Nov. 10th, 2013 05:46 pm
alexsarll: (bill)
Didn't quite do anything proper for Hallowe'en or November 5th this year, though there was some dressing up and you can hardly fail to see some fireworks over what's now more like Guy Fawkes' Fortnight (Guy Fawtesnight?) - that's the problem with festival creep, where you can't even quite fix on one of the adjacent weekends as the consensus alternative. Dear world, please stop getting festivals wrong, ta.

Accidentally let my Netflix subscription run over after Breaking Bad was done, but regardless of how the US version has a lot more stuff* there was still plenty I'd been vaguely meaning to watch on the UK site. The Friends of Eddie Coyle, for instance, with Robert Mitchum exuding the shabby grandeur of a moth-eaten lion, or the gloriously absurd and none-more-eighties Lifeforce, in which a mission to Halley's Comet unwittingly unleashes a zombie plague (complete with Prefab Sprout posters visible in the background as they devastate London). The most notable casting is probably Patrick Stewart, who (SPOILERS) gets possessed by the sexy naked lady space vampire and so proceeds to do some gaying up (although it's shot in a way which would probably disappoing anyone going into the film just for that). Seven Psychopaths is the thoroughly meta and possibly even better follow-up to the delightful In Bruges, and more meta still is A Film With Me In It, which manages a surprising amount of bloodshed for something starring Dylan Moran. The Cabin In The Woods, on the other hand, I'd dismissed as a slasher movie with a twist (and Whedon dialogue), until I heard one recommendation too many to ignore. First surprise: the twist isn't, it's there from the start. And what that enables, and what lies behind it - that's utterly ingenious. Add me to the list of recommendations. Which is not something I can really say about Don Johnson in Harlan Ellison adaptation A Boy and his Dog; post-apocalyptic black comedy it may be, but I found the whole thing just a little too queasy, and not always in a manner that seemed intentional.

Watched elsewere:
Ian Hislop's dramatisation of the story of trench samizdat The Wipers Times. As with Blackadder, the horror of the Great War always hits hardest for me when it's presented with the gallows humour of the Tommies intact.
Doctor Who: The Web of Fear - a story which, this time last year, I would never have expected to see in my lifetime. And it stands up a lot better than most classic Who that runs past four episodes, helped by the claustrophobic, iconic location - running down a corridor feels so much more satisfying when that corridor is part of an identifiable tube station. Victoria is still a dreadful companion, mind.
Idiotic horror White Noise: The Light, which [ profile] xandratheblue and I watched on the simple grounds that Katee Sackhoff and Nathan Fillion would be suitable casting to play us in any film of our incredibly exciting lives. Sadly, it turned out to be a bad Final Destination riff - but with more dodgy theology! And nonsensical numerology! And lots of RUNNING REALLY FAST.
Repo Man, which remains as profoundly peculiar and entertaining as ever (and I can't believe it never gets mentioned as an influence on Lebowski). The Blu-ray extras are deeply rum, and include Harry Dean Stanton talking about life for 15 minutes before singing 'Row, Row, Row Your Boat', and Alex Cox showing the deleted scenes to the real-life inventor of the neutron bomb.

And on the big screen - Thor: The Dark World. Certainly not the best of the Marvel films, but I find it oddly reassuring that they can stumble now without falling flat on their faces, and still produce a fairly entertaining picture which will fill up a cinema with casual viewers (you can tell them from the geek hardcore so easily, because they're the ones who don't even stay for the first credits scene, let alone the very end). Also, pleasing show of public right-mindedness in the way that everyone in the auditorium, regardless of class or race, agreed that the family with a screaming baby should take it the fuck out of the cinema - and rather than grumbling passive-aggressively, fetched ushers to enforce that verdict. See! Superhero films encourage viewers to take more responsibility for making the world a better place.

*Such as Bob's Burgers, which I saw round the house of a friend who's hacked the relevant bits of science to watch the US menu. Like its fellow H Jon Benjamin animation Archer, this is allegedly on Freeview channels, but gets thrown away in graveyard slots. Baffling, given how funny both are at their best. NB: do not look for H Jon Benjamin's face online; you'd expect him to be less attractive than Sterling Archer, but I think he may even be less attractive than Bob.
alexsarll: (pangolin)
Just finished two months with Netflix - a free trial followed by a period paid-but-with-cashback-coming, courtesy of Quidco. The selection of films is patchy, though I did enjoy the Norwegian oddity Troll Hunter and the gleeful retro vigilante pastiche Hobo With A Shotgun, and to some extent Double Indemnity, even if a noir classic is always going to be slightly hobbled if, as here, the obligatory femme fatale resembles Frankenstein's monster in a Little Lord Fauntleroy wig. Where the site really excels, though, is TV. No HBO, alas, what with Murdoch having still not had all his ill-gotten gains prised from his dying grasp - but exactly the sort of thing you want to watch once but not own, and might not get through in a week from the library. The second series of Whedon's Dollhouse, for instance - which, while still sometimes deeply creepy in ways that don't seem wholly intentional, gets away from the generic episodes that clogged too much of the first series, moves the action on while only feeling *slightly* rushed, and - uniquely for a Whedon TV show - feels like it ends at just the right spot. Or Killing Time, the true story of an Australian criminal lawyer who comes to a bad end, starring Faramir. I also got through the first season of Breaking Bad, but that's a different matter, feeling more like the start of a new obsession.
But that's done now. Ditto the final Thick of It, Silv in Lilyhammer and Frodo in Wilfred. Parade's End and the misfiring Doctor Who seasonlet feel like they were ages ago, Misfits has gone off the boil, and I don't feel quite ready to embark on the second series of Blake's 7 just yet. So until I commit to another box set, the extent of my TV commitments would seem to be Friday Night Dinner. Guess I might finally use up some of those library loyalty cards and catch up with all the films I've not seen this year; only one I've borrowed lately was A Fantastic Fear of Everything, which is far better than the artistic output of Crispian Mills has any right to be.

Otherwise, there was Bonfire Night, for which I did nothing in particular but still saw fireworks because London, and Hallowe'en. I only dressed up on the Saturday before, and yet even with the cape sweeping behind me felt deeply underdressed at the American Hallowe'en bash. How I would have coped the Saturday after next to [ profile] xandratheblue as Judge Anderson, I dread to think, so I kept it suited and booted. And in between, on the night itself, there was the terrifying spectacle of Keith Top of the Pops and his ALL WEARING KEITH MASKS Backing Band. Chilling. Though less so than Without Fidel, who featured a glockenspiel and had a singer playing the awkward schoolghoul, and did covers of 'Super Bass' and 'We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together' which made a strong case for outlawing cover versions. Still, Her Parents were great. Hardcore is still not something I'd necessarily listen to at home, but they do a very good show.
alexsarll: (Default)
Get Smart amused me - much as the original series did, when that was repeated during my childhood, because in many respects my tastes have not changed much - but even by his own recent standards, Terence Stamp was really 'phoning it in.

As it starts to feel properly autumnal, it's good to have seasonal events as a bulwark against the cold and the dark. Last night was a delayed Hallowe'en ghost walk, and even though I thought I knew the Covent Garden area very well, it's honeycombed with so many alleys I must have passed unwittingly. Half of them have a haunting, and half of those are William Terriss, the spectral version of those celebrity slags who'll turn up for the opening of a crisp packet. And on Friday, [ profile] darkmarcpi once again hosted a fireworks viewing from his tower, London laid out before us with its competing displays like a happier, sparklier version of Beirut - even if the gas main that was up around the corner was too much of a spoilsport to do its festival bit and join in.

Whenever I've listened to Mitch Benn's 'Proud of the BBC', I've been watching the video, and it's been a heartfelt anthem, a rallying cry. Until Saturday, when I was walking through the dark and heard it for the first time on my headphones. And there, in isolation, it had me on the edge of tears. Especially when my MP3 player's alphabetical play followed it up with Morrissey, and specifically 'Interesting Drug' - "There are some bad people on the rise..." And indeed there are. I worry for the BBC. Hell, I worry for all of us. I was on route to Dalston's Victoria, a local pub full of old black dudes playing dominoes, who seemed bemused rather than upset by the arrival of Bevan 17, their fans and various other bands for a gig in the back room. Odd place, but I like it. Then over to the Lexington for a birthday downstairs, which was the most crowded I've ever seen it, plus occasional visits to Glam Racket upstairs, where the innards of eviscerated Kermits were emulating snowdrifts. The next day was backing vocals for [ profile] augstone at [ profile] keith_totp's studio, before which Aug got mistaken for a homeless by one of the cast of Doctors, whom the young ladies were accosting even though he was stood right by the unmolested Victor Lewis-Smith. Young people today. As for the recording itself...well, Bolan recorded there, and Bowie made Scary Monsters, but really it was all just preparation for Sunday. Links will doubtless follow once the beast is unleashed.
alexsarll: (crest)
Sometimes we all get anxious - if time is money then it explains how time and money can get wrapped into a sort of unified field theory of worry which then starts pulling in everything else, however outlandish. And London, being not half so stony-hearted as some have made her out to be, tries her best to cheer you up, pulling aside the curtain so you catch sight of side-streets you've never seen before in all the times you've gone down that road, but you're so convinced that you're in a hurry that you mark them for future investigation, so she makes them more and more enticing until finally you crack and trot down there and suddenly, even though it looks like a normal enough little street, the light and the birdsong and the breeze all come together and counteract that knot of troubles and everything's alright again. And you carry on along your way, lighter of spirit, and accomplish your missions and find time to drop in on the British Museum too, where while looking for something else entirely you find a statue of the Remover of Obstacles which contains at least enough of his essence to convey the appropriate sentiment of "Hey, we got this! Relax." And you know that something will turn up - it always does.

Went for another walk later on, to take in the fireworks - and I've no idea what most modern Britons are celebrating these days, whether it's an expression of anarchist tendencies which I can hardly begrudge even if they have chosen an iffy figurehead, or if they just like blowing sh1t up. Personally, commemorating the defeat and brutal execution of the seventeenth century's answer to al Qaeda still works for me, but whatever it's nominally about, the lights, and the bangs, and the smell of gunpowder in the's magical in itself. And this year there was no magic in the air on Hallowe'en, in spite of all the witches and vampires on the streets, but it's stupid to be purist about these things, for the nature of the magical is not to be constrained by formulae - if it were just another science then what would be the point?

In spite of not having to fit myself around a working day at present, I still find myself fitting more or less to a standard diurnal schedule - most of the time. Last night was one of the exceptions, charging drunkenly around Youtube looking for gems I half-remembered or never caught, like this Whipping Boy video, and making the sad discovery that 'Stranger Than Fiction' by Destroy All Monsters is not half so good as I remember. I also watched '£45 zombie movie' Colin; obviously the same thing that made me keen to see it (zombie Al!) is the thing which most hampers my suspension of disbelief, but even so it has some haunting moments. I worry, though, that telling the story from the zombie's point of view, making the zombie-killers such unsympathetic characters, will be very counterproductive come the zombie apocalypse.

Other items of interest:
- Grant Morrison and Stephen Fry are pitching something for BBC Scotland.
- A rather entertaining drubbing of Florence & the Machine.
- "Presenter Lauren Laverne has signed up to write a series of novels for teenage girls." Anyone else remember when that news would have been terribly exciting?
alexsarll: (Default)
Fireworks and Remembrance both seem to have been a little overshadowed for me this year by the election - like we have something even better to celebrate than the takedown of a theocratic terrorist, like we might finally be getting around to making the better world so many sacrificed themselves for. On the Fifth of November itself, I was just sat outside the Noble as per, though London being London still obliged us with a fox, a unicyclist and a flaming balloon.

A biomechanical race devoted to the destruction of all life, whose adversaries supposed weaknesses often turn out to be their salvation (but then, the stories are being written by humans, so they would say that, wouldn't they?). First appeared in a 1963 story. The Daleks, right? But this could all equally be applied to Fred Saberhagen's Berserkers. For all that I'm usually ready to diss Terry Nation at the first opportunity, I'm not accusing him of ripping off Saberhagen - just observing that as with the two Dennis the Menaces, or Swamp Thing and Man Thing, it was clearly biomechanical exterminator time.
(This correspondence perhaps struck me so forcefully just because it was while watching the current Sarah Jane Adventures, Mark of the Berserker (otherwise completely unrelated), that it suddenly occurred to me to pause iPlayer and check out Saberhagen's stories, of which I knew only blurbs in the back of other SF books of that era. Within moments I had a free, legitimate online text of one of the novels. Which begins with a prequel short story, if you want to try, and see how like a Dalek story it feels. I love modern technology, at least up until the point where it decides to eliminate the puny fleshy ones)

My favourite bit of the Quietus interview with John Foxx is his thoughts on our city:
"London is the centre of The Quiet Man's universe. Also of mine. It has a new emergent form of nature - Grey Nature - this is Nature unconfined by the world outside cities. We will begin to see the emergence of startling and subtle forms of highly specialised life forms from now on. Alligators in the sewers are just a daft beginning. The next generation are swift and subtle and almost undetectable. They live on momentary intersections and coincidence, and have learnt to take sufficient advantage of these to predicate entire new ecologies. The tabloids will have a field day. So will any agile biologists. Just watch. The next generation of Attenboroughs will investigate The Cities - The Grey Planet Series."
Reminds me somewhat of those fantasy Above Ground graphics on the Piccadilly Line. The problem is, if John Foxx were involved in urban planning at all, even in such a fantastic capacity, then everyone would start asking leading questions about how to get across certain features, because a bridge would ruin the aesthetic, so maybe we'd need to get under it via some kind of...[pregnant pause]. And he'd finally give in and say 'Underpass?' and then everyone would shout 'UNDERPANTS!' and then he'd be obliged to press the red button on his synth and cause the sonic destruction of the Earth.

January 2016



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