Saturday, 30 April 2011

"I Missed A Year? Was It Good?"

So asks Rose in Doctor Who's Aliens Of London and to which the Doctor responds "Middling" (and yes I realise that the year she's talking about isn't exactly a calendar year and is mostly 2005, but I like the Doctor's response a lot).

Continuing this pointless ramble backwards through time to 2006. This was the year that South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia, Saddam Hussein was hanged and Pluto was demoted to the status of dwarf planet.

For me, it was a year largely spent of temping in offices, but I managed to join Equity for me and I was in Burdett-Coutts At Home.

These are a few of my favourite things from 2006:

A Cock And Bull Story
A post-modern film about the making of a film adapted from The Life And Opinions Of Tristram Shandy, a novel which was post-modern before that phrase had any meaning. As Steve Coogan plays Shandy in the autobiography of a life as-yet unlived: “But I am getting ahead of myself, I am not yet born.” This film is fantastic. Here's the trailer.

Stranger Than Fiction
What would you do if you started hearing your life being narrated? What if the voice in your head revealed you were the main character in an unfinished novel that is due to end with your death? Will Ferrell, Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman are all wonderful in this metafictionish masterpiece. Here's the trailer.

Little Miss Sunshine
This very funny road movie comedy drama is a race against time that culminates in a beauty pageant for children. This film takes the high road and avoids all the easy shots it could take at such a repugnant target and as a result makes a far better comment on the sexualisation of children. Here's the trailer.

Children Of Men
A great piece of apocalyptic cinema, both wonderfully bleak and somehow hopeful. Here's the trailer.

The Lives Of Others
This German language masterpiece about life under Stasi observation in the former East Germany and features a beautiful performance from the Ulrich Mühe. Here's the trailer.

Woody Allen is brilliant as Sid Waterman, a stage magician who goes by the name ‘The Great Splendini’ that gets caught up in a tale of a journalism student who should have been a dental hygienist, a boat along the river Styx, a tarot card killer, British high society and a scoop from beyond the grave. Here's the trailer.

Life On Mars
Hit by a car in 2006, Coma victim Sam Tyler wakes up in 1973 and so begins the best police procedural of all time. Great performances across the board, great music, great period references and juxtapositions of then and now.

Doctor Who: New Earth; Tooth And Claw; School Reunion; The Girl In The Fireplace; The Idiot’s Lantern; The Impossible Planet & The Satan Pit; Love & Monsters; Army Of Ghosts & Doomsday; The Runaway Bride
David Tennant’s first series builds on the success of its predecessor. The new Doctor and Rose visit New Earth and despite the cast change it’s business as usual. The lift business and the bodyswapping provide great comic opportunities and the plight of the patients is chillingly bleak. Tooth And Claw is a wonderfully chilling gothic Hammer horror of an episode. The return of the now sadly missed Elisabeth Sladen is a vital for the show, while Sarah Jane Smith and the Doctor undergo a School Reunion, the series updates its mission statement: this meeting of old and new categorically states that this is all one television series. The Girl In The Fireplace is incredible. All of it: Arthur, “a door, once opened, may be stepped through in either direction…”, Banana Daiquiris, “We do not require your feet” and the great reveal at the end. Incredible. As a tribute to the fifties The Idiot’s Lantern never looks less than beautiful and the script has some great period detail. The series is so life-affirming that when The Impossible Planet & The Satan Pit take us to Doctor Who at its darkest, it’s unsettling in more ways than one. Shaun Parkes’ world weariness is palpable, Gabriel Woolf’s voice is as chilling as ever and Tennant’s monologues in the presence of The Beast are magnificent. Love & Monsters makes a virtue of a filming limitation, moving the focus away from the Doctor and Rose and onto those left behind. The script is very tight, Marc Warren & LINDA are very endearing, Camille Coduri is spectacular, it contains the oddest sexual imagery in the history of television and introduced me to the Electric Light Orchestra. The season finale Army Of Ghosts & Doomsday strikes a perfect balance between an epic action movie with Daleks versus Cybermen and a beautifully touching exit for Rose. The Runaway Bride shouldn’t work as well as it does, the Doctor committing infanticide on BBC1 on Christmas Day, and yet somehow it's still a lot of fun.

Torchwood: Everything Changes; Ghost Machine; Small Worlds; Countrycide; They Keep Killing Suzie; Random Shoes; Out Of Time
Doctor Who’s post watershed spinoff set in Cardiff’s alien underbelly arrives in style as PC Gwen Cooper investigates the mysterious Torchwood Three in Everything Changes. Eve Myles, Indira Varma and Tom Price are wonderful in an episode which thanks to retcon and an inability to die, manages to have its cake and eat it twice. It’s Owen’s turn for some character development in Ghost Machine and after witnessing a rape from the past he decides to threaten the rapist in the present, in a scene played wonderfully between Burn Gorman and Gareth Thomas, that implies that he sees in Ed Morgan the man he might have been. On the face of it Small Worlds is simply Torchwood away with the fairies, but it is much more important than that: it’s the first time Jack’s past catches up with him and the first time Torchwood Three loses. The beautifully shot and fantastically named Countrycide capitalises on your expectations thus far. Torchwood’s arrogance comes home to roost in They Keep Killing Suzie, a phenomenal episode for the whole team. Torchwood Three fan Eugene haunts Gwen as she investigates his death in Random Shoes, a wonderful episode rooting the supernatural in the domestic and often unfavourably and unfairly compared to Doctor Who's Love & Monsters (see above). Louise Delamere, Mark Lewis Jones and Olivia Hallinan are all wonderful as three temporal refugees in Out Of Time, a beautiful story which shows what Torchwood can achieve and how far it's come.

Time Trumpet
A nostalgic look back at the first thirty years of the twenty first century with the likes of David Cameron, Charlotte Church, Ant & Dec, June Sarpong, Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell, Natasha Kaplinsky and Jamie Oliver. Brilliant, hilarious and sobering.

The alphabetical odyssey looks at subjects such as Danger, Dogs and Domesticity this time around.

Death takes a holiday, or rather takes a holiday in hand. This adaptation of the Discworld’s Christmassiest tale has a very strange quality to it, as it muses on the nature of belief itself. David Jason and Michelle Dockery are great as Albert and Susan Sto Helit respectively.

Johnny And The Bomb
Elsewhere in the Pratchettverse, this tale about the consequences of time travel sees Johnny Maxwell and his friends deal with the height of the blitz, changing history and casual racism better than many productions aimed at an older audience. George Mackay puts in a wonderful central performance as Johnny.

American Dad: Dungeons & Wagons
It’s not unusual for a story to feature two narratives that run parallel with each other, but using entirely different styles of animation to illustrate each of them is. The animation used for Steve’s computer game is some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen and not to be outdone that of the ‘real world’ includes an incredibly impressive car chase.

Doctor Who: The Chimes Of Midnight, Part Three & Four; Blood Of The Daleks, Part One
The last two parts of The Chimes Of Midnight are wonderful as reality unravels around the Eighth Doctor and Charley in an Agatha Christie meets The Stone Tape mystery with some very darkly funny dialogue and terrifying simple truth.
The first part of Blood Of The Daleks is Big Finish’s first work designed specially for radio and it’s easy to see the influence of the show’s return to television on it. Like Donna Noble before (and after) her, Lucie Miller is teleported directly into the TARDIS on a very important day and very bolshy about it. More importantly she is a real shot in the arm and kick up the arse for audio Doctor Who.

Nebulous: The Deptford Wives; The Buzzing; I, Nebulous; Destiny Of The Destinoyd; Tempus Fugitive; Last Of The Present Sirius
K.E.N.T.'s finest return for a second series and explores SF clichés in their own way. The Deptford Wives take on the criticisms of sexism often levelled at science fiction and manages to be even more sexist. The Buzzing features a great cameo by Steve Coogan and the funniest genocide I've ever heard. The return of David Warner as Nebulous' nemesis Dr. Klench in I, Nebulous, the series take on bodyswapping sees Warner and Mark Gatiss swap roles and Paula Breeze give great commentary during Klench's peace conference speech. A trip to the moon sees Nebulous fall in love and a clutch of red-shirted men die in two possibly related elements of Destiny Of The Destinoyd. Tempus Fugitive sees Kate O'Mara as a woman splintered throughout time tasking each member of KENT to visit an ironic time to travel to in order to reunite her. Rory finds himself at Woodstock and unable to remove his trousers when offered free love, Harry travels to the far future and is worshipped as a God by the survivors of the UltraWithering where everyone was reduced to sentient body parts and Nebulous arrives in his own childhood inspiring himself to shun clowning in favour of physics. The last of the present series, Last Of The Present Sirius, sees Nebulous find himself in trapped in a time loop and a weekend omnibus of a reality TV show at the same time. The beauty of Nebulous is that the scripts are packed with throwaway references that function as jokes: the Notting Hill Carnivore, the Edward Woodward Woodwork Award and "the Sequel Devils? They came back again. And again".

Chris Addison’s Civilization: A Controlled Universe; Cities And Laws; A Working Society; A Sense Of Identity
Described within as “two hours of your life you won’t get back” by its host, but actually two hours of insightful comedy with a very high gag rate. Concerning our attempts to control our world: writing, time, justice and identity. Featuring the incredibly prolific author and polymath Professor Austin Herring.

Jarvis Cocker: Jarvis
Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker releases his first solo album and reassuringly he has lost none of his lyrical dexterity.
Stand Out Tracks: 'Don't Let Him Waste Your Time'; 'I Will Kill Again'; 'Fat Children'; 'From Auschwitz To Ipswich'; 'Running The World' (hidden track)

The Zutons: Tired Of Hanging Around
This Liverpool foursome's second album is great from start to finish. Move over Winehouse, the original 'Valerie' is fantastic.
Stand Out Tracks: 'Tired Of Hanging Around'; 'It's The Little Things We Do'; 'Valerie'; 'You've Got A Friend In Me'

What Happens Now by Jeremy Dyson
What seems like a nice little story about a boy with an overactive imagination takes a very different turn indeed and ends up challenging our expectations of narrative itself. Along the way it takes in seventies television production, religious scepticism and epistolary evidence.

Fat by Rob Grant
The novel is made up of three separate, but interweaving, strands following three individuals whose lives are all ruled by society’s obsessions with dieting, obesity and celebrity. Have some cake.

The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
A child’s eye view of the depths of human cruelty. Everybody should read this book.

Where’s Wally? The Great Picture Hunt by Martin Handford
You can't beat a bit of Wallyspotting.

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
The equivalent of an atheist holy book? No, but a rallying call, certainly. Dawkins applies an enviable scientific rigour to articles of faith and intelligent design, but contrary to popular belief does not attempt to prove the non-existence of God. The chapter title: 'Why there almost certainly is no God', is a sign of the care he has taken. Very few of his detractors take the same care.

The Devil In Amber by Mark Gatiss
Lucifer Box returns during the period between the world wars in another tale of derring-do. Facing off against an army of fascists, the devil itself and the unwelcome affections of Mrs Croup.

Pride Of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughn & Niko Henrichon
This spectacular graphic novel follows four lions that escaped from Baghdad Zoo after it was bombed during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Doctor Who: The Betrothal Of Sontar; The Lodger; F.A.Q.; The Futurists; Interstellar Overdrive; The Green Eyed Monster
The Tenth Doctor and Rose visit The Betrothal Of Sontar in his first comic strip appearance, their dialogue is great, the artwork is sumptuous and the characterisation and design of the Sontarans are both brilliant. Mickey gets a houseguest in The Lodger as the Doctor stays with him for a few days and this one-shot strip is a great character piece. F.A.Q. is the tale of an imaginary friend with a surprisingly grown-up tinge. Followed by The Futurists where temporal cause and effect meets political cause and effect in this sprawling story of men out of their time and may also feature the only use in comics of the word "twp". Interstellar Overdrive sees stadium rockers in a time loop with fatal consequences and part two is a great reworking of the events of part one. There is great artwork throughout and the characterisation of the new Doctor is already bang on. The Green Eyed Monster is a very funny strip with a playfully mocking tone and it's nice to see Jackie in the comic, however briefly.

Geek Chase
Grant Naylor Productions ran this promotional competition when they released Beat The Geek, an interactive quiz on DVD. The game is still up long after the competition is over. Follow these instructions and start chasing at Diva-droid International.

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