See No Evil, Hear No Evil

I order to distract myself from the perils of the Yuletide, I’ve been voraciously consuming media of several sorts since finishing work on my second essay for ENGL415.

Gargoyles

I watched a few episodes of this in first year Uni, once it was all already over. There were a small group of us who used to gather and watch the afternoon kids shows once or twice a week. It was kindly provided for me by tog42.

The basic premise is that gargoyles come to life at night, but are stone during the day. The specific gargoyles in the show are from Scotland, and through various shenanigans they end up frozen for a thousand years before being revived in Manhattan c. 94. The main “antagonists” are a rogue Gargoyle and the eccentric billionaire who awoke them after a thousand years.

While being largely episodic, it also sustained some quite lengthy and quite involved plot arcs in the background, which surfaced from time to time. There were a number of sustained double or triple episodes which covered an astonishing amount of plot material for the time. When I compare most of the 20 minute episodes from this show to an “adult” show, I think actually probably more happens and with more substance.

The characters are all well drawn, and at every stage the writers declined to allow the antagonists to become one-dimensional evil figures. The villains, except for a very small number of exceptions, were all complex with well-drawn motivations and interests. I liked all of the villains for different reasons at different times, without diminishing them as foes that needed to be defeated.

In summary, I liked this show a lot. It was well structured and well written, and tapped into dynamic characters and situations far better than most adult TV I’ve seen over the years. I think that anyone writing TV should loko at the economy of effort on display to see just how much someone can do with 20 minutes, and just how much plot complexity you can have without sacrificing episode-by-episode accessibility.

I was shocked that only half of it has been released on DVD because of poor sales.

Perhaps the only show that has impressed me this much is Avatar: the Last Airbender, for similar reasons. I’m also reminded of some tales from yesteryear, such as Teddy Rukspin. It’s intriguing to me that this is also a children’s show. It seems odd that there are these extremely impressive shows for children, where most adult shows are almost embarrassingly one dimensional.

Amanda Palmer Sings the Hits of Radiohead

Certain of my acquaintance love Amanda Fucking Palmer, and I like Radiohead so on a whim I spent the couple of dollars US to download it.

I was disappointed, because I don’t think these covers really did anything particularly different from the originals. The pure novelty of the accompaniment being a ukelele didn’t really change the experience of hearing these songs or give me any new insights into the material.

It’s only a movie, Mark Kermode’s semi-autobiographical effort.

I have a great fondness for “wittertainment” with Kermode and Mayo. I’ve posted on that before. I don’t know quite what I expected from this. What I got was a series of three extended anecdotes with a few tangential observations on a handful of interesting movies. Kermode is an entertaining writer, so it passed quickly and easily, even for such a slight volume.

I couldn’t help but compare this effort to Bruce Campbell’s Confessions of a B-move actor, which is written in a similar style. Campbell comes to life in his writing, giving great insight into some interesting situations and decisions, and in between the glib re-imagination of his history, I think there’s some genuine statements about life and what makes him tick. Kermode felt very superficial in comparison.

So, it was entertaining enough, but I put it down feeling a bit unsatisfied. It felt, in the end, a bit commercial.

The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie

When I was about 14 I got my first book of film criticism. It was Halliwell’s Film Guide, which summed up in one or two lines the points of interest in any film – I’m sure you’ve seen these kinds of books, all but superseded by the internet. It described the James Bond films as “spoofs”, clearly viewing them as so OTT that they couldn’t possibly be taken seriously. Having grown up on a diet of these movies, and the likes of Charteris’ Saint novels, this was a major revelation to me. I’d never really thought they were anything but serious.

That comment started what has been a lifetime of interest in satire. Satire walks a fine line, in which it must carefully attack its target through reinvention, without becoming its target, as the James Bond novels and films more-or-less now have. (They are not a parody of another genre, but have become a genre).

Well, this novel is a satire on the likes of John Buchans The Thirty Nine Steps. It is written with verve and style, rarely missing an opportunity for a great one-liner or a cutting observation. Like all great satires, it could also easily be taken as a perfectly adequate example of the genre it satires, having all the hallmarks of a great spy thriller, and about as cogent a plot.

There were a few moments where I found some or other cutting jibe to get a bit wearing, and there were a few places where it was a bit thin… but that is basically inevitable when you read a book in one sitting. Because it is a really griping and interestig work, that functions well on several levels. Word on the street is that Laurie sold it to publishers under a completely false identity, and I’m not surprised: this is in no way a famous actor cashing in on his name, which can’t necessarily be said of many celebrity authors.

Firefly

I think enough ink, physical and digital, has been spent on this show. But having re-watched it over the past week… Nathan Fillion is using about 1% of his acting talent to prop up Castle; and while I enjoy that show and wish it every success… it’ll be nice when we see him do something with a bit more depth.

Aladdin

Sarah got me the soundtrack for my birthday in 2000, so the music is very familiar to me. However I haven’t actually seen the movie since my parents took me to see it in the theatre in 1993.

I found it charming. Although it is a bit predictable, it is also a very tidy bit of writing. I suspect that for the target “family” audience, it will have basically not aged at all.

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3 Responses to See No Evil, Hear No Evil

  1. cataragon says:

    I remember watching Gargoyles, in the Annex. It was a good show. A lot of
    ‘kids tv’ can be surprisingly complex and excellent, but finding it can be difficult.

    C.

  2. nishatalitha says:

    I adored Gargoyles when I was at school – intermediate, I think. I’ve vaguely tried to rewatch it (vague because I’m not very good at watching TV, rather than because the show isn’t good now). The thing that strikes me when I try to rewatch it is how aggressively inter-species it is from the start.

  3. All I remember about Gargoyles is some imagery and that it was a great show. I should look it up again.

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