Monday, 31 December 2012

"I Can Only Hope That The 2012 Apocalypse Isn't Such A Letdown"

So said Some Grey Bloke. Was it? You decide.

2012 was the year that the Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, Encyclopædia Britannica discontinued its print edition, Curiosity the Mars rover successfully landed on Mars and roved, the Olympics came to London and was nearly as good as the Paralympics, Felix Baumgartner broke the sound barrier unassisted as he fell from space and Lonesome George died making the Pinta Island Tortoise subspecies extinct.

I directed The Cherry Orchard, facilitated The Undiscovered, wrote some of Brandon Generator (sort of) and 'the incident' took place. It's been a very odd year.

These are a few of my favourite things from 2012:

The Avengers
Released in the UK with the slightly rubbish title of Marvel Avengers Assemble, Joss Whedon's superhero team up is a brilliant action movie with a witty script, great set pieces and fight sequences. Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L Jackson and Alexis Denisof are excellent. Whedon gives the 'little people' the big lines and so Harry Dean Stanton, Robert Clohessy and Ashley Johnson get the best moments, while every scene with the Hulk is fantastic.

The Cabin In The Woods
This movie reappropriates all the best and worst horror movie tropes to make a genre defining movie that takes on torture porn and wins.

A Fantastic Fear Of Everything
Sometimes paranoia in the launderette is entirely justified in this film adaptation of Bruce Robinson's novella Paranoia In The Launderette. Crispian Mills is intriguing, surprising and claustrophobic throughout, while Simon Pegg, Amara Karan and Alan Drake are phenomenal.

Red Dwarf: Trojan; Fathers & Suns; Lemons; Entangled; Dear Dave; The Beginning
The Boys from the Dwarf are back for six more episodes in Series X. Highlights included the frequency of moose-related car accidents in 1970's Sweden, Gerald Hampton and the Cat's map from Trojan, Lister's drunken conversation with his father in Fathers And Suns, everything James Baxter, does as Jesus in Lemons, Kryten and Cat's quantum entanglement in Entangled, the build-up to and the last line of Dear Dave and practically everything in The Beginning, while Richard O'Callaghan, Alex Hardy, Simon Treves and Philip Labey are fantastic. Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Jules, Robert Llewellyn and Doug Naylor prove they can still do it.

Dirk Gently
Stephen Mangan and Darren Boyd return for another three excellent episodes of holistic detection and then some idiot cancelled it. Whoever they are, they should be ashamed. They sicken me.

All In The Best Possible Taste
Grayson Perry's exploration of the relationship between taste and class is absolutely fascinating as are the tapestries that he created as a result of the people he met along the way.

Doctor Who: Asylum Of The Daleks; Dinosaurs On A Spaceship; The Power Of Three; The Snowmen
Jenna-Louise Coleman and Arthur Darvill are phenomenal as the TARDIS finds itself in the Asylum Of The Daleks and almost meets his new companion Oswin. Dinosaurs On A Spaceship does what it says on the tin, while the slow invasion of the cubes in The Power Of Three is a brilliant concept and Mark Williams is wonderful in them both. Coleman comes to the rescue in The Snowmen as Clara helps defeat the Great Intelligence, dies and still manages to give me hope for the future of the show.

Doctor Who: A Thousand Tiny Wings; Survival Of The Fittest 1
The Seventh Doctor returns on radio in A Thousand Tiny Wings, set during the Mau Mau uprising in fifties Kenya, the story deals well with its historical setting, Sylvester McCoy, Tracey Childs and Ann Bell are fantastic, the dialogue is sharp "your roots are showing", the base-under-siege is both traditional and inventive due to the fascinating historical setting and the all-female besieged cast of characters. The first part of Survival Of The Fittest tells Klein's Story in a fantastic series of flashbacks to an alternative reality in which the Nazis won World War II with a surprising guest star.

Cornershop: Urban Turban - The Singhles Club
The band evidently enjoyed their last album work with Bubbley Kaur, because their eighth album is entirely made up of collaborations. Cornershop have teamed up with the likes of Castle Hill Primary, Kay Kwong, SoKo and Castle Hill Primary for some great tracks.
Stand-Out Tracks: 'What Did The Hippie Have In His Bag?', 'Concrete Concrete', 'Something Makes You Feel Like' and 'What Did The Hippie Have In His Bag? (The High Slung Satchel)'

Doctor Who: The Chains Of Olympus 2-4; Sticks & Stones; The Cornucopia Caper; The Broken Man; Imaginary Enemies
On a visit to Ancient Greece, the Eleventh Doctor, Amy and Rory meet Socates and Plato and face up to Zeus in the last three parts of a great story with a fantastic scene of Socrates outwitting his God with logic. Sticks & Stones may break your bones, but names will never hurt you. Or they might in a story best summed up by the line "evil goth teen from outer space, turning everyone into zombies", the Leximorphs are a surprisingly impressive visual and ending is a nice touch. The Cornucopia Caper sees the TARDIS trio blunder into a great strip that is part heist movie, part Muppet Mafia and with a very shocking cliffhanger. The Broken Man is a cold war spy thriller with some very nice characterisation that leaves the question hanging "What is buried in man?", while Imaginary Enemies is a nice Doctorless Christmassy flashback to Amy, Rory and Mel's childhood, which builds to a brilliant last page.

Harry Hill's Britpop Coconuts

Harry Hill's series of Britpop-inspired painted coconuts proves that even frontmen are shy. From left: Jarvis Cocker from Pulp, Gaz Coombes from Supergrass, Damon Albarn from Blur and Noel Gallagher from Oasis. I love that these exist.

What were your favourites from 2012?

Recommendations welcome.

Next month: 1987

Tuesday, 25 December 2012


I asked my mother if I was ever in a nativity play at school and her response was an absolute classic:

"I seem to remember losing a tea towel at some point."

A very merry Christmas from an apparently careless former shepherd.

Monday, 24 December 2012

More Christmas Moments

Last year I wrote a post focussing on the Christmassiest elements of the years I'd written about for These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things. Here's an update based on what I've written about since:

Christmas 1988 and Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol inspired both Scrooged in cinemas and Blackadder's Christmas Carol on television. Both revolve around a character who isn't Ebeneezer Scrooge that learn the true meaning of Christmas after seeing visions of the past, present and future. Each man finds a very different "true meaning of Christmas" though.

- - - - -

1989 and 1990 saw the publication of the Red Dwarf novels, Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers and Better Than Life respectively and one story element across both books is Lister getting back to Earth, discovering that Bedford Falls, the town from It's A Wonderful Life, is real, moving there, starting a family with his ideal woman and all on Christmas Eve, because in Bedford Falls it's always Christmas Eve...

- - - - -

Christmas 1991 is the first for a Northern Exposure's Joel Fleischman and the experience gives the good Jewish boy a crisis of confidence in Seoul Mates, while the local Native Americans are decorating everything with Ravens. To quote Chris-in-the-Morning: "Twinkling colored lights are nice and so are plastic Santas and reindeers and nativity scenes, but let me tell you something. There's nothing like the sight of a beautiful, black-as-pitch raven to get you in the Christmas spirit."

- - - - -

Four years later and Alan Partridge celebrates Christmas 1995 with a Christmas edition of his show entitled Knowing Me, Knowing Yule With Alan Partridge. Alan gamely soldiers on through struggles with a tranvestite celebrity chef, product placement, racist chauffers and his own boss as a guest toward the most predictable of puns.

- - - - -

1996 saw Terry Pratchett take his Discworld into a Christmas-like territory with Hogfather and Father Ted broadcast A Christmassy Ted, which at some point I will stop going on about.

- - - - -

The radio series of On The Town With The League Of Gentlemen marked Christmas in 1997 with God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (not to be confused with this), as the residents of Spent celebrated with a Christmas party that draws the radio show to a spectacular close.

- - - - -

Amends is a beautiful episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, which sees the Slayer and her vampire ex-boyfriend dreaming the same dreams, Xander's Christmas tradition, an uncharacteristic snowfall in California and sets up the Big Bad for the series final season, while Louis Theroux's Weird Christmas reunites him with four of his Weird Weedenders to talk about porn, survivalism, Christ, aliens and Satan Claus.

- - - - -

Christmases 1999 to 2010 featured in last years post.

- - - - -

Last year saw the broadcast of not one but two very different Doctor Who Christmas episodes The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe on TV and Hornet's Nest on the radio. Both were fantastic.

Here's to Christmas 2012...

Thursday, 20 December 2012

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Over the last few days Zach, Ben, Phil, Ryan, Jacob and Jeff have treated us to articles about Christmassy episodes of The Simpsons, The Office, American Dad!, Seinfeld, Lost and The Partridge Family respectively as part of Noiseless Chatter's 12 Days of Christmas.

I've written another one, this time about The League Of Gentlemen's excellent Christmas Special from 2000.

It's a brilliant piece of television and I hope I've done it justice. You be the judge.

Phil has another four articles about another four Christmas specials coming up over the next four days.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Feck The Halls...

Phil over at Noiseless Chatter is hosting a series of articles that he has called The 12 Days Of Christmas. They are twelve articles about twelve TV Christmas Specials and I was delighted to be asked to write the first of them.

I chose to write about A Christmassy Ted, the yuletide offering from Father Ted. The episode in question is a masterpiece, but don't just take my word for it. Go and watch it, then take my word for it.

I have another article coming up and I'm very much looking forward to seeing what everyone else has decided to write about.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Cheers, Cavanaugh Blogfest

A group of Bloggers got together to sing the praises of Alex J. Cavanaugh and potentially embarrass him. I signed up for this and then got a bit busy and nearly missed this. Sorry Alex.

I haven't done this properly, so sorry to everyone looking for answers to questions and flash fiction. Sorry Alex.

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank Alex. Thank you Alex. He comments on practically everything I write and not just to say hello but always with something enthusiastic and engaging and inspiring. I realise that sets the bar pretty high if you comment on this post Alex. Sorry Alex.

He has, at the time of writing, 1715 other followers and I'd wager somehow he probably visits each of them just as often. Not only that but he has an army of ninjas to look after, he runs support group for insecure writers, he's in a band, has written two novels and possibly has a real life in the real world as well. Alex is forever making introductions, promoting other people's efforts and championing other writers. It shames me that he can do so much so often and I don't. Thank you Alex.

People talk about a 'blogging community' and it seems a bit disingenuous. We are often writing something and then throwing it into the void in the hope that someone finds it and reacts. Alex is the connection between so many of us. I can't count the number of times he's recommended something great and through that I've discovered a blog that I now read regularly. It's hard to deny the community spirit that Alex has engendered in us all. Maybe that makes us a community, but if it doesn't I'd settle for us being Alex's friends. Thank you Alex.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Soft Boiled

This began life as a self portrait to accompany the excellent one by Joseph Ducreux, but along the way it turned into more of an egg with a face akin to Terence and/or Philip from South Park and hair half way between Adolf Hitler and an emo group that I'm too old to be more than peripherally aware of.

Saturday, 8 December 2012


Following my recent discovery of Le Discret, I did a little research into the works of Joseph Ducreux. Typically I came to this party long after the rest of the internet had mined many of them for memes.

Here is another of my favorites. It was painted in about 1783, this is a self-portrait:

It's of his self, not my self.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Carruthers Camera #29

Here are five more Carruthers blog photos that I took:

Style Over Substance was taken near Denchworth in Oxfordshire.

There's No Other Way is a fantastic sign in Skipton in North Yorkshire.

Leonardo Da Vinci Says... it in Caledonian Road's tube station.

Tea With Daren is a slightly odd lingering sign painted on a wall in Cheshunt.

Sticking with Cheshunt, Babybox is a terrifying view through a charity shop window.

Friday, 30 November 2012

"88 Was A Good Vintage"

So says Sam Tyler in Life On Mars whilst bemoaning ending up in 1973.

1988 was the year perestroika began in the USSR, the Singing Revolution began in Estonia, a cyclone in Bangladesh kills thousands and leaves 5 million homeless, the UK government bans broadcast interviews with the IRA and the BBC begins to use actors to voice their words, Ronald Reagan has the new American Embassy in Moscow torn down due to Soviet listening devices.

These are a few of my favourite things from 1988:

Sally Field, Tom Hanks, John Goodman and Mark Rydell are great in this comedy about comedians, from the hopelessly unfunny to the downright self-destructive. These stand-ups are a mixed bag, but the funniest scenes are probably in the Krytsick family home and Hank's sarcastic offstage rants and Singin' In The Rain. Here's the trailer.

Short Circuit 2
Johnny 5 returns and finds himself in a city filled with input, but also plenty of crime and people trying to take advantage of him. Michael McKean is great, but of course the robot is the real star. As a child I had no idea that Fisher Stevens had blacked up to play the part of Ben, I can't tell you how disappointed I was when I found out and I'm a little embarrassed to admit that it was a fairly recent discovery on my part. Here's the trailer trailer.

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without this modern re-telling of A Christmas Carol and the threat of a pair of antlers being stapled to a mouse's head. Bill Murray, Karen Allen, John Glover, David Johansen, Carol Kane and Alfre Woodard are great. Here's the trailer trailer.

Red Dwarf: The End; Future Echoes; Balance Of Power; Waiting For God; Confidence & Paranoia, Me², Kryten; Better Than Life; Thanks For The Memory; Stasis Leak; Queeg; Parallel Universe
The greatest SF comedy series of all time begins at The End as the first episode kills off all but one of the crew. The characters of Rimmer, Lister, Cat, Holly and Hollister arrive practically fully-formed and Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Jules, Norman Lovett and Mac MacDonald are phenomenal. Travelling through light speed subjects the crew to Future Echoes and proves that this show is going to subject the audience to some pretty big ideas and the Cat's broken tooth, Rimmer's retelling of the biggest splits of Lister's life and the "What things?" conversation are fantastic. Examining the relationship between Rimmer and Lister, Balance Of Power veers from petty to bittersweet and back again nicely. Noel Coleman's Cat Priest spends his whole life Waiting For God whilst Rimmer seeks out aliens who can give him a new body in an episode that examines the beliefs of the three main characters, the Cat's indifference, Lister's embarrassment at being worshipped and Rimmer's atheism combined with his abandonment of scientific rigour in his desperate search for aliens he names Quagaars. Lister catches a mutated viruses with give him physical hallucinations and both Craig Ferguson and Lee Cornes are wonderful as his Confidence & Paranoia, darker than it's contemporaries this is another episode with great ideas at its core. Me² introduces a theme that Red Dwarf will return to time and time again as Rimmer is confronted with another version of himself and demands alot of Chris Barrie and he delivers whilst the Norweb federation, ippy dippy and gazpacho soup are all high points.
Series II invigorates the show and sees the crew leaving the ship. They meet Kryten and David Ross is fantastic as the mechanoid in an episode with some magnificent gags. Lister reading Rimmer's bad news is hilarious, the observation dome scenes are touching and the Rimmer's psyche taking its revenge on him in the Total Immersion Video Game Better Than Life. Lister gives Rimmer some of his memories and they have a profound effect on him in Thanks For The Memory, a truly beautiful piece of televison which shows the pathos which the show is able to achieve. The crew travel back to before the accident via a Stasis Leak and it's great to see MacDonald back as Hollister, while the Cat's repeated "What is it?" and the final scene are wonderful. Charles Augins in fantastic as Queeg replaces Holly and the showdown between them and the reveal are great. The boys from the Dwarf travel to a female dominated Parallel Universe and while the end result may not be subtle, but there are some nice gags and Suzanne Bertish, Angela Bruce, Matthew Devitt and Hattie Hayridge all give lovely performances as the parallel crew.

Doctor Who: Remembrance Of The Daleks; The Happiness Patrol; The Greatest Show In The Galaxy 1-3
The twenty-fifth season sees Doctor Who return to its 1963 roots in Remembrance Of The Daleks and injects some welcome mystery into the show. The Doctor as a master manipulator, the Hand of Omega, the Dalek civil war and the Special Weapons Dalek are all brilliant additions to the mythos. Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, Pamela Salem, Simon Williams, George Sewell, Michael Sheard, John Leeson, and Terry Molloy are fantastic. The cliffhanger at the end of Part One is thrilling, the cameo scenes with Joseph Marcell, William Thomas and Peter Halliday are wonderful, the Doctor's massive deceptions and the bait in his trap are excellent and a real turning point for the series. The commentary on racism, while not subtle, is integral to the plot, perfectly in character for the Daleks and it's great that the story doesn't shy away from more terrestrial examples. The 1963 period detail and references to the first ever episode of Doctor Who make for a far better anniversary story than Silver Nemesis. The Doctor and Ace take on The Happiness Patrol as Doctor Who takes on right wing politics in a brilliant little story that is an incisive parody of Thatcherism. McCoy, Aldred, Sheila Hancock, Harold Innocent, Lesley Dunlop, Rachel Bell and John Normington are wonderful. Helen A is a great representation of Margaret T, the gaudy Film Noir meets shocking pink design of dystopia Terra Alpha while hideously perfect somehow supersedes camp, the pink TARDIS looks great, the music is fantastic and despite his critics the Kandy Man is a terrifying monster, he may be Bertie Bassett on the outside but on the inside he's sadistic to the core. The concept that happiness means nothing without sadness is fascinating and a brilliant subversion of what the Doctor usually fighting for. The first three parts of The Greatest Show In The Galaxy are brilliantly creepy and invites you to share Ace's fear of clowns. McCoy, Aldred, T.P. McKenna, Jessica Martin, Christopher Guard, Gian Sanmarco and Ian Reddington are wonderful, the family audience are very funny and whether it is intentional or not, Whizzkid's dialogue, particularly "Although I never got to see the early days, I know it's not as good as it was, but I'm still terribly interested", is a very accurate depiction of fans and the sooner we admit it, the better we'll all be.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Big Goodbye; Datalore; 11001001; Home Soil; Coming Of Age; Heart Of Glory; The Arsenal Of Freedom; Symbiosis; Skin Of Evil; We'll Always Have Paris; Conspiracy; The Neutral Zone; The Child; Elementary, Dear Data
The first season continues with The Big Goodbye, the episode which first defines the holodeck using the brilliant 1940's noir Dixon Hill program and Patrick Stewart, Gates McFadden and Brent Spiner are all on top form. Spiner is fantastic as he pulls double duty as both Data and Lore in Datalore. 11001001 is inventive and bittersweet. The scientific ethics of Home Soil are great, but the episode deserves to be highly thought of, if only for giving world the phrase: "Ugly Bags Of Mostly Water". Both plot strands of Coming Of Age are wonderfully sinister and Wil Wheaton puts in a great performance. Michael Dorn and Vaughn Armstrong are fantastic in Heart Of Glory which brings the Klingons into the 24th century. The adaptive weaponry of The Arsenal Of Freedom is impressive in this darkly comical episode with a nice punchline. Symbiosis concerns an unusually gritty dilemma and a nice dramatic use of the Prime Directive. Skin Of Evil serves as a brave exit and Armus looks great. Romantic and also SF literate, We'll Always Have Paris is an episode that sees the beginnings of a mature TNG and the simplicity of the Manheim effect is very impressive. A tense atmosphere of intrigue permeates Conspiracy and the ending is suitably creepy. The Enterprise visits The Neutral Zone in the season finale as the Romulans re-enter the fold impressively and the culture clash between the Data and the defrostees is interesting.
Marina Sirtis and Wheaton are great in second season opener, The Child and Whoopi Goldberg and Diana Muldaur both make great debuts. Spiner and LeVar Burton play Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson in Elementary, Dear Data with aplomb, Pulaski's provocation is great, Victorian London looks brilliant and Daniel Davis is fantastic as Moriarty.

Star Trek: The Cage
The first pilot for the original series finally saw the light of day this year. The Cage is a piece of science fiction that feels very pure. It is filled with great ideas, looks fantastic and features brilliant performances from Jeffrey Hunter, Susan Oliver, Leonard Nimoy, Majel Barrett, John Hoyt and Meg Wyllie.

The Return Of Sherlock Holmes: The Devil's Foot; Silver Blaze; Wisteria Lodge; The Bruce-Partington Plans; The Hound Of The Baskervilles
Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke return as Holmes and Watson in The Devil's Foot which brings them back in style and deals with Holmes' addiction sensitively. The theft of Silver Blaze is a nice change of pace and Peter Barkworth is wonderful. An visit to Wisteria Lodge provides a strange eerie mystery and Freddie Jones is fantastic as the only policeman Holmes respects. Charles Gray, Denis Lill and Geoffrey Bayldon are wonderful in The Bruce-Partington Plans. Ronald Pickup, Fiona Gillies and Bernard Horsfall are fantastic in the beautifully shot feature-length episode of The Hound Of The Baskervilles, Hardwicke and Brett are wonderful as their separation gives Watson a bit more to do and Holmes has a real zeal upon his return.

Blackadder: The Cavalier Years & Blackadder's Christmas Carol
Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Stephen Fry and Warren Clarke are great in Blackadder: The Cavalier Years, a short made for Comic Relief, which shows us a Blackadder from the English Civil War and gives Fry the opportunity to play Charles I as if he were channel the current Prince of Wales.
Blackadder's Christmas Carol concerns Ebeneezer Blackadder, an uncharacteristically nice example of the lineage settling in for a very messy Kweznuz, but who learns the true spirit of Christmas from visions of the exploits of his ancestors and descendents thus teaching him to be as selfish as they were. Revisiting Blackadder II and Blackadder The Third as well as pair of alternative futures. Atkinson, Robinson, Fry, Miriam Margolyes, Jim Broadbent, Pauline Melville, Nicola Bryant, Denis Lill, Robbie Coltrane, Miranda Richardson, Patsy Byrne and Hugh Laurie are all great.

Yes, Prime Minister: Power To The People, The Patron Of The Arts, The National Education Service, A Tangled Web
The political to-ing and fro-ing at Number 10 continues with the second half of series two. Four more wonderful episodes of Jim Hacker's short-lived optimism, Sir Humphrey's obfuscation and Bernard's endearing pedantry. Paul Eddington, Night Humphies, Derek Fowlds, Deborah Norton, John Nettleton, John Bird and Geoffrey Beevers are wonderful. The explorations of them and us thorough illustrations of local government, arts funding, education and media manipulation. Here's a slice of Bernard's dialogue from the last episode that take Donald Rumsfeld's known knowns to its logical conclusion and beyond: "The fact that you needed to know was not known at the time that the now known need to know was known, and therefore those that needed to advise and inform the Home Secretary perhaps felt that the information that he needed as to whether to inform the highest authority of the known information was not yet known, and therefore there was no authority for the authority to be informed because the need to know was not, at that time, known or needed."

Stoppit And Tidyup: Beequiet And Beehave; Eat Your Greens; Comb Your Hair; Wash Your Face; Go And Play; I Said No!; Hurry Up; Calm Down; Don't Do That!; Go To Bed; Sayplease And Saythankyou; Clean Your Teeth; Take Care
Terry Wogan narrates these wonderful, anarchic five minute visits to the land of Do As You're Told. Populated as it is with characters named after and epitomising all those stock phrases parents say to children, despite this there is no moralising. Not Now and the big bad I Said No are scary, but it's the Sit Downs that terrify me.

Sourcery by Terry Pratchett
Not Sorcery, but Sourcery as in the actual source of magic itself. Rincewind heads an unlikely group that finds themselves pitted against a Sourcerer, an eighth son of an eighth son of an eighth son, while the One Horseman and Three Pedestrians of the Apocralypse wait in the wings. The fifth Discworld novel is absolutely epic in scale, but not without losing the humour.

Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett
Packed full of Shakespearean references this novel takes the plot of Macbeth and the concept of witches and owns the both. The kingdom of Lancre comes to life in more ways than one as Granny Weatherwax returns and is joined by the excellently named Magrat Garlick and Nanny Ogg, who may well be one of the best characters in the entirety of literature. Ever.

Where's Wally Now? by Martin Handford
Wally gets lost all through time and space in a sort of greatest hits of history taking in the Stone Age, Ancient Egyptians, Romans, Vikings, Crusaders, Aztecs, Samurai, Pirate and into the Future. Carelessly he also loses a book at each stop, but who can be bothered to help him find them?

Doctor Who: Claws Of The Klathi!; Culture Shock!; Keepsake; Planet Of The Dead; Echoes Of The Mogor!
The Victoriana and the visit to the Great Exhibition in Claws Of The Klathi! are wonderful and the artwork is a huge improvement on recent Seventh Doctor strips. Culture Shock! is exacly that, a weird change of pace that proves to be a shot in the arm for the strip and the "We've got people to see, places to go, things to do!" ending has a welcome sense of vigour to it. The Doctor's run in with Keepsake is atmospheric and the visuals are great and the landing gear probably something Sylvester McCoy would have loved to have filmed. The TV show's twenty-fifth anniversary (see above) was celebrated in the comic as well and Planet Of The Dead is a better version of The Seven Doctors than fans might have expected and Lee Sullivan's likenesses of the Doctors are fantastic. Echoes Of The Mogor! has striking visuals and a suitably creepy feel.

Recommendations welcome.

Next Month: 2012

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

"Could I Have Egg, Bacon, Spam And Sausage Without The Spam?"

I've been receiving an inordinate amount of spam of late and finally had to relent. No longer will this blog accept anonymous comments. I apologise to any shy or nameless folk reading this, but I was spending far too long reading and deleting comments with dodgy links in from posts about computer problems or stabbings.

I entertained them for a while, because they are often quite funny, but unfortunately for every "The mistake can here?" or "Today is good poorly, isn't it?" there are dozens crammed full of links to websites concerning weight loss capsules, porn, cigarette tokens, Ottawa taxis, boots, no prescription valium, etc. I've included some of the odder ones below, but I have removed all links:

"At this time I am ready to do my breakfast, after having my breakfast coming yet again to read more news."

"When the nomination in the U.S.?"

"Peculiar article, totally what I needed."

"Fold it in half lengthwise two or three times, wrap it around your back and, bringing the ends forward, tie them in a knot between your breasts."

"entreat you; I am ready not only to give one of my own eyes to the idea we had conceived of it made it appear more frightful Appearing in 1860, about the epoch of the French invasion of Austrian"

"Who could ever ignored filigree Siberian hamster?" the famous pet of the Spain's server in one of the episodes of BBC comedy series. Also, a high level of confidence and accomplishment can be achieved by caring for and owning an animal, no matter what type and size the animal is."

"may the future be bright, happy and filled with continued blessings from above nip something in the bud indicate"

"Why is definitely, you'll find it like they're even worse in contrast to mafia."

"Notify the way the life-style regarding Louis XIV as well as Louis XVI ended in the undoing inside This type of language"

"unwell unquestionably come more formerly again as exactly the same nearly a lot often inside case you shield this increase."

"Since Fifties users along with cut-throat swimmers also have found discount ugg like a well-known method for retaining warm whilst out from the drinking water. They also dressed in them into the sea because they particular Hawaiian"

"You can create an increased perception of value to your business by associating your business with other high status companies...They end up facing a demon from ancient times called a Balrog...If your parents have bags under the eyes, there is a good chance you will, too."

"If someone frequently presents with "give me a barf bag" type migraines, then either the body is more sensitive than someone having fewer or no migraines"

"Generally, slay rub elbows with tangible tarot provides effortless this label query. You carry out issues brawniness occur. Additionally, make an issue of tarot doesn't choreograph you personally."

"She donated to my button fund, even though I told her the buttons were gifts. Eeny stared up wistfully at their bowl."

"The face of the ghost glove puppet will be the base of the bag that folds over. I feel as though I be all right in any situation - if you have friends around, you be fine. Lee takes Dawn out of a training meeting, to talk to her."

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Why I Adore...The Station Agent

I originally wrote this in July 2010 for a website called Why I Adore..., which featured articles all singing the praises of a particular subject with "unabashed, unabridged, unbridled" positivity. I loved the idea. The internet is all too often a haven for faceless negativity and any attempt to stem that tide impresses me. So I decided to offer up something I adored.

I looked at the site again the other day and it hasn't been update since the 1st of May, 2011. Maybe that means negativity has triumphed. This is a link to the original, but I've decided to re-post it and so here is Why I Adore...The Station Agent:

I love The Station Agent, but in telling you about it, I feel like I'm betraying something. I knew nothing about this film when I first watched it, so to come to it with no expectations and be so rewarded was a wonderful experience. What I have written below is so full of spoilers that, if you haven't already seen the film, I would be robbing you of the same experience. In fact… if you haven't already seen the film, go and watch it now…

The Station Agent captures something. Something intangible. It feels like a film about a long sprawling school summer holiday, but for adults. That makes it sound like a "Stand By Me with experience", which really doesn't do it justice.

We are presented with a very unlikely trio: The fantastically named Finbar McBride (Peter Dinklage) is an initially laconic dwarf craving the life of a hermit, Joe Oramas (Bobby Cannavale) is a gregarious and relentless optimist with a lust for life and Olivia Harris (Patricia Clarkson) is a woman left damaged by the death of her son.

Despite occurring less than six minutes into the film, the death of Fin's friend Henry is so affecting because Paul Benjamin has provided us with such a grounded and real character. Henry is the only person we encounter in Hoboken who doesn't regard Fin differently. As a parting gift, Henry leaves Fin an isolated train depot in Newfoundland, New Jersey and seeking an opportunity to be left alone Fin starts walking.

Peter Dinklage's assured characterisation as Fin is the core of the film. We witness people's treatment of him as an oddity: staring, pointing and making comparisons to Snow White's magnificent seven. His stoicism in the face of this is not a suit of armour, and nor is it emotionless. He simply treats it as a fact of life. The expression on his face when Patty at the Good to Go takes a photo of him is not surprise or indignation, but resignation. He just pays for his goods and starts walking.

A lot of this film is walking and it is Fin's long walks along the railroad's 'right-of-way', and a beautifully simple musical score from Stephen Trask, that set the tempo of the film. The stark lines of the railroad cutting a swathe through the verdant green of the New Jersey countryside, and the forgotten and rusting bridge over a island that looks like it could be paradise. "I'm a good walker, bro" Joe tells Fin. He isn't, but it doesn't matter. The triumph when Olivia enters the frame behind Fin and Joe is magnificent.

When alone they would each be stuck in a rut, the three friends make things happen for each other. Joe inflicts his company upon Fin, who initially resists and then begins to enjoy it. Joe invites Olivia to walk the right-of-way with them. In giving Fin her camera, Olivia turns his interest in trains from passive to active, but if it wasn't for Joe he wouldn't have taken up trainchasing.

During the train chasing scene, Joe's enthusiasm is unbridled and infectious. Fin's guard is down and he is living in the moment for the first time in the film. He and Joe are thundering alongside a "fucking huge" train in Gorgeous Frank's Hot Dog Emporium, and Fin is sat filming from a less-than-safe-looking 'lounge' chair. He turns the video camera on himself and takes the first carefree and unselfconscious shot of Fin that we see. He relaxes here and remains relaxed. Over the next couple of scenes, gone is the intense and taciturn Fin of old and in his place is a man who tells jokes, smokes a joint and opens up to Olivia about how he feels about being a dwarf.

This is a film about relationships in which no one talks about relationships. We learn about the trio's attitudes to each other not through what they say, but how they say it. If you take one away, then the other two don't quite function. When Joe's ill father needs him and he leaves the other two eating, they have almost nothing to say to one another. Just as without Fin, then Olivia and Joe would never be friends. He is so earnest that he brings her sarcasm to the surface.

Whilst saying grace at the table:

JOE: Who wants to say it?

And whilst Joe is cooking at Olivia's house:

JOE: Hey Olivia, you got a garlic press?
JOE: How can you not have garlic press?
OLIVIA: Still no.

The same is true when Olivia withdraws and the other two venture into territory that makes Fin uncomfortable, which ultimately sets him back on the path towards turning the train depot into a hermitage.

The three women in Fin's life all want different things from him. Olivia doesn't realise she needs friends like Fin and Joe, Emily (Michelle Williams) seeks solace from her boyfriend's world with him and Cleo (Raven Goodwin) simply wants him to share his love of trains with her classmates. That the simplest of these is the one he resists, makes no sense to Cleo.

When the trio is broken up it hurts, it actually hurts. Finn drinks away the pain and has a train related near death experience which seems to put things in perspective for him. Despite her earlier protestations, he visits Olivia again and discovers she has made an attempt at a suicide. Ironically, this is what it takes to bring them back together. Fin calls Joe and, as a pair, they drive to pick Olivia up from the hospital. There is no reconciliation scene, no admission of feelings, just an implicit tone that this was difficult, but more importantly that it was necessary. With our trio reunited, Fin takes Cleo up on her offer to speak at her school about the history of trains. And blimps.

I love every inch of this film: I love every time Fin checks his pocket watch, every time Olivia swears, every time Joe says Café Con Leche. By the third act of this film, you know how Café Con Leche tastes.

I love that they get away with Olivia running Fin off the road. Twice. I love the way Cleo says "Bee Cayrefull". I love that, after fighting with Emily's boyfriend, Fin gets home and the door won't shut and he slams it, when a lesser film would have had him punching the walls or some nonsense. I love the look on Fin's face when he realises the Hot Dog Emporium and its lounge are missing. I love the way that Fin makes his Tom Thumb gesture. Twice. I love the way that boy says, "blimps are cool". I love that the final scene is our three characters simply enjoying each others' company.

The frame is always richer for having all three of our trio in it, but there isn't a bad performance in this film. The music is wonderful, the landscape is beautiful. In fact, everything seems so right that it makes the fact that this is a debut film all the more astonishing.

When the credits rolled the first time I saw this film, something happened that's never happened before or since. I wanted to watch it all again, straight away.

- - -

Here's the trailer:

Go and watch The Station Agent now.