Monday, August 25, 2014

Doctor Who; Now Bigger On The Outside.

||| WARNING ||| SPOILERS for Series Eight, Episode One

So; new Doctor Who.

Unlike many others, or so I've been led to believe by the interwebs, I actually like Peter Capaldi's take on it.

I am however disappointed with;

  • The heavy handed narrative ("Not you boyfriend" -- enough already, we get it. You said it a bazillion times in the story and everyone who works on the show and their mother has said it in every press promo/interview they've had a chance to jump into);
  • The over reliance on stunt McGuffins (Oh look Steven Moffat just blew a third of the season budget on an unimportant dinosaur cameo just for farts);
  • And the continued indulgence of retreading previous, Moffatian, plot contrivances (ideas) which, granted, fans love BUT at best work as well as they did because of their 'flash-in-the-pan' sensibility;
  • Also; while most of fandom loved the Eleventh Doctor cameo I thought it signalled a lack of confidence on the part of the creative team (an endorsement of the Doctor from the Doctor?!?! Again with the heavy-handedness and reliance on sappy sentimentality rather than something substantial).

Look; a totally gratuitous dinosaur!

I loved the  intro sequence although the sequence it was inspired by (or outright copied from?) felt even better.

The image of Capaldi on the fob watch WAS kinda silly BUT BBC imprinting their endless fascination with the new Doctor's eyebrows on the title again felt like they were beating us over the head with it -- so yea; not good. And WHY leave out the Gallifreyan elements? I felt that worked.


I yearn for a time when ideas/concepts/plot/narrative relies more on subtleties rather than the heavy-handedness that's been a hallmark of late. This might be the result of catering to the wider global audiences which the show now seems to be ingratiating itself to -- undoubtedly a winning strategy which will retain some of the old fans and garner even more new ones.

Me? I didn't like it so much. A new Doctor was the perfect opportunity to switch up the narrative approach BUT that opportunity has been missed out on.

I might be yearning for a bygone time of storylines reminiscent of the 'Bad Wolf' arc -- I'm probably amongst the very few who are. I do realise what I'm suggesting is not an original though BUT in my view that's the type of storytelling that works best with this show. Sure you can go big and bombastic but that doesn't work as well when it's the modus operandi of the show.

Total eye candy BUT used more self constraint than the show's creative team.

However it looks like most of fandom are satisfied with, and even blown away by, the series Eight premier episode. So while everyone else celebrates I'll contemplate a break from a show that I've trumpeted as a benchmark in science fiction ever since I got into the, restarted, series in 2005.

Why? Because this show no longer is bigger on the inside.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Let's talk about Hitchcock

Shall we?

Well, if I really must have a reason to talk about Hitchcock I'm going to have to rewind and fast forward quite a bit...

Too often the excuse for silly, immature, by the numbers cinema is passed on to the audience.

It shouldn't be.

See the argument goes that the audience can't, or won't be bothered, to work out "complex" ideas in a film. And someone who's new to the medium, or who hasn't checked out cinema going back a few decades or more, might be forgiven for thinking as such.

Actually, no. If you're a "movie lover" and haven't checked out at least some "old" movies/films by the likes of Orson Welles, Akira Kurosawa, François Truffaut and other such masters, then shame on you.

Well... not really shame on you... more like your loss... your serious loss.

Trailer for Akira Kurosawa's 'Rashomon'

So, let's talk about Hitchcock. Still no?

I see.

I might have been a tad vague in my reasoning for talking about Hitchcock. Hmmm... how to put it?


You hear about how everyone... well a few people... well... maybe just a few critics are deriding that little film about robots in disguise? I mean it's the most recent picture in a trilogy of sorts... You know... the one with the giant robots and huge explosions and other... you know... explosive situations? Yea. That movie.

A lot of the times that sort of thing, because of the fact that maybe it's taking in boat loads of money, is justified, with "audiences really prefer not to think through a movie" - I'm just paraphrasing here mind. And recent, slightly skewed "research" might lead one to justify that...

Hence my want to talk about Hitchcock. Errr... no? Why? Cos we can talk about all those other guys I mentioned before you say?

Trailer for François Truffaut's 'Les Quatre cents coups' (400 Blows) 

Yea. You should really go check those guys out. Their work is beautiful, evocative and thought provoking - even when they're working with black and white and no explosions. But while they may have had mainstream appeal in their own right I wouldn't go so far as to say they had global appeal in their time... alas, they seem to have trouble with global appeal even in our time.



Let's talk about Hitchcock.


Good. Great!

He proved that you could make money with "high concept" films while not alienating the audience and still garner critical acclaim and global fame... although initially, he may have had a tough time getting some American critics to see the value in his work.

I see you pulling away now... a few more minutes? I promise I'll make it  worth your while.

Trailer for 'Psycho'

Heard of 'Psycho' (1960)? No. Not that 1998 version - which I hear was a travesty... No I really didn't watch it. There was no need to. Go see Hitchcock's original Psycho you'll see what I mean - it was shot in black and white but even with that "handicap" it does so well in eliciting a visceral reaction out of you.

If you've heard somebody describe any story as a "modern, psychological yarn" you will be surprised to see how much of that you see here in a film made in 1960 - and how much faith, unlike most modern mainstream directors, Hitchcock had in his audience.

So you think that Psycho is not that hard to follow compared to "modern" standards?

You should check out 'Vertigo' (1958).

Trailer for 'Vertigo'

Technical innovation aside, the story telling is intense, complicated and riveting. And I would argue that its complexity holds up even by modern "intellectual" standards.

That's all well and good you say? You want a pop-corn movie? One that you can sit back and enjoy? One that takes you through exciting chases, chills, thrills and a few laughs?

You don't mind all that and a little bit of intelligence and humour do you?

Try 'North by Northwest' (1959) on for size. But be warned - it's more than a bit intelligent and it has a brilliant sense of humour. You get chases, mistaken identities, spies, damsels who are decidedly not in distress (Who'd have thunk?!?! In the 50s?!?!), killer crop-duster planes... KILLER CROP-DUSTER PLANES DAMMIT!!!

Trailer for 'North by Northwest'

And those are just some of the highlights of his career.

Some of his work has inspired, and keeps inspiring, some of our greatest filmmakers today.

Take a look at Christopher Nolan's work and I can't help but see a Hitchcockian sense of humour and a sense of the same crisp, lean narrative.

Does 'Memento' (2000) not have a wicked sense of humour while making your mind do summersaults? That's kind of what Hitchcock does with North by Northwest although with a much lesser degree of a mental workout - that he leaves for Vertigo.

You know that thing that David Fincher keeps trying to do ever so often with the long, uninterrupted shots? He tried it a couple of times with 'Fight Club' (1999) and 'Panic Room'(2002)? I'd go so far as to argue that that was pure Hitchcock inspired - see 'Rope' (1948) and you'll get where I'm coming from.

Tailer for 'Rope' - like a few of Hitchcock's trailers
contains little from the actual film.

So yea.

That's why we needed to talk about Hitchcock.

Also, remember the other guys I told you about? Well... Hitchcock was my stepping stone to those guys. No. He's not less important than they are - if anything, for me, he might be slightly more important.

So what it comes down to... what I guess I am saying is...

It's okay if you make "crappy" movies - just don't justify it by saying that the audience won't get it. Yea... what I'm saying is... the audience are intelligent enough to grasp almost anything you can throw at them.


If they weren't David Lynch and a few other directors you might have heard of wouldn't have careers.

Edit; July 12, 2011:

I consider myself not adequately chastised for missing out on naming Ingmar Bergman in my original post - that is one name which should not have been missed. I've attempted to fix this inexcusable oversight by adding a link to the original post - I felt it might be cheating to edit the text afterwards. Thanks to shaari for bringing this to my attention.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Does nobody get Superman?

Or rather, does nobody given the responsibility of bringing the essence of Superman to the "mainstream" not understand him?

Smallville just(ish) completed an extremely successful(how?!?!?!) 10 seasons and I'm left thinking "Five for Fighting" understood Superman better than the writers on that show.

"Superman (It's not easy)" by Five for Fighting

Yea, I know they set the "no tights, no flight" rule WAAAAAay in the beginning and maybe THAT should've been the first clue that they didn't get Clark.

Not. At. All.

And it pains me that it went on for so long, twisting the Superman mythology left and right and generally messing things up in the least creative ways imaginable - it even proved unsalvageable to Geoff Johns.

Promotional photo for Smallville

BUT it happened. And, thankfully, it's over. Yet it's left this really bad taste in my mouth. A feeling of despair permeates my soul every time I hear about any new Superman related developments.

Don't get me wrong. HUGE fan of Christopher Nolan's directing and David S. Goyer's writing. And although Nolan is not directing the next Superman film, that honour falling to a Zack Snyder of "300" and "Watchmen" fame, I am willing to suspend my skepticism one final(?) time - cos that's at least part of what Superman is about.

Isn't it?

Ever the eternal optimist. Ever the eternal "boy scout". Ever the eternal barometer of doing what's right, even when the odds seem insurmountable and grossly out favour him - and through it all you know that he will emerge untainted and heroic... even if it meant dying.

What's that you say? Smallville was a reimagining of sorts? It was an attempt to go another way? What coulda been?

Then why do it as Superman? It could have been the origins story of another superhero altogether - a new one. Oh... right... without the name recognition a lot less of the series would have been commissioned and therefore it would not have been as successful?

I beg to differ.

Cover art for Superman: Secret Identity

Superman: Secret Identity did all of that and more and STILL managed to retain the essence that is Superman. It's a shame that it can't be made into the next Superman film though... but MAN is it a beautiful story... Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen out did themselves, and most Superman writers in recent memory, and they weren't even writing about "the real" Clark Kent...

Secret Identity moved me and provoked thought about heroism, our global condition and obligation(s) - all the while staying true in service to its inspiration.

We should be so lucky if an iota of that thought process went into anything Superman that is to come in the near future...

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Burn baby, burn!

Some things just jump at you.

The first I'd heard of it was just the name. Just that it was a great piece of science fiction that might be developed into a film by Mel Gibson – given that this was just after Braveheart (1995) and the fact that I was on my way to becoming a science fiction nut must have been why it stuck.

Another reason might have been that, even though I read a lot, I'd never read a full-length science fiction novel. I had watched, and continue to watch, a lot of such films but had never read a book. Yet another reason might have been that Ray Bradbury, one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time, had written it.

But, I digress...

I had totally forgotten about the book until our lecturer Kit Leee (three 'E's not two – now known as Antares) asked us to write a book review that was not really a book review.

Sitting in a taxi, on my way to college I noticed its code number, used to identify it to the station, comprised of 4-5-1 . 'What a strange coincidence!' I though. And that's how I wound up with the subject of my non-review;

The 50th Anniversary Edition cover art for Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 (1953), the book about a fireman who lit fires. A book that takes us to a future which holds reading or owning books illegal. Where books are burnt because they 'confuse ' us.

Herein followeth the review:

Taking its title from the temperature at which book paper auto-ignites Fahrenheit 451 is supposedly the story of Guy Montag – fireman no. 451. A fireman who burns for a living. A 'fireman' who is good at what he does.

He burns books because they make society 'unhealthy' – because the books make 'no sense ' and speak of things other than 'reality'. He is good because he does what he does without question.

He enjoys the sound – the searing death rattle of the pages as they're consumed by the orange beast. And the glow of the flame, as it shifts colours from red to blue to black/grey and orange transforming the pages to ash that scatter and dissolve in the wind, thrills him.

But then along comes Clarisse, and out go Montag's automated responses to books. The animal instinct which closed on, and ripped the books apart before he set fire to them, starts to turn the pages with the gentlest of touch, reading from them, soaking up their knowledge and emotion, reaching awareness from within.

Fahrenheit 451 is often heralded as the classic bestseller about censorship but at a cursory glance the word 'censorship' does not have the full impact, that perhaps it should.

I mean, what does somebody withholding a few books mean, right?

But as far as things go in the 'normal' world, it's not quite as simple. It's not just the books, but what they stand for (as Beatty, the fire chief whose words are laced with phrases by old poets and philosophers, so that he may more easily identify elements in society who may be in possession of the 'contraband', so hastily admits).

The liberty, the hope, the knowledge, the insights, the joy, the pain, all this and more which the books have on offer. The sheer emotional and intellectual gratification that is feeling, trust, love; hidden and unbidden. What it means to think, what it means to have ideas, what it means to reach out, what it means to stand out, what it means to stand out. What it means to be an 'individual' a person with thoughts, views and personal feelings of how things should be. A person with morals, a person with their sense of morals. THAT is what's really at stake.

In Bradbury's fictitious society, where all that people are expected of is to expect 'fun', where school kids run down their schoolmates, without so much as an after thought, no one knows what hope means. No one has a sense of meaning. This begs the question, how, if they do not understand what hope means, can they have fun?

It's disturbing that this book Bradbury wrote in 1953, mirrors some attributes we see in our society today. Kids hack down other kids because we, the society at large, have no time to nurture them, to impart upon them the value of life, of hope.

I hope and pray that we will never sink to the depths that society has sunk to in Fahrenheit 451. Yes it 's worse in the book than in real life. But only just. And only just by a hair's breath. There are warning signs that we're headed that way though.

And we need to be aware of what's going on around us. Aware of what those who 'guide' us sanction in our names , labelling their wants as ours, their needs as our needs – in order to do this, they control the information we consume in a way that favours them.

In the end Ray Bradbury's book is not just about burning books. It's about burning the ideals that unfold through those books. It's about burning the emotions and the hope that it may instill in humanity.

Burning so that others can control. Burning so we may not question. Why not question? Because we do not have the knowledge. Why do we not have knowledge? Because those 'above', governing us for our 'well-being', us want to 'protect' us from 'confusion', and 'rivalry', from hope and individuality. Read, seek, think, learn – the book cries out to us, and for us to 'know what you want and most of all know how to think'.

Fahrenheit 451 may have been written in 1953 but it's more relevant now than it ever was – do yourselvesf a favour and read one of the best science fiction stories ever written.

[Disclaimer: This post is mostly a re-edited self plagiarism of a “book review” for 'Fahrenheit 451' by Ray Bradbury – originally written as a college assignment (Advertising Creativity – Lecturer Kit Leee) in 2001 (23rd April)]

Thank you Teech for the inspiration!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I take it back.


It was going to be Moffat in charge after all. I should never had doubted things.

I should have known better – because, unlike with Davies, who was terrific in bringing the series back and started off things extremely well, Moffat's always been consistently stellar with what he's brought to the series.

So Matt Smith, who I initially felt was VERY WRONG (because of this) for the part... might actually work.

What am I prattling on about you ask?

I speak of Doctor Who. More specifically – the 11th incarnation of the Doctor.

The BBC series began, initially, in 1963 and went on uninterrupted till 1989. After which there was a 1996 television movie – at the time it didn't garner enough interest for a comeback.

Then in 2005 the series was relaunched thanks to Russell T. Davies and Co. and it was then that I was first introduced to “the longest-running science fiction television show in the world”. By then there had been eight doctors.

Teasers and trailers for the 2005 series

This made my first doctor the Ninth Doctor – he was BRILLIANT! I was an instant fan and still consider Christopher Eccleston's take to be my quintessential doctor.

But, alas, after just one series, the Doctor would regenerate. David Tennant took over as the 10th Doctor and, while I was hugely disappointed to see Eccleston leave, I have to admit that Tennant wasn't half bad – just a hair short of 'BRILLIANT!' just basic 'Brilliant' or maybe a touch above basic...

Moving on.

We now have the 11th Doctor (or will in 2010) and while I was initially skeptical, because of Smith's age and his look... I'm back on the fence on this one... The new look (full|800 x 600) does seem to do the trick... and Moffat IS in charge.

So now I'm maybe more of a believer that this will work rather than on the fence...

[Note to reader(s): My apologies for there being no pictures/visuals in this post. At time of hitting "Publish" issues with blogger prevented me from correctly posting any pictures with this entry. Please check back later for a more 'complete' look.]

Monday, May 04, 2009

Money for nothing?

[Suggested background music 'Walk of Life' (1985) by Dire Straits]

I can identify, with absolute clarity and as if it were yesterday, the moment I discovered my passion for music.

It was the early 1980s. I was watching television in my sitting room. TVM's 'Spotlight' came on. We did not have remote controls at the time so, having decided to go to sleep, I was making my way to the TV to switch it off when 'Walk of Life' came on and I was hooked – I must have been nine or 10 years old at the time. None of the songs that followed were as entertaining but I was officially 'into music'.

The week after I would wait patiently for the program to come on again. Another Dire Straits song, 'Sultans of Swing' (1979), airs half way through the program – add one (me) to the ranks of loyal Dire Straits followers/fans.

These were the 'pre-Internet' days so I couldn't exactly get all the gossip on the band – to this day I have never really fallen into the habit of keeping track of the personal lives of my favourite artists. And this also meant that I couldn't find/order entire catalogues of my favourite artists on line – I hadn't even heard about computers, much less a credit/debit card!

Dire Straits

What I did do was badger grandma for 10 Rufiya so I could have someone take me down to 'Soundtrack' ('Sound Track'!?!?!), the then local record/tape distributor of repute, and buy a 'The Best of Dire Straits' – in climate proof packaging no less!

To grandma's great annoyance, although she never really said as much, I would proceed to play the tape over and over again – my only source of 'my music' when 'Spotlight' wasn't on.

I would, of course, be introduced to other great bands through the program;

'Pride (In the Name of Love)' (1984) would introduce me to U2
'The One I Love' (1987) introduced me to R. E. M
and more...


AND, later on, while actually producing 'Spotlight' for TVM (somewhere 1989 – 2000) I would develop a major addiction to electronic rock and hardcore techno due to the likes of Orbital, The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers (helped along by the initial introduction to the genre by a friend who is deeply missed...).

My catalogue of favourites continue to grow – add Massive Attack, Fatboy Slim, Bob DylanDave Matthews Band, and more to the mix

Cover art – Massive Attack's Mezzanine (1998)

But... nothing takes me back to that moment of what started it all more than Knopfler on the guitar.

Note to Knopfler: 'somewhere your fingerprints remain concrete' – indeed.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Parlez-Vous Italiano? No.

If I have one major regret it would be my lack of skills in the language department. I'd be considered an average Dhivehi speaker, at best, and have no foreign language skills.

Understanding Hindi because I, as most Maldivians, have been exposed to Hindi/Indian films from a very young age does not count and neither does having a very basic understanding of Singhala (Sinhalese?!?!) and Bahasa Malaysia.

Okay, I am better than average at English, BUT that's mostly due to the fact that it was almost our first language – I mean except for Dhivehi and Islam we were taught everything in English so I really didn't have an excuse to suck at it (although a lot of our recent graduates strive to prove me wrong). Plus, while I was growing up there weren't really any Dhivehi stories for all demographics – none as diverse, in genre and subject matter, as those in English anyway.

Movie poster for 'Les quatre cents coups'

So here I am, three decades in... finding out to my utter frustration, that I like foreign films and authors better than their local/English equivalent... well actually I've known for quite a while now that I appreciate foreign films... well before I reached the three decade mark but... [moving on]

Films the likes of Malèna (2000) [Italian], Cinema Paradiso (1988) [Italian], Les quatre cents coups (1959) [French], Nueve reinas (2000) [Spanish], 36 Quai des Orfèvres (2004) [French]... are just the tip of the iceberg and would easily put any of their Hollywood counterparts to shame.

Then there are the more recent discoveries; Haruki Murakami and Gabriel García Márquez. Though I've so far read very little, a handful of Murakami and just the one García Márquez, these authors are so far off the typical 'reservation' that it makes no sense that I like them – but I do, immensely!

García Márquez's 'Memories Of My Melancholy Whores' 
(2004; English translation 2005)

I read English translations of the books and switch on the subtitles for the films and experience everything 'second hand' (I abhor switching the audio to English – the voice overs almost always lack the feeling and the emotion of the original performers). Yet they're ever so gratifying and I'm left to wonder if it could have been more so – and what was lost in translation...

For those of you who can enjoy such stories in their original form, I envy you... and hope that you're partaking in some of those exquisite pleasures...

And for the rest of us, who are well past their prime to learn that many languages, we'll happily take what we can get... because they are that good.