Category Archives: TV

What’s Wrong With The Newsroom?

The Newsroom is a HBO series (still on Series 1 at time of writing) developed by Aaron Sorkin.

Have to say, I’m having a problem with it. I think there’s not enough “news”, but instead too much room is given to the annoying characters throughout. Jeff Daniels is great, but Emily Mortimer is miscast. She plays the role perfectly well, but I don’t believe her as a veteran journalist and even less as a top newsroom producer -and did you see that first episode where two characters trip over themselves to deliver the ‘excuse’ for her english accent in the most hokey expositional manner? How bad was that?

That’s not the whole problem though. I’ve heard it said they bash the Republican party too much. Not true -they only bash the Tea Party’s more ridiculous rants & claims.. and even then it shows clearly how ridiculous they are -and why- rather than just laugh at them.

No, the biggest problem is Aaron Sorkin: He’s the loudest guy in the room and I don’t think anyone has the guts to tell him be quiet some times. Just about *every* conversation is now a Sorkin formula: Two people shout at each other. One says something silly in the middle of the fast-paced argument, but it’s let slide. At the end of the scene, one of them leaves the room but is called back at the last second by the other who finally gets around to the silly bit, saying something like “did you really wear a dress to that party!?”

All the characters are too self-aware, analytical and too conscious of everyone elses’ emotions -and willing to discuss and help them with same.
I have to say I’m surprised HBO are doing this as normally they’re above those “US TV norms”. For that reason I believe the problem is with Sorkin himself -not that he can’t write excellently -just that he’s too big for an editor/ producer/ director to stand up and tell him hush down and allow the characters to speak for themselves rather than mouth his words (Tarantino has the same problem).
For all that, there’s around 35 – 40 minutes of a decent show in its 55ish minute runtime. If 15 minutes or so were cut, funnily enough it’d be down to a more-normal US tv show length. I for one propose the extraneous & tedious, pathos-filled character-development be cut.
Just get to the point, Jeff. We can handle it. The rest is filler and we all know it.

Dexter -The Fall of The Western Empire

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Can I stick my head above the parapet and say I believe the whole concept of the TV series “Dexter” is deplorable and symptomatic of the decline of western civilisation? Well I’ve said it.

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True I’ve only seen one episode (and it was very well written), but I really don’t want to ever see another -not because it’s not any good, but because I can see how it sucks you in and gets you to empathise with a serial killer and personally I don’t think it’s healthy for individuals or society as a whole to go there. It just ups the ante on what is acceptable.

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I’ll go one teensy bit further and say I believe the best “serial killer movies” are not about the killer himself/ herself (they don’t deserve a movie IMHO), but about the destruction on the individuals surrounding the incidents -detectives, reporters, others becoming obsessed by the crimes to the detriment of themselves and their loved ones. Films like Zodiac and Memories of Murder (Korean) deal with it very well.

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It’s my belief that with the advent of “The Serial Killer Hero”, embodied most blatantly in the likes of Dexter and Hannibal Lector, the whole of society (whatever that is) is becoming embroiled and obsessed by this kind of thing as though each of us is immediately affected.

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Over time and over a large population I don’t believe we are breeding serial killers, but we are increasing “the whole negative vibe”, which is nothing but a self-destructive downer.

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My catchy rallying call for an anti-Dexter type movement would be “Spread Love, not gouge out eyeballs with a tuning fork!”  Do you think it’d catch on? :)

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3D or Not 3D?

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Confession: I saw Jaws 3D five times in the cinema. I was a young teenager and, like, IT WAS 3D!!

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There were other 3D movies at the time, such as Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone with Peter Strauss that I saw multiple times because HEY! IT’S 1D BETTER THAN 2D!!!

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Then I grew up.

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If I was a young teen today I’d probably bet wetting myself (and hiding the evidence down the back of the bed) with the selection of 3D movies out and coming soon. Some of them, such as Toy Story 3, aren’t even dependent solely on the 3D effects.

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It’s a glorious time to be 13 and a consumer of movies!

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The problem for me is I’m no longer 13. I don’t care if the flat screen in front of me is displaying layered images as a story is unfolding. The whole effect reminds me of nothing “real”, but most closely resembles parralax scrolling, hailed as awesome as far back as the videogame Moon Patrol in 1982, and now in use most notably in Flash animations across an internet near you (unless you’re an adherant to the religion of Apple).

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It was exhilerating to watch how smoothly a game like Turrican ran on the Commodore Amiga while it presented a background moving on several planes, depending on how far away they were supposed to be. Like WOW!

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Now I don’t care. Now I’m interested only in what’s in the box. Not the box itself.

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But that’s just tough on me because teens are the movie-going demographic du jour. Since I am outside that demographic, the movie studios are not targetting me nor do they care what I think of it.

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For the record though, I thought it important to state my opinion: 3D is a load of crap. …at least 3D in its current (and previous) form, with required glasses , is a load of crap.

It adds nothing but a dark plastic layer between the viewer and the movie. It’s like visiting someone in prison and having to talk with them through a wall of glass. If that wall wasn’t there, even if we were still not allowed to touch or move nearer, wouldn’t we be that much closer?

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It seems every electronics manufacturer in the world has staked its family silver on the mass-adoption of 3D technology. Whether we like it or not, it is coming because “they” have decided.

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Allow me to make a prediction: There is a guaranteed new market crash in our future and 3D technology will play a big part in it. Nobody in anything like big numbers is going to pay cold hard cash to replace their “2D” television so they can have the privilege of watching Coronation Street or Desperate Housewives in 3D. And even if they did, they would soon get fed up with finding and cleaning and replacing their 3D glasses.

It’s just silly to believe it could be any other way.

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Yet, every large multinational conglomerate, from SONY to Samsung, from Nintendo to Mitsubishi (hmm, are all of these Japanese/ Asian?)… OK, from Microsoft to every Hollywood movie studio (some also owned by some of the above), appears to be putting every ounce of their weight behind this technology.

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So what happens when that techology collapses (as it will, inevitably, because as I said: It’s crap)?

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Simple Solutions #6: How to End a Soccer Stalemate

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Penalties are great for tension, but few people believe they are a fair way to settle the score between two seemingly-inseperable sides in a soccer match.

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THE PROBLEM: How to end a ‘stalemate’ game of soccer after a half hour of extra time has been played in a manner that is fairer and uses more all-round “soccer skills” than penalty shoot-outs.

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THE SOLUTION #1: After extra time, move the goal-posts five yards closer together (including the pitch lines of course) on either end. Every 5-10 minutes thereafter, move each goal another 5 yards closer until a goal is scored.

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THE SOLUTION #2: If that doesn’t grab ya, expand the goal-size every 5-10 minutes until a ball gets in.

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Both these solutions have an advantage over penalties, in that they utilise all the skills of a team rather than relying solely on the ability of a single player from one side and the goalie from the other.

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Of course this won’t be adopted because: Football/ Soccer never changes unless its dragged kicking and screaming to change. It’s also full of unimaginative, over-serious ball-fiddlers who wouldn’t know a good idea if it hit them on the head.

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Plus, I don’t know about you, but I rather like penalty-shootouts. Still, many people moan and groan about how unfair they are, so I’m just putting these out there for the record.

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The Hurt Locker

I’ve read a number of posts/ articles/ essays complaining of inaccuracies in the film The Hurt Locker. To my mind each of these completely miss the point of the movie.

I don’t believe this movie has much to do with the Iraq war to be honest. I can see why serving soldiers wouldn’t like it because it’s not looking to capture realism, but rather it portrays the heightened tensions/ emotions/ situations of people on the frontline (or near enough to it).

It takes many liberties in doing so, but to my mind this makes it a better film. It’s less a photograph than a mood/tone-orientated painting, possibly missing much/most factual information, but instead translating the emotion and many more  (perhaps otherwise indescribable) aspects of the world it is presenting.

Ultimately (as the quote at the start of the movie reveals) it’s about adrenelin addiction rather than “Iraq”. Tension is racked up and diffused continuously. It can all end in a mighty explosion or a disappointing deflation -literally, figuratively, emotionally, physically. It doesn’t matter if the events that bring the protagonist or the viewer to this experience are real-world approximations or flights of imagination. What matters is you share in the more ephemeral/ ’emotional’ aspect so you understand where the protagonist is situated mentally (in his head) rather than physically (as, in this movie, in Iraq).
The Hurt Locker is more a movie about thrill seekers, gamblers and junkies than it is about war in Iraq (or anywhere else). To my mind it’s a great movie, but I can understand how it can be ‘misunderstood’ by people who expect it to be something else.

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For a better representation of War in Iraq, Generation Kill is the start and end point.

As this image shows, it’s from David Simon, creator of The Wire -the best TV show ever in the history of TV. Generation Kill is a lot shorter than The Wire and to my sensibilities slightly slower to get into, but a damn fine truthful representation of war from a particular (grunt/marine) aspect. Not that I’m in a position to comment on what that’s like, but for anyone looking for a representation of “war in Iraq” I would steer them here rather than The Hurt Locker.

Artgenda Movies

I don’t like films with “agendas” -even if it’s in support of a viewpoint I might otherwise agree with. At least not an agenda that must be conformed to in order to appreciate the tale at hand. If I want to be preached at I’ll go to church. I don’t think any “art” (and by that I do include “entertainment”) should have any leaning bias.

Viewers should be free to form their own conclusions and opinions -not have it forced upon them.

Pleasantville is an example off the top of my head.
It’s black & white and slowly goes into colour as characters develop less “50s strict” lifestyles and learn to live in increasingly more liberal ways.

Continue reading Artgenda Movies

What is THE WIRE all about?

The Wire is a TV series by David Simon -and others.

I’m posting this because I don’t think enough has been said about The Wire.
Sure, it’s easy to see it’s praises being sung everywhere, but I’ve spoken with many people who have seen/read this praise and jumped in, often unable to make it halfway through the first series without throwing in the towel.

Why?
Maybe, I think, it’s because people have become weary of the kind of traditional tales that are set in “this environment” via the traditional media. Who needs more woe-begotten, hopeless stories with small sparks of over-gushing sentimentality? Not me.
Or maybe it’s because people see it as being “about a world I have no interest or involvement in”?
That’s possible.

Thankfully, the Wire is about much more than that, if you allow it to take you through its story.

So what is it? What is THE WIRE all about?

I’d like to make some attempt at explaining why people should stick with it (if they have a difficulty) and to put a finger on exactly what it is all about -or at least give a general no-spoiler overview so as to enable you to decide if it’s something you might wish to devote your precious time to…

Continue reading What is THE WIRE all about?

DEAD RAT

A little while ago my next door neighbour called to the door and asked if he could take some snips from flowers in our garden. I said of course, work away.

Long story, shortened: The previous owners of our house planted hundreds of flowers and plants all over the place. During the past 9 years of our tenure the garden has been forced to stand on its own two feet and fend for itself for the main part. If I’ve done nothing else, I like to think I’ve taught it some independence. Deirdre next door does some flower arranging every now & again. Her husband Con helps her gather what’s needed.

So Con went off and allowed me return to Series 1 of Damages (which incidentally is both awfully compelling and often just awful -a trend I’ve noticed in other TV shows such as The Tudors -it’s like they know they could be great, but are afraid to commit to being really great in case they lose the mass appeal. So every now & again they liberally apply Dumbdown (TM) and sprinkle it with an over-supply of Obviousness and pop it back in for a few minutes of crispy Crassness -a little something to please everyone, which results in nobody being happy with the end product.)

Glenn Close was being nasty and was about to make a nasty phonecall to another nasty lawyer when Con tapped on the window once again. It turned out he had made a discovery which can be summed up in two words: Dead Rat.

Yuck.

Continue reading DEAD RAT