Category Archives: Posts

More Than A New Dr.

“Rose, before I go I just wanna tell you — you were fantastic…absolutely fantastic…and d’you know what? So was I.”

Christopher Eccleston spoke these as his last words as Dr. Who,  delivering them with the energy and eccentricity that embodied his interpretation of the Doctor.  Even though he had the appearance of a man, there was always something impossible to relate to – something alien.  His character was defined by his actions and by those around him, rather than the exposition dialogue that came to cripple Tennant.

For Eccelstone’s reign was a brief one – a great explosion from nowhere and covering the BBC in its glorious embers – and he needed no longer. 

 

“I don’t want to go.”

These, of course, are the last words of David Tennat and also go some way to summarising his Doctor.  Tennant was a passionate fan and he conveyed this through his commitment and enthusiasm.  However, at some point, these traits seem to have tarnished his stay – for me, at least. 

Whereas Ecclestone was Russell T. Davies’ primordial Doctor, Tennat came to be his fully realised form.  Unfortunately, what Davies believed the Doctor to be was contrary to my own.

I’m all too familiar with liking things that embarrass me.  An avid wrestling and Weezer fan, I’m constantly exposed to disappointment in what I want these things to be.  A reviewer once said of a particularly awful episode of Raw that, to separate himself from his investment and unconditional love for wrestling, he imagined what he would feel like if someone came in – who knew nothing about wrestling – and watched the program with him.  He concluded he would feel overwhelmingly embarrassed. 

But loving these things is inescapable because we know when the things we love are good there’s nothing better.

Lost – another example – when compared to its first season, is so off the mark of what originally made it so inventive.  But now, after 4 seasons of testing and inconsistencies, we are beginning to be rewarded.  For when Lost is on form, and to experience that as a devotee, the effect is unrivalled.

Too many times did I watch Dr. Who and have to select its good parts, not having enjoyed the episode as a whole.  Davies’ tendency to dip all in sentiment and force an overly liberal agenda prevented that.

And when was Dr. Who genuinely scary?  A few episodes aside (most notably Blink), tension was built by shots of running and the most intrusive soundtrack since, well…Lost.

Near the end of Tennant and Davies, Dr. Who was almost unbearable.  Enjoyment was instead from Cribbens or bringing back classic villains.  Even John Simms felt somehow wasted.

And their parting note – the most self-indulgent montage ever endured – typified the series that preceded it.  Jokes that were visibly trying to be funny, Catherine Tate, plots that didn’t feel either necessary or sufficient and far, far, far too much sentiment.

Of course I welled up at Tennat’s last scene, and of course I jumped up and cheered when the Timelords returned, but that is only because I am a delusional fan – a fan so starved for quality that I mistake morsels of it for genius. 

Tennant overstayed his welcome, as did Davies, and still had the tenacity to declare neither wanted to leave.  Emotional, sure.  Probably true to life also.  But, on reflection and not whisked up in the feeling of it all, this is a tarnish.  Why end such a significant part of the Doctor with this line of lingering?  As poignant as it was, it devalues the work they both put in.  Tennant lost some of his dignity there.  Not bowing out as nobly as Ecclestone, pleading for a few more scenes after those few scenes too many.

And this is the other fault in Davies and Tennant’s interpretation and portrayal of the Doctor – he was far too human.  He felt too much.  And as Tennant’s face was permanently so expressive, he showed every microscopic occurence of that feeling.  He may have been eccentric at times, but only ever in his energy or knowledge.  He never, say, asked which part of the jelly baby you would like, or ate fish fingers dipped in custard.

This is what makes the great incarnations of the Doctor so great; their noticable difference from the human characters.  That’s what made Ecclestone so menacing, Pertwee so suave and Baker (the Tom one) so engaging.  Tennant was simply a very nice guy, confusing quantity (running, eyebrows, Segways, holding his mouth open like Munch’s Scream whenever saying ‘weeeeell’) for quality.

This is Davies’ fault as much as it is Tennant’s, maybe more so.  And this new regime of both Doctor and show runner (as they would say in America) appears to run far deeper than just actor and narrative.

The Eleventh Hour was superb from the first electronic waves of the theme tune – which too has been revamped.  The cinematography seemed film-like rather than the noticable sets that reeked earlier episodes.  The soundtrack, although present, wasn’t even half as intrusive.  The editing was more efficient – quicker for shots of action (still, unfortunately, quite limited to running) – but also allowed itself to linger on moments of enchantment.  Near the end, as the Doctor asks Amy to come with him in the TARDIS, he is shot in profile.  Matt Smith’s face is naturally odd and the contours of his forehead seem to pulse the exact other-worldliness that is so vital for the Doctor.  He motions the idea of space travel with a glint in his eye, and the editing holds this.  Slightly longer, only a second or so, than economical editing would allow, which makes the moment all the more mythical.

These things we love often come from our childhood.  Both wrestling and Weezer were my vices from 10 – 15 and I had neither the experience or critical ability to recognise their flaws.  The same is true for the Dr. Who repeats I used to watch on UK Gold when I was even younger.  The postcard of McCoy’s assistant, Ace, the TARDIS play set that flashed its blue light, the Dalek video box set that I watched in the excess that only a child can.

When we grow out of them, the love remains as nostalgia.  Sometimes we return to them, or in Dr. Who’s case, they return to us.  When they do, we still have the love, but we have the hindering experience that maturity brings.  As remnants of our childhood, one has a fixed notion of what they can and should be.  Just like when Christopher Nolan captured a shared notion of what Batman should be in his interpretation

In their first proper outing, Steven Moffat and Matt Smith laid some solid foundations.  Amongst the episode specific qualities of an actually scary antagonist and a story that holds together, the new era’s characters have been introduced.  What is so special, however, is that the human characters come across as they should do – not as the caricatures of Davies.  And the one character that shouldn’t come across as human, didn’t.  Matt Smith, in his awkward bow tie and tweed, exuding the confidence of the Doctor that has inhabited so many before his present form, physically and metaphorically bursting through and out of his predecessors.

This is who the Doctor is.

A Mold on our Civilization

I will first admit that I am overwhelmingly opposed to the Church, so any assumption of stance is hereby made perfectly clear.

Yet, the revelations of its child abuse cover-up has been water to my already chip-pan-fire.  Like the reader who throws up his arms at every illegal immigration story, who is already predisposed against immigration, I am no different.  But my particular vice is the faults of the Church.  Their outdated views.  Their embarrassing stories.  And now, unfortunately for their victims, their concealments.

A certain effect of the recession seems to have been the uncovering of elitism.  First in the bankers through condemning their excess.  Then in the politicians with their greed exposed.  Now, although the stories of child-abuse are entirely different, being far more serious with real, identifiable victims, this will hopefully shift attention onto the segregation of the Church from civilization.  My father often said there will always be two institutions that will never be exposed for their corruption; the Church and the legal system, on account of their exclusive statuses of confidentiality within society.  For the Church, at least, scrutiny is beginning to rumble beneath our feet.

I won’t detail the current allegations against the Church, they are more than covered by other outlets.  Instead, I want to discuss a photo…

…the PopeMobile.

I came across this photo when reading an article on Joseph Alois Ratzinger, the man who became Pope.  An interesting piece, on Ratzinger’s political shift from relative liberalism in the 50s, to a hyper-conservative approach there forth.  However, it was the photo that stood out.  Like many spectacles, the PopeMobile has become a blind spot, not really worthy of interrogation.  Yet look how awkwardly the world of the Church marries with modern society, here epitomized by the car.

The image is ridiculous.  Aside from being absurd in its design, like a moving tomb for religion, there is something more at work.  The Church, at least, in its current form, is not compatible with modern society.  Just see how the Pope is physically separated from that which surrounds him.

News reports, as they love to do, sprinkle their monologues with footage related to the story.  In coverage of the child-abuse claims, this has been in overdrive.  Showing real-time, live footage of the Vatican and its city; the cardinals in red swinging smoking lamps; the Pope himself covered in bling.  There is no tradition here – well, none that I can see.  All I observe is decay and age in its most abhorrent form.  The practices are outdated, the robes they wear self-satirical – and organised religion has absolutely no place in contemporary society.

The Church is a mold on our civilization, being cultivated by the delusional for the weak, deprived and vulnerable.

Saul Bass Gets Lost

Although I’ve grown completely attached and dependent on the weird reverberating gunshot, electronic interference and word-art-esque title for Lost, I think I may have preferred the opening credits embedded above.

In the style of minimalist, jazz infused artist, Saul Bass, Lost comes across as ‘fun’ in a different way.  Like, with a lot more camp jokes and eyebrow raising.  Besides, Locke has the perfect eyebrows for a camp rise every so often.  Or is it Locke?  Ah hell…

David Arquette Vs Chris Jericho

I know that American in-house television audiences being moronic is common knowledge, with their screaming and clapping and HA HA OVERTHETOP GENUINE ROFL LAUGHING, but, not having watched one of these shows in a while, I was taken back by how annoying it all is.  It sounded as though audio from a roller coaster ride was being played in a pop-up internet window lurking somewhere behind my current one.

Thankfully, the clip I was watching was from a chat show interview with David Arquette, who I like even at the worst of times, and a surprise interruption by professional wrestler Chris Jericho.  And then, in a way that only bored and stoned script writers could hallucinate up – in one of those rare moments of clarity which beg to be asked “Why the fuck hasn’t anyone done this before?” – Jericho challenges Arquette to a wrestling match for the now defunct WCW World Heavyweight Title, Arquette changes into an acid fusion of Randy Savage and drunk Scott Hall, for them to finally settle their dispute in a karaoke rendition of “Total Eclipse of the Heart”.

Arquette sings with a perfect mix of out-of-tune voice and slightly-too-late lyrics, allowing even the prim to reminisce over all the best drunken nights you’ve ever had.  And Jericho, well, Jericho is the best in the world at whatever he does.

Watch here now.

IMAX Hubble Space Telescope Movie

Cinema began as a scientific medium.  Marey and Muybridge used recording apparatus to study the movement of their subjects.  In Muybridge’s case, it was the race-horse – an anecdote drilled into every film student from their first lecture.  Marey, the fella who first achieved sequence photography (a moving image) in a singular device, used it to study birds and their method of flight.

Film then got hijacked by the arts.  Fiction and documentary replaced study.  These two approaches provided their own analysis of reality, but cinema – or more precisely, film – as a scientific tool has the superior objectivity.  It’s easier to unintentionally manipulate reality when creating art.  After all, a defining characteristic of art is its intention.  Science, however, suffers no such constraints.  It records only for evidence, very rarely allowing its aim to dictate results.

Although this looks like a documentary, and a spectacle, and inevitably to an extent, a fiction, seeing footage of our world and the infinite which surrounds it will surely champion this scientific approach to film.  Subjectivity will never be removed from human practice, but the images recorded from the Hubble space telescope, looking out into an unexplored abyss – where human reach is neither noticeable or significant – will provoke feelings in awe of objectivity.  That we are, in fact, very, very little, and our subjectivity counts for even less.  And in that great void, as the trailer’s closing soundbite perfectly describes…

“Hubble shows us the size of the Universe, and the beauty that it holds.  It’s beyond what we can comprehend.”

And then, even more poignantly…

“Narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio”

Garfield – Garfield = Uncertainty

College humour posted a video the other day which removed the character of Garfield from his last animated film.  The aim was to make Jon appear schizophrenic, which it achieves rather well, but when watched with the brilliant Garfield – Garfield cartoon strip in mind, it’s hard to ignore the heavy helping of existentialism…

The College Humour (or ‘humor’, because American’s spell things wrong – bitter because I can’t embed this one) version:

Garfield Minus Garfield College Humor

The combined experience made me feel a little drunken on paranoia…

Holst?…Nasa?…HD FOOTAGE!?

The uber-geek inside me, the one that isn’t that well hidden, can’t stop fidgeting.  The Barbican are hosting the Houston Symphony (sexy tie-in) orchestra to perform Gustav Holst’s ‘The Planets’.  Cherry on top?  A huge, HD projection of NASA exploration footage.

Bad side though.  It’s happening all the way in October.  I don’t think I can hold this erection that long…oh wait, a trailer.  When I play any of the pieces inside my mind, I get a weird mashup of an old Hovis commercial and Jurassic Park, which might be, oh, I don’t know, the pinnacle of human imagination.  Nonetheless, the experience should help cement the music to some potentially spectacular images, and I won’t have to picture a dinosaur on a bicycle with bread under his arm in the North somewhere, again…

The power of today’s telescope technology would have been unimaginable for Holst back in 1917, but a project involving the Houston Symphony, NASA, The Jet Propulsion Laboratory and producer/ director Duncan Copp will link Holst’s vivid musical vision with high-definition images of our solar system that the composer could only have dreamed of seeing.