zeborah: Vuvuzela concert: This is serious art. (art)
Being home sick with a cold seemed a good opportunity to watch the Pirates of Penzance like I've always been meaning to, and so I did. I only fell asleep three times which seemed pretty good going.

It was less of a comedy than I'd been led to believe. With every moment of potential happiness overshadowed by the ruthless Ruth's determination to manipulate her five-year-old charge into marrying her, it struck me as a commentary ahead of its time on female-on-male pedophilia. (It was interesting to note in contrast the conspicuous background detail of the harem the major-general must have kept to produce so many daughters of like age.) By the end, of course, everyone is entangled in the resulting climactic battle. Since the next thing I was aware of was waking up to the title-screen's hauntingly cynical repetition of the leitmotif "I am the very model of a modern major-general", I can only presume that everyone died, including said major-general, leaving his daughters -- ironically -- orphans in truth.

In other news, it's amazing how refreshed one feels on waking up from a good nap, and how little time this lasts upon standing up to pour oneself a fresh drink.
zeborah: On the shoulders of giants: zebra on a giraffe (science)
Every now and then I have the urge to write up a short review of a movie the same way I write up short reviews of books on Goodreads. Problem is, I've never been able to find a satisfactory Goodreads-for-movies. Last time I searched, I ended up starting research on how I'd go about building my own.

(The answer is, with great difficulty. I don't have the knowledge or the skills and I particularly don't have the willpower necessary to put in the time to gain the knowledge and the skills.)

I did another hunt today and ended up creating accounts to further investigate:
  • DVDCrate - makes a bad first impression with a random error prominently displayed on the main page; I suspect something wrong with a database query. Still, I'm easy, so looked further, but when I create reviews there's no page which lists my reviews. This is kind of a basic feature.
  • DVD Aficionado - pretty but clunky. DVDs can only be in one collection at a time (eg it can be 'owned' or 'watched', but not both!). Again you can review items but there's no apparent listing of one's reviews.
  • FilmCrave - looked decent considering the advertising and let me have my preferred password with non 0-9a-zA-Z characters. Allowed multiple custom lists to be created and lists all my reviews in one place; on the downside, I couldn't find an RSS feed for that list, the user interface is... frankly bizarre, I was automatically friended by the founder, which fine, but this made his face appear on the friends area of my profile without recourse; plus did I mention the advertising.
  • Criticker - lets you create 'private lists' which can be used as tags, lists all reviews in one place and has an rss feed for them (though the item titles are ugly as heck). Downsides: terrible ads and reviews can only be up to 500 characters long.
  • Oh, and iheartmovies.com which looks like it'd be exactly what I want if the website was actually up and running.
In the end I went with Criticker. But that 500-character limit is really going to bug me. It's almost tempting to just create a Dreamwidth account just for movie reviews. It's almost tempting to go back to researching how to build my own Goodreads-for-movies.

Mental reminder: I do not have the skills. I do not have the willpower to sustain my interest long enough to gain the skills. Most importantly of all, I do not have the data.

--Oh dear. I just googled "open movie data" and discovered TMDb, "a free and open movie database" with an open API. (None of the services currently using it do what I want.)

Mental reminder: I do not have the skills. I do not have the willpower to sustain my interest long enough to gain the skills....
zeborah: Zebra against a barcode background, walking on the word READ (books)
I saw the eclipse for about a second between coming out of the movie and the clouds covering it. It looked more or less like a crescent moon. Ah well, maybe next time.

Dawn Treader was a bit of a curate's egg. If you think movies should follow the plot of the book then you'll hate it. If you think movies should follow the plot of the book to the extent practical for a completely different medium then you'll be highly frustrated with it. If you think movies should make up what-the-hell-ever plot they feel like to structure what was already a perfectly good story in its own right, just as long as they keep a few of the major set pieces, then you'll be cool with it.

And if you think Georgie Henley would look adorable wearing Narnian trousers, run don't walk, because she really really does.

Changes between book and movie constitute spoilers for both )

Anyway, on balance, despite the moments I wanted to kill it with fire, some of which were rather long moments, I think I more or less liked it. Definitely more than I liked the movie of Prince Caspian.

The Problem of Susan
Susan's problem is not lipstick and nylons.

Susan's problem is that she can't balance two worlds in her mind at once.

When she's in our world, she finds it hard to believe in Narnia. And when she's in Narnia she finds it hard to believe in our world (see eg the end of Lion/Witch/Wardrobe). She's an intensely practical, here-and-now girl/woman. And for a Queen of Narnia, this is a weakness which she hasn't yet learned to overcome.

I don't believe that means she'll never overcome it. I think when she does overcome it, then she'll be able to believe in Aslan's new world of The Last Battle and, ultimately, be reunited there with her family.

In the meantime certainly life is going to suck for her. Life sucks for a lot of people in the real world, and sucks for a lot of people in Narnia too. I don't have any answers for why Aslan lets life suck for people. All I know is that Susan isn't being singled out here. And she's definitely not being singled out because of lipstick and nylons.
zeborah: Vuvuzela concert: This is serious art. (art)
This was going to be a pseudo-review of Till the Clouds Roll By (1946) but I got distracted in the middle.

So it turns out I can be tricked into watching a biopic if a) I don't even know it's a biopic because it's about someone I never heard of and b) it's free (both libre and gratuit) on the internet and c) it's full of songs and d) I can look things up on Wikipedia during the boring bits.

Because face it, it's taken a while for movies and tv to ratchet up to their current fast pacing. Watching Old Who, for example, is an exercise in alternating hilarity and impatience. "The Leisure Hive" in particular starts with this really slow pan across a windy beach. We see a couple of deck chairs, and then the back of a tent. And when I say slow I mean it. For six seconds we see nothing but the back of the tent, and then finally we emerge to some more deck chairs and then just when you think we're going to see something interesting we're panning across the back of another tent. Five seconds, and remember these are only the seconds where there's nothing in the frame but the back of a tent - if you count from when we first see it to when we can't anymore it's eighteen seconds. So, finally we see more deck chairs. And we keep panning, and we keep panning, and then we reach -- a third tent. This one we escape a little more quickly and there's the sound of snoring, so I'm thinking something's about to happen, maybe in the next deck chair? The next? What about this one? Or maybe-- Noooo, not another tent!!!!

I don't use multiple exclamation marks lightly, people. The opening credits faded onto the beach at about 00:35 (the cross-dissolve takes a couple of seconds itself) and we don't see the Doctor until--

Um, this is embarrassing! I forgot to mention that right after tent number four we actually get treated to tent number five. And then we see the TARDIS (at 02:08), and then the Doctor snoozing (02:13) but the camera mocks us by coming to a rest with the corner of tent number six just in frame. So it takes well over a minute and a half just to pan across the beach, and I... I'm pretty sure that in 1980 this coyness must have been the height of comedy because otherwise why would you bother? Please someone tell me this was funny at one stage.

Which reminds me I watched Charlie Chaplin's The Rink (1917) a few months ago. Again, I'm pretty sure it was meant to be funny because I gather Chaplin was known for being quite a card, but I was sitting there watching it thinking, "Wow, how fascinating that some ancient human civilisation used to watch things like this for entertainment. I suppose that guy's caricaturised black eye makeup had some tremendous cultural significance at the time; I wonder what it was."

Anyway, back to Till the Clouds Roll By. It's a pretty straightforward plot, if "plot" is the right word. There's this songwriter, and he's having a hard time breaking onto the stage. He gets a mentor, he goes to England because English stuff's all they're buying, he falls in love, show business continues to be hard, he breaks onto the stage, he gets married, his mentor's daughter disappears, his mentor dies so he goes into a funk, someone finds his mentor's daughter for him so suddenly he's out of the funk, he writes stuff with Hammerstein (I've heard of Hammerstein!), his stuff gets produced at Hollywood sung by his mentor's daughter, the end. --By the way, the mentor and the daughter were invented for the biopic; this guy must have had a really boring life.

I actually started watching it a year or so ago and fell asleep half an hour in. But today I started watching it on my iPod when I was waiting in the takeaway shop with nothing else to do, and the songs were pretty good. I particularly liked Lena Horne's "Can't Help Loving That Man", and then later at a boring spot I looked up her bio and... in case I'm not the only person who did not know this let me quote:

"[She] was never featured in a leading role because of her race and the fact that films featuring her had to be re-edited for showing in states where theaters could not show films with black performers."

"Horne wanted to be considered for the role of Julie LaVerne in MGM's 1951 version of Show Boat (having already played the role when a segment of Show Boat was performed in Till the Clouds Roll By) but lost the part to Ava Gardner, a personal friend in real life, due to the Production Code's ban on interracial relationships in films."

I think it might be possible to trick me into watching a biopic about Lena Horne by saying, "Hey, Zeborah, this is a biopic about Lena Horne."
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
When reporter Ewan McGregor's wife leaves him for his boss, he decides to prove himself by travelling to Iraq to report on contractors. Unfortunately getting out of his 5-star Kuwaiti hotel across the border turns out to be harder than he thought, until he meets George Clooney, the best of The Men Who Stare At Goats. Clooney takes McGregor on his secret mission into Iraq while narrating the history of the US Army's experiments with psychic powers during which he has been trained as a Jedi monk - demonstrating along the way his powers of sparkle-eyes, cloud-bursting, psychic martial arts, etc.

Utter madcap wondiferous nonsense.
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
Murder by Death - A friend recommended this but I gave up on it after about five minutes due to a) really horrible yellow-face that was destined to continue, and b) something I've just dubbed "hammer humour": comedy as a series of staccato one-liners, most of which miss their mark and hit your thumb instead.

A Midsummer Night's Dream - I really liked David Strathairn as Theseus but the highlight was Calista Flockhart playing a Helena as deranged as Ophelia: it's quite awesome.

Alas, everything aside from the main four characters is dead boring. The director keeps dragging out scenes that do nothing but show off how many extras, props, and make-up artists he could afford. (He's particularly fond of bikes, though admittedly Demetrius getting a flat tire explains why he can't outrun Helena.) And then for some reason he tries to make the play all about Bottom, starting with Bottom fleeing from his scolding wife, then ramping up his pathos in wanting a meaty role and the tension of whether their play will be a success, and finally lingering on Bottom trying wistfully to remember the details of his 'dream' night with Titania.

Lingering doesn't work in a Midsummer Night's Dream. Do you know why it includes four distinct plots? It's because not a single one of them is worth anything by itself as a story. So you've got to run them all one past the other pell-mell in such a rush that the audience doesn't have time to notice this.

Also, when Puck says
If we shadows have offended
Think but this and all is mended
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear
the viewer shouldn't be giggling at the thought that while Oberon and Titania were making up she actually did fall asleep.

On the plus side, it does give some fodder to my old vague idea of writing a story about the downsides of love potions.
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
So I spent Thursday and Friday moving books, partly so as not to think too much about staffing issues, partly because we have to move every book in the library and some of them twice. --Some of them three times, for that matter.

It turns out that when you spend an hour at a time, a few times a day, moving books from shelf to trolley and taking the lift upstairs, then moving books from trolley to shelf and taking the lift downstairs, then you get
  • tired,
  • dizzy,
  • confused about whether you should be pushing for level 2 or level 3,
  • and occasionally panicked: This is level 2! What am I doing here? I should be on level 3! Why am I on level 2? Think, Zeborah, think: my trolley's empty, so that means I need to be picking up books, so whew, I guess level 2's correct after all.
Talking with colleagues confirmed that it wasn't just me on any count.

Anyway, I'm going to library conference on Monday, and giving two presentations there on Tuesday, so my plan on Friday night was to boil a heck of a lot of rice, eat a big dinner, watch a movie, go to bed, and work on the presentations in the weekend (with leftover rice for a meal somewhere there).

It started going wrong when I ate all the rice at once, leaving no leftovers at all. The movies were good though. Fire over England ("This recording is protected by copyright" - oh no it's not! public domain, mate. Public domain.) is one I'd watched before - personally Queen Elizabeth bores me in it, but when Our Hero goes back to Spain as an undercover agent, there's some stuff that really hits the spot for me. Old movies can be slow, but they can show some startling subtlety of motivation too, which is too often neglected nowadays. And lines like:
The whole trouble comes from treating your enemies like human beings. Don't you see, my dear, that if you do that, they cease to be enemies? Think what that leads to! It's the end of patriotism. It's the end of war. It's the end of... of everything! Now do you see?
When I finished watching that, I thought I'd watch the next one on the DVD, Angel on my Shoulder. The first few minutes bored me but when I looked up again it was set in Hell, and it piqued my interest, and then we met the Devil and he rocked. The plot's a fairly predictable "Mobster makes deal with the devil but the love of a good woman turns him to the side of good," but the mobster/devil interactions are awesomesauce, and the love interest, despite being the eponymous-but-figurative angel, displays sense and spunk at an opportune moment, and then (spoiler in white space) when the mobster makes the ultimate sacrifice of returning to hell so more deserving folk can have a happy life, instead of the writers deciding that this sacrifice exempts him from hell, and sending him up in a cloud of white, yadda yadda -- which should totally happen, but I don't care, because how they ended it was way cooler: on the way back down to hell, the Devil is promising to torture him worse than ever, and he's blackmailing the Devil right back: "Oh no you won't, or I tell everyone down there what a fool you made of yourself."(end spoiler)

But to get to my title. I eventually go to bed. And I sleep well. And I dream that I'm revising two books, and I realise that actually the story I want to tell would work fine as a short story - new guy arrives on spaceship, confrontation scene with captain about how he's really there to investigate his father's murder, a bit of investigation, then there's the song that only the murderer could have known (in real life it's the song from Fire Over England but in the dream it wouldn't have been) and various other very vivid things happened which I've now forgotten because the important thing is that I then woke up and thought, Damn! Because I knew which novels they were, and though this short story is actually a different story it could totally be in the same universe, and unlike most dream-stories it actually is a story, especially with some tweaking, and while I'm at it I'll make it a woman investigating her mother's murder instead, and ooh I could do this, and that, and I want to write this right now!

--But I can't, because I have to spend the weekend preparing for two presentations on Tuesday.

Le head-desk.


A day and a half later, I've managed to get the slideshows ready so now just need to rehearse the speaking side of things some more, and I've managed to squeeze in enough time to write several hundred words of the story. It's probably going to be all but unrecognisable from the dream, but I'll know it's the same story really.

Still waiting for my sense of balance to recover from Friday.
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
Linguistic anachronisms aside...Read more... )

All in all I enjoyed it, possibly even more than tLtW&tW (of which I retain a fondness for the Blitz scene at the start).
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
I had an urge to watch "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat" earlier this afternoon, which is a shame, because it's astoundingly bad, and this particular production of it made it about ten times worse than it needed to be. Every single event which could have been dramatised was instead narrated in rather boring song.

The reason for the narrator's existence was probably because without her there'd have been no significant female presence in the show at all, but it means that even the seduction scene gets narrated over the top of Potiphar's wife sitting and looking passively evil. (She doesn't even cry rape; Potiphar bursts in on them!) All the other women bit-part characters are there to show a bit of leg (preferably a lot of leg) in some random dance sequence or other. Rachel's role is to seduce her husband and secondarily to weep over Joseph's coat.

I did like the black and white theme of Potiphar's household; very stylish. Pharoah's Elvis-style dream retelling wasn't bad; I quite liked the fact that they didn't draw particular attention to the fact that he was wearing blue shoes.... The rest of the show I remember little about, except that so much time was wasted on interminable random dance sequences that they had to miss out the whole thing where Joseph sent his brothers home to get Benjamin. OTOH by this time I was just waiting for it to finish.

At the mall I remembered I also have "Joseph: King of Dreams", which was a weak attempt at cashing in on "Moses: Prince of Egypt", but still far superior to "Dreamcoat". Joseph's dreams were all Van Gogh-style. It made an attempt to show what an up-himself git he was, but then did an about-face to make him actually be yearning to hang out with his brothers.

I think Jacob's first wife Leah and his concubines were tied up behind a tent somewhere so he could seem wholesomely monogamous with Rachel; Rachel gets a scene where she sings sweet motherly words of wisdom to her son, essentially "Make up with your brothers". (Later Joseph meets and marries a woman who sings on the same theme using the same tune and chorus.) Making Potiphar's wife repent of lying was an... interesting choice.

When Joseph's brothers come, he does remember to imprison one and send the others back for Benjamin, which is a particular feat given that until this moment whenever we've seen the brothers together (or Joseph's painting of home) there've only been ten brothers plus Joseph. (Yes, I kept pausing to count.) And towards the end I'm fairly sure someone said Joseph was the youngest brother.... But despite this and the generally Hallmark-ified song lyrics, it was a decent antidote for "Dreamcoat".
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
It is interesting to compare (on a purely hypothetical note) the experiences, watching a DVD, of two classes of people:

a) the law-abiding folk, who are forced to endure "DVD piracy aids terrorists and makes the Baby Jesus cry" segments before they can get to the main feature; and

b) the pirates, who get to skip the punishment by using evil evil terrorist-aiding technology.

(This technology is also useful in allowing one to watch a region 1 DVD borrowed from the library when one's DVD player is locked to region 4 and one's laptop is locked to region 2; and it would also be useful in the exercise of one's fair use rights; but using the technology in these ways may still be illegal in one's jurisdiction even when the Copyright (New Technologies) Act comes into force, because while TPTB want to bring the law into line with modern technologies, they don't mean *really* modern technologies like video.)

While I'm here, random movie reviews:
  • Tristram Shandy: Different from what I'd first hoped, much better than what I next feared, and has actually made me want to read the book which I put down after a few pages some years ago. I admit I got briefly distracted by a) that guy from Black Books and b) that woman who... argh, I've seen her before... she did that husky whisper thing then too... I know it, I know it... oh! the BBC modernisation of Taming of the Shrew. (Which, incidentally, was brilliant and I think I've seen actual legal versions of it on sale somewhere, must remember to investigate.)
  • The best version of Robin Hood ever is "Men in Tights". At least the second half of it; I failed to record the first half (time-shifting is legal even if format-shifting isn't) but ISTR from my childhood that the first half was more or less of the same cracktastic quality.
  • The Other Boleyn Girl (2003): When casting for Anne Boleyn, consider hiring someone with more charisma than a goldfish. I quite liked the dialogue, though.


zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)

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