Ron with the radio.  Did they cut that out?  Or is that Part 2?  Hm.) 

So – long, faithful, good: very good.  I read an article somewhere which talked about the sheer wonderful luck the franchise had in casting Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, and Daniel Radcliffe – and all of the others who have carried through all eight movies, especially James and Oliver Phelps (the wonderful Weasley Twins) and Matthew Lewis (the wonderful Neville Longbottom); they were cast as children, and there was no guarantee that they would, every one, turn out to be, nine years later, all attractive and all at least tolerably good actors (some very good indeed).  There was no guarantee they’d even look the part anymore nine years later – but they all still suit, very well indeed.  The one I’ve doubted occasionally over the years – besides Daniel Radcliffe – has been Tom Felton (Draco), but he pulled it off in this one. 

I believe Half Blood Prince was the last movie I saw in the theatre, and I remember being impressed by Felton’s Draco.  I wish there had been time for a little more of him in this.  The poor nasty kid – he couldn’t be any other way, given his Pureblood family.  Here, his scenes underscored the pain – his father had committed the family to the Dark Lord, and it’s starting to seem like not the best idea suddenly … His father is afraid of Voldemort, and where does that leave the poor stupid helpless kid?  He’s petrified.  And has no choice.  It’s a great character, and a better performance than I would have given Felton credit for a few years ago. 

My very favorite, though, is Luna Lovegood.  Love the character, adore the actress (Evanna Lynch), love the performance.  She is a lovely, lovely soul – sweet and wise and serene.  And fierce.  And Irish.  Utterly charming, and I think I’ll go have some pudding.  That casting was a stroke of pure brilliance. 

And grim … There was humor, but it was tense, usually.  And it was awash in the terrors and worries of the film – the growing power of You-Know-Who, and Dumbledore’s death, arrests and inquisition and the influence of the locket, and the attack on the multiple Harrys resulting in woundings and a death, the constant drone of the radio listing the missing – and the deaths not only of characters in the background, muggles and wizardly alike, but also of two small characters.  It was scary, and even my brother (who’s never cracked open any of the books) said it was very much a “how are they gonna get out of THIS one” situation.  At this point in the book, I’ll admit it: I was still honestly expecting Dumbledore’s return.  I can just picture someone of the same opinion at the end of this film – Here he comes!  Oh – wait … The quote I had up there from Sorceror’s Stone – “As long as Dumbledore’s around, you’re safe” – well, things have changed now.  They’ve had to. 

Unfortunately, I know it’s not going to get any cheerier.  Part II is going to be very, very tough.  In a way this one was easier than the equivalent part of the book – I mean, when I read the attack on the multiple Harrys I was chewing on my fingernails expecting Hagrid to be killed.  I was stunned by the way that journey went, and relieved, partly.  It’s going to be as faithful to the book as this was, I understand – and I’m not, at all, looking forward to it.


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October 25, 2010 at 12:47 am (PBS, TV) (, , , , , , )

That was fun.  I figured it out in about 45 minutes, but it was fun.  (Allow me a second of gloating; I never figure out murder mysteries.)  Benedict Cumberbatch plays Sherlock Holmes – very young, lovely voice, quite nicely arrogant and offhand about it.  And Martin Freeman is Doctor Watson.  No, I’m not watching it because of The Hobbit.  But I will come back to that.  In at least the third (iirc) take on Sherlock Holmes from PBS (the straight version starring Jeremy Brett, has been picked up from the 19th century and transplanted into the 21st, and there do not so far seem to be any signs of rejection of the transplant. 

I’ve wondered how it would work; it’s not as though the old “this was written on a typewriter with the letter ‘J’ misaligned – clearly the machine from Hardwick’s office” thing is valid anymore.  Technology has changed quite a bit of what transpired in the Holmes stories, and it always seemed to me it would be quite a challenge to work it in.  Not so much, as it turns out.  The use of cell phones and laptops was quite nice – the deduction of Watson’s brother was quite a lot of fun.

“Dear God – what is it like in your funny little brains?  It must be so boring.”  That was the concentration in this version – Holmes’s overactive mind drives him constantly, and the cares and feelings of other people mean nothing.  “I’m not a psychopath, I’m a high-functioning sociopath – do the research.”  I have, and the diagnoses aren’t all that different and are pretty muddled, but let it bide.   Cumberbatch does a very nice job of embodying the sort of person you would want to murder within minutes but who is very entertaining to watch; he pulls off the impatient arrogance and overweening intelligence brilliantly.  His youth is somehow an asset in this; he overcame my resistance to it quickly. 

Why do people love Holmes so much?  So very much not a nice person, doing good mainly because he’s bored and he doesn’t have the inclination toward evil… Most people aren’t thrilled by extreme intelligence; overt displays of intelligence only annoy people – as evidenced by the other characters surrounding him.  “What do people usually say?” “Piss off.”  “Hello, freak.”  So why is he so popular? 

Freeman as Watson was also excellent.  I love the revelation by the mysterious gentleman that his therapist was wrong: he isn’t traumatized by his battle experience.  He misses it.  Which means that his new position as Holmes’s assistant is perfect.  Among ordinary folk he’s not stupid, and he finds he can enjoy Holmes’ … eccentricities.  He needs a challenge, and Holmes delivers in spades. 

“The game, Mrs. Hudson, is on!”  *cough*afoot*cough* I like their relationship, Holmes & Mrs. Hudson’s – I like her calling him Sherlock.  Everyone calls him Sherlock, actually – unless they’re calling him “freak”.  I liked the graphics that aided the viewer’s poor slow mind in following the deductions.  I liked the nicotine patches.  I liked nearly everything, really, except a few of the details of the conclusion – and the way the climax was ended; not sure about that.

I didn’t realize the Doctor Who connection – co-created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, this first episode (“Study in Pink”) written by Moffat – that explains a lot.  I do hope, though, that they won’t keep banging (so to speak) on the sexuality question – talk about boring. 


When it had 19 minutes left to run, I wrote this:   I am officially stating my hypothesis: The Princess Bride.  Iocaine powder.  Now it is down to you, and it is down to me.  “Luck.”  “It’s genius! … I know how people think, even you…” 

But I’ll never know, blast it – they never said what the pills were.  I’m disappointed in that.  It made a great deal of sense, my solution – they were both arsenic, or something, and the cabbie – who never got a name, by the way, did he? – has spent the last four years playing with the stuff.  I was surprised that the poison wasn’t named either – obviously, the murder mystery isn’t as big a priority as the character study.  I will continue to believe in arsenic, a la Strong Poison.

I can’t get too cocky about figuring out that the killer was the cabbie (even though I missed the first few minutes and only just watched them on, and that made it more obvious yet) – I bought the whole misdirection thing about Mycroft.  They suckered me into the assumption that he was Moriarty – and I think I could have figured it out, too, darn it: the role of “mysterious government official with a lot more power than you’d think” and “Sherlock Holmes’s smarter brother” was obvious, in hindsight. 

About halfway through it occurred to me that this role is a pretty good indicator that Martin Freeman will do well as Bilbo.  The hobbit is a fairly ordinary bloke, really, not stupid in his ordinary circumstances – and suddenly his circumstances aren’t at all normal.  Suddenly he’s plunged into the middle of a situation completely out of his ken, and has to adapt – and he does.  And once it’s all over he’s never the same again.  Watson’s immersion is as sudden and complete, but not quite as extreme (no giant spiders, no Orcs – just a serial killer), and he thrives on it a bit more than Bilbo – but essentially they share a basic arc.  If I go see The Hobbit in theatre, it will be for him. 

One of my favorite lines: “Are these human eyes?  They were in the microwave!”

I look forward to the other two episodes – and I think it’s a shame that there are only three.  And now The Hobbit is happening, I wonder if there’s any possibility of more …

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The Hobbit cast: woo hoo too … I guess

October 24, 2010 at 2:31 am (Geekery, Movies) (, , , , , )

So they’re announcing the cast of The Hobbit.  Sir Ian McKellen is going to be Gandalf again – well, good.  That’s as it should be. That’s the main good thing about having Peter Jackson involved, I guess – continuity. I’m sure I’m missing some of the joyous breaking news, but this is what they’re talking about on TBWSRN… I want very badly to spout off there, but, as with the last post, I don’t have the heart to be the one I used to loathe, walking around with a big pin looking for pretty balloons. Here, though … >pop<

Martin Freeman – Bilbo Baggins. Okay, good. Okay, fine. I hated what I saw of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; I didn’t see much of it because I couldn’t get through it. I must have seen him in something, though, and I liked him; as far as I was in any camp, I was in the Freeman-for-Bilbo camp. So, yay.  ETA: He’s wonderful in Sherlock.  At least there’ll be another “series” of that; he’s made a commitment.

Richard Armitage – Thorin Oakenshield. Sorry, what?

Guy of Gisborne? What’s his name that was the Vicar of Dibley’s lover?  Seriously?  I suppose it must be the corruption of all those half-assed illustrations, but I never, ever imagined Thorin as hot.  ‘Course they’re going to cover him with hair, so … what’s the point?

I had heard Patrick Stewart was being considered.  Which would have been another of those worlds-colliding things that mess with my mind, but I would think a good part of the casting for the dwarves has to be voice casting, considering the general armor-and-hair aspect of Peter Jackson’s dwarves.  Richard Armitage, huh?  Huh.

Aidan Turner – Kili. What?

Mitchell.  Of Being Human.  As Kili the dwarf.  See above, under hot?? and hairy. I just don’t get it. Also, not that I’m counting, but Fili and Kili are blond. Don’t do that.

Speaking of Kili –

Rob Kazinsky – Fili.  Never saw him in anything, as far as I remember, but … Geez.  He’s flipping adorable.  This is getting silly. (And where does he get off having a dot-org?)

Graham McTavish – Dwalin: I’ve seen him in small roles, I guess, and might remember him if I saw him in action, but… Sorry. He shows they’re following the proper range of ages among the dwarves, and looks better than the others, to my mind’s eye.

John Callen – Oin – not much on him out there, after a quick search. There will be. Oh, there will be.

Stephen Hunter – Bombur. Wait, huh? This Stephen Hunter? The non-acting Stephen Hunter? In the photos on the site, he looks the part, but… how odd. Unless of course I have the wrong guy.

Mark Hadlow – Dori – also known as Harry in King Kong. I think I remember him. OK, good.

Peter Hambleton – Gloin. Not a clue. Again, there’s gonna be a lot more out there about him.

On the whole, I prefer new-to-me–but-experienced faces as the dwarves. The young ones … Yes, Fili and Kili are supposed to be young. And there is supposed to be an emotional reaction to the (*spoiler*) death of whichever or both (I don’t remember).  But this seems like a hollow ploy to cater to the girly group that still giggle over Orlando Bloom. (And what, is Richard Armitage, the man I’ve referred to as a cut-rate Sean Bean, supposed to appeal to what were once called on the Nameless Board the B-Girls (fans of either Boromir or Bean, whichever)? Not cutting it. He’s a reasonably attractive man, has made me roll my eyes somewhat less than other actors I’ve seen (and more than others); he’s no Sean Bean.

I wish they were capable of just making the flaming movie. First, though, there has to be a large chunk of drama before we ever get to it – – and the movie isn’t going to simply be The Hobbit. No, if nothing else the studios (and I’m not putting so much faith in Peter Jackson that this isn’t in his mind) can’t tolerate a movie with virtually no female presence (I don’t know what Jackson’s doing about that – can’t use Galadriel since we never go near Lorien, so it seems there will be flashbacks to Frodo’s parents or some such nonsense. And they can’t tolerate a movie without a studly presence. I’d love to see them prove me wrong, and have this Fili and Kili decked out unrecognizable like every single indistinguishable dwarf in Fellowship. But I’m not counting on it. I don’t know. I just don’t know.

Fortunately, I don’t care nearly as much as I would have once. I think I’m pretty resigned to them completely balling the whole thing up.

G’head, folks. Prove me wrong.  On all counts.  If you can make me care – – nah.  That’s way too much to ask.

ETA – Since I first wrote this post, they’ve cast a few more roles: Galadriel, Legolas, Frodo… What’s this, you say, none of those characters are in The Hobbit?  Why, that’s right.  They’re not.  How peculiar. 

Now, if Cate Blanchett and Orlando Bloom are all blonded up and visible in the background … Well, Legolas is Thranduil’s son, so that’s fine.  If he’s completely silent.  I honestly can’t figure whether Galadriel has any right in the world to be there.  If she isn’t given a single line I can live with her too.  I don’t think I’ve seen yet whether Hugo Weaving is returning as Elrond; if he’s not, it makes the rest even more ridiculous. 

I found an old article in which Jackson told MTV (MTV?) that “he only sees a return to Middle Earth for 3 of the original Lord of the Rings cast”.  Back then, presumably, he was talking about the elves.  “I imagine Andy Serkis just slipped his mind … hopefully”.  There are all sorts of rumors, including David Tennant as Thranduil (totally up in the air, or … oh, who knows) and Ron Perlman (who was only an idea, from when Del Toro was attached to the project – my reactions went from what?? to huh  to that might be one reason to go see these things to oh, never mind, he says he’s not doing it). 

Elijah Wood … Seriously, I’m pretty unhappy about this.  Apparently, since they’ve decided they need to stretch out the book over two movies, they need to do some serious padding, and they’re adding bookends of Frodo reading Bilbo’s Red Book.  I can see some positives to this, really I can, but … I hate it.  At least they don’t seem to plan to have Frodo reading it to Sam (where?  Rivendell?).  It would be a little better if Sir Ian Holm was there reading it to Frodo, but apparently there isn’t even a question of that; I understand he isn’t well. 

For some reason I can’t put my hands on my paperback editions of LotR or The Hobbit, but one hardcover edition of TH on Amazon is listed as 319 pages.   Fellowship is 400.  Two Towers is 354.  Return of the King is 448, although I think about a hundred of that is indices and appendices.   I don’t know how these editions compare, but it’s pretty clear that The Hobbit is shorter than any of the others.  So of course the logical conclusion is to make the shortest book into two films.  Sure.

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