Thursday, 13 October 2011

In the Movies

Contains some thematic spoilers, but I don't think it's that kind of film. 

I knew watching Midnight in Paris would provide the necessary push I needed for a Woody Allen writing frenzy I have been planning for a while. However. writing about Woody Allen stresses me out. Not only is there a book or an essay about Woody Allen everywhere you look, but whatever I say about Woody Allen, he probably said it better and was more entertaining doing it; and so, when attempting to write about his latest film I become the nervous wreck he usually is in his films, and get entangled in thoughts and words that not make for coherent writing. 

I admire Woody Allen so much that if he decided to paint a wall I would gladly sit and watch that paint dry; how does one explain that? I love how he used to make films, funding them from his acting and stand up money. I love that even when he got Hollywood he still pays union rates and not star rates, and maintain his films' character. I love his passion for film, but most of all I love his films. The anticipation of a new Woody Allen film still excites me like a child anticipating presents opening. It's quite an achievement considering he has consistently been making at least one film a year

His bad films still make me glad I watched a Woody Allen film. His great films put a song in my heart, a spring in my step and a really stupid smile on my face when I leave the cinema. When Woody Allen makes a great film it simply make me happy; always.

Midnight in Paris is that kind of film, its simplicity, like in all of Allen’s truly great films, is wining, and liberating. There are no swings nor roundabouts, bigger or double meanings metaphors or subtext what you see is what you get. Woody Allen is not just wearing his heart on his sleeves in his films, he also wears the film on his films, and simply tells you what they are without any hidden agenda, and without turning the simple to simplistic. How dare he?!  

When Allen is not playing himself he makes his lead actor and rarely his actress his surrogates. It is always great fun for me to watch different actors’ interpretations of Woody Allen. My own favourites are Kenneth Branagh, in nobody’s favourites but mine, Celebrity and Will Ferrell in Melinda and Melinda. The worst Woody Allen surrogate in my view was Larry David, who even before the quite rubbish Whatever Works, I thought was not a very good imitation of Woody Allen.

Owen Wilson’s Allen in Midnight in Paris not only sheds a new light on the forever neurotic Woody Allen character, but also on Wilson’s own persona. Gil is surprisingly more charming and lovable than I ever found any of Wilson’s other characters. Not that I have anything against Owen Wilson it’s just that I was beginning to think him a one trick pony. While Woody Allen is comfortable playing Woody Allen, Owen Wilson isn’t, but it makes him wonderfully delicate. His usual mellow self adds a kind of warmth to Gil, which makes him incredibly endearing. 

Midnight in Paris brings back my favourite childishness of Allen's best films, best demonstrated in the Marshall McLuhan scene from Annie Hall:

"Boy if life were only like this!" But in the movies life CAN be like this. In the movies Gil not only can go back in time to Paris of the 20s and mingle with all his heroes, but in this Woody Allen movie it’s also going to be bloody fantastic!  

Friday, 7 October 2011

The Season of TV

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh… I am still in the process of trying to catch up with TV series' I was brutally deprived of in my youth like The Sopranos, classic Doctor Who and many more; and television keeps attacking me with new magnificent shows to which I cannot resist. Television has always been a big part of my life, but I can’t remember a more fruitful era than the one we are in now, and so many of the fruits are so delicious and addictive.

In the past British television was, without competition, my gourmet television; making television from all other available countries (admittedly mainly the US and Israel) look pale and easily forgotten in comparison. However, it seems that the American powers that be of television making rolled up their sleeves, and what started with a few drops of quality TV from independent cable companies, turned into unstoppable flood of great television. Everywhere I look I find myself facing yet another, not just time fillers, guilty pleasure kind of television, but really good television shows that can proudly be given the forever sexy, seal of quality approval. 

Anticipating my television schedule, the ever so considerate America has showered me with new seasons of great television to fill the void  Doctor Who left when the season ended.

I here by give you some of my top choices of American television, in an ascending order of love, to take me through to Christmas, when British television usually comes back and concurs my screen again.  

Currently on season 3                                                                              

Glee is mostly a guilty pleasure for me, with a few moments and sometimes full episodes of guilt free pleasure as the series develops. The second season moved between the fabulous and the greatly disappointing, sometimes annoying even. A dear friend,  with a great taste in television, like all my friends are,  has defined Glee very well as popcorn, or your choice of snack if like me you’re not a popcorn fan, you consume it, it’s addictive, but you don’t think about it much.   

Marti Noxon, who was Joss Whedon’s partner in crime on great television makings, has joined the writing team of Glee for the third season, and I am looking forward to her input in the show. Joss Whedon himself directed Dream On the 19th episode of the first season, which is still one of my favourite Glee episodes. 

The Big Bang Theory
Currently on season 5

If it wasn’t for an embarrassing fourth season TBBT would have gotten a higher place, a place of honour even, in this parade of my TV royalty.   

Unlike many of my friends who took some time to get use to it, TBBT has won me over right from the start with its classic, almost old fashioned sitcom charm. Taped in front of a canned laughter with regular sets and a fourth wall standing tall at a time that barely remembers what a fourth wall is. 

The very simple premise of four nerds and a blond became a magical comedy of situations for three fantastic seasons. The fourth season was a heinous crime against TBBT and all that made it so wonderful. We shall never speak of it again! 

Despite this travesty, the season finale went back, in my opinion to all that was good on TBBT and I am going to ignore all that happened before and hope for the best.

Currently on season 4

I started watching Castle for the love of Nathan Fillion and I wasn’t disappointed. Everyone in the show is cool, but everyone is that much cooler when Fillion is around. 

Once again drawing from the classics, Castle is probably what Moonlighting would have looked like if it was made today. Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) is a murder mystery best seller author, who is looking for a muse. He finds it in the beautiful detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic), who through his friendship with the mayor, he gets to follow and annoy. The rest is history.

It is hard to believe that this “Will they won’t they?” relationship that has been done to death so many times can still work, but what do you know, it does. Whether it’s the witty banter that is really witty, the glam and bizarre murders or simply Fillion’s winning charisma (“he really is ruggedly handsome”), is hard to tell, but it all comes together neatly as a glitzy and sexy detective rom-com, and despite being as formula as a formula show about formulas can get, Castle is really great.

If you happen to be a Firefly fan and a general Fillion appreciator, for the first two seasons Castle, clearly at Fillion’s whims, offers constant Firefly references from hidden Easter eggs, which Fillion used to warn about on his twitter feed, to what I refer to as simply doing a Firefly al la Castle. Apart from fandom fun, this also shows just how much Fillion still loves the show that was taken away from him as well as us fans way before its time. I think it still hurts Fillion as it does the fans. 

Currently on season 7

Delicious boys, the required amount of homoeroticism and the kind of Meta dipped with humour that can give Charlie Kaufman a run for his Meta money, make Supernatural a delicatessen.

Dean and Sam Winchester are ghost, demons and other monster hunters, world saviours and occasional heartbreakers, who travel across America trying to stop the next end-of-the-world disaster.

The first three seasons, like most American network shows, are fun with the occasional stand out episode, but Supernatural really takes off from fourth season onward. It adapts a great attitude, self awareness and fantastic additional characters (Misha Collins, who plays Castiel I am looking at you) that add lovely flavours and colours to the it all.

If you like humoristic Meta and a bit of sexy with your Sci Fi, Supernatural is the show for you.  

Currently on season 3

Because of the pompous but loveable Jeff, because of the annoying but sometimes funny Britta, because of the sweeter than sugar Shirley, because of the racist, chauvinistic and other faults of Pierce, because of Abed, who is a computer, because of my favourite girl Annie and my favourite boy Troy, because of Ben Chang, the dean, the monkey and mostly because of the general atmosphere of anarchy fun and frenzy of this excellent comedy that loves films and loves television and celebrates it with joy.     

Currently on season 8

The first post I wrote was about House, and at the end of it I expressed some worries about the idea of an eights season. One of my favourite women on television  and one of the best things to happen to House, in more ways than one, Lisa Edelstein, announced that she will not continue to the eights season, and House without Lisa is like... Well... it's still to painful for me to imagine what it's like, but also, in my view, the way season seven has ended was perfect, leaving me just the right kind of emotional wreckness I like.

So far there has been only one episode of the new season. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. I am however, cautiously intrigued to see where it goes.

In its past seasons, House has taken me through levels of emotional pains and darkness that I hardly ever seen on television and definitely never seen on mainstream American television and I loved every minute of its destructive misery. I don't know if that kind of enjoyable suffering that characterised season six and seven can be topped. One can only hope. 

There you go a taste of some my favourite shows from the US of A  that are currently on. There are many more shows, some are not necessarily at the top of my list, others are not currently on. Many, some are in this list, will probably get my full attention in the form of a more in depth post, but I feel obligated to mention Justified, which after a brilliant second season I eagerly await its return for a third in 2012. Also, I hang my head in shame for being very late to this party and only just discovering wonderful series of Denis Leary Rescue Me, which ended just recently. Those of you who hid this treasure from me should go stand in the corner, facing the wall and think about what they’ve done. I intend to gulp its seven seasons and report back.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some more television to watch.      


Monday, 3 October 2011

Doctor Who?

This post is about the sixth series of Doctor Who and without any doubt contains spoilers. Read only if you have seen or if spoilers rubs of you like water of a duck. 

“Mooofffffffffaaaaaaatttttt!!! Waves fist” or “Damn you Moffat!” were responses I got used to seeing on twitter right after a new episode of the sixth series of Doctor Who has been aired. Often enough those responses were my own, but I wasn't alone. I can picture Stephen Moffat rubbing his hands together with pleasure at angry or confused fans; jumping up and down with joy like a kid, well, I don't know if Moffat is really the jumping up and down type, but in my head he is, at any opportunity to break a rule, reinvent it or simply ignore it just so he can put an innocent Doctor Who viewer in an uncomfortable position. Uncomfortable is my favourite position for television watching. 

Series Six of Doctor Who had a fantastic anarchic and rebellious feel to it, with many plot moves and development that had an air of cheeky defiance to them. By setting the first rule, in which the Doctor lies, and I think it is safe to say that therefore Moffat lies, he opened the door to challenging the institution that is Doctor Who, not just the show, but all that accompanies it.

As someone who was left generally underwhelmed and even disappointed at the end of series five, watching the sixth series was a remedial experience to begin with, but quickly became independently exciting. This series has brought Doctor Who back into that special place in my heart reserved for my favourite television show and it was like it never left, and it is now there to stay. 

Oh how I enjoyed the cunning sneakiness of Moffat and the Doctor: no one should know their own future, but what do you know, the Doctor does, challenging of the iron rule of a fixed point in time and space, new take on regenerations and clever teasing with off-screen adventures and stories, which apart from anything else practically hands out fantastic opportunities to the nurtured fan fiction surrounding Doctor Who.  So many small and big takings of liberties, which more than anything else established the undisputed authorship of the Moff. 
Mmmm... Maybe not the jumping up and down type.

Perhaps most joyous of all this glorious sixth series for me, was the story and the craftiness of its telling. I loved how what seemed so important and pressing at one point in time and space, became unimportant, or less important in another. Right from the start many questions were raised and speculations made, whether about River's identity, the Doctor's killer or the reason for his death. However, some answers were given half way through the series, and once that question was answered it wasn't difficult to deduce the rest, and the new questions were raised. We are too clever to believe that the Doctor was actually going to die, of course there will be some way to get him out of this kerfuffle. Most of us have also figured out that River is his killer/wife and the daughter of Amy and Rory before it was told to us. The questions and the answers given were merely instruments of skilful and wonderful storytelling and not the main point; and so the story and its experience become the living and dynamic two hearts of Doctor Who

The story was emotional; it had romance, drama, suspense, action, comedy, sadness, darkness and great characters. I was delighted to see Amy whose “life made no sense” in the fifth series transform to the Amy Pond, whose time-line is constantly rewritten and changing. Amy, as it turns out, had more knowledge over the Doctor’s time-line than she had of her own.With every episode Amy becomes slightly less involved and more passive, her knowledge of the Doctor's death becomes less urgent as the constant rewritings of her life and the tragedy of not being able to raise her child leave their dramatic mark upon her. Suddenly Amy is no longer the attention seeking poster girl, but rather a sad lost and confused character, who didn't have a chance to make sense of her life.

It is as if through the loss of control over her time-line Amy's character gained the depth and meaning it previously lacked. I was quite pleasantly shocked at how cruel she suddenly turned in the finale, her anger and pain finally bursts out in a desperate moment to take control and seek revenge. Amy's development also allowed Rory to change; he is no longer simply the loyal pet who tags along after Amy, he is her protector, sometimes from the Doctor, sometimes from herself. His character development has been an absolute pleasure to watch. While in the fifth series he came across as annoyingly jealous and spineless, now the subtle build up of his pain and anger towards the Doctor, which come from a different place than jealousy, one we can understand and even relate to, combined with Arthur Dervill's fantastic talent for comic timing, makes his and the Doctor's interaction my second favourite of this series on-screen relations. 

My favourite on-screen relationship of the series, which causes me to grin stupidly even as I write about it, is of course between the Doctor and River. The chemistry between those two explodes onto the screen and I cherish every moment they are on it together. My heart leaps with the kind of excitement and happiness that only the combination of the best screwball comedies and magical fairy-tales bring out of me. I can’t help but want River and the Doctor to live together forever and have lots of time lord babies so they can rebuild Gallifray together... OK maybe I am getting carried away here, but what can I say I am a hopeless romantic and River and the Doctor's relationship, in my opinion, is amongst all other things very romantic. What can be more romantic than stopping time for true love? 

"You're embarrassing me!" My heart shrank for River at this line

A lot has been written and said about Matt Smith brilliant acting talent and all I can do is passionately agree and say that he is, in my view, one of the best if not THE best young actors on television today, in the US and the UK. Smith's phenomenal ability to look old despite his young age is often mentioned and is very true; I wrote an article comparing Hartnell's Doctor and Smith's, for issue 12 of The Terrible Zodin. I want, however, to point out how impressive was his ability to look quite the opposite, like a child. In the series finale Smith managed to sweep me into his enthusiasm and happiness as his eyes lit up when he realised Amy remembers.

It has been an excellent series that had me at the edge of my seat, laughing and crying separately and together and flared up my childish television passion, just as Doctor Who should do. Yes, the final question might be obvious, maybe even stupid and one that was probably asked in the past and yet to have been answered, but I love it! It is the question of a child and that is its charm and I love that Moffat asks it so blatantly and that it made some fans angry. I would like to believe that like in the case of this excellent series, this final question and its answer, or lack of one, would once again be a device for telling a wonderful story; the story of Doctor Who?