13
Jan 05

Evidence for Scooby Doo as post-modern epic.

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Evidence for Scooby Doo as post-modern epic.
It is only funny in self-reference, cf: ‘Scoob and Shaggy you go that way, me and the girls will go this way’ : *roll eyes* ‘Now why don’t I like the sound of that’. There was never an innocent moment in Scooby Doo, every phrase coming ready packaged and cultishly ready-to-go.
The whole background repeated indefinitely whilst the characters run on and on (how many vases can one hall have?) is a sign of this internalisation – the whole only makes sense in a referential arc, the one vase only understandable in the context of the others, which only makes any sense when the whole of Scooby Doo is considered.
Scooby Doo conforms to a very basic pattern. Scary monsters always turn out to be the first person met in the scary hotel; the strict system, as in structuralism, only making sense in the context of the same pattern read in previous episodes. However, as in post-structuralism, the people entangled in the system of signs and signifiers cannot read the pattern. Being so deeply embroiled in them, they always misread the signs until the last moment when the mask is removed and the bad-guy unmasked. We, of course, are outside the system of signs and so can objectively see the beauty and the flaws in the greatest post-modern saga of our times. Maybe.

15
Dec 04

Phantom of the Opera

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Phantom of the Opera
Corsets in, breasts out, masks on and mouths open wide; the phantom is back. I’ve heard complaints that to enjoy a film like Phantom, you have to like musicals. Well if you don’t like the idea of sweeping orchestrals, well-worn rhyming couplets (love/above) and people spontaneously breaking into (synchronised and choreographed) song and dance then for pete’s sake don’t watch it. But I for one like having my heart strings plucked, even sentimentally and sometimes even predictably.
Emily Rossum plays a suitably dewy Christine, with a constantly bewildered expression on her innocent face. This does become slightly annoying, as she doesn’t seem to mature enough throughout the film. There is however, one point in particular towards the end when her voice takes on a wonderfully mature turn and complexity which it didn’t have before and which we should have heard much more of. She just manages not to overdo the act, becoming genuinely sympathetic by the end.
The remainder of the cast sing brilliantly, Christine and Raoul’s voices complementing each other perfectly. Gerard Butler doesn’t quite match up to the other two in voice terms but acting-wise gives a great performance as the phantom. Even Minnie Driver who, having heard her hideous excuse for an album, I feared hearing in a musical. But she’s actually very funny as the prima donna in poly-filla make-up. And as a bonus, she doesn’t sing her own lines.
This has always been a brilliant musical, with a powerful score and a genuinely interesting and complex plot (never mind 6th form coursework, you could get a dissertation out of the ‘masquerade/duplicity/appearance theme’ – Shakespeare eat your heart out). I do think the film version does justice to the stage musical, but precisely because the original is so good. It didn’t add anything special of its own which it really needed to have done to be a classic. The movie Grease, for instance, now epitomises that story in a way the musical no longer does. I don’t believe that Phantom will manage this, but it was still powerful stuff, beautifully imagined. That damn music won’t leave my head either, much like the phantom. . .

10
Dec 04

OBSCURE OBSERVATIONS #1

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OBSCURE OBSERVATIONS #1

Simpsons episode where Homer writes a column spreading rumours about the neighbourhood. At the master’s desk on the freaky island there is a lava lamp, and in the lava lamp, a frog is swimming, happily (I assume).

4
Dec 04

Ghastly Tales for Gruesome Kids

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Ghastly Tales for Gruesome Kids

It might be a little late to post about this programme as I think it’s off our screens for the moment, but hopefully it will return. Firstly, yes, it’s a children’s show. And strangely it’s been much more appealing and intelligent than most ‘adult’ programmes on TV.

Ghastly Tales are at heart morality tales, not even very thinly disguised ones, old-fashioned tales with a warlike ‘no pain, no gain’ mentality. They may be for gruesome kids, but are also about gruesome kids; snotty, rude, greedy, obnoxious kids who always get their comeuppance. And it’s pure genius.

There are two parts to the programme – the first a model-animation of a creepy old man who delights in horror and the second the stories he tells, animated in the usual cartoon sense (I’m sure there are technical terms but I don’t know them). The first type of animation is done brilliantly, with lots of detail and a satisfying style. The man’s head spins and he does disturbing, Freudian things to his pet spider. The second part is the actual story, animated more crudely and narrated by the creepy old man.

One story is about a girl who fakes being ill every day to avoid going to school. It gets to the point that when she claims to have rabies, a creepy doctor comes to her door in order to cure her. He pulls out a massive needle, but even when she shouts at that she’s only faking, he slithers ‘I knoooow, this is just for fun!’

I find it really heartening that such disturbing stories still manage to make it onto TV, especially ones that don’t glorify children and everything that they do, however precocious and horrible. I like their mentality, and I like the fact that they’re not entirely politically correct.

The children always end up shining pillars of the community at the end, but only through severe trauma – from the cutting off of bodily bits to full scale paralysis (via paper mache). There’s room for some psycholoanalyis, especially as it’s never the parents who sort the children out, but some strange and creepy deliverer of justice, but it would ruin a great programme.

16
Oct 04

LATE NIGHT HATE

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LATE NIGHT HATE

Reading about Johnny Vaughan’s morning escapades made me think about the radio horrors I experience at night driving home from work, namely ‘Late Night Love’. Now most ‘local’ radio stations aren’t local (a rant saved for another time I feel), but owned by some company which spew out the same stuff in all parts of the country with subtle differences, a ‘Coventry’ overlaid on a ‘Plymouth’ spoken over a ‘Nottingham’. Because of this, Graham Torrington aka the ‘doctor of love’ (apparently, but does he have a PhD?) appears to exist everywhere in the entire country at the same time, trying to resolve people’s tangled love lives. And the problems, like the problems in every problem page, in every agony aunt’s column throughout the land, are the same, week in and week out.

The problems and dedications are inane enough, but the thing, the only thing that stops me always turning over to John Peel, is Graham’s attitude to it all. He hates these people, and hates giving the same advice out, advice which is usually as inane as the questions – ‘Janine, it’s clear your marriage is falling apart. I’m going to put Whitney Houston on for you, because I’m sure there’s someone out there who will always love you’. There is anger and frustration there, simmering under the barely disguised patronisation. I await the day when he finally snaps.

13
Oct 04

MY BRAIN IS NOT AMUSED

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MY BRAIN IS NOT AMUSED

Some TV companies put a lot of their budget and effort into making quality programmes that are informative, intelligent and pleasing to look at. Channel 5 make Brainteaser, nuzzled in there between Family Affairs and The Farm. As bad as those two are, they don’t (quite) make you want to whack yourself on the head with a saucepan. Brainteaser does. Seriously, who thinks up this shite? The presenters look like they were picked from the toy section of Woollies and then doused in hairspray to stop any of those annoying signs of life emerging. I’m sure the background set is on sale there too, masquerading as a girl’s pencil case.

Now ok, the questions for the contestants themselves aren’t all that easy, but those open to the public are possibly worse than Richard and Judy’s used to be (‘What’s the capital of France? . . .You don’t know? . . .I’ll give you a clue, it begins with a P’). But more patronising. And much, much less interesting. I’m definitely not going to be watching it again. Absolutely. Never.

As an aside, I have to admit feeling sorry for Alan Titchmarsh. I was half watching ‘History of the British Isles’. At one point I was listening to him saying that he was being turned into a Neanderthal. I took a peek and saw him sitting in a chair, thinking that it was a pretty good transformation. Then the make-up artists started to work on him. Sorry Alan, but even you admitted that Neanderthals weren’t all that different from the rest of us!