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Showing posts from April, 2020

Mars and Beyond!

This old Disney TV show was drawn to my attention a few months ago by animator Hannah Moss - @BrochJam on Twitter . She said it was quite likely that Disney would take it down from YouTube soon, but at time of writing this it’s still up - if all the links in this post stop working. you’ll know it’s gone. If they don’t, you can find the whole thing here, and if you have 52 minutes to spare, it's well worth watching. Made in 1957, the programme looks at the history of human thinking about Mars, what scientists in 1957 think it’s really like, and how they think we might one day get there. It’s fascinating on several different levels. First, and most obvious, the wonderful animation. Look at how beautifully the characters in the opening sequence are drawn! And the wonderful invention on display in these aliens in their winter and summer plumage… While this plucky space heroine definitely deserves her own franchise… The sequence about the birth of the solar system

Terrence Malick and the Edge of the Possible

'The images and acting are beguiling, but the absence of narrative drive means that if the spell falters, Malick loses his hold on us. As with Andrei Tarkovsky, I watch his films in a heightened state of excitement and drowsiness. A great revelation is about to manifest itself, yet I fear I will fall asleep and miss it. Malick and Tarkovsky dare to engage with the metaphysical. They have taken film to the very edge of what is possible.’    John Boorman, Conclusions When I was a teenager, just getting interested in cinema, there were two Terrence Malick films. They were Badlands and Days of Heaven , and they were both superb. If you don’t know Malick’s work and this post inspires you to give it a try they are still probably the best place to start - they’re among the best American films of the 1970s, and the ‘70s was a very good decade for American films. But that was it: after Days of Heaven , Malick vanished. It seemed as if, having made his two masterpieces, he had wear

Halt and Catch Fire

In one of the later episodes of Halt and Catch Fire there is a scene where computer engineer Gordon has a huge row with his teenage daughter in his office. As she storms out, he angrily slams the door behind her. It is a plate glass door, and we brace ourselves for it to shatter into a million pieces, symbolising his impotent rage. But it’s a plate glass door in the trendy offices of a Californian internet company in the 1990s, and it turns out to be un-slammable. So it just gently closes with a quiet little hydraulic sigh, leaving Gordon looking a bit foolish, and us delighted by the writers’ ability to constantly take things in directions we weren’t quite expecting.   With the possible exception of The Wire , I think Halt and Catch Fire is the best modern TV drama I’ve watched. Created by Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers, at first glance it looks a bit like a Madmen knock off (which is quite possibly what it was intended as). It starts in the

Krakens and Chrysalids

This is very old post, from the earliest days of my old blog, but it seemed Relevant To Our Situation.  The first grown-up science fiction writer I read was H G Wells; the second was  John Wyndham .  The reason for that was simple; like Wells, Wyndham was  respectable . There were no lurid paintings of bug-eyed monsters or space-princesses in boilerplate bikinis on the jackets of his novels; they were sober, orange-and-white Penguin paperbacks, which sat comfortably on my parents' bookshelves alongside the works of writers like Eric Ambler, Neville Shute, and Hammond Innes. Brian Aldiss, writing at the height of 'New Wave' sci-fi in the '60s, referred to novels like  The Day of the Triffids  and  The Kraken Wakes  as 'cosy catastrophes', and  there  is  something oddly reassuring about  the way Wyndham's heroes navigate the collapse of civilization with stiff upper lips, old fashioned British pluck, and a Brave Girl at their sides.  But

A Good Use of Space

The only Star Wars I really rate is the original 1977 film. I expect that’s mostly because I was twelve when it came out, but I do think it’s far superior to all the sequels and prequels which followed. Movie buffs would claim The Empire Strikes Back is better, but for me that's where it all starts to go wrong, when Luke goes off to spend a large chunk of the film being trained in the ways of mystical codswallop by a muppet. The Force and the Jedi Knights are an important detail in the original Star Wars , and provide a powerful, mythic flavour that instantly separates it from the shiny, gadgety sci-fi we were used to in the ‘70s, but they’re a fairly small part of the story. The closer they get to centre stage in the later films, the more boring they become. It’s no coincidence that the nearest the Star Wars franchise has got to producing good films since 1983 is with Rogue One and Solo , in which the Force barely features. And now The Mandalorian . Disney are drip-feeding

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

What is it that makes Brooklyn Nine-Nine , a fairly traditional sitcom about New York cops, so endlessly entertaining? We’ve already seen every episode at least twice, and when things started getting depressing here in this quarantine spring we went straight back to it. Taken line-by-line, it’s a well-written show, but it’s not spectacularly well-written. It has its share of weak gags, individual scenes quite often end without a payoff, and the storylines, if we’re being objective, are sometimes a bit bland and contrived. But none of that matters even a tiny bit, because the gags, the scenes, and the storylines all exist simply so the cast can do their thing, and the Brooklyn Nine-Nine cast are perfect. Like many perfect casts, they’re kind of a disparate bunch: Andy Samberg as Jake and Chelsea Peretti as Gina are basically comedians doing their respective schticks, Joe Lo Truglio (Boyle), Melissa Fumero (Amy), Stephanie Beatriz (Rosa), Dirk Blocker, (Hitchcock) and Joel Mc