Monday, December 26, 2011

The Repeated Meme: The Horse and His Boy

Central Premise Recycled From: "The Empty Child" mostly (see next point).

Reference to Moffat's Back Catalogue: WWII-set story involving small boys and their mummies, and something which looks villainous actually just trying to help out; parents as the real heroes; girls with pigtails; Christmas special which is a Doctor Who-styled reinterpretation of a British children's classic; the Doctor as some kind of wizard-figure who fixes everything for everyone. Though he's borrowed Gatiss' wooden dolls, and Davies' celebration of the nuclear family unit as some sort of ideal.

Amy Screws Up the day with Wuv: What's wrong with carol-singers, I'd like to know?

Robert Holmes Called...: It does make the story less saccharine knowing that the planet that's harvsting the trees is Androzani Major.

And from the Hiatus: There's a story in one of the Short Trips anthologies by Mark Michalowski entitled 'The Lying Old Witch in the Wardrobe'.

Murray Gold's Festive Number 1: None! What, did they run out of budget there as well? We couldn't have had a novelty Forties-style song number from Alexander Armstrong or something?

Nostalgia UK: The story takes place in that kind of fantasy WWII which lurks in the heads of the British, where courageous RAF pilots fight dastardly Nazis on behalf of stiff-upper-lipped mothers and their children, with none of the messy details like the Dresden bombing or black marketeering or Churchill's secret realpolitik or information censorship getting in the way.

Inside Jokes: Alexander Armstrong as a WWII pilot. Come on, who didn't think that his first words to his navigator would be "Vera Lynn, she's well fit, innit?" Rather a lot of Chronicles of Narnia inside jokes (Uncle Digby, sentient forests, a child's journey to an alternate universe providing a means of saving a parent, etc.). Androzani Major.

Teeth! None, they're trees.

Hats! A space helmet with airholes in the back, it seems.

Fish! I'd have to watch it again but there's got to be an aquarium in that playroom somewhere.

Small Child! Two of them.

Item Most Likely to Wind Up as a Toy: Bill Bailey's team would seem obvious but there might be some lawsuits from the designers of Halo over the look of their environment suits, so I'll suggest the big tree people.

Special effects

The Conversation: Simple but powerful film about interpretation: Gene Hackman is a private surveillance operative who records a conversation; he doesn't know what it's about or why the person who commissioned it thinks it's important, leading to a spiral of brilliantly-rendered paranoid delusion as the operative speculates endlessly on its meaning and interprets the events of his life in regard to these speculations.

Hugo: I went to see this in part because of reading a review which said that this is the first film to actually use 3D as an integral part of the storytelling rather than a gimmick. I'm not sure I'd really go that far-- the 3D certainly added excitement and drama but I didn't see anything that couldn't have come across fine in a 2D version. That aside, it was still a rather sweet family drama (albeit one which occasionally segues into a lecture on the history of early cinema), with Sasha Baron-Cohen giving a surprisingly touching performance as the ostensibly-evil-but-it-turns-out-just-misunderstood antagonist.

The Red Baron: How anyone managed to make the story of a group of largely-aristocratic teenagers/twentysomethings given access to really powerful flying machines and more or less carte-blanche as to how to use them into such a boring movie, I'll never know, but they did. The misguided worthiness of the piece is summed up for me by the fact that they actually made up a Jewish flying-ace secondary character, adding in a title card at the end of the story that he "represents" the Jewish pilots who distinguished themselves in the German Air Force of WWI-- it's like saying "we have to emphasise this so no one will accuse us of being antisemitic, but God forbid we should actually tell the story of a real German Jewish pilot".

The Magic Roundabout: I was going to go sarcastic on this one and interpret it as a metaphor for how the underlying selfishness of the postwar generation led to the very same bright-eyed hippies and communards of the 1960s and 1970s becoming the relentless commercialists of the 1980s and 1990s. But it's too much work, so I'll just sum this up by saying that I don't remember kung-fu ninja death skeletons being a part of the original TV programme.

Movie count for 2011, with a week to go: 124

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Of Human Bondage

Dr No: Had never seen this before. It's quite a beautifully-filmed slice of late Fifties/early Sixties period colour, with calypso and the Carribbean underlying a story with elements which had yet to become cliched (deformed mixed-race geniuses in Nehru jackets with secret island bases and plans to Take Over the World). Connery looks good, so does Ursula Andress.

From Russia with Love: More beautiful Sixties material, and the idea of SPECTRE as a third party setting NATO and the USSR off against each other for their own purposes is clever, but I found it not as interesting or as much fun as either of the previous films. The fight sequence on the train was very much the highlight.

Diamonds Are Forever: Again, hadn't seen this one before, and things seem a bit more on the slide-- perhaps it's the fact that Sean Connery has gained weight and the design is tending towards the brown polyester of the early 1970s (during the scenes in Amsterdam, I kept expecting him to walk past Van der Valk brooding by a canal). Still, the two crypto-homosexual murderers are lots of fun, as is Charles Gray as Blofeld and his collection of doubles, and there's a fun reference to faked-moon-landing cosmpiracy theories. Points for audacity, basically.

Raging Bull: A film about what happens to people who peak too early, following boxer Jake La Motta to the peak of his athletic career and then the relentless slide downhill. A cross between an art film, a gangster film and a sports film, which somehow works in all three categories.

The Long Day Closes: Impressionistic memoir of a working-class 1950s Liverpool childhood. Does a good job at conveying the randomness and surrealism of being a child, but the slowness of it all does make it difficult to empathise with in places.

Xala: Senegalese comedy about postcolonialism. The protagonist is a Senegalese businessman and politician who marries a third wife, but discovers that he is under a Xala curse which renders him impotent; the events which follow are a metaphor for the corruption which afflicts the country. There's also some clever use of language, with a lot of significance attached to who speaks French and who speaks Wolof, and when.

Beowulf: I enjoyed this more than I thought I would-- it takes liberties with the original story, but I think they're actually for the good (since the last third of the epic is kind of disconnected from the first two, it helps a modern audience to have some kind of through thread) and it's not like people haven't done alternative/postmodern takes on it before. The motion-capture did make everyone look somewhat doll-like, but then, well, it's a legend, where people tend to be rather archetypical.

Movie count for 2011: 120