Do You See

26
Dec 03

Ten Past Eight

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Stanley Kubrick used to refer to 2010, the interloping successor to his own opus, as Ten past Eight. It was a little callous, perhaps, given that the critical world had long decided that his own was a masterpiece, and so he was taunting from an unassailable position. Yet it does reflect the main sense that I have when watching the film: that it’s not poor, but it is disenfranchised by its own heritage.

2010 plays as if the creators thought the ambiguity of the first film was an oversight, and each left-over question – the cause of the computer’s breakdown, the purpose of the alien structures – is given an answer. And this is where the film falls, in my view. Not because answering these questions is a mistake in itself, but because they demand a knowledge of 2001 which can only give its sequel a mistaken context.

2001 has developed a cult of its own myth, the discussions of which have kept it carefully beyond explanation. Depending upon whose essay you read, it charted the journey of mankind through technology to find enlightenment, pitted innovation against evolution, was very trippy, was very pretentious, or any of a dozen other things. 2010, on the other hand, is a sci-fi thriller about aliens.

2001 concludes with the birth of a Starchild, depicted with strange, incongruous imagery that yearned to enmesh the film in profundity. 2010 finishes with a spaceship racing away from an explosion and a nice voiceover about world peace.

There’s plenty more. Whatever your views on 2001, there’s no doubt that 2010 was less ambitious and less important. And don’t doubt that it was an postscript: the book of the first film was forged in the heat of Kubrick’s notoriously intense creative process, which Arthur C Clarke – the author – said couldn’t be followed. And when he did, he changed an important detail – the planet at the end of the odyssey – not to further the ideas of the film, but to allow a scientific plot device.

The strengths of the second film – and I do think it has some – are the sort that are useful to conventional, self-contained crowd pleasers. It has a low key tension that builds to the climax, a mystery with a resolution, a disparate team undermined by distant political conflict. But to appreciate all this requires having already seen a very different film.

If 2001 is considered a success at whatever it was attempting, then the follow up is a minnow that belittles it. If not, than 2010 is trivia after a folly. And for anyone who hasn’t seen the first film at all, than the second is an irrelevance, and perhaps barely intelligible at that.

20
Dec 03

BLAM!

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BLAM! Back home from the pub last night to catch the last fifteen minutes of Sniper (11.25pm, BBC1), a semi-reprehensible Billy Zane vehicle. Olympic marksman BZ, plus Tom ‘Sliver’ Berenger’s Andy McNabb-style marine, travel to Panama to snipe. There’s some stunning slow motion acting but it’s still woeful. And I consider myself a Billy Zane fan!

SWOOSH! Drunkenly stabbing at the remote control’ and then it’s Ed (12.30am, ITV – all regions). Matt LeBlanc, a.k.a. the funny Friend, tries to squeeze out some humour but is hamstrung by the presence of a midget in a chimpanzee costume. Warning: this is a baseball movie. Best to avoid, although it was great to see Crazy Like A Fox’s Jack Warden raising the tone. And I consider myself a Matt LeBlanc fan!

SPLAT! Time to pass out to The Great Chase (1.30am, five). To quote from the local paper; ‘Compilation of the most hair-raising chases in silent films, featuring Douglas Fairbanks Sr and Buston Keaton’. Ten minutes of the elder Fairbanks was more than enough for me. ‘Fairbanks’ outlaw challenges the posse to catch him as he goes to the town for lunch’. Wot a show-off. And I consider myself a fan of compilation movies!

19
Dec 03

A sad day for Channel 4

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A sad day for Channel 4 then, as five and a half hours after the fall of RI:SE it broadcast the last ever Fifteen to One. After sixteen years, with fifteen contestants per day, Fifteen to One has now featured approximately three-fifths of the population of Great Britain, yet still nobody knows anyone who has ever been on.

William G(ladstone) Stewart did not let sentiment intrude on the final programme. There would have been little point in showing highlights of the last sixteen years since every single episode has been exactly the same. Instead WGS kept his scary-Bob-Holness routine going right until the end, at which point he yelled, ‘all pile on!’ and the contestants made a big scrum on the studio floor.

The shame of the (not-so) secret RI:SE fan

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The shame of the (not-so) secret RI:SE fan
Why do I feel such passing affection for a program that was so inconsequential? Possibly because that’s precisely what I need at that time of morning ”and possibly because my early morning trance is a hair’s breadth from a suggestible/hypnotic state. I am categorically NOT a morning person. If you are one of those people that just gets up, twitters around right from the off then I HATE YOU. Take it personally.

The last edition featured the return of many semi-regulars and BB people (Mr Tickle, Gos and a sweary Nush). Zora got her own back with some rude gestures, and there were chemically induced tears all round, but otherwise it was more of the same (hurray), with a little more innuendo, and all capped off with “ALL PILE ON!” at the end. The screen rudely filled with a shambled heap of jeaned backsides poking out at all angles. How appropriate ‘ a pile of arse.

The Keep RI:SE on TV Petition to Channel 4 and Princess Productions has over 400 signatures ‘ surely such attractive ad revenue guarantees a re-commission

18
Dec 03

The shame of the (not-so) secret RI:SE fan

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The shame of the (not-so) secret RI:SE fan 1 day left… Everyone else
Oddly I never warmed to Dougie Anderson, RI:SE’s “other” presenter. Something about Dougie seems to suggest he’s about to break down and cry, plus his interview technique while gratifyingly unconventional, seems to tread the same eggshells of self-hatred. This is probably just me though.

I’d like to send thank to the other regulars: to James the Big Brother Monitor who was smashing, the Big Brother evictees that weren’t vile in the studio*, little Remi and the lovely Kingsmill duo, Mel:Sue.

[I could go back and edit the entry 2 days back, but Instead I’ll add here that I finally decided that Iain defintely is OK by me. I found the following quote in a Channel 4 chat thing “The best computer game is a game called Elite on the BBC micro, they should bring out a huge internet-based version of it now.” Make that man TV KING of all things COMPUTER]

*Fed and Justine were loathsome

Touching The Void is great,

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Touching The Void is great, if just for the loony British mountaineers doing the stiff upper lip thing. The choice o documentary with mock-ups works surprisingly well in the cinema. The visuals are sumptuous and no-one tells this story better than the two men involved. But nothing quite compares to the Boney M bit. Any film that manages to radically re-interpret the way I will forever hear a song is strong in my book.

Brown Girl In The Ring will forever be associated with delirium and madness to me now. Which isn’t a huge shift granted in my previous perception…

Well done, Great British Public!

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Well done, Great British Public!

The Nation’s Favourite Xmas Food as revealed last night on BBC2 was possibly the least surprising top 11 (and it was only 11 to squeeze nut roast in, political correctness gone mad etc…) ever. When it comes to christmas, innovation is an absolute no-no it seems. However, it seems that we can finally use non-traditional music in the background for xmas programmes, unless the festiveness of the Wedding Present’s Bizzarro album has somehow passed me by…

Also, top fact of the evening, an average goose contains more fat than THREE PACKS OF LARD! Quick! To the goosery! mmm, faaaaat!!

17
Dec 03

The shame of the (not-so) secret RI:SE fan

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The shame of the (not-so) secret RI:SE fan 2 days left… Zora Suleman
“Officially FunJunkie’s most popular referring search term”

“But when the axed Channel 4 programme comes to an end next week, newsreader Zora Suleman reckons she will leave TV for good – because of her cleavage.” thisislondon

The newsreader with the biggest… shoulders in television. Fuck me, I nearly said tits. The general atmosphere of smut* on RI:SE naturally has meant that Zora’s bosom gets a lot of attention, but if the thisislondon article is to be believed, she’s taken it with much good humour. A lot of Zora web-gossip goes on about her being a little chubby and that never comes up on the show, soI can believe it is all quite good natured in person ”but I daresay this doesn’t excuse such behaviour ON MY TELLY.

Of course there is something unsettlingly misogynistic going on, but oddly enough I’ve seen her cause more volatile reactions with women. Usually something like (and I paraphrase) “GET THAT PAINTED WHORE OFF MY TELEVISION”. Which, I feel, is unfair. It’s something to do with the incredibly flirty style of reading the news that she has. Her relaxed style and prose (assuming she writes the stuff too) suits the show ”but should her dreams come true and she ends up presenting Crimewatch, I think she should lay off the head turned looking upwards through fringe pose.

Magnificent shoulders http://www.zorasuleman.com/

* This morning Iain Lee alluded to Kate Lawler’s grandmother maybe “eating him for breakfast” with eyebrows raised.

16
Dec 03

I should swiftly make clear…

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I should swiftly make clear though that I am under no circumstances going to start watching Sylvester McCoy stories.

Few of my televisual opinions have been as set in stone as this one

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Few of my televisual opinions have been as set in stone as this one: Colin Baker was rubbish on Doctor Who. I remember being horrified by him when I was 13 and have remained so ever since – a supercilious, unpleasant, shock-headed bumbler in laughable clothes prancing through feeble fan-baiting storylines.

I was not exactly surprised, then, to discover that ‘proper’ Dr Who fans on the interweb all seem to love Colin and indeed that Doctor Who Monthly, a mag I had adored as a child, had voted him the best ever Doctor. Mass contrarianism in the face of the ‘sheep-like’ public is hardly a rare phenomenon online, after all.

The only problem is – they might have a point.

Okay, he’s not the best ever Doctor Who. But when Isabel and I watched Vengeance On Varos the other day we had to concede that it – and he – wasn’t so bad. In fact, it was pretty much terrific.

80s Doctor Who is much like 80s superhero comics in that there were obvious attempts made to make things ‘darker’ and ‘more adult’ – “grim’n’gritty” was the comics term for it and like all fads the backlash against it was merciless. With Doctor Who the frontlash was pretty harsh too – viewing figures declined sharply when Colin B took over and never recovered. Varos is by some distance the grimmest and grittiest story of the era – black comedy sci-fi set on a mining planet whose population are kept entertained by live torture and executions beamed from the ‘Punishment Dome’.

Generally it’s effective stuff – the budget for once doesn’t overreach itself, the villain (a sadistic business-slug) is very well realised and pretty much all the performances are good. It’s violent – too violent for the tastes of some fans – but hardly excessive: the bleak tone, clever script and moments of genuine creepiness are what mark it out as ‘adult’, not the gore.

And Colin Baker is recognisably Doctor Who – a little peevish and a little vain, yes, but those are constants of the character. He gets his bearings, gets involved, has moments of heroism, takes charge and sorts things out with a little help from a typical deus ex machina. Watching it now it’s hard to see exactly why he is so hated – hard even to remember why I hated him so much.

The story has aged well, too – in fact it?s improved with age. In 1986 it was a slightly clunky if well-meaning satire on democracy, big business and mob rule. In 2003 it’s a prescient and sharp piece about Reality TV. The show aimed for one target and hit another, and this means it works much better than a more full-on blunderbuss approach would. You can get the video on eBay for a quid or two: underrated and definitely recommended.