I’ve been busy and stressing out a lot about work this week so there’s not all that much to report on my life in general, so instead here’s an update on what I’ve recently been watching TV-wise.
I’m still introducing Aisha to The West Wing, and we’ve made it over halfway through Season 2 but I can sense she is starting to get a bit annoyed with some of the characters, or at least the high-pressure fast-paced world within which they live, due to the concentrated nature of our viewing, so I think we might take a break from it for a while. Maybe we’ll try a season of The Wire in between. In contrast I’ve recently worked my way through the entirety of Veep, all five seasons, and it makes an interesting comparison to The West Wing. In TWW, all the characters – at least the ones we follow week-by-week – are inherently good people, all trying to do what they believe to be best for the greater good and, for the most part, they’re all great at their jobs. In Veep, on the other hand, the main cast is comprised of detestable and incompetent fools spending every moment fighting for themselves at the cost of anyone and anything, and I think both shows are fantastic in their own way. I also appreciate in Veep how with each season they try to write in someone even more vulgar and foul-mouthed than they’ve had previously, with Season 5 introducing Jonah’s uncle, Jeff Kane, played by Peter MacNicol. He doesn’t have an awful lot of screen time, but pretty much everything he says is an insult towards Jonah (Timothy Simons), and that’s OK with me. In fact about half of everyone’s dialogue is insults to Jonah.
After finishing Veep the other day I found myself at a loose end for half an hour, so tried the pilot of Vice Principals. I hadn’t been overly impressed with the trailer, and a prominent role (or in fact any role) for Danny McBride never works out, but the involvement of Walton Goggins showed some potential. Alas I failed to find any moment of the pilot entertaining, and Goggins, who seems to work best as an unhinged, unpredictable psychopath, is forced uncomfortably into a fey, almost straight-laced role he seems entirely wrong for, and instead of being on relatively equal pegging with McBride screen-time-wise Goggins seems very much in a supporting role, which is hugely disappointing to me. I won’t be continuing with this show.
I’ve been having a hell of a week. If you ever start thinking about moving house, just don’t, it isn’t worth the hassle. I won’t get into the sources of my strife, but let’s just say I’ve been party to some intensely aggravating people these past few days, and so I’m attempting to alleviate my frustrations by thinking about the even more annoying people that are out there that I could have come across instead (or may yet do).Sometimes characters are supposed to be annoying – you’re supposed to hate them for getting the hero’s girl, or to justify why the lead girl just punched the guy in the throat – but other times some characters are just completely misjudged in terms of how they’ll stack up against Wolverine scratching a chalkboard. Oh, and whilst making this list I found a lot of times I was just writing “The kid from such-and-such”, and “The kids from so-and-so”, so my list of annoying children in film is an entirely different one, that may well come up again sometime soon. To be honest, that one could be a top 100 list, probably. I’ve also tried to limit the entries to one-per-actor, as sometimes I find characters annoying purely because of who is playing them. And I’ve shied away from characters who are irritating because they’re such antagonistic dick heads. Honourable mentions:
So it turns out I’m fairly easy to annoy, and therefore I’ve got a hefty list of Honourable Mentions. Firstly, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) is horrendously annoying in the first few Harry Potter films, before he worked out his face could pull expressions that weren’t ‘petrified grimace’. Marty Gilbert (Harvey Fierstein), Jeff Goldblum’s boss in Independence Day, is also very annoying, but this is mainly due to his unbearable grating voice, but fortunately he dies fairly early on, so there’s not too much of him to endure. Then there’s Hart Bochner’s Ellis from Die Hard, who I never want to stop punching, and Clifton James’ Sheriff Pepper from Live and Let Die and The Man With The Golden Gun, somehow managing to be even more infuriating than Roger Moore’s Bond. Beth Grant’s character in Speed, Helen, the crazy woman who tries to jump off the bus, is also infuriating, but I’m going to give the award to Leah (Olivia Thirlby) from Juno, just for using such phrases as “Honest to blog.” They made me want to seriously harm that creature.Continue reading →
Don’t ask me how, but I managed to get a ticket to the Cast & Crew Premiere of Prometheus at the Empire Cinema in London’s Leicester Square last night. Though it was disappointing not to see director Ridley Scott or the cast, who are probably saving themselves for tomorrow’s red carpet Premiere (a part of me was hoping I’d get to sit next to Charlize Theron, you can probably guess which part), the experience of going to see a film with nothing but film fans and people who respect the art, in a stunning cinema, was amazing, even if there was a bit of a post-movie crowd crushing to retrieve handed-in phones afterwards. Plus, I saw it three days before the rest of the general public, which makes me feel special.
In 2089 a group of scientists, led by Shaw and Holloway (Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green) discover ancient cave paintings on the Isle of Skye depicting giant humanoids reaching up to 6 orbs in the sky. The drawing matches others found all over the world, and point towards a distant planet that may hold some key to the origins of mankind. Four years later, the scientists arrive at the planet LV223 as part of a 17-man crew aboard the Peter Weyland-funded ship Prometheus. Once there, the crew find traces of alien life, but are the answers they receive the ones they were hoping for?
One of my favourite movie subgenres is the limited cast, limited locations films, where, for whatever reason, only a handful of characters are involved, and are confined to a small number, preferably one or two, of areas. This is best seen in 12 Angry Men, as previously discussed, where the principle cast are the 12 jurors on a case, and the principle sets are the jury room and its adjacent restroom. Similarly, Alien sees the seven crew members of the mining spaceship Nostromo largely confined to the ship and a planet it docks at in response to a distress signal. Things take a turn for the worse when, upon docking, the ship picks up an alien lifeform (later known as a Xenomorph), whose main ambition in life seems to be removing it from other creatures.
The film shows an interesting depiction of the future far removed from the more utopian worlds of more classic science fiction. Here, men seem to have retained dominance (shown by the exclusion of women from any decision making), and where class separation is still rife (the two engineers, Parker and Brett, are paid half as much as everyone else on board). The ship’s design is a far cry from the gleaming visuals of, say, 2001: A Space Odyssey. The Nostromo is, after all, a mining craft, so the ship’s functional, mechanical nature is only to be expected, although the overly futuristic sleeping pods do jar with the rest of the ship.
Aside from the infamous ‘chestburster’ scene (of which you can now by lifesize plush toys!), I couldn’t remember most of the film, although in my memory it does tend to blend with the other films from the franchise, as my only previous viewing was in marathon format. That said, there is much that sticks in the mind now, from Hurt’s descent into the alien nest, littered with giant eggs covered in a mysterious fog, or Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) seeing off an 8 ft alien with molecular acid for blood and far too many sets of teeth dressed only in vest and knickers (Ripley’s wearing the knickers, not the alien).
Having seen many survival films, where the cast is slowly whittled down one by one until the final confrontation, I noticed that with Alien it is not immediately obvious who the main character, and therefore the final survivor, is. Most of the characters are given fairly equal screen time, characterisation and dialogue, so it is not until the numbers start to dwindle that it is clear Ripley is the heroine, as earlier in the film she seemed to be the more heartless, professional crewmember, condemning Hurt’s Kane to death by refusing him entry onto the ship without a proper scan. That being said, she does become stupid later on, stopping to put two suffering crewmembers out of their misery minutes before the entire ship, them included, will be blown up (I’ve never understood this, why do ships have self-destruct mechanisms? Were they expecting an alien lifeform to come aboard, and the only way to kill it would be to blow the whole ship up? If so, surely some other defence mechanisms could be implemented instead?), and then she goes back for the cat, kept on board purely to jump out at random moments to scare the bejesus out of anyone in the vicinity.