Posts from 8th October 2004

Oct 04

I’LL BE BLOWN (UP) – Ten Reasons Why Terminator 3 Is So Much Better Than Terminator 2

FT19 comments • 5,079 views

I’ll be the first person to say that the world was not clamouring for Terminator 3. My reason oddly appears to be different to most, since I always thought that Terminator 2: Judgement Day was a bit – well – shit. Superfluous to the streamlined simplicity of the original it seemed to exist merely to promote the careers of Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron. So imagine my joy when the uncalled for T3 turned up sporting a new cast, new director and a new found sense of purpose. The claims of Cameron being a auteur can be banished to the bin – and he can go on tinkering with his I-MAX bobbins that no-one has to go and see. Instead I’ll stick with Jonathon Mostow’s vision, especially if it includes Arnold’s head being smashed through a toilet.

T-101: Terminator 2 is subtitled Judgement Day. And yet one thing that defiantly does not happen in T2 is Judgement Day. They prevent it from happening. So much so that the expensive special effect of a nuclear holocaust gets relegated to the somewhat superfluous state of dream sequence – where its verisimilitude is wasted. It is a dream – it could happily have elephants playing trombones in it. The subtitle is a bit of a swizz. The Advertising Standards Authority, rather than being dazzled by that nice shiny morphing technology, should have clamped down on James Cameron hard. Whereas Terminator 3 has the post-colonic of Rise Of The Machines, which anyone who has seen it will tell you is exactly what happens. I got what I paid for.

T-102: Terminator 2 is a pallid rerun of the original which exists almost purely for the vanity of James Cameron. Consider that it starred his wife, showcased a special effect that he had devised in the “yawning” Abyss and added little beyond a decent Guns’n’Roses song to the Terminator story. Terminator 3 exists merely to make money (and perhaps revive Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career). Which I think we’ll all agree is a much better reason than buffing up the ego of the self styled “King Of The World”.

T-103: In Terminator 2, Arnold is the lead character. Not only is his murderous killing machine reprised as a heroic version, but he gets to do surrogate parenthood to Eddie Furlong’s unlikely floppy haired saviour of the future. Terminator 3 may on paper have Arnold’s name above the credits, but he is at best playing the Jar Jar Binks of the piece. And we never got to see Jar Jar Binks have his face smashed through a porcelain toilet.

T-104: Terminator 3 makes sense. Without delving too deeply into the massively tedious arguments that arise whenever time travel is invoked as a movie plot, the resolution of T3 allows the other two films to happen. Which is rather magnanimous of director Jonathon Mostow considering that James Cameron had written him off as a journeyman hack. It is almost as if rather than looking at the first two films as source material, Mostow and his scriptwriters instead rented out the only time travel films which ever made sense (the Bill and Ted ones) and used it as a crib sheet. Terminator 2 on the other hand, in its attempt to provide a victory which was just bolt on plot, flatly contradicted itself.

T-105: Nick Stahl, playing John Connor in Terminator 3 actually looks a bit like Michael Biehn – whose son he is supposed to be. This of course will not stand him in awfully good stead when he goes for other acting jobs, Biehn never quite making it on the matinee idol stakes. Indeed the only person who ever employed Biehn was James Cameron – who probably won’t want to employ Stahl due to him being in the better Terminator film. That said, Stahl’s resemblance has to be judged against Edward Furlong who looked neither like Biehn or Linda Hamilton – and more like the dog Sprocket out of Fraggle Rock.

T-106 : Remember Arnold Schwarzenegger’s comedies. They were predicated on one of two factors.
a) Arnold looks funny near Danny DeVito
b) Arnold – right – The Terminator – right – is nice to kids/ has kids himself / is funnier than Emma Thompson with a stick up her arse.
Since even Danny DeVito’s career has not dipped so low that he would do another comedy with Arnie, this leaves point b) – which only really actually works if he is playing the Terminator. James Cameron was far to worried about the iconography and hardness of the character to really play it for laughs. But from the moment Arnold walks into a ladies night to pick up his fetishware, he is a figure of fun to be constantly laughed at.

T-107: In The Terminator, Linda Hamilton, our female lead screams a lot. She runs around and squeals and only in the very final reel, when she realises that this unstoppable killing machine is actually just run on below par Harryhausen stop motion, does she take action. Score one for feminism there. Cameron, in then buffing Hamilton up and making her carry guns just pretty much turned her into Lady Stallone. Sure she was a strong action heroine, by completely neutering anything that was previously feminine in the character (as feminine in this world – weak right?). As an alternative in T3 we get the superior model clothed as female Terminator (admittedly this may lead to Terminator 4 being subtitled I’ll Be Black in a desperate spin for originality). More importantly we get Clare Danes as neither uber-competent or helpless. Her character is – note Mr Cameron – not wholly defined by her role.

T-108: Nowhere in Terminator 3, with its lower production values and direct view of action do we ever get a moment as bad as the Thumbs Up. You remember the Thumbs Up. Look, there goes the Terminator, John Connor’s surrogate dad of two days self sacrificing himself to save the world (hooray – this turns out to be a pointless gesture). Down into the molten metal, burning him and destroying him. But wait what is that. His hand. Doing a thumbs up. The whole point of a robot is it has no feelings. Otherwise why would the rise of the machines be a bad thing? T3 is quite happy just to crush the robots with really heavy duty blast doors. No thumbs up.

T-109: What was really cool about The Terminator. Those opening really expensive bits in the future. You know when the machines have risen and seem intent on ruling the earth by dint of mincing over an apocalyptic landscape. It was almost a pity to go back in time for an almost run of the mill chase movie. So it seems almost a pity to use this plot three times. At least Terminator 3 puts paid to that. If Terminator 4 ever happens then we can rest assured that none of that now tedious naked time travelling in a golf ball will never happen.

T-110: Arnold gets his face smashed through a toilet. What more reason do you want.

For the politically inclined scientist in all of us:

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 334 views

For the politically inclined scientist in all of us:

A link to the “Bush and Kerry on the scientific issues” article that I wrote about a few weeks ago. It’s now available for free, no subsription required.

Counterbalancing this repeated foray into politics, they’ve also printed a letter of correspondence (subscription required, sorry) in which the authors (who are also scientists) claim that scientists should concern themselves with science and not politics. Because that’s what scientists are good at, you see, therefore they should just stick to one thing. The authors were upset about the Kerry endorsement from a loose conglomerate called “Scientists and Engineers for Kerry”. The group contains scores of prominent researchers, including 48 Nobel prize winners.

Speaking of the Nobels, I believe the committee has finally flushed particle physics out of their system — basically everyone who contributed a significant piece of the Standard Model puzzle has been given a Prize. This has been a frequent topic of conversation this week, and while I agree that particle physics is the most “physics-y physics” there is (an understanding of matter at its most fundamental level), I think we can start filling in a few more Prize pieces in some other fields.

The school what banned conkers for fear on nut allergy

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 309 views

The school what banned conkers for fear on nut allergy its nuts itself (or conkers-bonkers). I won’t invoke PC craziness*, rather the idea that a rogue bit may fly through the air and cause anaphalactic shock is so statistically unlikely that it becomes likely. (This is luckily not proven by sicence so I can get away with stuff like that).

The real cause for the rise in peanut allergy is on the back of every packet of KP nuts. “Do not feed to children under 36 months, may cause choking”. Putting aside
a) 36 months rather than 3 years, ooh we can multiply
b) On your third birthday do we all suddenly become deep throat
c) a bit of choking never hurt anyone
this is clearly foolish. It is in the formative years that our body learns to deal with different foodstuffs and decided whether or not it is an alien, dangerous food. No nuts before three increases the likelihood of the body thinking nuts, with their alarmingly high calorific content, are deadly.

* I certainly won’t invoke craziness re the School with the goggles, goggles=dressingup = more fun conkahs.


Blog 7Post a comment • 355 views


No.21: Heights

Not everyone is scared of heights. I wasn’t. I remember scampering about on some scaffolding at the top of Chartres Cathedral on a school trip: I didn’t play chicken like some of the other kids but I wasn’t a wreck either. Now? You must be joking. I’m a bungalow guy till I die.

A lot of fears come from childhood and you never quite shake them off. Fears that grow through your adult life are rarer. They start off as a touch of nerves one day, an imagination that works just a little too quick, and then once there’s a seed in you it just grows. Maybe it was gravity – the heavier and slower I got the more comfortable solid ground seemed.

Railings bring it on the most, when there’s nothing between me and the edge I don’t get quite so worried. It’s not rational, but every time I’m near one I can’t help thinking, it’s never quite high enough – if you leaned just that bit too far forward… I see kids and teenagers in shopping centres or on bridges leaning, sitting, almost swinging on them. “How can they do that?” I think, and then I remember that when I was that age I might have too.

I like Brutalist architecture.

The Brown Wedge1 comment • 211 views

I like Brutalist architecture. I like the colour of rained-on concrete and I love big, blocky geometricality. I’m always attracted to creative movements which name themselves by reclaiming the insults which defined them in the first place. Am I weird?

I understand it’s been fashionable for some time amongst some nebulous urban elite to like brutalism, (cf Trellick Tower) so I don’t feel too strange. Still, it seems my taste is out of step with that of the public, at least the public as represented by Man of the People Pete B, who has a pop at Birmingham’s old Bull Ring. Which I loved.

One of the obvious problems with much of the best brutalist public architecture is that of maintenance: often these buildings were badly mistreated and felt depressesd and depressing. It may be that the one brutalist masterpiece which the GBP seems to like, or at least to tolerate, is the glorious South Bank Centre, Southwark’s wonderful two fingers to Westminster and lively gateway to London’s golden quarter. It’s been much better looked-after these past few years and its popularity seems to have grown simultaneously.

But this aesthetic battle is lost, at least for now. The phrase “sixties monstrosities” has entered language and the idea behind it seems to be fairly well-embedded also. People hate it all, even (so I heard on the radio this morning) the good old Telecom Tower, which I thought everyone loved. There seems to be a blind hatred of concrete, and a horror of unadorned buildings.

Which is why (he says, getting to the point) I was so pleased to see Justin Hibbs‘s show of paintings of Portsmouth’s recently-demolished Tricorn Centre at One In The Other. (OITO’s website hasn’t been updated to deal with this show, and sadly doesn’t show these paintings, but it has some of JT’s others, to give you an idea).

I enjoyed them tremendously. They feel glowering, threatening and mildly melancholic, like the Tricorn itself in its distressed later years. Steve noted that the blank skies lent themselves to a feeling of out-of-contextness, abandoned utopias sitting in nowhere. These pictures seemed to have the same relationship to picturesque Victorian goth ruinism as the Tricorn itself had to Victorian gothic. They’re bare and say, in their shades of grey way: “why shouldn’t this be beautiful, too?” There’s no reason that I can see, no reason at all.

Euler and Maxwell tied at 1st place

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 156 views

Euler and Maxwell tied at 1st place
Yes, yes, another Proven by Science story courtesy of BBC news. A mix of equations both mathematical and physical-phenomenal, voted for by Physics World. That list in full.

I’m going to throw in some controversy here and say that I must disagree when the respondents voting for Euler’s equation describe it as “the most profound mathematical statement ever written”; “uncanny and sublime”; “filled with cosmic beauty”; and “mind-blowing”. This is a commonplace view because nobody ever tries to explain what it means. The only place I have seen it properly explained is in the final section of “Where Mathematics Comes From” By Lakoff and Johnson. And it’s a treat!

Once you’ve worked through the concepts, neat though it appears (and neatness is at least close to sublime/beatiful): e + 1 = 0 , is neither profound, uncanny, cosmic nor mind-blowing, but a plain analytic truth. I hear some people spluttering at “plain” – OK, it assumes concepts more complex than those found in “1 + 1 = 2” but it is fundamentally a truth because of what its components mean – what it means to raise one number to the power of another number, what the “transcendental” pi is, what is meant by the imaginary number i, and what it means when they’re combined in that way. If you strongly feel I’m missing something important or profound, or that I’m just being conceited and inflating my own cleverness, then I apologise. But please try to get a look at the book I mention.

On a more convival note, I would have had Newton’s F=ma ranking alongside Einstein’s E=mc2, fo sure, but as in all these “Top N” lists, it’s all about arguing about what’s MISSING from the list. “What about Bragg?!” I hear you cry. And think of all the great publicity for those no longer fashionable equations hanging around at the bottom of the list (Hello “Balmer series”). We can all look forward to the Channel 4 tie-in (over 2 nights next week), where you’ll see one-time editors of Smash Hits say “Boltzmann’s equation!? Madman’s equation I call it! I mean Entropy, what’s that all about?” etc (obv)

proof that bicycle-wielding action painter j.pollock = big yank puff

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 426 views

proof that bicycle-wielding action painter j.pollock = big yank puff

asger jorn and pals (and dog) make a clay mural

Mike Basset England Manager was not what you might called a sophisticated satire

TMFDPost a comment • 641 views

Mike Basset England Manager was not what you might called a sophisticated satire. The set-up being that pretty awful Norwich City manager Bassett becomes surprise pick for England manager when no-one else wanted to do the job. That much was true in 2001, it was – before the mold breaking pick of Sven – becoming increasingly difficult to see where the next England manager would come from. Nevertheless the film tried to tell us that a hard drinking manager might end up naming his squad on the back of a fag packet, with Benson and Hedges then being in the starting line-up.

Anyway, the film did well enough for there to be a sequel of sorts. But from the lofty heights of England, Mike Bassett moves to fictional struggling team Wirral County. The article describes them as being in the third division – wot that? – and uses phrases like “the bum end of the football league”, but nevertheless this could be an interesting antidote to Footballers Wives. I would imagine we will see unscrupulous owner figures, these being much sexier (and potentially funnier) than a fan led consortium running the club. The jokes I would imagine will still revolve around Tomlinson being an unsuitable manager figure, and his problems in the job. Not such a satirical bent down there though, there is nothing funny about having an incompetant manager in a struggling club. I should know. Tony Cottee managed Barnet for six months.

The other day I went to a gallery

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 364 views

The other day I went to a gallery and it was the National Gallery and it had pictures and they were dead good and there was a horsey.

Code 46 is a futuristic law

Do You SeePost a comment • 307 views

Code 46 is a futuristic law which says that due to the massive rise in in vitro births and other shenanigans, we must not have children with people who share our genetic code. Its anti-incest because that half the people on the planet may have similar genetic codes to us. It is unfortunately a rubbish “future nightmare” on which to hang this low key love story. Much more dystopianly scary is the universal need for travel insurance, the blaise memory wipings (which form the real crux of the film) and the fact that Mick Jones might be hanging around in a Shanghai karaoke bar to sing an amateurish version of should I say or should I go.

Code 46 has lots of lovely ideas in it, but is unclear of what it wants to say (except that this highly unlikely future is bad. Okay, we won’t do it then. Job done?) It is also another film which seems happy just to point a camera at Samantha Morton and let her captivate. She does here, with her occasional jerky movements and an accent which is more like Bjork’s than anything her parental and geographical background in the film would throw up. The film feels chopped to bits, has indecipherable bits about dreams, a voiceover which makes no sense even within the film and a Coldplay song at the end which finally reminds you that what you have just seen really was just rubbish. Pity, I usually like Michael Winterbottom.