Saturday, 30 January 2010

how to be god - Episode 4

Pretending to read books

Here's one more thing I just don't get. Electronic books. A screen you read words from. Yes, they're the same words and it doesn't involve being mean to trees, but they're not books. A book is a papery thing with pages that you can turn. Something that you can keep. Having a library contained on a little computer is pretty depressing. My main complaint is that they just don't feel right. You can flick through books. Smell the pages (if you're like me). Feel one side get heavier than the other as you read it. A new book is white and shiny. As you read them they become dog-eared and creased. They go slightly yellow over time. Books are something to have on a shelf. This might all sound as if I like the paper more than the words. Maybe I do. I'm sick like that.

I'm sure the same argument could be made for music. People used to have loads of CDs. That's alright though. I can still buy deluxe edition Sigur Rรณs albums. Everyone's happy. Now Steve Jobs is showing off an iPad that can store all the novels in the world. In his own words: 'It's terrific, you can go into portrait and see both pages if you'd like.' Thanks Steve. I don't want to read things off a plastic slab though. I want people to cut down trees to make paper for millions of books that will never be read so that I can have a few that I like on my shelf. That sounds good to me.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Before you do that, watch this

Whatever you're going to do in the next few minutes - eating, drinking, watching television, making an origami cat, writing the sixth episode of a web series - watch this first. Loud. Full screen. That's better.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Is Heroes boring?

I watched the first season of Heroes. It seemed alright. Then it forced me out through The Amnesia Rule. If a character suddenly loses their memory, and I have to watch them try to remember things that I already know for five episodes, then I can't be bothered. So I stopped watching it in season two. I've seen a few episodes since then and they've all seemed pretty dull. And now I've seen a bit of season four, and, from what I can tell, not much has changed. The mother of the two brothers still looks a bit manipulative and sly and there's still a man in big glasses having a moral dilemma.

It's the sort of show that can literally make it up as it goes along. Any sort of problem can be solved by introducing a new 'hero' that has a special power. 'How will we know which direction the boat went in? We are stuck now.' 'Yes, hopefully we will meet someone who has the ability to talk to fish.' That might not have happened, but that's the impression I get from it. And dead isn't dead. Where's the drama in a character's death if they just get resurrected twenty minutes later by magic healing blood? Or maybe they can wait two seasons until they find someone who can bring back the dead. Nothing has any consequences. Is there any rules to this world?

Like I said, I've missed a lot of it. And even though I'm never going to watch it again, I'd sort of like to know that I'm wrong and that this expensive-looking show that millions of people watch is quite good. Or I will continue to be cynical.

Friday, 22 January 2010

I'm art now

Talk to Hoshuu is now officially art. No, really. It's in an art exhibition this weekend. That makes it art. It's going to be playing on a loop on a wall. Surrounded by paintings. And photography. And stuff. It's all a bit fancy, but now there'll be plenty of people to stare at it in a mildly interested sort of way. So if you're in Aberystwyth this weekend, which you probably aren't, go and have a look. There's a vernissage tonight. I had to look that word up. I have no idea about these things. It probably involves wine and smartly dressed people. Neither of which I like. But I'm art now, and that's a good thing.

To prove that I'm not, you know, making this up, I've attached the poster and my page from the catalogue. Shiny.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Being punched in both arms

Filming has begun for how to be god episode 4. So far it has mainly involved being punched in the arms repeatedly by very sharp fists. I like things to be just right, so violence has to repeated again. And again. And then from a different angle. I became aware that this was happening because I had written it. It's my fault. From now on I'll try to cut down on the physical injury element of the shooting. For me, at least.

And the shooting 'schedule' is being interfered with by things like 'exams' and 'university'. I don't understand these things, I just have to work around them. For the first time we may have to start filming the next episode before we've finished the last one. My mind can not cope with this and will probably melt in some sort of organisational implosion.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Trainspotting or vegetables

I think I like Trainspotting. I like it in the same way that I like carrots. Or vaccinations. I know it's good for me but I didn't really enjoy it at the time. I can't claim to know anything about Danny Boyle without watching it, it's essential viewing. Hard work though. Unlike the fantasy of his recent films (28 Days Later, Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire), this is all very gritty and horrible. The zombie-things of 28 Days Later were fun compared to these people, who are all varying dregrees of psychotic. It takes a special director to make me watch this sort of film; Danny Boyle pours energy and invention into something that can easily be tedious, never allowing it to get boring. There's music and movement blaring out of the first second and it never really seems to slow down.

I don't really want to watch it again but as a piece of filmmaking it's very healthy.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

The rest of Catch-22

Joseph Heller's Closing Time, as a sequel to Catch-22, is what happens when all the life is sucked out of the characters, and they're all a bit depressed. It's not bad, of course not, but it's not very easy to read. All the insanity and humour of Catch-22 seems to have left these characters fifty years ago. They're mainly just dieing of cancer and looking back on every inch of their life. It's about degredation - long, painful, agonising degredation. Not very fun then, but Heller hasn't completely lost his morbid comedy. Yossarian's doing alright, living off Milo's money and pretending to be ill in hospital; he has developed an annoying habit of comparing everything to pretentious German opera, so you can't have everything. Some of the most entertaining sections of the book are the memories of the Second World War, which the character's strangely describe as one of the best times of their life. Disappointingly though, Major Major never turns up.

There's a surprising supernatural twist half way through the book that really saved it for me. The surreal military underworld brought back some of the energy that was ebbing away. Heller seems to put the reader into this melancholic daydream before shaking everything up with the end of the world. Not gripping then, but it does have its moments.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Drag Me to Hell, with smiley goats

Drag Me to Hell is squelchy good fun. It doesn't try to keep you scared for two hours, it just makes you laugh at the actors that are having maggots poured over their heads. It's full of jumpy moments, but the horror turns into comedy pretty quickly. And when there is gore it's so overblown that its funny - eyaballs popping out of heads, that sort of thing. Sam Raimi does this physical. unsubtle horror really well. It's unashamedly ridiculous and, compared to others in the genre that are just nasty, it's a pretty friendly film. It seems to be an exercise in the different ways to make you jump. There's the sudden the scares, the slow pans, the loud rumbling then sudden silence, crash zooms. All good stuff. They are pretty frequent though, and by the end of the effect had worn off. There's only so many times a Scary Old Woman with funny teeth is going to be scary, even if she does stick her arm down your throat.

Perhaps the funniest character in the film is the sacrificial goat that smiles all the way through a seance. He seems to be enjoying himself. He recognises how silly and entertaining the whole thing is, and he's just pleased to be there. Nice goat.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Doctor Who regenerates its face off

(this is covered in spoilers)
David Tennant has regenerated into Matt Smith in Russell T Davies' last episode in charge of Doctor Who. And, to be honest, I didn't entirely understand the plot of these last two episodes. The Time Lords return even though they're all dead (something to do with a time bubble) and the Master has an overflowing 'life force'. Still enjoyed it though. The image of the Doctor with a gun in his hand was probably the most surreal moment, especially after four seasons of him using only 'forgiveness' as a weapon. And the final 'knocking four times' scene was nicely understated.

It's the right time for David Tennant to leave. Three seasons (and a bit) is exactly the right amount for one Doctor, even if he is immensely popular. Any longer and he'd just be repeating himself. He's done it all. There's no more room for that Doctor. The last twenty minutes of 'The End of Time' brilliantly summarised his time on the show, as he visited all the people he thinks he might miss (including the descendant of John Smith's wife from 'The Family of Blood').  David Tennant has made it look easy - so easy that you you don't really notice that he's spent years building this character. The time has gone quickly because he's never been short of excellent, even in the slightly average episodes.

But of equal importance is Russell T Davies' departure from the show. He managed to take a franchise that I didn't care about (because I'm not 40) and created one of those rare shows that is mainstream and nerdy at the same time. It's difficult to make four seasons of anything, and he's managed to keep the quality up despite significant cast changes in each one. It's been the same show but always noticably different. It'll be interesting to see whether the tone changes with Steven Moffat. It's unrealistic to expect every episode to be 'The Girl in the Fire Place', because he has a responsibilty to the time slot, but maybe there'll be less running and silly aliens. Probably not. One thing that is obvious though, is that we won't be seeing any of these old characters again. Rose, Martha, Mickey, Donna - they're all done with now. Time to start again.