Saturday, September 08, 2012

This Is the New Green Lantern?

Green Lantern needs to carry a pistol? What the fuck is this? A man who wears a weapon is only limited by his imagination; if he's got to carry a gun, his imagination must be severely limited, indeed. About as limited as the person who designed this idiotic thing. This almost makes me want to get all of my old 1990s Image Comics out and throw them away. I only say "almost" because I did that about 15 years ago.

Blade Runner: The Final Cut

A couple of nights ago I finally sat down and watched the "Final Cut" version of Blade Runner. It had been sitting on my TiVo since July, and I figured it was past time to finally get into it. I have a patchy history with Ridley Scott's movie. I never liked it when I was younger, and it was one of those movies that "everyone" kept telling me they loved and was this amazing film. It just left me cold. When I saw the so-called "Director's Cut" version in 1992, I liked it a lot more. I understood more what Ridley Scott was going for, and I even understood the coldness, the impersonal nature of the film, a lot better.

Sitting down and watching the Final Cut was, for me, a revelation. Now I see the masterpiece that I never saw before. This is the first time I've ever sat down and given Blade Runner my full attention and felt completely rewarded. I loved it. I'm not even sure what Ridley Scott did that was significantly different from the Director's Cut, other than some retouched special effects and one very important edit. I'd look it up, but I kind of like not knowing. This is the version where, for me at least, everything flows perfectly into what it's supposed to be.

The edit I referred to above is the unicorn sequence. What I remember is that in the Director's Cut, Deckard's vision of the unicorn is a dream. In this version, he's wide awake. And I think that edit alone reveals everything that needs to be revealed about Deckard's character.

I've been reading a number of blog posts lately about Blade Runner and its various deficiencies. I don't buy any of the arguments anymore. Or, I should say, my experience with the film is different. I don't fall in with the people who say the movie isn't human enough, because I now realize that the remoteness is part of the point of the movie. It's not a failing; it's what makes Deckard's awakening possible.

I'm just going to say right up front that Rick Deckard is a replicant. That's my interpretation of the movie, so my reading of the movie is all based on that notion. I think the new version of the unicorn bears out that interpretation; now when Deckard finds Gaff's origami unicorn in the hallway, we're seeing not that Gaff knows about a dream, but about something Deckard was thinking about while he was awake. To me, that implies an implant of some kind. Something Gaff may have read in Deckard's files, the same way Deckard knows all about Rachael's fake memories through her files. (She has a couple of old photos that convince her of an entire life lived; Deckard, it's worth pointing out, has photos, too. They're on his piano, looking out at him, reassuring him of the continuity of life. Very interesting parallel that the film doesn't need to hit you over the head with. Leon, too, wanted his photos back. Photos are how we remind ourselves of things that happened, and I find their almost totemic use in this movie very interesting.)

I think Deckard being a replicant makes a lot of what happens in the film fall into place easier. The way Captain Bryant regards him in the briefing scene with a mix of curiosity and wariness; he knows he's sending Deckard to hunt down his own kind, but he's worried that Deckard might figure it out and go rogue. The near-total lack of empathy he has when he's tearing apart Rachael's illusions of humanity. His awkwardness the first time he makes love to Rachael, a scene which begins with anger and violence and then turns into this sort of yearning need to connect on an emotional level, even though he seems to not know quite what it is he's yearning for. I think, too, that the fact that he nearly gets killed while fighting Zhora, Pris, Leon and Batty means that he doesn't know he's a replicant and doesn't know he can access the same abilities. Like Rachael, he thinks he's human and bound by the same physical limitations. After all, if you had a replicant whose entire job was to kill other replicants, would you tell him what he was?

I've seen people argue that Deckard being a replicant takes away from the film's morality, but I completely disagree. There are people who argue that the slavery metaphor doesn't go far enough, or that having Deckard as a replicant takes away from the idea of empathy; part of original author Philip K. Dick's point was that people who are capable of atrocities such as murder have no empathy and are somehow a different type of person, which is why the Voigt-Kampf test is meant to test a replicant's capacity for empathy. But I think one of the things Blade Runner shows us is that replicants don't have a capacity for empathy simply because they're not allowed to live long enough to develop it. Their lifespan is four years, which keeps them at a child's level of understanding humanity. Just as they begin to get to that point--say, when Batty decides not to take Deckard's life away--their bodies shut down and it's over.

I don't think Deckard being a replicant takes away from the point of empathy at all. Because, again, I think the real point of the film is not the metaphor or the morality, but of one being emerging into consciousness. Deckard being a replicant makes that point stronger, because of course the implication then is that human beings don't murder artificial humans, they just manufacture artificial humans to do it for them. Doesn't that actually makes the slavery metaphor stronger? They're sending a slave to hunt down other slaves in order to keep them from self-actualizing. And the most inhumane, chilling part of it is that Deckard doesn't even know he's doing it. He thinks he's one of "us." That's a big part of what makes the final confrontation between Deckard and Batty so powerful: Batty is able to say "I'm here, I existed, I have experience, and now all of that will be lost: this is a life that's ending." And Deckard is able to realize, for the first time, that he's not just doing a job shutting down machines, he's taking lives. He's a murder and he had no idea that's what he was.

It's also what makes the final moments so poignant, when Deckard desperately wants Rachael to love him, to trust him. He's awake. He knows what he is. He knows who he is. And he wants his own chance at self-determination before the inevitable end comes. What makes Blade Runner work is that we see someone becoming fully human--not in the biological sense, but in the sense of being fully conscious--in a world that has utterly dehumanized everyone in it. Even Tyrell, the creator, who lives completely separated from humanity. And JF Sebastian, who surrounds himself with toys instead of humanity. (This movie says a lot about how we relate to our machinery and creations and the personalities we imbue them with; I wonder if part of the reason the idea of replicants achieving that kind of awareness as an abhorrence is the idea that they could develop independently of their original programming. Too far into the uncanny valley.) The only people we really get to see act like emotionally capable human beings are the artificial ones.

Observe Rutger Hauer's performance and how viscerally he reacts to everything, like a child who is alternately delighted, arrogant, uncertain, angry, petulant or afraid. His reactions are always big, always pure, never tempered by the things you learn as an adolescent, such as patience or decorum. He hasn't developed the ability to process these things, and his tragedy is that he won't live long enough to. He's afraid of dying--and in a very human way, not merely as an innate act of self-preservation--but I think he's also afraid that his life won't have meaning. Trying to protect his friends had meaning. What he does with Deckard has meaning. He doesn't really want to kill Deckard; he just wants Deckard to know what it's like to be afraid, to be hunted, to be hurt and terrified and hopeless. His death is, in a way, a defiance: I lived, and you didn't stop me from living, no matter how you tried to. He makes Deckard aware of just what he's taken away from the others, and after that, Deckard can't do it anymore. He learns to value life.

I don't know that this is the "right" way to read the film, but I think the ending is just ambiguous enough to interpret it this way. I feel like I've seen it now for the first time. I think it stops at just the perfect moment. We don't need anymore. To show us more--as that tacked-on happy ending did in its original release--is to do our thinking for us. It's not what Deckard does with his new realization that's important. It doesn't need to make a point about slavery or life or happiness. What's actually important here is that someone who didn't know suddenly becomes aware.

That's the point, and it's beautiful.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Japanese River Otter Declared Extinct

The Japanese River Otter hasn't been sighted since 1979 and has been declared extinct. Japan seems to be losing a lot of mammals this century; two wolves, a bat, a sea lion, a dolphin... it's too bad.

I Also Dig Nicki

Usually I don't take much notice of the VMAs, but I'm really liking Nicki and Miley. All that shit that Lady Gaga's supposed to be good at, fashion-wise? Nicki Minaj is like that but for real.

I Dig Miley's Hair

Not that her job is to please me or anything, but I really like this. It looks like 1984. She looks like a cross between Brigitte Nielsen in Domino and Melanie Griffith in Body Double. She looks awesome. I like this so much better than the endless parade of girls with the same boring long hair. It's just a thing with me.

Kristen Stewart Not Smiling or Whatever

Thursday, September 06, 2012

75 Years of Sergio Aragones!

One of the all-time greats turned three-quarters-of-a-century today. Happy Birthday, Sergio! Sergio Aragones Funnies was one of the best comic events of last year!

Dame Helen

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

TARZAN: SILVER SCREEN KING OF THE JUNGLE (2004)
Pleasant DVD extra about the making of the MGM Tarzan films. I have it on the DVD set featuring the first six of the Weismuller Tarzan flicks (the ones with Maureen O'Sullivan), but didn't end up watching it until it showed up recently on TCM. Like I said, pleasant, and informative (I'm more curious about the original version of Tarzan Escapes, which is completely lost), and filled me with the urge to see the films again. I've seen these films criticized a lot in the past for kind of bastardizing Burroughs' originals into something much more Saturday matinee-ish, so it's nice that they focus on the fact that ERB sort of insisted on it. (They were adapting the character, not the novels themselves, which are tricky and difficult and not exactly cinematic.) Given the set it's meant to enhance, I understand why it focuses on only the first six of Weismuller's 12 Tarzan pictures, but it bizarrely insists that after the sixth when Maureen O'Sullivan left the series that was it. ***

THE PRIDE OF THE YANKEES (1942)
Decent biopic of Yankees great Lou Gehrig, following him from childhood up to his retirement in the face of his illness. Its focus is mainly on celebrating (and enshrining) the legend of Lou Gehrig, American Hero, but it's a nice, well-made, good-looking movie. I don't always like Gary Cooper, but he's very good here. Better than solid, but not a great film. ***1/2

BALL OF FIRE (1941)
Gary Cooper again, this time as a stuffy language professor on a team of stuffy professors trying to create an encyclopedia. When Coop realizes he doesn't know a thing about modern slang and the way people use it, he tries to find someone who will come in so he can learn what it all means. That leads him to Barbara Stanwyck, a nightclub singer who needs a place to hide from the police who want to question her about her gangster boyfriend. The professors all grow enamored of her, having basically no experience with women. It's a broad comedy, but also very sharp and witty. The writers (Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder) modeled the plot on Snow White. Howard Hawks directed. And Gene Krupa appears. Fantastic movie, fun and hilarious. ****

ELVIS ON TOUR (1972)
A concert documentary about, well, Elvis Presley on tour. Something of a follow-up to That's the Way It Is, but with more scenes of Elvis performing, and interspersed a bit with an actual interview he gave the filmmakers. In 1972 Elvis still had charm, but you can see here how he's detached, sometimes to the point of hostility, from the whole experience of being Elvis, like it's just not interesting anymore. You can see, too, and almost involuntarily, how overly protective his handlers and entourage are, still defensive that someone else might get in and derail the money train. Some of his performances, like "Bridge Over Troubled Water," are interesting and emotional, but too often he's just defaulting to toothless arrangements of irrelevant old rockabilly hits from the fifties, and you start to wonder why anyone bothered going to see him anymore. He had long since been a brand churning out the same repeat performances night after night. I don't think the film intended to make me think about any of this, but that's what boosts it up from just a performance film. ***

COMPLIANCE (2012)
This is a difficult movie. Remember a few years ago when that story came out about someone who worked at a McDonald's getting a phone call from a man claiming to be a cop who said a young, female employee had been accused of theft, then proceeded to have the employee strip searched, held hostage, and then raped? Well, this is based on that. It's sort of jaw-dropping because even as we tell ourselves that we'd never be fooled in such a situation, someone was. Lots of people were; there were at least 70 incidents. The film is something of an endurance test, forcing us to ask just how much we're willing to submit to just because someone claims authority. The person on the other end of the phone preys on the ignorance of those involved, speaks with confidence, gets people to make leaps and fill in blanks with the right prompting. He's alternately threatening and friendly, and manipulates this situation as far as it can go until someone finally stops it. Sometimes terrible things continue simply because everyone involved is too afraid to say no. Like I said, a difficult film, hard to watch. I'm glad I saw it but I don't think I could ever see it again. ***1/2

JE T'AIME MOI NON PLUS (1976)
Serge Gainsbourg wrote and directed this film. Beautiful Joe Dallesandro plays a garbage collector who is gay, but apparently searching for a way to find happiness in a society that sees homosexuality as an abomination. To that end, he starts up a romance with lovely Jane Birkin, playing a waitress. With her short hair and boyish build, Dallesandro is attracted to her but unable to make love to her without pretending she's a boy and only having anal sex with her. But she wants a strong, masculine lover, and there's a question of whether they can either truly meet each others' needs. It's a deliberately crude, sometimes funny movie, well-made and surprisingly frank about its subject matter. Can these two people find a decent level of happiness in a place that is inwardly and outwardly ugly? An emotional picture. ****

HOUSE (1977)
Completely, utterly, bugfuck insane. I loved it. A Japanese schoolgirl takes six of her friends out to the country to stay with the aunt she's never met, and things go crazy. It's a horror movie, but it's as cartoonish and hilarious as it is gory and scary. I barely even know how to describe this. But I loved it. ****

TEXAS KILLING FIELDS (2011)
The search for a serial killer in Texas. Stuff happens. Some set-ups and stuff. It never really drew me into it on an emotional level; I knew what was happening, I just didn't care why. Looks good, though. And it wasn't ever really boring. I just didn't care. Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Chloe Moretz were pretty good. **1/2

THE KID WITH A BIKE (2011)
Moving story about Cyril, a 12 year-old kid abandoned by his father and uncertain where he fits in without him. He's aided in his search for his missing father by a hairdresser who looks after him on weekends (Cecile De France), but when he's ultimately rejected, he begins looking for something else to guide him, falling in with a local gang. A film about social realism, with a bright, airy sort of look to it (this is a great-looking film), it never deviates from the emotional journey of Cyril, but never overplays its hand and manipulates your feelings, either. Near-perfect. ****

THE DIRTY MIND OF YOUNG SALLY (1973)
The amazing Sharon Kelly is a pirate radio host, encouraging her teenage listeners to have sex. She's instructional, playing with herself and offering directions to her listeners, or even offering herself to a contest winner, all while trying to remain mobile as the cops and the FCC track her down. It's a fun, innocent skin flick, but Kelly elevates it, standing out from the other performers who are, let's just say, not up to handling things like dialogue. Genuinely sexy. ***

MY LIFE TO LIVE (1962)
Interestingly-structured Godard film about Nana (Anna Karina), a woman who has left her family to become an actress and who, during a time of economic hardship, becomes a prostitute. I like how the film is structured into 12 tableaux, showing us just enough without becoming wrapped up in the artificial drama of how she comes to certain decisions about the direction of her life. We just see her at 12 different points in a cinema verite approach, and Godard refrains from making subjective statements about what happens to her. I think that sounds potentially alienating, and the film can be aloof, but it's a very human story about a very human character. In many ways Nana is a fool, a flighty woman flitting her way through life with an almost unjustified confidence and no small amount of charm. But she's also a human being, and I think Godard spends a good part of the film challenging us to see her for herself instead of seeing her for who she presents herself as. I don't always like Godard, but I think this is one of the most interesting movies I've seen in a while. ****

SHADOWS IN PARADISE (1986)
A garbageman and a cashier find... well, not love, really, but a sort of mutual comfort in one another in Finland. It looks good, but I found it remote and at times arch. It's not about people so much as it's about bold statements about the Proletariat that are never really said aloud. Window-dressing. **1/2

IVAN'S CHILDHOOD (1962)
Beautiful Tarkovsky film about a 12 year-old Russian boy in World War II. He's lost his family to the Nazis and refuses to do anything now but carry out dangerous reconnaissance missions into German territory to aid the Soviet army. The focus here is on the human cost of war and not military glories; we see how humanity is subsumed, consumed, misshapen and altered forever in the face of violence, loss, and tragedy. A very human film, beautiful to look at, dealing with big emotional themes in a way that's not manipulative or pandering. Masterful. ****

Saturn and Titan

There have been some new images returned to Earth by the Cassini spacecraft recently. I thought this one was especially fantastic.

MasterChef Observations

Have to admit, I don't really care anymore. And it's not because Monti's gone (though that still sucks), it's because it's gone on for far too long. Do you realize that when we finally roll around to next week's finale, it will have been 20 episodes of MasterChef? That's far too many. This series needs to be maybe 12 episodes. And they need to be aired continuously; hiding from the Olympics killed the forward momentum, and now it's after Labor Day and the kids are in school and the holidays are around the corner, and MasterChef is somehow still fucking on. Just pick a winner for us to never care about again and move on, already!

Much the same way you know that every competition on Hell's Kitchen is going to come down to a dramatic tiebreaker, you also knew that it was going to be the two remaining women battling it out for the honor of who gets to face Josh in the finale. There was no way it was going to be a Becky/Christine finale, because this isn't a show about talent in the first place. Becky could've been a hundred times better chef than Josh, she still would have gone home, because it was going to be a boy and girl. So now we'll have an hour of Josh's generic, oddly-conviction-free trash talk against being reminded every five minutes that Christine is an inspiration to us all.

(By the way, Joe's little explosion of Christine-worship in this episode came across as obnoxious and condescending. Like he's still so amazed that Christine can walk upright and form basic sentences because she's blind. "HUH?! YOU TASTE AND ADJUST!!! IS THAT HOW A PERSON COOKS! AMAZING!!!!!!")

(But Graham still wins for most pretentious chef. Seriously, the thinking face you obviously practiced in front of a mirror needs to be retired. When he starts pressing his pinkie finger to his chin, I'm out.)

The big return of the previous contestants did absolutely nothing except make me wonder who half of them were. I only vaguely remembered a couple of them, but in my defense, this show's been on for longer than summer school lasted, and with less quantifiable results.

End already.

:: Hell's Kitchen: Same problem. Too long. It will also be 20 episodes of a show that should go for maybe 10, and which has settled so far into predictability that they had to throw Penn & Teller into this season's "make the chefs cook for big name chefs in front of a live audience" episode. All I know is that I really can't stand Justin. Yeah, we get it, this is the most important thing in the history of ever and everyone's job is to make you a winner. That's really inspiring. Real leadership. I get that daddy won't love you if you fail--and seriously, did you see that guy? He might as well have been wearing a sign that said "I withhold all affection unless you succeed."--but come on, give your troops a reason to fight beyond "I want to win and it's your job to make sure that I do."

I just don't care who wins. Last night's episode would have been 20 minutes long without all of the filler retrospectives. Yeah, they had a hard road. I remember. Stop killing the momentum and... fuck it, let's just go straight to the inconsequential outcome. It's not like anyone cares or remembers who wins, anyway.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

TV Report: The End of Summer and Returning Shows

Yesterday I caught the marathon of the entire second season of Boardwalk Empire on HBO Signature. I didn't get to watch it last year because I was saving it up on my TiVo, and then the TiVo started breaking down and I lost it all. It was fantastic, especially just watching it all in one day. William Forsythe was a great addition this season, especially. Can't wait for season 3.

:: Not really enthusiastic about the coming season of Saturday Night Live. I see Abby Elliott's left now, too, which just means more screen time for Disturbing Unfunny Crazy-Eyes. And the premiere will be hosted by Seth MacFarlane. I assume that means he'll do his monologue standing perfectly still and without changing expression at all, since it's cheaper to animate. Then he can talk about a TV show he watched once in the 80s, do those three voices he can do, and then make jokes at the expense of Asian people.

:: Garry Marshall's scene on last week's episode of Louie was worth the entire season. And this has been an incredible season of television.

:: Was that the midseason break on Breaking Bad this weekend? If so, that is a magnificent cliffhanger. What an amazing, rewarding show this has been. It's so nice when, after years of avoiding something because of the hype, you take a chance and it actually lives up to what people tell you.

I've been doing a thing on Tumblr called the 365 Film Challenge, where you're supposed to see 365 films in the calendar year. As many films as I see, I'm currently at 282. I have a friend, meanwhile, who is at something like 312. But I've seen so many films in my life and too much of what I see now is a Winter's Bone or a Five-Year Engagement that just makes me wish no one bothered to make movies anymore. So I'm not really worried about even getting to 365 because with rare exceptions like The Avengers and Prometheus, I am so much more rewarded by television series like Breaking Bad and Boardwalk Empire and Louie. Breaking Bad is better than any movie coming out right now, and just a much more enjoyable way to spend my time.

:: I also finally caught up on the final two seasons of Desperate Housewives, a show which is silly but which I enjoyed getting into. Vanessa Williams was a fantastic addition to the cast. I think Kathryn Joosten outdid herself in the final season, though knowing she died over the summer added a layer of fatalism to the role. They also added Marco Pennette to the production team, and he was one of the producers I liked on Ugly Betty. The last two seasons of DH were better than the previous two.

I was a little annoyed with that weird final moment they did of Susan Delfino driving down Wisteria Lane while the ghosts of all the people who've ever died watched her go. It wasn't the moment itself, it was just that it didn't include Edie, who died right there in the freaking street. As a realist, I understand why she wasn't there, given the legal goings-on between Marc Cherry and Nicolette Sheridan, but as a fan it's unsatisfying.

Oh, and Scott Bakula was on the last few episodes. That was cool. I fucking love Scott Bakula.

:: Anyone excited for returning shows? I'm not so much. I was thinking about this last week, and I realized that except for Revenge, I might not really be bothered if the other shows I watch didn't return. Oh, also Homeland, I can't wait for more of that.

:: Shows I'll watch and hope are good but are fun time-wasters and not stuff to be excited about, really: Suburgatory, 2 Broke Girls, Happy Endings, Don't Trust the B-- in Apt. 23, and Modern Family, maybe. I hope they aren't going to rely on Gloria flailing about and screeching in a Colombian accent but pregnant too much this season. That's going to be too much for me.

:: Parks and Recreation I am looking a bit forward to. The show is at its peak in quality right now, and I like that this is the final season. A lot of people are sad it's ending, but won't it be nice if it goes out on a high note instead of just perpetuating the brand after it runs out of story, like The Office did? There was a time when The Office was my favorite show on TV; it got so bad that I can't even watch the episodes I liked anymore. I'm going to need years away. That Michael Scott Paper Company arc was really the last great story on the show; they should've ended it that season. Michael could've realized when he came back that it wasn't fulfilling, grown up then, and gotten back together with Holly at the company picnic and it would've been really satisfying. Instead it just kept going because money. And it was fucking painful.

:: How I Met Your Mother is coasting on my affection for the characters, but it needs to wrap up. The character dynamic is so stale that what had once been a show that was really creative with its format is now becoming dry and predictable. Look, I don't care who the mother is. I really don't. For some bizarre reason, the creators decided their gimmick was to have Bob Saget telling his kids the story of all the sex he had with their beloved Aunt Robin and a dozen beautiful-but-crazy women before he met their mom, and it's created a lot of audience expectation that's weighing the show down. As long as the show focused on its characters, it didn't matter to me. But when it just falls back on its gimmick, it is interminable. It's not dramatically interesting to have Ted get hung up on Robin again when he told us in the first episode that they don't end up together. Quit going back to that well. I understand why you'd want to because all of Ted's girlfriends (except Robin) are horrible and he's a whiny, unrealistic idiot, but can we just wrap this up now? Anyway, my understanding is that contracts are up at the end of this season, so the creators have written two plotlines just in case this is really the final season. God, I hope it is.

:: Ugh, Castle. You're on the bubble, Castle!

:: The Big Bang Theory is adding Stuart as a series regular this season, which I'm not happy about. He's not funny. He's just a bigger, sadder loser every time we see him and that's the whole joke. Maybe he and Raj can get together as a couple. That would save it. Why does he even need to be there? At least it's not Kripke and his comedy lisp, that would be unbearable.

:: I have trepidations about the second volume of American Horror Story. The first series was fun, often stupid-fun, but not great television. A lot of it was a mash-up of literally everything you've ever seen in a haunted house movie, right down to the musical cues. And I respect that. I enjoyed it. But having the second series take place in an asylum just doesn't seem like a challenge or remotely original, and is it just going to be more of the same but in an asylum? Have I already seen what these people have to offer and this is season one with a different setting? I don't know. I'm planning on watching it, but I'm not really excited about it.

:: New shows I'm definitely go to check out: The Mindy Project, Nashville, and Malibu Country. Yes, I know Malibu Country isn't going to be any good, I just like Reba McEntire.

:: New shows that are a maybe: Vegas (looks like it would be great on HBO, not CBS), 666 Park Avenue (which will probably be bad and canceled, but Vanessa Williams!).

Give me what you've got, autumn.

:: Seriously, Castle. Bubble. Seriously.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Michael Clarke Duncan 1957-2012

It's being reported today that Michael Clarke Duncan has died after complications from the heart attack he suffered back in July. He was only 54 years old. I liked him in everything. I'm really, really sorry to hear about this.

Asylum of the Daleks

I didn't even want to watch it.

It wasn't that long ago when I couldn't contain my excitement for a couple of days leading up to a new episode. Now it's so far down the totem pole.

Honestly, I think a big part of my problem with the show is Steven Moffat.

Sorry to say it. I love some of the episodes he's written. I love the first three seasons of Coupling. But I don't really love his era of Doctor Who. It's taken a while for me to really put my finger on it and say it, but there it is. As much as I enjoyed the storybook atmosphere of season 5, that's how much season 6 wore me down. I like Matt Smith as the Doctor for the most part, and there's a good episode occasionally, but Moffat seems to be more interested in clever twists and charging momentum rather than plots and characters.

I've said it before, and I'll say it forever: I just do not like Amy Pond. She's a Bella Swan: a blank slate for little girls to write themselves onto, and not a character. She has personality traits, kind of: she's that cutely angry, insipidly sassy, cartoonishly proactive computer-age redhead that television just loves right now. Unfortunately, Moff already had one of those in River Song. And somehow, with less screen time, he's managed to be even more pandering with River Song than with Amy Pond.

Neither character really exists outside of the Doctor's circle. Where Rose Tyler, Martha Jones and Donna Noble actually had lives and identities and histories outside of the Doctor that actually affected the series and its various plotlines, Amy and River have nothing outside of the Doctor. They only exist because of him. I think Russell T. Davies made a great decision getting the companions' families involved in the plots; it made the companions stronger characters and deepened the world the show took place in. It felt like it was about something: the survival of humanity and the potential we all had for good. Moffat's version is about clever twists and being really cool and fast-paced. Smith's Doctor is much more interested in being perceived as a genius while being oh-so-cutely-awkward, as opposed to Eccleston's and Tenant's Doctors who were constantly impressed with the human capacity for caring.

Does anyone remember how in the fifth season finale the Doctor essentially re-ordered Amy's timeline? She has parents again; has that affected her at all? Does anyone care? Steven Moffat doesn't. No matter what, she's still going to worship the Doctor both as fantasy boyfriend and absentee father. Because, again, she doesn't exist without him.

On to the episode itself, which was a Dalek episode and so at least had my attention as long as there were Daleks because I love Daleks.

I didn't like the episode.

The whole thing about Amy and Rory getting divorced was cheap and only thrown in for the whole romantic suspense thing that seems to be the only way Moff can get us to relate to the characters as a couple. (What makes these two work, again? I only ask because we never really get to see them happy. Oh, right, it's that he's willing to let her completely subsume every aspect of his non-personality because she's afraid of not being in control or whatever.) Amy was especially insipid on this episode, with her direct-to-her-inexplicable-legions-of-fans "Who's afraid?" and "Is it wrong that I've completely missed this?" Rory was just there not affecting anything, as usual. And it had a clever twist at the end and a cute tag, which is the only real point of these stories, anyway. They also reset the Daleks yet again. (Seriously, do you need to keep doing this? It's a time travel show. The Doctor can go to any point in time where there were Daleks, you don't need to keep resetting them.)

Matt Smith seems especially bored of playing the Doctor. His energy is just gone. He makes the speeches and imprecations, he stands still, he waves the sonic screwdriver around, he seems not engaged for a second, and he holds his hand out for his paycheck.

Also, did I really just watch the Doctor gleefully murder a bunch of Dalek mental patients? What?

But, of course, for me, the single worst aspect was the introduction of Oswin, who is apparently going to become the next companion after we are mercifully rid of Amy Pond. She is terrible. Frankly, Tumblr made me sick of her before I even saw the episode, but watching the episode itself was just a nightmare. She's another Bella Swan. She's River Song, only somehow even more pandering. She's clever and flirty lines, she's a super-genius, and she has zero personality outside of somehow being smarter than the Doctor, because that's how Mary Sues work. The Mary Sue is always smarter than Spock. She's such a fantasy superhero character they might as well have just written in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

I am so sick of the fan service on this show. It's boring. It creates characters who aren't characters, but manifestations of how cool we're supposed to think the show is. It's just a brand perpetuating itself to keep advertising money and licensing alive. It's the New 52. And until it starts just telling a goddamn story instead of being so preciously impressed with itself and its endless supply of Manic Pixie Dream Companions and Cutely Awkward Doctors, I'm just not engaged in anything happening. I'm watching Doctor Who not (500) Fucking Days of Summer.

It used to be a smart show. Now it's a show that just wants you to love how smart it thinks it is.

Kristen Bell Mondays

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Song of the Week: "Magic Moments"

Lots of people putting up Hal David songs as a tribute. I always like this one; it's square, but I guess it reminds me of my grandparents and spending time with them. Besides, I'm pretty square.

Sunday Hottie 396

JULIANNE MOORE