Saturday, 29 May 2010

What 'how to be god' was about

I suppose it's strange that a show called how to be god doesn't have a lot to do with religion. You wouldn't think this from watching the first three episodes, which seem to be setting up some sort of 'world domination' for Ineptianity. But it's inept, it was never going to work, and pretty quickly the show becomes about something else. It's about this group of people trying to look after each other. Wash, even though he has a serious illness, refuses to let Georgina look after him. From episode two, where he says 'don't try to look after me', she is still determined to try. This comes out in frustrated punches in episode four, and then eventually giving into worry with sleepless nights and drinking.

In turn Wash tries to look after her. He almost entirely ignores Amy's problem in episode six and goes back to tuck up George, who had fallen asleep on his bed. It's a struggle, with both of them refusing to give in and admit their problems. By the last episode Wash has lost, letting George stand over and give orders - even though he does manage to sneak out for biscuits. Dylan and Amy go through a similar thing, except that it's one-way. Amy seems to be depressed for the entire series, and when the problem with Martin appears Dylan finally has an opportunity to look after her. She resists at first, but then Dylan does what Wash and George never could. He says 'I think you should let me look after you', and then it's all okay.

The religion has taken second place behind all of this, especially after episode five when Wash admits that 'he doesn't care anymore'. As his illness gets worse he tries to spend more time with the things that matter to him. But religion is still poisonous to these characters. The first Ineptianity event is too much for Wash to deal with, he'd rather stay in his room and eat biscuits. His relationship with Laura is pointlessly ruined by religious differences. He falls unconscious after trying to defend his religion to Martin. It divides these people and keeps them apart for no sensible reason. And it is only once Amy has thrown it off entirely that she can be happy. She says that the church has become 'just a building', it's just a place full of objects now. It's 'just a building' for Wash too, who says that it's best to 'stay right away'. It took about a year for them to realise this. The first shot of episode one is the church under a grey sky where Wash describes it as 'competition'. By the end of the last episode, where the shot returns on a sunnier day, it's just bricks. It's not a place for ridicule or admiration anymore, these character's don't care - 'it's just a building'.

There are some things that worked well, some things that didn't. I have favourite scenes and some that I don't want to watch again. It's not that cleverly structured and doesn't always go in the right direction. But when Amy walks into the church in the last episode, looks around, then walks away, it all makes sense to me. The last few minutes of the show are the best thing I've ever filmed. In the end people smile. That's good.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

What Lost was about

It's time to stop writing about Lost now. So, to finish things off, I've tried to answer some questions. When I think back to the first few seasons there were only ever a few things that people asked - the questions that kept people watching the show. It's all been seen now, so these answers should be easy. Sort of. And I haven't researched any of this. It's just what I've got from the show itself. 

What is the island?
It's an island that can move around in time and space. There's a lot of electromagnetism here as well. Why? Not really sure, but a lot of people seem to want to get there. The Dharma Initiative set up camp there in the seventies and started drilling everything. They were after something, like all the people before them. At the 'heart of the island' is a light, the 'source'. Apparently this is 'life, death, and rebirth' and there's a 'little bit of it in everyone'. That's open to interpretation then, but everyone's after the power of the light. 

Who's Jacob?
Jacob's the boss of the island. He protects the light and keeps the 'darkness' contained. His shipwrecked mother gave birth to him and his brother, and he was brought up by the old boss. She handed the role over to him. He is the leader of 'the others', who hardly ever see him but keep the island clean and tidy.

What's the smoke monster?
Jacob's brother, the Man in Black, believes humanity is corrupt. He had a fight with Jacob when he was young and got thrown into the 'heart of the island'. He came out as the smoke monster, intent on leaving the island and doing destructive things. But he can't leave the island while Jacob is alive. He can also take the form of dead people, which explains some of the ghosts.

Why are they there?
Jacob brought our characters to the island. He needed someone to replace him.

What were the numbers about?
4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42. They were the numbers on the hatch computer and on Hurley's lottery ticket. They seem to appear everywhere if you want to look for them. They're the numbers of the candidates to replace Jacob, shown on the degrees of a spinning mirror in a lighthouse.

Where did the polar bears come from?
The Dharma Initiative had them, for some reason. Probably just to be mysterious.

There are other questions, and probably some different answers, but that's what I've got.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The End of Lost

(Spoilers. Run away.) After watching 'The End', the answers of Lost didn't immediately jump out at me. But when you sit back and think about it there's some sense to it all. It's abstract sense. These aren't solid answers but they relate to the show as a whole and may frustrate a lot of people. That being said, this episode seems to sum up the whole series. It's a real conclusion. Sort of.

Everyone meets in the 'flash-sideways' and have emotional montages of their time in 'the other life'. The flashes where they all suddenly remember each other - Claire and Charlie, Sawyer and Juliet, Sayid and Shannon (remember Shannon?) - are some of the warmest moments television has ever had to offer. All the women were tragically killed off one by one and now the men have got them back in a different reality. That's nice. These relationships (and not just the romantic ones) are the emotional centre of the episode, and the whole of the show. They make up what the whole thing has been about.

The thing is, this 'flash-sideways' business hasn't been an alternative timeline, it's been a sort of purgatory. All the characters have died at some point in their lives and have gone to this other place to be with each other again. Apparently 'they made it themselves', which doesn't make a lot of sense. And they meet up in a church, which seems off balance. As Jack's father opens the doors a bright light comes in and takes them to 'another place'. Where? It's easy to see some religious significance here, but I think to do that would lessen this story. The man's called Christian Sheppard and he's sending them off to heaven. But that doesn't mean anything right? This has always been a show of alternate realities. There's no need to shove religion in there. It doesn't need it. It's far more interesting without and carry itself with it's own fantasy.

Back on the island, the whole thing is almost cleared up. It's not spelt out, and that can be annoying. Because even though this is an emotionally satisying ending, it leaves you with questions to ponder. All the answers are there if you look though and there's space for individual interpretation. Admittedly, millions of people don't want to work it out for themselves, but that's what they've got. Basically, there's a light at 'the heart of the island' that everyone is fighting over. The smoke monster wants to extinguish it and leave the island so he can (probably) end all humanity. This light has to be protected and the evil smoke monster imprisoned. That's the island.

And what does the light do? Apparently 'there's a little bit of it' in everyone. If you're willing to go down a slightly uncomfortable route, you could say that the light is humanity itself. The thing that has been shown throughout the show and in this episode's emotional flashes. Lost has been about this light. Everyone being nice to each other. The smoke monster think's everyone's corrupt and Jacob disagrees. He shows them these people. That'll do.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

We're very close to the end, Hugo

The reason everyone watches Lost is not to study the intricacies of the characters, or to have deep thoughts on philosophy or existence. We watch it to find out what's been going on this whole time. The good news is that, moving into the last episode, there's very little that can't be understood. At one point in 'What They Died For', a bunch of the characters are sat down and given a good talking to by Jacob, the old boss of the island. He explains why they're there and what they have to do. Even though we could work it out ten episodes ago. It's not an entirely simple answer but it is a satisfying one. Everything has been laid out in little nuggets throughout the season (apart from the backstory heavy 'Across the Sea'). The answers don't feel like an anticlimax, more like something we should have known all along. The only important question that remains is 'what exactly is this island place?'. I'm sure that'll come up.

The final season has been constructing this 'flash-sideways' story, showing the characters in a different timeline. To the people who gave up on the show a while back, this sounds exactly like the sort of introspective nonsense that they found so offensive. This does have a point though, I'm sure of it. Something is going to happen. Lost has gone down every alley of its story from every different angle, and I'm confident it's all been for a reason. It clicked when we were shown how the tiniest of objects found in a cave in the first season relates to the entire grand story of the island. The writers had this down from the start, they did. Somewhere in the middle they were probably given too much time to faff around, but it's rare for such an expensive network show to be given free reign over it's nerdy mythos. Imagine if it had been cancelled two seasons ago. A decade of speculation would have followed. Lost has captivated enough people enough of the time to make it right to the end.

If all goes to plan I'll write a simple question-and-answer 'what it's all been about list'. For my own mind at least.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Can't spot a dream while you're having it

I was always going to enjoy this. Alternate realities policed by a sarcastic god-thing in a sleepy village. It could be rubbish and I'd still like it. 'Amy's Choice', the latest episode of Doctor Who, manages to be thoughtful, frightening, poignant, and intelligent - all at the same time. The Doctor, Amy, and Rory are switching between two worlds. One in which Amy and Rory are married and settled, and the other where they're freezing to death on the Tardis. Only one is real, and they have to choose which one to die in.

The village that's presented here is a lovely, surreal place. I'm always excited by how the smallest twist on reality can create something completely unusual, how moving something just out of place turns the world into a dream. This is the most fun in the countryside, where there's huge quiet spaces to play around with. The village is shown through a sort of rose-tinted lens, where everything is unpleasantly perfect. They end up being attacked by hordes of old people zombies with eyes in their mouth, which tips the balance over into horror. Almost.

It's 'the cheap one'. Every year, when the producers have run out of money, a purely idea-driven episode is created. And this time it works. It's really just a character study. Amy is given a choice between Rory and the Doctor - the quiet life (with zombies) or the time travelling. After appearing slightly mean last week, Amy redeems herself by showing some love for the normal guy. And the Doctor is still getting criticised. Towards the end, when he admits that he can't save everyone, Amy asks 'Well what's the point of you?'. After last week's slightly problematic episode, this is forty-four minutes that can resonate. Not cluttered with sci-fi references or tangled up in mythology. It just asks human questions that anyone can relate to.

Monday, 17 May 2010

The West Wing: Season Three

Season three is almost the forgotten Sorkin season. It's still great television but doesn't feel as monumental as the others. It doesn't feel like an event. There are standalone episodes that hardly have any impact. They just keep things going. 'Gone Quiet', 'The Indians in the Lobby', 'War Crimes' - they don't stand out. In some ways this is a season made up of all the good bits that you remember, but can't quite place. Like the map from the flea-market that doesn't recognise Israel, or the prank war between Charlie and CJ, or Donna's discovery of Lemon It's a season of 'oh, it's this one'. It runs on a series of little arcs that don't carry the weight of other seasons. It's only after you finish watching it, and enjoying every episode, that you realise that Sam didn't have any significant storylines. Or that you can't remember how the MS business ended.

That's all the negatives out of the way though, because this is engrossing, brilliant television. If these characters are just having a normal day at the office, it's still written with amazing energy and wit. It takes a more serious tone towards the middle, with Toby trying to get into the President's mind. He crosses the line in 'The Two Bartlets' and it all gets a bit tense. This psychological analysis continues as Bartlet starts talking to Stanley Keyworth about his sleeping problems. He's a bit troubled and there isn't much room for comedy. And if the MS did have a conclusion, it was during 'Bartlet for America', where Leo sits before a House committee. It's a good excuse for some flash-backs. We see the moment where Leo asks Bartlet to run for office and sticks the napkin to the board. Their relationship is tested and strengthened in this episode.

Josh meets Amy Gardner, and this could be the source of some annoyance. She could be Mandy reincarnate. But I refuse to believe this. She may be an irritating love interest, but this irritation is mild. It does not compare. Nevertheless, she's part of some nice scenes. Particularly one where Josh admits that he 'missed the part where he's supposed to know what to do'. She comes and goes but Josh stays the same - obsessive, talented, and little bit scared. Leo meets Jordan but she vanishes. At one point the First Lady asks Bartlet 'what ever happened with Leo and Jordan?' and he replies 'I don't know but we'll be concentrating on other things right now'. That must have come straight from Sorkin. One character that definitely has an end is poor Simon Donavan. Despite only being in the show for three or four episodes, his death is still hard to take. He was only asking for a Milkybar.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Other people

I've been doing this for a year and a half and I've never mentioned anyone else's weblog. So in a brief break from tradition I'll let some other people onto the front page. This list is a bit shorter than others you might have seen. I'd called it selective.

Artspark Theatre contains daily creative things of imagination and intelligence. One of the nicer places on the internet. More to the point, if I found £500 in a briefcase I would very quickly buy all of these T-shirts.
Wild Celtic is also a nice place to be. Films, television, music, creative writing - there's a piece of everything on here. And interesting perspectives on Lost and The West Wing.
Everything's Coming Up Redman hasn't been going for long, but contains more interesting words than many blogs could amass in years. Uncluttered thoughts on entertaining things. There's a lot of love for Whedon and Lost on here.
You Talking to Me? has the sort of in-depth film analysis that is far beyond the capabilities of these mildly interesting pages. Currently running an interesting series on 'Great Movies That Made Going to the Movies Suck'.
Kid In The Front Row goes beyond what film blogging should be a capable of. Has featured interviews with Aaron Sorkin and Joshua Malina. Enough said there

Everything will be back to normal on here soon but, for now, I would suggest following these blogs.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Vampire-fish-things in Venice

Doctor Who has done vampires now. In Venice. It's called 'Vampires in Venice'. They're not really vampires though. Through some sci-fi reasoning that isn't really meant to be understood, they're only aliens that look like vampires. Is this is a bit desperate? Does Doctor Who need to bow to pop culture? This show is pop culture. Anyway, the episode itself is an enjoyable if slightly forgettable run around 19th century Venice, with sword fighting and bell towers and explosions. All good fun, but with one glaring problem that skews the whole episode. In hearing that the 'vampire' stronghold has to be infiltrated, Amy is thrilled at the chance to go in and get bitten. This is obviously what's going to happen, and it's obviously not a good idea. But she's tortured and bitten by the vampires and neither her nor Doctor seem bothered about it. Is it meant to be all part of the fun?

It's an oddly misjudged scene for a show that's usually so careful about what it shows its young audience. Has everyone become de-sensitised to vampires now? Aren't they one of the most violent monsters around? They suck blood out of you. No? Just me then. Aside from this, the episode introduces Amy's boyfriend Rory. Like Mickey that came before him, he's completely overshadowed by the Doctor and is desperate to impress. But there's a genuinely sad side to him. He only wants to be taken seriously by Amy but is almost constantly belittled and patronised. He's the little one that was left behind and resigns to the fact that he may have to give up his fiancé to this time-travelling lunatic. Until he fights a vampire with a broom he isn't worth Amy's attention. This is how things work.

And after all this foreshadowing, the pay-off for these cracks in time had better be really good.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

All of this is Kafkaesque

A lot of what I read is described as 'Kafkaesque'. I had no idea what this meant, so I thought it would be a good idea to have a look at one of Kafka's novels. After reading The Trial I still had very little idea. The book itself is a surreal, sometimes slightly difficult, picture of a corrupt legal system. A man is arrested but can gather no information about his case and learns that the trial may last the rest of his life. It seems to say that the law (or the Law, as it's put in the book) is a distant and dangerous system that can accuse citizens but can never be approached. It appears to exist for the sake of it, laying judgement on people just to exert its power. But what gives them the right to do this? And what is innocence and guilt? That's the sort of thing I got from it. The internet tells me it's also about spirituality, but I must have missed that bit.

The internet is more helpful in defining 'Kafkaesque' - 'marked by surreal distortion and often a sense of impending danger'. Seems pretty straightforward now. When reading the book I was constantly reminded that it was an unfinished, translated work. Apparently German sentence structure and double meanings make translating Kafka a pain. And after Kafka's death the chapters were still unarranged and some were unfinished. It's difficult to know what to make of it. But aside from that it's still strange to read. Most of the characters seem to be metaphorical and nearly all the chapters are self-contained. It's interesting though. I'll probably have to read more. And at least now I understand what the blurb on the back of that Murakami book was on about.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

The Wire doesn't end like everything else

The Wire has ended. A few years ago actually, but only recently for me. It rose from (what I saw) as quite a slow start to something constantly impressive. The fifth season rounds things off nicely, but it doesn't really end. You still get a sense that this city is continuing, with these characters carrying on with what they were doing. Apart from the ones that were killed. Season five is a bit of a bloodbath, as one character after the next is killed off in the distinctive unceremonious way. That's okay though, because there's about thirty others to watch. This is a sprawling show, and it's a testament to its quality that you recognise every one of it's faces. A character that you haven't seen for twelve hours will turn up suddenly and become the most important part of the show. Bunny Colvin, Prez, Poot - they're on screen for a few minutes but it's like they never went anywhere.

As a whole though, this is a season focused on journalists and the stories that they create. It's not as affecting as the school or the lives of the port-workers, but it's an interesting look at the inner workings of a city newspaper. As I watched the last episode, I realised that this isn't a show interested in grand endings. It pushes its characters towards realistic conclusions. Not all the baddies have their comeuppance. Many characters settle into happy, normal lives. It's not that they're making room for another season, this is just how things keep going. Everyone needs to watch this.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

A fairytale. Aren't we all?

It's all good news. The second half of Steven Moffat's Weeping Angel extravaganza turned out to be one of Doctor Who's best episodes. Surrounded by the evil statues, the Doctor and and his various associates send themselves up to a crashed spaceship which, brilliantly, has a creepy forest on it. Weeping Angels don't really belong in a sci-fi setting, they need to be in haunted houses and misty forests. And from the start Amy Pond is having a bit of trouble. She's ominously counting down from ten before turning into an Angel. She winds up having to keep her eyes closed in a forest of the things. Moffat writes these simple, powerful scenarios. There's no need for huge action sequences when you've got ideas like this. Walking through a forest of monsters with your eyes closed? Yes.

Also, there's a crack in time, which can't be helpful. According to the Doctor 'It'll do worse than kill you. It'll make sure you were never born. You will never have lived at all'. It's another one of those season arcs, but it's been put up front and centre this time instead of popping up at the end. In fact, the only problem with the episode is a slightly uncomfortable scene at the end where Amy tries to thank the Doctor a bit too strongly. Apart from that it's all wonderful. Hopefully we'll get a nice run of people other than Moffat writing now, so I can stop having to praise him every week.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

The third part of a story

(click the chapters to go to the words)

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

The second part of a story

(click the chapters to go to the words)

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

The first part of a story

I've decided to post a story on here. It's in three parts. It's called where you go when you're born. Although I seem to have gone off that title. (click the chapters to go to the words)