Friday, 22 January 2016

Reading is for morons what can't understand pictures

You know, I think people don't give Donald Trump the credit he deserves for being genuinely good at what he does - it isn't acting, business, or politics, it's selling the fantasy that he isn't the punchline to capitalism, and that his crazy, unworkable pipe-dreams aren't the mad delusions of a racist idiot.  America is looking like it might get interesting again, or at the very least it looks like it's gearing up to give fascism or socialism a punt in the next few years, which I imagine will be great for its creative industries if the younger types (mid-30s to early 50s) finally have something to rail against.

Monday, 18 January 2016

My memories are a roadmap that leads to pain and boredom

God help me but I simply cannot stop watching The Mysteries Of Laura.
The clues - OH MY GOD THE CLUES - that the characters uncover and follow are amazing, like something from the old Batman show where they'd go "Who could be behind this dastardly deed?  Wait... this diabolical trap was sprung at sea... AND CATWOMAN BEGINS WITH A C!"  There's a hacker terrorising the precinct and they track him down by noticing that he spells things in a different way (IE: color/colour) as a foreign national might, so they go on "the internet" to look for someone making spelling mistakes and track down the hacker almost immediately - I mean literally within seconds of announcing this is their plan.  It is UHMAZING that anyone writes in such broad and, well... patronising strokes in this day and age when half of tv shows contain self-aware treatises on the craft of writing or at the very least commentary upon their own lack of originality.  There are actual cartoons for babies with better writing than The Mysteries Of Laura, so why can't I stop watching it?

Thursday, 14 January 2016

In my defence, I just don't care

It's probably a bad sign when I laugh at the introduction of every character on a show, be it hunky white boys with impossible hairstyles that retain that stiff, erect and proud profile no matter what gymnastics are undertaken by their stunt doubles, or laconic, complicated black guys who smolder their way through the scene of a homicide while explaining to their captain - who looks like she's twenty and a model - that women cannot understand him and he can never be close to them.  Then a geeky spectacles-wearing dude is introduced as the "best friend" of the hot redhead (black eyebrows) lead character and really, at that point you're not waiting to see how this relationship unfolds, you're just waiting to see how the show explains to you that he has the hots for her but it is not reciprocated because you have seen this in every other show and you are getting it now, too.  She says "how can you not notice that someone so close to you has the hots for you?" and the guy strokes his chin and looks her in the eye and says "HOW INDEED" okay maybe that is not exactly how it plays out but believe me, I am not paraphrasing things quite as much as you may suspect.
Also, in a show that is clearly populated by twenty-somethings (and their thirty-something parents), much is made of the fact that the lead character is just turning 18 (an actual line from the character: "I'm turning 18, it's not like I'm setting off on some epic journey"), which for some reason struck me as odd that the forces of evil and magic in general would have the age requirement for giving legal consent to sexual intercourse in North America as their barometer of whether someone had "come of age" or not.  There's actually a deep and rich mythology surrounding the ascent to womanhood in magical cultures... I'm sure some of that will come up in the course of later episodes.
"Sorry I'm late, the captain has got me on those demonic murders" "literally my brain is about to explode!" - actual lines of dialogue from this show, FYI.
This all might give the impression that Shadowhunters is some kind of metatextual hoot at the very least, but that would be a misleading impression to give you as such a thing would require a level of self-awareness the show doesn't have.  Shadowhunters is not self-aware - if it was, at some point a character would stop and announce "the world I am in is a load of turgid shit" - no, Shadowhunters is just shit.  Shit that I honestly believe has had creative input from 12 year old girls, because it is like something my niece would create during that strange period where she stopped drawing her graphic novel opus Poo Robots and started saying "I like Gerard Way's music" unironically while plastering her bedroom wall with pictures of hairless androgynes she insisted had deep creative insights to impart to the culture.
I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm not being hostile towards Shadowhunters here, I totally understand there are many demands placed upon a creative  production from various quarters over a relatively short space of time.  Buffy was a great show in its day, but there's no law or anything that says that a show has to have a coherent creative vision and tangible purpose or themes, that was just something Joss Whedon brought to the table after years of honing his craft and learning to work within the demands and confines of television production to deliver the best possible product - it's unfair to expect the same dedication to storytelling and the inherent belief that the audience is not composed of drooling simpletons of a modern production team who construct their narratives purely by stringing scenes from other tv shows and films together and who maybe get genuine input from the higher-ups a few times a day along the lines of "more twenty-something models taking their shirts off" or "less talk" or "something from the Billboard charts from a month ago" or "he talks for a long time in this scene, can he have his shirt off?"  The demands of television are different now than they were in the late 1990s when kids could pay attention for 40 minutes, as now kids have one eye on their phones while they're watching stuff, so they probably won't notice your clever use of sound or your inventive nonlinear plot structure or your subtle character study, so you're better off if a song they might like suddenly plays or someone takes their shirt off as that way there's a good chance you'll get their attention away from the Twitter and the Instagrams for a minute - of course, if you've abandoned all pretense of substance as Shadowhunters does quite early in proceedings, there's the obvious question of what they're actually going to see when they do look away from the Twitter and the Instagrams for a moment and what great insight or original turn you have to offer, but there's probably a good chance they're on the Twitter and the Instagrams in the first place because they're a moron, so all they need is the music and the shirt coming off and you can call it a day knowing you did your best as a creative entity and your audience likely got the show they deserved - the dumb fuckers.
Strange but true: like Buffy, Shadowhunters is based on a movie that did a major belly-flop in cinemas, and I recall this only because I thought it was funny that I couldn't even make it to the end of the trailer, never mind watching the actual film.  I made it to the end of the first episode of Shadowhunters, though, and if you don't fancy your chances of doing the same, someone has handily done a supercut of all the plot scenes of the episode on Youtube that clocks in at just over 19 minutes - for some reason they've animated it, made it in 1998 and called it Invasion America, but trust me, apart from a gender-swapped lead character it's the exact same fucking story.

I used to work at a book store and I read a sentence from every single one of those books

Watching Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, and I have scattered and unfocused opinions and impressions taken from it, so bear with me for a blog post that probably reads like a Twitter feed more than it does a coherent overview of a - FACK ME - 10 year-old film.
During the great opening half hour action sequence, I love how General Grievous announces "Fire ze emergency poofter engines!" - I'm not sure what Poofter Engines are, but they sound fabulous - and then uses something called "Race Shields" to trap the Caucasian characters.  There is some odd stuff going on in these movies.
I do like that it's just a bunch of mad fights, but they also highlight that the weakest part of the film is Anakin's Face/Heel turn in the slower moments - Hayden Christiansen gets a lot of flak for this, but that's unfair, as the dialogue is pretty weak and doesn't tie the disparate strands of his character arc  together.  There's some nice touches like Anakin's humility and magnanimity possibly being his reflecting those emotions from those around him, suggesting a functioning sociopath who's simply faking it and using the Jedi's teachings to help him do so, but I suppose if Anakin is a sociopath, it makes his eventual redemption in Return of the Jedi impossible, and the whole point of Return of the Jedi is arguably that Anakin the Jedi... erm... "Returns" when given a similar moral choice to the one he makes here.
Another nice touch is that his fall comes not from the Sith but from the Jedi - through Mace Windu (shortly before before Mace goes through a windu) - failing to live up to the standards of the Jedi order and the justice system of the Republic, implying that Vader was never inevitable, simply a long game of Sidious' that the Jedi could have thwarted if they'd stayed the distance and held true to their code.  There's probably a great What If? story waiting to be told, stemming from Mace Windu not losing faith in the way of the Jedi and thus never prompting Anakin's impulsive decision that leads to his turn to the Dark Side, but I suspect it would still be told against a background of an empire in decay, as one thing Lucas does well is use colour and scale to show that we're seeing the large-scale widescreen final days of a once-proud and great power in decline - an honest-to-God culture, corrupted from within and seized by an antagonist who's an opportunist as much as a schemer, and I don't help but notice it's a capitalist system that's going tits-up, and that the igniting incident of the war was corporate greed.  Usually in these space operas - Star Wars imitators, admittedly - they center on dynastic skulduggery usually involving a Bad Old Dude making a power grab from his poorly-lit  throne room set, and what we see of "the galaxy" is some corridors and maybe an outdoor shoot near an old fort or something, but here we see an actual sprawling civilisation at stake.
The Prequels are about the fall of an empire, not the rise of one, and in retrospect, Lucas made the right decision to tell this story rather than the more obvious and lucrative one, because when people bitch and whine about how the Prequels don't feel like Star Wars, what those people actually mean is that they aren't 8 years old anymore, and they're likely more angry that they will never be young again than they are angry that some guy didn't make the movie they wanted.
"It's just a toy advertisement" - I never really understood this argument, as so was the original Star Wars, because obviously toy companies - having just bought the toy rights - made toys out of anything they could.  It seems to me that what people are complaining about in the context of the Prequels is not potential toys but the act of world-building Lucas undertakes.

What a prick C3P0 is - he walks in on padme watching the Jedi temple in flames and announces that Anakin just went there "but I'm sure he'll be alright" and then he fucks off and Padme breaks down in tears.  Dick move.

I like when Palpatine says the Empire will make the galaxy "safe and secure" and everyone believes him and claps like the morons they are.  HAHA GEORGE LUCAS' DIALOGUE IS SO UNREALISTIC.
"Into exile I must go.  Failed I have."  Erm... what?
Padme dies of a broken heart.  I unironically love the romanticism of this notion.

I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.  I think its main flaw is that it's too ambitious and set out to do too much, to the point that no matter how neatly it ties up the threads it weaves, the best case scenario was always to be that it leaves the story just as it's getting started.  Unlike, say, The Force Awakens, Revenge of the Sith at least tries, and if I had to identify its single biggest problem, it wouldn't be the acting - not even that Jedi kid that approaches Anakin in the temple - it would be that for a movie so full of inventive fight scenes and madcap chases, it's a real bummer to watch because of where it all goes in the end, so you can't take as much joy from it as you otherwise would.  Also the pacing is really odd, with multiple scenes playing out alongside each other and slowing things down in those scenes - although I really liked that Padme dies just as Anakin becomes Vader, even if it doesn't actually make that much sense because he's already Vader, and doesn't actually become the proper for-real evil Vader until after the Frankenstein's Monster riff near the end - but still, full marks for soppiness, with the callback to the charm Anakin carved for Padme in The Phantom Menace being an especially good example of same, and as much as Jar-Jar was a terrible idea, seeing him sad at Padme's funeral is heartbreaking.

I liked the little callbacks to the original trilogy, like Anakin's choice between helping Mace Windu or Chancellor Palpitine being the exact same choice he would be presented with in Return of the Jedi (with the Emperor and Luke), Obi Wan picking up Anakin's lightsaber before leaving him to die, and the way Owen (Luke's uncle) is standing looking out at the suns of Tatooine in exactly the same way Luke would.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Just tell me your safeword and let's go

Cyber Tracker is a dystopian drama that examines the dichotomy between law and justice via a near-future setting in which corporate America mechanises a recently-privatised court system.  This dichotomy plays out via exploding fire engines and people being kicked in the head until they fall over and/or explode, with noted thespians Don "The Dragon" Wilson and Richard "Australian" Norton never quite getting a good throwdown between them despite this being what any fan of early-90s head-kicking has turned up to watch.  I made the mistake of not watching this drunk, so not enjoying its knuckle-dragging charms for what they are is entirely on me, though I did like Don Wilson's hilariously terrible Flashback Wife, who huffs out the door towards an offscreen divorce so Don can swig whiskey in the dark while listening to the sexy voice of his home computer, and the closest he gets to hanging out with a real woman until like the last twenty minutes of the film is some jailbait he runs into for some reason.  For what it's worth, I'm pretty sure this was weird behavior in the 1990s, too.

Bone Tomahawk - The Searchers by way of The Hills Have Eyes, with Kurt Russell's grizzled small town sheriff setting out to rescue a deputy and a doctor from Native American cannibals.  Additional good turns from Patrick Wilson and Ed Norton can't stop a functional western horror from looking remarkably cheap for all the talent involved.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

It was all for the best. All of it.

Music is resonance, vibration, and energy, and resonance, vibration, energy: these are the foundation of our plane of existence, composed as it is of protons and neutrons orbiting and vibrating in so perfect a synchronicity that they hold close and sustain each other across the lifespan of our universe (whatever that may turn out to be).  That vibration and resonance is the music that holds all things together, and it's hard to escape a suspicion that somehow the Goblin King tapped into that form of music like he did so many others and became a part of it, because he feels like he's everywhere.
It seems at the very least rude to say - on this of all days - that I am not a David Bowie fan, but it's the truth: I was not a devotee, I didn't know my Hunky Dory from my Black Tie White Noise, I just knew him as a presence in popular culture like Noel Edmonds or something - there, but enigmatic.
Having said that, I think back and I get all the references to him in popular culture, like a scene from The Venture Brothers which uses his lyrics for dialogue, or comic stories that riff on his song titles - I knew what these things were referring to without being told, so perhaps I was a fan all along without acknowledging it, or possibly Bowie has made so much music that has so influenced the world around us that like a bird chirping back a ringtone in a park, some subtle vibration within the world has been altered by the tunes he created and Bowie has now become a part of the DNA of our reality.
When I heard David Bowie had died, I didn't believe it, but the more I thought about it, the more I wonder why I doubted it.  I mean, was I thinking "he can't be dead - he still has so much to do"?  It's David Fucking Bowie we're talking about here, what's he got left to do?  If I'm doubting he died, it's because I suspect he ran out of things to do and turned his hand to another bit of reinvention.  I choose to believe that, then - that he has not left us, he's got back into his music.