Flotsam

Apr. 2nd, 2017 10:25 am
sartorias: (handwritten books)
Okay, enough people have given me a thumbs up on LOTR rereading, so I will start that this week--on Saturday, as I'm running so dry on topics for BVC blog links. I have the book waiting on the nightstand.

Meanwhile, yesterday's mail brought a gift from a friend--what looks like a first edition (there probably wasn't a second) of Mary Chase's play, sort of novelized and illustrated, Mrs. McThing. One of Mary Chase's books was a childhood fave, and once the internet gave me access to such data, I was astonished to discover that she'd been a well-known playwright.

So I took an hour last night to do some exploring.

In the process of looking up the playbill for Mrs. McThing, I found out that one of the child actors was Brandon De Wilde. I thought, wow, a Hollywoodish name for a kid, and looked him up. Turned out that his parents were from Dutch extraction, and that was his name, no Hollywoodizing here, and furthermore he'd been a phenomenally famous kid actor--who unfortunately died very young (age thirty). Examples of his acting exist on YouTube, most pretty hard on the eyes.

The clearest one was his appearance on What's My Line, a show that I always heard about as a kid, but as my dad didn't have any interest in it, I never actually saw an episode, as we watched whatever he wanted to watch. So I ended up watching bits of other episodes, like the appearance of "Eleanor Roosevelt. The show ran for well over a decade--yet when you look at the set, you'd think it was a high school production. Early television reminds me of early novels: raffish, experimental, doing its best to sell to the mainstream.

One of the episodes had Groucho Marx as a panelist, and he destroyed the format with his constant cracks. So that led me to the show he hosted, You Bet Your Life, which looks even lower budget. The episodes are fascinating glimpses of fifties culture, especially the outtakes. From the glimpses there that audience came there for the bits that would be cut out of the actual airing. Pretty tame by today's standards.
sartorias: (Fan)
Black Lightning trailer here), a Russian sf adventure film about a flying car.

The Hussar Ballad, made in 1963. Full of adventure, romance, passion, elegance and war, with a cross-dressing heroine faking it as a Hussar, it's terrific entertainment--even if I can't understand a word. At least it's there on YouTube, which leads me to hope that someone might come along and redo it with subtitles. Hey, it happened with the superlative Russian historical drama 17 Moments of Spring.

I'm pretty sure it has to be based on The Cavalry Maiden, by Nadezhda Durova, one of the first published autobiographies in Russian. I wonder if Tolstoi used it as part of his research for the intensely detailed and resonately realistic battle of Borodino sequence in War and Peace. The film greatly romanticizes Durova's experiences, which she recounts with trenchant reality, even if she finesses stuff like her age and her lovers.

Watching this delightful film, it's weird to think of the height of the Cold War in the background. Makes me wonder if someone a hundred years hence is going to look at history during my own lifetime and think it the surreal dream of a dyspeptic entrepreneur. Give me my romance, please.
sartorias: (Fan)
Revolutionary scientific theories discovered in your time are SOP to youngsters.

Specifically, I've been watching Granite Flats, a nifty little period drama with a strong sfnal feel set in a small town in Colorado, circa 1961. Interesting characters, and the four main kids are stunningly good--excellent actors, and good writing.

Now and then a mild and inevitable period error, but then came the real howler, plate tectonics presented by a kid to her classmates, as standard science. Um, no. I remember the theories we were taught about continental drift (and anti-continental drift theories) all through the sixties. Some of the ideas about plate tectonics had been around for decades, but tech wasn't able to back up the theories until the sixties, after which the late sixties saw a number of really exciting papers on the subject, and in 1970, in our Oceanography class, the prof laid it all out for us. New, exciting stuff.

So, yeah. Still, I thoroughly enjoy the show. Hope they keep it up.
sartorias: (Fan)
Steve Popkes's take on the two shows. I thought his approach interesting, coming from a comics vector.
sartorias: (Fan)
I've watched a lot of tv when my eyes or brain couldn't do reading, and it's amused me to notice the unexamined assumptions of various worlds. Like the comic book world, as adapted to film. I thought ARROW was pretty good, despite some predictable elements (of course the sister is going to total her new car seconds after taking off for a drug-high joy ride), but there are also the comic world expectations... like of course if your dad is a powerful, wealthy man who made his cash as a gangster, you are perfectly justified in donning a costume and going around as a serial-killer vigilante.

I really like the characters (Dig, Felicite, and Quinn the most) and look forward to more of it.

Then there are sixties shows. I wonder if they feel alien to young viewers. To me, the sixties world settles around me as familiar as an old pair of jeans I'd forgotten for forty years--the shape is slightly off from mine, but a bend, a stretch, and I can be that person again for a little while. All the credits are male, the characters are all white males (except for those who serve, on for a few seconds to polish shoes or cook food or sweep, or as villains), the females all fall in love and change their lives after a single stern glance from the male leads. They need rescuing, etc, etc--we know all that, but seeing stories that assume everyone knows these things, it's amusing.
sartorias: (Fan)
[livejournal.com profile] azdak has been posting YouTube segments of this series, made for Russian TV in 1973. It is based on history, specifically a Russian agent who had worked his way high into the Nazi government in order to work against Hitler's orders to destroy Russian in the last months of the war. For those of us who grew up hearing fictional Nazis and Germans of WW II era speaking German, fake German, ridiculously-accent English to remind us that they are speaking German, hearing them speaking Russian is odd, but that goes away in how tightly the suspense begins to wind you. Especially as all the characters are three-dimensional.

I linked to part one, which is an hour, because it is extremely confusing to find all the ten minute segments of a very long series, if you are hopeless with numbers like me.
sartorias: (Default)
Anyone else watch Foyle's War? (Actually, I suppose I'm late to the party.) Wow, what a terrific series.

I did some delving, and discovered why the jump in sensibility as well as time from 1942 to 1945, some idiot had cancelled it, until an outcry re-established it. I guess there's some comfort in knowing that stone ground stupid decisions at the top are not just confined to Hollywood.
sartorias: (Default)
Anyone else watch Foyle's War? (Actually, I suppose I'm late to the party.) Wow, what a terrific series.

I did some delving, and discovered why the jump in sensibility as well as time from 1942 to 1945, some idiot had cancelled it, until an outcry re-established it. I guess there's some comfort in knowing that stone ground stupid decisions at the top are not just confined to Hollywood.

Commentary

Sep. 25th, 2011 06:26 am
sartorias: (Default)
As it's evolving on the Net.

Commentary on art forms (fiction) has been around for a long time. One of the things that delighted me about Chinese novels when I first discovered them was that people added their commentary into the text when copying them. In Western Europe, with the evolution of print, we didn't go that way--commentary developed in separate venues.

Now there's commentary on film and television on DVDs, and some are way better than others at it.

Then there's the Rifleman Harris commentaries, which I think achieves ekphrasis.

Commentary

Sep. 25th, 2011 06:26 am
sartorias: (Default)
As it's evolving on the Net.

Commentary on art forms (fiction) has been around for a long time. One of the things that delighted me about Chinese novels when I first discovered them was that people added their commentary into the text when copying them. In Western Europe, with the evolution of print, we didn't go that way--commentary developed in separate venues.

Now there's commentary on film and television on DVDs, and some are way better than others at it.

Then there's the Rifleman Harris commentaries, which I think achieves ekphrasis.
sartorias: (Default)
The screenwriter Ken Levine (worked on M.A.S.H., was responsible for CHEERS and FRASIER) has a blog. Today he posted an episode from a very short-lived series called THE ASSOCIATES--a comedy about lawyers.

It's an amazing episode for so many reasons, not the least of which is the ironic comment near the end that there's no funny series about lawyers. I was at first thrown out of it by the young faces of memorable actors, and by the horrible late-seventies decor (yes, people really did have those colors in their homes), and was blown away by the sharp twist on gay stereotypes.

But the thing that really caught my attention was how, in two minutes, they managed to capture what can happen when a bunch of people try to improve a creative project. They mean well--they compromise--the atmosphere in the room can slowly change from not-so-covert antagonism to a sort of heady hilarity in which everything everyone else says is just so, so funny!

How many times have you fought yawns through someone's description of a gathering they keep telling you was the most hilarious thing ever, but every single witty line they quote sounds dumb or makes no sense? This is the same weird group dynamic that often produces films that are totally incomprehensible--that you sense the best material was left lying on the cutting room floor.

I guess this is another example of how it's not just individuals who can spend so much time on something--invest so much emotion into it--that they come out thinking their passion will light the world on fire, but groups can do it, too.
sartorias: (Default)
The screenwriter Ken Levine (worked on M.A.S.H., was responsible for CHEERS and FRASIER) has a blog. Today he posted an episode from a very short-lived series called THE ASSOCIATES--a comedy about lawyers.

It's an amazing episode for so many reasons, not the least of which is the ironic comment near the end that there's no funny series about lawyers. I was at first thrown out of it by the young faces of memorable actors, and by the horrible late-seventies decor (yes, people really did have those colors in their homes), and was blown away by the sharp twist on gay stereotypes.

But the thing that really caught my attention was how, in two minutes, they managed to capture what can happen when a bunch of people try to improve a creative project. They mean well--they compromise--the atmosphere in the room can slowly change from not-so-covert antagonism to a sort of heady hilarity in which everything everyone else says is just so, so funny!

How many times have you fought yawns through someone's description of a gathering they keep telling you was the most hilarious thing ever, but every single witty line they quote sounds dumb or makes no sense? This is the same weird group dynamic that often produces films that are totally incomprehensible--that you sense the best material was left lying on the cutting room floor.

I guess this is another example of how it's not just individuals who can spend so much time on something--invest so much emotion into it--that they come out thinking their passion will light the world on fire, but groups can do it, too.
sartorias: (Madam Pirate--against all flags)
Warning: in order to discuss this stuff, there are massive spoilers for Angel, Buffy, Vampire Diaries, and minor ones for other shows.
Read more... )
sartorias: (Madam Pirate--against all flags)
Warning: in order to discuss this stuff, there are massive spoilers for Angel, Buffy, Vampire Diaries, and minor ones for other shows.
Read more... )

TV and Life

Feb. 2nd, 2010 09:29 am
sartorias: (Default)
Speaking of layers of social strata and expectation, I have a question for any LDS folks who happen to come by, and happen to read this--what do you think of the HBO show "Big Love"?

TV and Life

Feb. 2nd, 2010 09:29 am
sartorias: (Default)
Speaking of layers of social strata and expectation, I have a question for any LDS folks who happen to come by, and happen to read this--what do you think of the HBO show "Big Love"?

TV Sex

Jan. 14th, 2010 08:24 am
sartorias: (Default)
While working on my last fundraiser map project, I've been watching a lot of TV. I've been swapping off between Farscape and Madmen.

More talk about both later, maybe, but last night I was talking to a small group of people, mixed gender and orientation, different generations. The talk seemed to reinforce my conviction (in the way we have of imposing a tiny sample over the group at large--humans are nothing without our synecdoche) that TV sex scenes are aimed at the guys. At the het guys. (At the white het guys.)

There was subtle story in a sex scene during a Mad Men ep that I watched last night--suddenly the sex became meaningful as a failed means of human expression. Awesome. Most of the time? I'm aware that this show, for all its commentary on the period (and sometimes it just plain gets things wrong, though they're rare) and its attempt to show female agency within that context, is very much about male agency.

I tend to find sexual tension or possibility more interesting, but when the couple does take the intimate step, eroticism works on me when the film conveys sensory awareness. A finger trailing down a back and over a hip is far more enticing to me than humping and lip-wrestling, always with that neck-twisting angle so we can get the most of her face and torso.

I guess fellows process visuals differently. Yes? No? Exceptions? Nobody is going to be slamdunked for finding TV sex enticing (or a total turnoff), I just want to know what works, why it works, how it works for anyone who wants to talk about the topic.

TV Sex

Jan. 14th, 2010 08:24 am
sartorias: (Default)
While working on my last fundraiser map project, I've been watching a lot of TV. I've been swapping off between Farscape and Madmen.

More talk about both later, maybe, but last night I was talking to a small group of people, mixed gender and orientation, different generations. The talk seemed to reinforce my conviction (in the way we have of imposing a tiny sample over the group at large--humans are nothing without our synecdoche) that TV sex scenes are aimed at the guys. At the het guys. (At the white het guys.)

There was subtle story in a sex scene during a Mad Men ep that I watched last night--suddenly the sex became meaningful as a failed means of human expression. Awesome. Most of the time? I'm aware that this show, for all its commentary on the period (and sometimes it just plain gets things wrong, though they're rare) and its attempt to show female agency within that context, is very much about male agency.

I tend to find sexual tension or possibility more interesting, but when the couple does take the intimate step, eroticism works on me when the film conveys sensory awareness. A finger trailing down a back and over a hip is far more enticing to me than humping and lip-wrestling, always with that neck-twisting angle so we can get the most of her face and torso.

I guess fellows process visuals differently. Yes? No? Exceptions? Nobody is going to be slamdunked for finding TV sex enticing (or a total turnoff), I just want to know what works, why it works, how it works for anyone who wants to talk about the topic.
sartorias: (Default)
First, via [livejournal.com profile] shrewreader this lovely story.

I've been watching more TV in the evenings when my hands quit on me (sometimes the quit means I can't even hold a book for long); last night I watched Almost Famous, which I thoroughly enjoyed. For those of us young and on the edge of the music scene in 1973, so much of this film resonated with verisimilitude. The tension between journalist and band--truth and seeming--what people want to read and privacy--was handled nicely, though the film lightly skimmed over the issue of fame. It touched on the warped reality of fame, which can trick the unwary into thinking that the rules no long apply. But it skimmed the issue of creativity, and the fact that the white fire is not controllable any more than lightning is, and so the young musicians would try anything—any drug or guru or quick-fix superstition—to tame it.

I watched that because I'm within two eps of finishing ANGEL, fifth season. I am considering not watching the rest, because I strongly suspect that my vision of how it should go will not match how it does (though I know about the very last scene, having been spoiled multiple times, and I had looked forward to that, actually).

There will be spoilers below.

Buffy and Angel are among the better things I've seen on TV, despite some jaw dropping moments. Series TV is written and shot on the run, they have to deal with all kinds of issues that blindside them, and they can blindside themselves, at least as much as one can believe the commentary on episodes. (I've gone back and listened to a lot of these.)

In Buffy, the early days were constrained to monster of the week plots, but more than that, the trappings of Christian mythology (often utterly ripped from context, with a sometimes painful lack of awareness of historical and cultural b.g.) imposed on a secular world, sometimes with risible effect. Later on, when the makers reinvented mystical magic (AKA Handwavium) they had a lot more freedom to get into all types of magic--dimensions--death--souls--within an agnostic framework, with rare glimpses of the possibility of the numinous. (And I note much of the same worldbuilding, even language, when I watched SUPERNATURAL season four, and wondered if Ben Edlund had brought all that over from ANGEL.)

But what really made the two shows great was when the makers could rip free of the constraints of episodic TV, that is contained plots that basically left the viewer roughly where he or she started. Season four was one long continuous arc, which was good--could have been terrific--individual eps were terrific, but overall? I'll get there. The greatness was in the characters, and how they developed and changed, how they began with distinct personalities, often superficial. Their experiences changed them. Take Wesley Wyndham-Price, the British stuffed-shirt, comically incompetent watcher, and compare him to the Wesley working through the night with a apparently calm countenance, but when one of his underlings makes a careless ref to not working on solving Fred's problem, Wesley pulls a pistol from a drawer and shoots the guy in the leg, orders his secretary to report anyone else not on the job, and goes back to work, leaving the guy lying there whimpering in pain. It's not just the violence, but the fact that his aim is so good, that caused me to sit back and whoa.

The blend of comedy with horror, drama with quiet, intense personal moments, all woven into splashy action and supernatural razzle-dazzle, I just love that.

So why am I avoiding the last two eps of Angel? Others might disagree, of course--tastes differ--but where the show dropped the ball most seriously for me was with Cordelia's arc in season four. It's weird, it was almost like a Samson thing was going on . . . almost the episode where Cordy got that horrible haircut that aged her about twenty years, her acting, her lines, became stiff and humorless. It was like a soap opera character had been stuck in the show--she didn't interact with anyone, she just uttered cliches at them. During the fights she mostly stood off to the side--though occasionally she reacted. The romance with Connor was painful to watch, though it was well set up, but the acting, the ridiculous things she said were straight soap. Until then she was one of the best characters, and talk about change! Her highpoint was when she faced down the evil Lilah in a verbal bullet-spray about shoes. (That and her awesome return for the 100th ep.)

So the big reveal is that a monster got inside her and created evil!Cordy. Okay, I could buy that for the evolving storyline, though my pleasure--and my trust--had faltered. Then at the end of "Smile Time" Fred and Wes finally hook up, and I'm utterly back on board. I loved Fred--yeah, she's gorgeous, but within the definitions of TV normal, she's a brown haired, brown eyed, no figure science geek, but everyone loves her--with an interesting spectrum of loves. So what happens? We get yet another monster-inside-the-main female, and this one a drop dead boring cliche. We've already been there with every aspect of Illyria, the story not only stops when her bits are on the screen, they leach the tension out of the insidious battle with Wolfram & Hart from the inside, reminding me that I'm watching a TV show based on a ridiculous premise, and instead of wit versus wit and the moral conflict, scenes are stitched together by a lot of fights in their practice arena while Illyria throws people through walls. Ho hum. Why couldn't Fred have developed mystical superpowers which would strain the relationship, if the makers couldn't deal with a happily ever after? Or why couldn't they launch straight from Fred's death into armegeddon? There's a definite feel of falter after the cast and crew found out the show had been cancelled; the "go to Italy in seach of Buffy" ep had a couple of good lines, but most of it is painful because it feels unmoored.

Well, that kind of speculation is tedious. I'm done with Whedon shows (already seen and loved Firefly, and refuse to have anything to do with Dollhouse) so I think I'll see what Whedon-inspired shows are doing, besides Supernatural. Maybe True Blood next.
sartorias: (Default)
First, via [livejournal.com profile] shrewreader this lovely story.

I've been watching more TV in the evenings when my hands quit on me (sometimes the quit means I can't even hold a book for long); last night I watched Almost Famous, which I thoroughly enjoyed. For those of us young and on the edge of the music scene in 1973, so much of this film resonated with verisimilitude. The tension between journalist and band--truth and seeming--what people want to read and privacy--was handled nicely, though the film lightly skimmed over the issue of fame. It touched on the warped reality of fame, which can trick the unwary into thinking that the rules no long apply. But it skimmed the issue of creativity, and the fact that the white fire is not controllable any more than lightning is, and so the young musicians would try anything—any drug or guru or quick-fix superstition—to tame it.

I watched that because I'm within two eps of finishing ANGEL, fifth season. I am considering not watching the rest, because I strongly suspect that my vision of how it should go will not match how it does (though I know about the very last scene, having been spoiled multiple times, and I had looked forward to that, actually).

There will be spoilers below.

Buffy and Angel are among the better things I've seen on TV, despite some jaw dropping moments. Series TV is written and shot on the run, they have to deal with all kinds of issues that blindside them, and they can blindside themselves, at least as much as one can believe the commentary on episodes. (I've gone back and listened to a lot of these.)

In Buffy, the early days were constrained to monster of the week plots, but more than that, the trappings of Christian mythology (often utterly ripped from context, with a sometimes painful lack of awareness of historical and cultural b.g.) imposed on a secular world, sometimes with risible effect. Later on, when the makers reinvented mystical magic (AKA Handwavium) they had a lot more freedom to get into all types of magic--dimensions--death--souls--within an agnostic framework, with rare glimpses of the possibility of the numinous. (And I note much of the same worldbuilding, even language, when I watched SUPERNATURAL season four, and wondered if Ben Edlund had brought all that over from ANGEL.)

But what really made the two shows great was when the makers could rip free of the constraints of episodic TV, that is contained plots that basically left the viewer roughly where he or she started. Season four was one long continuous arc, which was good--could have been terrific--individual eps were terrific, but overall? I'll get there. The greatness was in the characters, and how they developed and changed, how they began with distinct personalities, often superficial. Their experiences changed them. Take Wesley Wyndham-Price, the British stuffed-shirt, comically incompetent watcher, and compare him to the Wesley working through the night with a apparently calm countenance, but when one of his underlings makes a careless ref to not working on solving Fred's problem, Wesley pulls a pistol from a drawer and shoots the guy in the leg, orders his secretary to report anyone else not on the job, and goes back to work, leaving the guy lying there whimpering in pain. It's not just the violence, but the fact that his aim is so good, that caused me to sit back and whoa.

The blend of comedy with horror, drama with quiet, intense personal moments, all woven into splashy action and supernatural razzle-dazzle, I just love that.

So why am I avoiding the last two eps of Angel? Others might disagree, of course--tastes differ--but where the show dropped the ball most seriously for me was with Cordelia's arc in season four. It's weird, it was almost like a Samson thing was going on . . . almost the episode where Cordy got that horrible haircut that aged her about twenty years, her acting, her lines, became stiff and humorless. It was like a soap opera character had been stuck in the show--she didn't interact with anyone, she just uttered cliches at them. During the fights she mostly stood off to the side--though occasionally she reacted. The romance with Connor was painful to watch, though it was well set up, but the acting, the ridiculous things she said were straight soap. Until then she was one of the best characters, and talk about change! Her highpoint was when she faced down the evil Lilah in a verbal bullet-spray about shoes. (That and her awesome return for the 100th ep.)

So the big reveal is that a monster got inside her and created evil!Cordy. Okay, I could buy that for the evolving storyline, though my pleasure--and my trust--had faltered. Then at the end of "Smile Time" Fred and Wes finally hook up, and I'm utterly back on board. I loved Fred--yeah, she's gorgeous, but within the definitions of TV normal, she's a brown haired, brown eyed, no figure science geek, but everyone loves her--with an interesting spectrum of loves. So what happens? We get yet another monster-inside-the-main female, and this one a drop dead boring cliche. We've already been there with every aspect of Illyria, the story not only stops when her bits are on the screen, they leach the tension out of the insidious battle with Wolfram & Hart from the inside, reminding me that I'm watching a TV show based on a ridiculous premise, and instead of wit versus wit and the moral conflict, scenes are stitched together by a lot of fights in their practice arena while Illyria throws people through walls. Ho hum. Why couldn't Fred have developed mystical superpowers which would strain the relationship, if the makers couldn't deal with a happily ever after? Or why couldn't they launch straight from Fred's death into armegeddon? There's a definite feel of falter after the cast and crew found out the show had been cancelled; the "go to Italy in seach of Buffy" ep had a couple of good lines, but most of it is painful because it feels unmoored.

Well, that kind of speculation is tedious. I'm done with Whedon shows (already seen and loved Firefly, and refuse to have anything to do with Dollhouse) so I think I'll see what Whedon-inspired shows are doing, besides Supernatural. Maybe True Blood next.

May 2017

S M T W T F S
  1 23 4 5 6
78 91011 12 13
14 15 16 1718 19 20
21222324252627
28293031   

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated May. 25th, 2017 08:48 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios