Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday Fun Times

So this seems to have become a twice a week blog. This wasn't an intentional choice on my part: more something I drifted in to over the past month or so. Part of this has to do with mental health; part of this has to do with a decrease in free time due to an uptick in paid work; and part of this has to do with the fact that if I type for more than a fairly set amount of time a day, my left wrist starts attempting to leave me.

Anyway, I'm still having fun with this and isn't a planned obsolescence or anything like that, so I hope someone's still out there having fun with this, too!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Short Thought: "Squirrel!"

I deeply resent being told things are going to make me cry. I don't know why, but I do. If you want me not to watch something/read something/listen to something, tell me it will make me cry. I don't resent people who do, but I don't enjoy doing it myself.

There are, of course, movies and TV shows and books that make me...ahem...require the services of the Kleenex Corporation, shall we say. But I don't particularly enjoy being warned ahead of time that something will, of course and inevitably make me go all soggy.

So I avoided Pixar's latest production, Up, like the plague because that was what everyone I knew who watched it told me: "Oh, you'll cry your eyes out." "I cried so hard..." And...why would this make me want to watch a movie again? I want to cry, I'll watch The Dresser or the second part of End of Time again. Plus...something about the whole thing just looked so -- cheesy cute. I'm not a fan of heartwarming. I prefer my heartwarming accidental rather than intentional. I find the end of Terminator 2, for example, quite pleasing. You don't call me weird; I won't call you weird.

Still, this evening I was tired and feeling unwell and my parents had just watched it and raved about how good it was. Not how cute or how sobby it made them feel -- which would have made me worry about their alcohol consumption for the weekend -- but that it was a good movie. That, I will go for.

So I watched it. And it is a good movie: Pixar is a continual pleasant surprise in the quality and ability of their storytelling. The first eleven minutes and some-odd seconds of the film are...brilliant. A grand illustration -- literally -- of wordless (or nearly so) storytelling.

Once the story gets rolling in the present, of course, it's more or less your standard fairy tale: old guy is grumpy about his now deceased wife not getting to fulfill her life's wish; decides to fulfill it for her; attaches small fleet of balloons to house; takes off for South America. Er. Well, okay, maybe not quite standard, but you get the point. Pixar rings the changes quickly enough that you don't get bored and the lovely moments of character development and narration aren't subsumed under a heap of visibly fancy computer animation (although I can only imagine the skull sweat that went into making this thing.)

To cut a long story short, I was on board until the dogs started flying biplanes. Then -- I kind of opted out. Not that the ending of the story wasn't wholly satisfactory in an H. Rider Haggard/Indiana Jones-kind of way because it totally was, but there was only so far my headachey suspension of disbelief was going to stretch and that was it.

I loved Carl's storyline; was less interested in the boy, although he was sweet; and I kind of wish someone had done more with Doug. Something more like the valet-bot in Wall-E would have been nice. But, honestly, I adore Wall-E -- this really had no chance of unseating my favorite Pixar. (And it would have to work past Finding Nemo first, in any case.)

But Up is very sweet -- Carl's story is lovely -- and you don't have to go through two boxes of tissues to enjoy it either.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"This isn't even South Croyden!"

There should be a rule that when you first turn on your computer when you come home -- there can't be bad news about some treasured performer from your childhood dying.

Terror of the Zygons.
You really were the best.

Invasion of the Bane.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Fun Times

Just realised that my deeply complex system of keeping track of what videos I put up on Fridays -- also known as my bookmarks folder marked "blog" -- hocked up a hairball and I've put up the same videos a couple of times lately.

Either that or Blogger is trying to drive me crazy.

This is what comes of having no time to wander around Youtube aimlessly typing in things like "Amy/11 videos" or "Amy/Rory" videos or "dr who funny" and seeing what happens.

Still, I'm fairly confident that this is new.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Short Thought: Reasons to Put a Book Down

I picked up Fred Inglis' A Short History of Celebrity at the library after recognizing the cover from seeing it in an advert in the London Review of Books. The premise is simple enough and pretty much all there in the title: celebrity is not a modern phenomenon -- or at least it is only if you're willing to take "modern" in the sense of the historical modern which means it's part of a period that stretches roughly back to the French Revolution or, possibly for those of us who are generously minded in these things, a few decades earlier -- say the middle of the 18th century at least. Celebrity encompasses fame, notoriety, scandal, recognition -- all sorts of things that are totally recognizable to anyone living today who has even a passing acquaintance with Hollywood, Bollywood, the BAFTAs, the Oscars, a political election, or the internet.

So far, so good, and Inglis is an amusing and highly informed writer. He takes the stance of the 'fusty but (accidentally) up-to-date old don' -- not a bad stance to take since it lets him deal in classics with as much ease as it does with recent tabloid publications. He zooms through the 18th and 19th centuries without much of a glitch; I don't know if I agree with everything he says -- if put to it, I'd probably say I think he could stand to do a bit more thinking about the differences and intersections between fame, notoriety, and celebrity as concepts. I think he conflates American and British or European culture a little too readily. But in general terms -- yes, I'll go along with what he says. Celebrities reflect something back to the culture or society from which they spring; there is a closely knit, reciprocal, sometimes damaging relationship that can prove to be entirely too hothouse for either one or both of the parties involved. Things can go to hell in a handbasket very quickly and public favor can be entirely fickle.


Neither of these people are Jimmy Stewart.
But those are donuts.
Then he hits the 20th century and starts to talk about film and things all go a bit weird. When I really hit a rock and, to be honest with you, stopped reading with any attention, was when he tried to tell me that Jimmy Stewart was the star of It Happened One Night. Er. Not so much, my friends. Check himself out over there on the right. It isn't her, either.

I must admit, this is a minor point -- and yet, it kind of isn't. When it comes in the middle of a major point in Inglis' argument about the nature of stardom and celebrity and Jimmy Stewart is one of three American actors -- actors, mind you, not performers, note the gender of the pronoun -- he has chosen to represent his argument -- it kind of is a big point. It makes me wonder if he has done his research properly; it isn't as if Stewart doesn't have plenty of big-name films in his back catalogue -- or even plenty of romantic comedies, come to that: The Philadelphia Story comes zooming right to mind without much effort and that even involves Cary Grant, one of Inglis' other picks.

When Inglis also talks about Cary Grant and discusses His Girl Friday at length without talking about the story's back-history as both a stage play and a moderately successful film adaptation prior to the massively successful Russell/Grant vehicle that most people know -- I start to wonder again. But when he simply misattributes a pretty important film -- then I'm really unhappy. Not that I argue with his choice of Stewart as a seminal male performer in the history of American cinema; no, there I'm right with him. Absolutely fine choice. Grant, likewise; ditto John Wayne. No problems. But I wish I felt he'd done his homework.

As soon as he hit the 20th century -- and film and TV in particular -- Inglis' whole argument started to feel facile and glib -- Sunday supplement stuff decrying the lapses in cultural standards since "the good old days," not the intellectual exploration he had promised.

So, yes, Mr. Inglis and I are done with each other. I thank him for the amusing half-dozen chapters or so but I think he should learn to love IMdb a little bit more.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Short Thought(s): Bad Shark Movies

In recent weeks, I've watched a lot of bad movies. And, for your entertainment and edification and possible warning, here are the worst of the worst:

Shark Attack in the Mediterannean, 2004. This has to be some of the worst of the worst of the worst. A German (dubbed with no real care into English and Italian) genetically engineered prehistoric giant killer shark movie. There are boats, helicopters, and a Rolls Royce. The hero is a dude who looks like he really wanted to go up against Schwarzenegger for Mr Universe back in the 1970s. There's an evil German geneticist, for heaven's sake, and a recreated prehistoric shark! You'd think there was real possibility there!

And you'd be wrong. It is so bad it's good, but only barely. Mostly, it kind of hurts. The actual shark footage is ok -- they got half-way decent documentary footage from somewhere -- but the giant genetically engineered thingummy? Oh, heavens, no. It just simply doesn't work. Your eye looks at it and says, "No. No, I don't buy that." There's some kind of altruistic hoohah about the shark having been created to "cure cancer," but that line didn't work in Deep Blue Sea either and that had way better sharks.

~ ~ ~

Shark Zone, 2003. Excellent documentary footage here but you'd really do better to avoid this movie entirely and watch Air Jaws. The Shark Zone sharks look vaguely embarrassed to be in such an awful movie and, frankly, they should be. Someone on the production team decided that a great white isn't frightening enough as is: it also needs to make some kind of noise. a dog kind of noise.

So these sharks don't just bite you -- they growl when they bite you.

I'm not kidding. You'll wish I was.

~ ~ ~

Blue Demon, 2004. Now these sharks: they have a moral purpose. 

These are anti-terrorist sharks. I'm not kidding about this, either. 

This is another "lets break open sharky brain and see if we can make 'em worse" movie. In this case, two scientists have been genetically engineering them -- some days, I think screenwriters, if they want to write screenplays involving scientific concepts, should be forced to attend seminars at MIT or CalTech or something so that they know what these words mean -- to be border patrol guards from hell, essentially. 

Of course, they get out; of course, the Good and Kindly Scientists want to warn people; of course, the Evil Military Dudes won't let them. You can write the rest in your head, really.

These sharks -- suck out loud. They're clearly computer generated -- I think on some kid's Mac PowerBook in his bedroom at about 2 a.m. They look like the sharks from EverQuest -- and I mean EverQuest I, here, back in the late '90s.

Friday, April 1, 2011