Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.

I hate TV

TV is draining my will to live at the moment. A never ending commitment to do the same thing once at the same time every week.

In principle, television is great. So, you're favourite film's 90 minutes long. But if you love a TV show, then before you know it your favourite on-screen experience is 9 hours 70 minutes long.

One of the best TV shows ever made - rather, one of the best proofs of what the medium can do - is Brideshead Revisited. Based on a brilliant book, as either an adaptation or a show in its own right, it is every directors dream - the 13-hour movie. No cut characters, barely any cut lines, the languid pace of the book recreated on screen in loving, perfect detail. (Ironically enough, my favourite line is trimmed from the show, but nobody's perfect)

It's only when a lot of tely hits you at once that it hurts. Like now. My mother is watching Brideshead at the moment. It's not that I don't love it - its that it be an hour long a pop, and thus one evening a week. And plus - its damned miserable. Charles is adorable, and Lady Marchmain wants a smack.

My sister meanwhile is overjoyed at the return of Lost season 4. Yes, I'm one of those people who's still watching. And before you ask, no they haven't found any more polar bears, but yes they have worked out why they're there. Sorry, but for a show I feel lukewarm about much of the time, I don't half get precious when people run it down. What all those people who switched off after half a season of frustration don't get is that Lost is brilliant when randomly creating mysteries, and rubbish when actually explaining them. Why is there a polar bear on the island? Because some hippy scientists were experementing with it there. Boring, eh?

One show that got it right was 60's surreal spyfest The Prisoner. Like Lost, it raised mysteries all series and made damn-all sense at times. Unlike Lost, it never felt the need to explain what was going on, and is all the more successful for it. The antcipated final episode brilliantly sticks two fingers straight at anyone who thought answers were coming. All together now - dem bones dem bones dem dry bones...

Luckily, season four has thrown us straight back into mystery-for-mysterys-sake zone, with the flashbacks replaced with Memento-style flashforwards - we are now watching two separate stories, that will make sense sometime in the future. And it's all the more great for it. My personal theory? It's Forbidden Planet. Monsters from the Id. Isn't the smoke monster just a little like the creature from that film? Psychic weirdness would account for why hippy scientists would want to investigate, as well as why characters experiencing emotional stress see things that shouldn't be there (i.e. Sayid's cat, Kate's horse, Jack's dad e.t.c.).

My dad also has a pet show at the moment - Battlestar Galactica. I'll pause while you gasp and praise it. A lot of webpeople seem to regard this as the second coming, and while it's undeniably powerful, it's also far too stagnant to keep me interested. The opening mini-movie, detailing the destruction of the human race, is one of the most intense and devistatingly brilliant experiences I've ever sat through, and of course, horribly resonant of our own times. But once you've cut the human race down to 50,000 survivors spread across 12 studio sets, you've limited your plotlines somewhat.

The characters are sympathetic, but obvious. Starbuck is brilliant, but it doesn't mean I didn't resent 45 minutes of time being taken from me to establish something that could have been done in a scene - namelythe whole "relationship with Zack" arc. The same goes for many, many others. It's sheer padding most of the time - because they don't have much to play around with, they've got to exploit every plot kink for maximum potential.

Then there's the episodes where main characters are in peril. Never convincing. Are they going to find the stranded Starbuck on the planet? Of course they are. She's the heroine, and we're only four episodes in. Is the Commander going to abandon her? No, because he likes her, and otherwise there'd be no plot. Last nights episode surrounded a do-or-die mission for a much needed substance. Our heroes gravely intone that if they fail, they're all doomed. At that point, any suspense was lost. We knew they had to survive, or no show. We knew the characters on the Galactica were fine, or no show. And we knew that the only character in peril had to do something maverick to save the day, because we'd spent the earlier half of the episode listening to people tell him he was too square.

You can say much the same about Doctor Who, I suppose, but then DW has more than 50,000 people and 15 ships to play with. Though the plots are often roughly similar (alien invades Earth - Doctor stops alien), the same elements can be thrown into a thousand different combinations. Maybe the same is possible of BSG. All I can see is that they won't.

And then there's my least favourite episodes, the ones with a Moral Dilemma. All the best science fiction is about humanity, and the very best does it subtlely. Who has the right to vote? What is slavery? What makes you human? Who cares, now can we get onto some story now? I hate deliberate moral belabouring when it's there for the sake of being there. Often, it feels like the show's sole point - to make us think and question our own moral outlook. Perlease.

One episode which did this well was the "Cylon torture" one - the one about if-it-looks-human-is-it-still-a-machine? All very Blade Runner, but it very watcheable due to the three-way acting and solid story. Now if only the same could be said for Apollo vs. the Imprisoned Political Martyr.

Oh, and my final word on the invisible Cylon girlfriend who, for want of a better name, I have christened Tits. Why? Well, there's only two reasons why she's on the show as far as I can tell. Left boob. Right boob.

Perhaps that's cruel - her presence raises hundreds of interesting questions. Like, is she real? And then, is that inspector lady real? Is it in Gaius' head? Will she turn out to be a threat? And what is her relationship with her duplicate on Caprica? Fascinating, as is her faith - becoming as much a part of Cylons as photographic memories were to Blade Runner's replicants. Unfortunately, this boils down to a weekly scene in which she pursuades Gaius to either do something selfish to save himself or accept the love of God, while cradling him in her ever skimpier costumes. Once is interesting. Once an episode is repetitive.

But thankfully, we just ran out of episodes midway through the first series. I'm not going to rule it out entirely yet, but they need to pick up the pace and do some new things.

When it comes down to it, BSG is still a good show - it doesn't please me, but it'd be unfair to call it bad. I wish the same could be said about Torchwood.

There is something very refreshing about watching a show you feel able to criticise. Torchwood, a.k.a. X-Files: Cardiff, ranges from the intriguing to the outright dire. Characterisation is so changeable that in a recent episode where two characters personalities are swopped by alien forces, I only noticed half way through having put it down to more lazy scriptwriting. Our hero, Captain Jack Harkness, swings between tormented man of mercy and absolute bastard mode. Our heroine is only there to be the emotional soul of the group. This in itself would not be a bad thing, if they didn't constantly reference the fact she has a single purpose within the show itself.

For those of you who've missed the show, this is meant to be "Doctor Who" for adults - a kind of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with a weekly alien menace coming through the hellmouth -sorry - rift for them to solve. In actual fact, Torchwood isn't adult at all - it's teenage. Moments of genuine darkness are rare, and it rarely tackles concepts that couldn't be done on it's parent program. Instead, substitute the word adult for "a young adolescent who's been told he's legal". Lets have guns! And sex! And swearing! I'm all for homosexuality being more widely accepted, and the first part of that is fair representation on mainstream TV. Torchwood makes it into a total farce by presenting us with five faithless characters who'll shag anything (be it each other in various combinations, aliens who absorb orgasmic energy or poodles)

Meanwhile, the actual plotting rarely rises above DW level, leaving a serious script problem. Doctor Who can get away with being silly - because it's about an alien fop who runs around in a telephone box while wearing a stick of celery. Lines like "It's not the future - it's now!" or "We'll all be destroyed!" or "We've got to get to that generator before it's too late" fit in just fine. When they appear in Torchwood , any sense of realism is utterly destroyed. What a mess. I'm still watching - episodes have been improving, even though there seems to be a scene where people cry and threaten each other with firearms every single week.

Of course, you've probably by now identified my little Doctor Who problem. Less said the better.

Not counting the erratic DW-watching, that's four evenings a week. Not counting those occasional, fleeting days when I actually need to work. Like now, incidentally, but if I don't get my bile out before going to watch Earthshock* then I'll be irritated all evening.

*more DW. So kill me, it's a good story.

Alright, so the problem is 2/5 my fault. That still doesn't prevent me from being ratty. It's the characters and situations I'm addicted to in these things, and the prospect of a story that doesn't end (or, in the case of BSG, just feels like it). That doesn't prevent my soul from yearning for some decent cinema.

Television can be as good as film; the problem is that it...isn't. Maybe the odd episode, or if your lucky, series approaches the quality of a film, but it still isn't the same. You don't get the sense of satisfaction - to discuss a film requires only seeing that film, and maybe the one that inspired it. Making sense of tely requires hours - nay, days of your time. Especially my beloved Doctor Who - ploughing through the backlog of 60s and 70s episodes is an absolute torment. Don't get me wrong, they're ace; the things I've always loved are perfect. It's the sheer mass of hours daunting me, along with the complete lack of anything approaching visual art that stings.

One of the popular answers to "what makes a good movie?" is "the plot, the characters, the emotion". It's probably what I'd say. These things are all in abundance here in the happy world of television! I defy you to go on a TV-only diet for a bit and see how well that mantra stands up, because by Charna's guts I'm not sure I can take much more...


Copyright 2009 Cinecism. All rights reserved.
Free WordPress Themes Presented by EZwpthemes.
Bloggerized by Miss Dothy