Good Omens, the video version, a review

There is no question that the savior of this ‘series’ is the fact Neil Gaiman himself pounded the keyboard to turn out the script. Anyone else would have mucked it up horribly. If you’ve read the book you know turning it into a video production was a tall order; it’s difficult to get all the nuances available in print on to the screen. For the most part this Amazon production has to be called a success.

So let’s get nasty and find the faults, shall we?

First of all there is the modern failing of going a bit overboard with the special effects. This seems to be something producers simply can’t stop themselves from doing. It’s bad enough when working with a show that’s basically dross anyway, but when you use it to damage an excellent story you’re guilty of narrative crime that should earn you eternity in cinematic hell. Fortunately this is really only very bad at the very end. But it is bad.

The second biggest problem is in some of the casting. I hate to say it, but there’s a pretty obvious helping of political-correctness in filling some of the parts. It’s like some overly sensitive casting directed said “ooh! We need another black woman in here to show how modern and liberal we are”. Gods dammit, I’m a liberal and this was just hitting me in the brain like a pitchfork. Read the damn book and accept that sometimes characters are white males, okay? In fact in some instances they seem to have women trying to play men. It’s particularly funny when they’re being demons as they utterly fail to pull it off. Men are simply more naturally demonic. Try arguing with that.

Most of the casting is at least acceptable if not absolutely spot-on. A bit of the directing of the main characters was overdone, and they should have let the actors have their lead there; they know their craft well enough. Look at David Tenant’s ‘snake walking’. Subtle. Sam Taylor Buck is perfect as Adam, although Amma Ris as Pepper is a casting error. She pulls it off, but the Them are supposed to mirror the Horsemen and they don’t. They could have changed War to be like Pepper, but they got War perfect to the book to begin with. The other two aren’t even given a chance to demonstrate much personality at all. More time should have been spent building the characters of Brian and Wensleydale so the audience would empathize with them, and so that the characters were mirror their appropriate opposites. They could have cut out some special effects to fit this in.

As far as the Horsemen are concerned, War started out perfect, Famine was entirely believable (well-played by a black man – they could have made his counterpart, Wensleydale, a black boy to keep the mirror thing going), and Pollution was weird – not well-cast or played. I suspect the actress spent her whole time wondering what the hells she was doing there. Death was a giant disaster; badly depicted and poorly voiced. I could have done better myself, frankly. The fact they changed these characters’ appearances toward the end was also a mistake; there was no reason to do it.

Two of the oddest bits of miscasting are … the dog and the car. How’s that for failing to get it right? The dog (Dog) should have started out as a larger breed before fitting to Adam’s plan. As-was it was bad special effects that didn’t look believable. Afterward he was just okay. I understand from the ‘liner notes’ that the Bentley was switched to a 1934 model to get the “right look”. Well it isn’t right at all. You could see Crowley driving a 1929 4 1/2 Litre or Super Six, but not the luxury saloon depicted. It just doesn’t make sense for the character.

On the whole the demons come off more realistic than the angels. Good heavens they should have made some sensible behavioral distinction between the two. Angels would have been simple and good and confused, rather like Aziraphale. Gabriel almost made it, up until the end when they ruined his character with a single inappropriate word.

Overall the scenes and pacing work, except where they get confused about whether this is a serial (it is) or a movie (it isn’t) and the tossed-in flashbacks, although not excessive, do nothing for the narrative. It would have worked better as a long movie rather than a miniseries. Or they could have spent more time on scenes important to the story and less on superfluous special effects that add nothing. Although I quite liked the lizard on Ligur’s head. Very fashionable. It will probably catch on in popular culture.

One of the best bits is the title sequence, of all things. Some slightly silly and simplistic animation set to what I believe is a musical style known as “La Folia” (reminiscent of a piece in The Addams Family movie) which roughly mirrors the story elements and just seems suitable. Like a comic version of an Edward Gorey work.

It’s nice to note Mr. Gaiman tied up some loose ends for us that the book doesn’t, and he did it in the style of the original. “You know what to do; do it with style!” say Crowley, and he did.

On the whole it’s quite a good, entertaining watch. I think Mr. Pratchett would have been pleased. I’m not sure the same can be said for the other attempts at bringing his works to the screen.

(Note: I’ve taken pains to leave out a lot of detail that might spoil it for viewers, and in doing so I’ve left out a few issues that should be commented on. But as no one is paying me for a professional opinion, bugger it.)

Addendum: as of this writing it’s available for “pre-order” on DVD from Amazon, but at a rather substantial price. Although I might buy it one day, not for almost $30. It’s good, but not that good.

Formats, framing, and the psychology of aesthetics

Disclaimer: this is not a scholarly treatise. No one is paying me to write this, so no extensive research is being done to produce it. Other than interrogating my own failing memory. More than 50 years of photographic experience and prior historical learning is all I’ve got to base any of this on. If you want more, look it up yourself. And good luck to you.

Quite a number of people, especially those venturing into film photography for the first time, find themselves wondering about how the standards for image sizes were arrived at. Was there logic behind it? Reasoning? Or purely arbitrary decision making? The answer is a bit of all three, and then some. The best way to examine this is by dividing the issue into two parts: the technological and the biological.

To start with let’s look at the general history of photography and what influence that had. The first photographs were made on glass plates covered with liquid emulsion. It was messy and difficult (says the man who did some experiments) and the size of the plates were determined by two factors: a need to get as large a picture as possible to preserve detail and the limitations of the existing glass-producing technology. Probably everyone reading this is too young to have ever heard the terms “full plate camera” and “half plate camera” but those were the beginnings. In those days (19th century) making large plates of glass was not easy, both from manufacturing and handling points of view. So here we start with 8″ by 10″ plates, and we recognize those beginnings in the 8×10 print sizes still standard today.

DadDad and his Cycle Poco “full plate” view camera

Now if you’ve done any darkroom work yourself or even just looked through the frames available at the local store you’ll see some other “standard” sizes, and begin to wonder how we got there. Okay, cut an 8×10 in half and you get … 5×7? What? Where did that inch go? Well we do (or did) have 4×5 inch (“quarter plate”) negatives and prints, so that makes sense. But 5×7 doesn’t. This is obviously a case of some arbitrary intrusion by someone saying “that doesn’t look right” and lopping off another inch.

Of course 5×7 cuts down to 3 ½ x 5 quite nicely. On the other end of the spectrum we have the obvious 16×20 quadrupling of the 8×10, but also the inexplicable 11×14 multiple of the 5×7. Uh, where did that extra inch come from on the 11 side? Must be what they cut off from the 8 to make the 7, eh? *LOL* I suspect another “doesn’t look right” intrusion, myself.

Yet these print sizes, when looked at as ratios, don’t always align with negative sizes. “Standard” film formats include 2 ¼ x 2 ¼, 2 ¼ x 3 ¼, 4 x 5, et cetera. Not to mention numerous ‘oddball’ roll film dimensions, including good ol’ 122 “postcard” size (which literally was created to make contact-print postcard images). Never mind the sub-miniature formats created for specialized purposes, like the Minox 9.5 cm rolls. (Brief note here: not all film is measured in Imperial; 6×9 cm and 9×12 cm were standard European formats for sheet film, for example.)


Minox B image by David Bruce via Camera-Wiki

Let’s take a side trip to the realm of 35 mm. As you know this was straight out of the world of cinema. What you probably didn’t know is that the so-called “half frame” 35s, such as the Olympus Pen series, are actually single frame; the size originally used for movie making. The 24 x 36 mm format now standard in still cameras is actually double frame. Here’s some more trivia: Kodak promoted a roll film size 828 for awhile which was basically 35 mm without the cog holes but with a paper backing. Their intent was to promote ‘professional grade’ photography for amateurs. Frankly some of the cameras they produced for this (look up Kodak Bantam) were quite good. Others (Kodak Pony) not so much so. But the amateur market took a liking to 127 instead, and 828 failed.

Ratios! It’s all about ratios. 8×10 is 1:1.25. 5×7 is 1:1.4. Yet if we look at the negatives we get 2 ¼ x 2 ¼ being 1:1 and 2 ¼ x 3 ¼ being 1:1.44 – pretty close to 5×7 – and 4 x 5 being 1:1.25 (same as 8×10). Why the occasional odd-man-out? In some cases it’s because a manufacturer had a specific goal in mind. In others it’s a mathematical fallout: 120-220-620 roll film is all basically the same but with different spool types and film lengths. However if you play games with the format it can produce eight pictures of one size or twelve pictures of a smaller size or even sixteen if you shrink the format even more. This can be marketed: same film, more photos! It was done extensively with cheap 127 cameras where you rolled the number first to the ‘A’ window, took a snap, and then rolled the same number to the ‘B’ window for the next shot. I also had a box camera, Agfa Shur Shot, which used 120 film and could be switched between ½ frame and full frame before loading the film by means of hinged ‘masks’ which blocked off part of the film plane.

How about a side note on 127 film? Have you ever seen a Yashica 44? Maybe a Sawyers or Nomad TLR? These little marvels shot square on 127 film, and if you could get your hands on some 127 Ektachrome (yes, they made it) you could make some “super slides“! They fit in the same 2×2 slide holders as 35 mm, but almost the entire space was image. This made for a spectacular interruption in your show, interspersed with the standard images. Unfortunately they were more fragile with their very large film area, and the heat of the lamps would bend them badly. Not much cardboard around the edges to keep them stiff.


Yashica 44 image by Voxphoto via Camera-Wiki

Okay back to ratios. Single 35 mm is 24×18 or 1.33:1. Double (or ‘normal’ now) is 24×36 or 1:1.5. Neither of these matches exactly with any of the old standard print sizes. It wasn’t until the 1970s when Kodak realized there were a lot of 35 mm shooters out there and began offering the 4×6 prints that gave you the full frame. Until then, and even now in most cases, something gets cropped.

You’re waiting for the biology part, aren’t you? Well here it comes. Part biology and part resultant psychology. Our wonderful stereoscopic full-colour vision gives us the ability to see the world better than any other animal. Oh I know people talk about having “eagle-eye vision” and they imagine flies see dozens of multiples of the same thing (they don’t; it would be useless to) and that dogs see in black and white (also wrong). How much anatomy do I have to explain here? Rods and cones? Stereoscopic depth-perception in predators vs. panoramic vision in prey? Colour perception as a means of identifying food and mates? Multi-lens vision for creatures too small to have eye muscles? Let’s just say our human vision gives us the best compromise of everything.

What it also gives us is rectangular perception of the world. Two eyes side-by-side inevitably means we see more on the horizontal than on the vertical. Now don’t go and hurt yourself trying to determine just how far your peripheral vision goes in each direction. Leave that to the professionals. Er, the determining not the hurting. The fact is we look at the world as a rectangle, and this shapes our aesthetic perceptions. I remember reading (in psychology – don’t ask) about the “ideal pleasing ratio” our minds are ‘programmed’ with. It tends to be 1:1.6. This is probably the vertical:horizontal aspect of human vision, I don’t know. But if you look around you will see we are creatures of rectangles, from our own general shape to the houses we build to the things we fill them with.

This filters down into the choices we make in reproducing our world in images. It’s why we have a natural tendency to choose rectangular formats for pictures, be they drawings or paintings or photographs. Some of you have just said “oh yeah? Explain why square images sometimes look better, then!” Okay, I will. It’s art. Sometime the purpose of art is to step outside the ordinary and wake up the mind. Things that are what we are used to seeing blend into the background. If you frame them differently the mind detects something “out of the ordinary” and pays more attention to it. You can duplicate this by putting a frame, rectangular or square, around anything; it suddenly stands out more, even if it’s a section of blank wall. Helpful hint: being able to see this effect in your mind’s eye will give you more insight in composing your pictures; you don’t have to fall for the movie-making cliché of using your hands to actually form the frame.

That said, sometimes the wrong rectangle irks us. When you’re fixing up a photo that wasn’t framed well to begin with watch out for that ‘just wrong’ ratio. It’s not always a case of “too wide” or “too tall” either. It’s more often a case of not being blatantly square or blatantly rectangular that makes it look odd to our minds. It seems we need at least a 25% differential to be ‘happy’ with the result, and square needs to be less than 5% different to be accepted.

One last historic note: the Universal Camera Company tried mightily to kick Eastman Kodak’s dominance of the film format dictum. They made their own sizes, such as ’00’, which were not simply different names for the same size (as some other companies did). They failed. Not because they made poor cameras, but because they were already up against a juggernaut. Curiously Kodak managed to fail themselves on new film formats that the public wouldn’t buy into. The Disc cameras, for example. They started out with very fine quality given the size of the negative, but in the end the quality went down and the public turned away. This was before the advent of digital cameras that ultimately proved the downfall of the company. They did not adapt quickly enough, in my opinion.

DSCN1376Universal Camera Univex AF which uses ’00’ film

Now on to digital. Here we have to introduce new influences. Influences that come from the world of … television! Yes, and curiously it starts with the limitations of glass making picture tubes ‘square’ (round, in fact) back in the early days of the cathode ray tube. Inject the ‘letter-boxing’, cropping, or ‘scan-and-pan’ of widescreen theater movies being shown later on TV and the industry desire to present the whole. Throw in the original computer screens with their 40 character displays. Stir well, and demand better. As with digital cameras, LED displays lack the limitations of primitive glass technology. Now we can make the format what we want: big enough to see Todd-AO movies! And now a whole new generation of arbitrary decision makers will adjust our aspect ratios.

My advice is to ignore them, and go with what you like the look of. Try different formats certainly, but always remember the end result should reflect the creator’s vision – and that means you.

Movies on Monday

Now we’re into the films that start with “The”, so I’m leaving that word off.

Addams Family: An excellent representation of Charles Addams original cartoon series. There aren’t any flaws. The plot is sound, the acting top-notch, and the direction fluid. It fits from beginning to end. The sequel, Addams Family Values, is not as good because the script is contrived. They made some further attempts after the untimely death of Raul Julia but they were not so good either. He really knew how to play Gomez!

African Queen: Full of flaws and no one cares. A tour de force of Hepburn and Bogart that shows two actors can carry an entire movie if they’re good enough. You can’t help but like it.

Fifth Element: Possibly the only good film Bruce Willis ever made, certainly the best. Mistakes? Who can tell? The scenes and dialog zip along and carry you with them. It has all the elements (pun not intended) of a great movie; action, romance, and comedy balanced together. Hmm. Maybe I should come up with two more elements? How about suspense and … settings? Cinematography? Scenery? Whatever, it has it all. The only real let down is the paradox of Ruby Rod character; supposed to be sexy to women but acts like a camp stereotype. Bit of a letdown there. The talent of the bit-part players makes up for it. Some of them have almost no lines and still manage to take the stage with what they’ve got.

Good, Bad, and Ugly: Okay, you see what I did there. Anyway, this is a film so bad you can’t help but like it. It drags on, has too much interwoven and recursive plot elements, and generally would be trash due to horrendously awful directing and writing. What saves is is three great actors making their characters people you don’t want to miss. Eli Wallach steals the film, Lee Van Cleef shows again he is always under-rated, and Clint Eastwood only manages third place – that’s how good they are.

Incredibles: Surprised? You shouldn’t be. The behind-the-scenes look at how this film was made will make you so; it’s a wonder they managed to produce anything, never mind what will undoubtedly be an animation classic. The plot is fantastic, the CGI some of the best (cartoon without being silly about it), and the performances of both the voice actors and animators is superb. I love the 1960s styling and MCM decor along with the almost recognizable cars; it is this attention to the small, seemingly insignificant details that make it perfect. Brad Bird is to be congratulated. I doubt he will ever do anything better (have not seen the sequel and don’t want to for fear of disappointment).

Italian Job (1969): Screw the remake, it should never have been attempted. This is the original and it will always be best. What’s not to like? A group of bad guys steeling gold and staving off another group of bad guys. Michael Caine shines and none of his co-stars lag far behind him. Benny Hill’s character seems superfluous and evidently added for some easy jokes, and I feel sorry for Harry Baird (Big William) as the fault is hung on him at the end. Not fair. Nor am I entirely happy with the ending, but I suppose they were either morally obliged – or planning a sequel. Whatever. Watch it.

Lion In Winter: Oh dear, someone did not like Henry II and his family did they? No matter; as historically incorrect and inept as it is it’s a fun watch. Everyone is no good and out to prove it as hard as they can. Peter O’Toole, Katherine Hepburn … who else do you need after that? I guess this is a ‘home movie’ for me because of being about some of my ancestors. Fun to watch.

Man Who Would Be King: Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Christopher Plummer, and story by Rudyard Kippling. Well that covers it. This is the adventure film, folks; everything else is a pale imitation.

Music Man: Forget all the other versions of it, this is perfection. Silly, fun, visually spectacular, and sung at its best. Rapid-fire repertoire and even sight gags for the hard-of-humour crowd. A special note to the very young Monique Vermont who has the unenviable task of singing a part duet with the fantastic Shirley Jones; something no child should have to try.

Phantom of the Opera: The Andrew Lloyd-Weber musical, that is. Here is an opportunity to do such great things. Pity it has some killing flaws. Okay, we can forgive the second-rate voices; they are good enough. Meg, played by Jennifer Ellison, actually sings better than Christine (Emmy Rossum). On the whole they all do fine, but for some reason certain lines that should be sung are spoken. Worse, some lines are changed for no good reason. There is a plot re-arrangement that works, and some plot elements that do not. And then there are the effects. Problem #1 is the lack of a disfigured phantom with 3/4 face mask. Why? It’s not like the actor would have to endure the full makeup for the whole shoot; only for the reveal scenes. Vanity, perhaps? Problem #2 is over-use of the fantastic colour vs. B&W effect (the midway scene doesn’t work). Problem #3 the changed words and unsung lines. Problem #4 deleted segments in favour of unnecessary additions. It could have been utterly fantastic but they did these handful of mistakes which grate across the nerves. Maybe turn the sound off and watch it while listening to a recording of the stage play.

Princess Bride: If you do not know this is a classic you have either been living under a rock for forty years or have no functioning brain cells. There are no flaws. None.

Ten Commandments (1956): Oh, gawds. The story is loosely based on The Bible, but there’s a lot of assumption going on. Visually spectacular, you might want to watch it with the sound off. The writing is … can’t think of any nice way of putting it. No good. Like a bad play performed by amateur hams. Direction shows Mr. DeMille was already dying. The sets and costumes are wonderful, and about as historically accurate as a politician’s account of how he came to be in that motel room with the hooker. Yule Brenner gets best actor nod here, followed by Cedric Hardwicke and then Edward G. Robinson. The others are doing high school drama club performances, and it’s a shame because most of them are capable of much better.

Time Machine (1960): They remade this. I guess they were desperate. Not a great movie but an amusing watch which has led to numerous ‘in jokes’ for sci-fi everywhere. H.G. Wells and Jules Verne invented Steam Punk, by the way.

Wizard of Oz: This is a love/hate movie. Not and either/or, but both together. It has its moments for sure. But don’t expect it to be fantastic in any way. Even the colour scenery isn’t that grand, and some of it is … lacking in sensible explanation in the context.

White Christmas: You see what I did? Right from ‘the Wizard of Oz’ to ‘White Christmas’ in one leap. Anyway, this is another one full of plot holes but who cares? It’s about the songs and the dancing. The story line could have been done better, but you’ve got four pretty good performers to watch almost always and some good gags as well. Nice Christmas tradition even if your tradition isn’t Christmas.

That’s not all, Folks!

But it is the highlights of my movie collection at the moment. There will be more as I get them, and maybe if enough new ones pile up I’ll do this again. For now I’m thinking of making an attack on some of the horrible things I’ve seen. But perhaps I don’t want to remember them.




More Monday Movie

So last time I left off with a link to the famous Kelly’s Heroes review. Let’s pick up from there.

Mamma Mia: Well now who would believe you could take a string of hit songs from one band a build a movie around it? Of course in a way it’s been done before, but not very well (The Beatles movies). Is this the one that works? In a word, yes. It has its faults, but they can be overlooked. One of the big helps is having Benny Anderson fiddling the music as-needed; nothing like going back to the source to keep the flavour. The directing is fine, the setting enjoyable, the plot pretty fair. Almost all of the acting is top-notch: this is in fact the only Maryl Streep performance I like. Christine Baranski is her usual over-the-top stereotype character that is irresistible. Young Amanda Seyfried not only acts well but can sing wonderfully too. The only singing that does fall down is Pierce Brosnan, who frankly is terrible and should have been dubbed. The ending is a bit hurry-up and contrived, but mostly you watch for the comedy and the songs and you won’t be disappointed.

Much Ado About Nothing: This Kenneth Branagh production is terrific. Oh some people will have trouble with the Shakespearian English and may not grasp the plot and setting. Don’t try too hard is my advice. The jokes are there, the tragedy is inconsequential and exists mainly to set up more jokes, and the acting is top class at every point. Even Michael Keaton’s over-done Dogberry is perfect in its form (it helps relieve the tragedy). Branagh himself delivers some of the best bits of performance, especially in concert with his then-wife Emma Thompson. The ‘revelation’ scenes they each do are worth it for their moment-of-shock looks. Devise brave punishments for any who say otherwise!

My Fair Lady: If there is a flaw here I can’t find it, and I’ve seen it many times. Some may fault Rex Harrison’s ‘lack’ of singing, but I tell you he does it better the way he does than Pierce Brosnan manages in Mamma Mia. The sets are visually spectacular, Stanley Halloway is golden, and Audrey Hepburn fantastic as usual. In fact every performance is grand, including all the supporting actors. Possibly the ‘freeze frame’ scene is a bit hokey, but imagine the work it required. Watch, enjoy, and hum the tunes afterward.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?: This may be the best movie ever made. Certainly the best from the Coen Brothers. You can debate if this is a musical if you want, really it isn’t; the music is an integral part of the story whereas most musicals are stories arranged to present the music. The acting is fantastic in every character, the directing excellent, the plot amusing as can be. Maybe you can argue about the sets and you’re blind if you don’t notice the plot holes (the timeline is whacky for one thing), but who cares? I do have to point out that there is a continuing flaw in info on this movie: Pete’s last name is NOT “Hogwallop”! For heaven’s sake, pay attention! “Pa always said ‘never trust a Hogwallop'” is unlikely to be uttered by one, now is it? And he apologizes for betraying his friends, blaming it on his “Hogwallop blood”. His cousin is a Hogwallop; Pete’s last name is NEVER GIVEN! Okay, rant over.

Paint Your Wagon: Much changed from the original book, I’m putting this in here as an example of a movie mistake. Take out the music and you’ve got a much better movie. Really.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl is an excellent movie in every way. You can’t not like it. You can hate people who nit-pick over the “goofs” in it because hey, they forgot to notice there’s no such thing as walking skeletons right? As for the sequels … they are just “milk the franchise” trash, often reusing the same jokes and scenarios but to no good end.

Shrek: Surprised? You shouldn’t be. The original movie is a great spoof of fairy tales (and a lot of other things). The subsequent issues are more “milking the franchise” than anything. But really …

Spartacus (1960): This is actually a great movie. A bit long and tedious in parts, and with a few flaws – but ones that can be forgiven. The worst is the drawn-out ending. The character of Crassus is not well written; you never really get a handle on what he’s about and it seems the writers didn’t either. That’s about the worst you can say for it, really. Except that it has been remade. I don’t even want to know about that one.

State Fair (1945): A simple musical comedy with some not-very-good music, ultra simplistic plot, and fair acting. Despite its D-grade production I like watching it. Maybe because it doesn’t try for being an epic. It certainly is better than the other versions of the same story, especially the 1962 one.

Until next Monday when I will go at a long list of films all of which start with the word “The”.


The Twisted Tale of Teri

A few weeks ago I finally got around to watching one of the movies I brought back with me from my Dad’s estate, Young Frankenstein staring Gene Wilder – and Teri Garr. She was quite a good actress with a great sense of humour and also good-looking in my opinion. I wondered whatever happened to her. Good ol’ Internet provided an answer.

It seems she stopped acting after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, which is a nasty disease that causes somewhat randomized symptoms that come and go and aren’t really the same in any two people. It’s all down to damage to the nerve coating which causes stimulation that “isn’t real” so to speak. The victim feels things that aren’t happening and has motor control problems such as double vision. The affliction can flare up, die down, come back, et cetera. Fatigue is the only thing mentioned as being an across-the-board indicator. There’s no definitive test for diagnosis either.

Hmm. That sounded somewhat familiar in fact. For eight years I’ve been going to one specialist after another complaining of similar symptoms. Most of the doctors were certain they knew what it was and ordered tests – which would then come up negative. They’d then get mad and dismiss me, passing me on to some other would-be genius who would insist they’d get to the bottom of it. And who then wouldn’t.

The last one, after much genetic testing that discovered only anomalies not linked to any known disorder, “closed my file” when she couldn’t categorize the problem. If you don’t understand it, just deny it right? Anyway I’m now up against a medical profession that doesn’t want to hear about it, and certainly doesn’t want any suggestions from a lay person who thinks he has some idea what it is and what tests can be done to indicate for or against it. What would they have to lose anyway? It’s not like they have to undergo the MRI to look for the lesions.

So a weird chance watching a movie and wondering about a performer in it has given me my best possible answer at the moment. It may be wrong. I’m willing to believe that. I’m not willing to believe there’s no problem, because I live with the apparently randomized symptoms every damn day – and they’re getting worse.

That nothing can be done about it doesn’t matter. As it is now with no known explanation nothing can be done about it either. That’s not relevant. What is relevant is that if I know what it actually is I can also know what to expect in progression and can plan ahead as is suitable. Also either way it looks as though that plan needs to be a fairly radical alteration of lifestyle as I’m already having significant problems doing the everyday things that allow for the one I’ve got now. If I’m going to not-so-slowly crumble I want to do it with as little pain and aggravation as possible.

More Movie Mentions

Thought I’d look through my little video collection and give a thumbs up to some of the more stellar editions. I know no one reads this so it doesn’t matter.

Amadeus: The first thing you have to understand is that this is fictional. Too many people think it is a historical documentary. It’s not. It’s an engaging story with a clever plot that is well written, directed, and acted all around. There are no weak performances here. Never mind the “flaws”; it’s entertainment and it has great Mozart music to boot. I think the oddest thing is that the maid seems to show the most sadness at Herr Mozart’s death.

Barabbass: You want to see a bad ‘biblical’ movie? This one is bad, but not so much so as to be unwatchable. The plot is a good idea, but it is so poorly executed as to be laughable. The directing is amateurish to the point of being idiotic. The writing nonsensical. It is obvious that any remake effort could only improve it. Anthony Quinn demonstrates his lack of talent to perfection, and both Jack Palance and Ernest Borgnine are wasted. It drags you through the mud (well, dust) and kicks you repeatedly with its lack of subtlety. Compelling awfulness.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: If you’re not a Hunter S. Thompson fan you won’t get it. Johnny Depp is perfect in his roll. Terry Gilliam’s direction is sometimes oblique and mindless or over-the-top (one of the best scenes was cut but is on the DVD as an extra) but over-all accurate. The writing when it’s straight from Thompson is golden: the way he suddenly switches from everyday drivel to a deep social commentary shows the genius behind the madness. The profanity is excessive sometimes so it’s not for the squeamish, otherwise it’s the right word in the right place (“Finish the fucking story!”). My favourite vignette is when he sees the real HST in an acid flashback to the ’60s. Nice little cameo that bolster the effect no end.

Galaxy Quest: Good heavens if this doesn’t go down in history as a classic there’s no hope for the human race. It has no faults. None. Tim Allen manages to hold his own against what are admittedly better and more experienced actors. The writing is sharp as a scalpel, the plot brilliant and intricate, although there are some small flaws that can easily be shrugged off. It does not go overboard on special effects either, which is a common flaw in any type of sci-fi movie.

How To Steal A Million: A romantic comedy with perfect chemistry between Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole. Much snappy comedy. Good plot with the usual heist-film flaws. Eli Wallach’s character is the worst job in the whole show, and it’s not that bad. Not a classic exactly, but an enduring favourite.

I, Robot: Forget the writing it’s based on as it is a fairly loose base. This film stands up in its own right and could easily have been called something different. The flaws are in excessive and unnecessary profanity in a few places and some rather dragged-out ‘action’ sequences that look like ‘filler’. The best performance is by a ‘dead guy’, but even the bit players are at top level in this one. I like the fact they toyed with a sexual connection between the two main characters but didn’t fall into the trite trap of going there. The funniest bit is the one about cats (I won’t go on; just watch it). One plot hole I can’t get past: why would Landing’s house be torn down after he dies? No explanation given, and none plausible can I think of. Bridget Moynahan gives a fantastic performance as the genius scientist and is way too sexy in this roll without being a Hollywood bimbo version. Will Smith’s best performance in my opinion, even better than Men In Black.

It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World: Money chase is always a good plot. Writing? Eh. One liners; who needs more? We just fill the movie with the best comedic actors we can get our hands on (including some clever cameos) and let it go wild. Allegedly after the cast was shown some of the stunts filmed Buddy Hackett said “whadda ya need us for?” No, it’s not cinematic history. It’s a watch-it-repeatedly comfort comedy.

Jesus Christ, Superstar: It started as an album, then they made the movie. The stage version came after that. Kind of backwards from the traditional method, but it works. Fantastic acting and singing by most of the cast. Ted Neeley struggles but Carl Anderson shines like no other! Andrew Lloyd-Weber music, Tim Rice Lyrics, story from The Bible, Norman Jewison directing. Hard to miss with that combination. It was quite controversial at the time (and may still be) despite the fact any honest theologian would admit it’s the most accurate retelling of the story regardless of the unusual method. My only complaint is the use of modern military ‘props’ for emphasis. Doesn’t really work. But you’ll come away humming and singing the songs anyway.

Kelly’s Heroes: Okay I did this one already; Kelly’s Heroes

That’s enough for now: I’ll leave off here and continue next week I guess.


Monday Movie Missive

While trying to recall movies I might like to add to my collection I came across several “great movie” lists. I had a look, in an effort to job my failing memory. Couldn’t help but notice certain titles are ubiquitous on such lists. No doubt these are the “classics”; the all-important milestones in cinematic history. Closer examination of said titles leads me to ask the question “why?” Of those I’ve seen I have to say many are not really good movies at all, and some are downright cringe-worthy. Let’s be nasty to them.

Citizen Kane: A dull, badly written exercise in Orson Welles’s ample ego. Certain occasional cinematography effects are its only claim to fame. The plot is senseless, without a sympathetic character in sight and no successful explanation of the affair which brings down Kane. The acting is wooden, with only a few good lines and some of it is just stringy filler. The directing is simplistic, like something from someone learning about making movies. A great classic film? More like a piece of celluloid rubbish.

Gone With The Wind: The best way to watch this is with the sound off. It’s visually spectacular, but beyond that an utter failure. No wonder Margaret Mitchell hated it. The potential for a highly-engaging story is lost in bad dialogue and hollow characters. How many directors did it really have? Looks like one for every scene. When it comes to acting only Clark Gable and the supporting cast (especially Hattie McDaniel, Thomas Mitchell, Everett Brown, and Butterfly McQueen) have any talent. Vivien Leigh and Leslie Howard are on screen only to demonstrate they have no talent (he is frankly one of the worst actors ever to appear in a big-budget film). What makes this a great movie? Maybe because it manages to achieve 238 minutes of boredom in the middle of a war.

Casablanca: Everybody loves Bogie! And why not? Great actor. Wasted in this piece of garbage, as in so many other mediocre flicks he was under contract to do. What’s so good about it? Well there’s also Claude Rains being wasted alongside Bogie, as well as Sidney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre. Not even all that talent can save this debacle. The story has great possibilities, which utterly fail to be realized due to poor writing. You really don’t give a damn about Victor Laszlo and want Ilsa to stay with Rick. Why on Earth does he help her get away with that jerk? Half the time you’re rooting for the Nazis here. Nice atmosphere is about all you can say for it.

There are a number of other titles which turn up on a couple of, but not all, lists of ‘great movies’ which arguably (or at least in my opinion) don’t belong there. Also there are some newer titles which I haven’t bothered with, and plenty I’ve not seen. There are even some which are so bad they’re are classically good (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for instance – best example of a really terrible movie you can’t help but like). These three, however, show up over and over with plentiful praise in a manner that suggests the list makes have been told they are “great movies” and so must be included – along with what looks like copy-and-paste descriptions.

I’m certain people like these three, and they have every right to. I personally don’t think they are the magnificent icons of cinema they’re made out to be.

Maybe if I’m feeling nice sometime I’ll do a listing of some of my favourite movies and why I like them and then you can have fun slagging them to your hearts’ content.

Cybersix Revisited

(I know no one ever reads this blog so I can say anything I like in it. WARNING: loaded with spoilers!)

Cybersix is an amazing science-fiction comic created by Carlos Trillo and Carlos Meglia. It was a real breakthrough in many ways, especially in its heroine title character. There was an attempt at a live-action TV version, which was utterly bad save the actress playing Cybersix (Carolina Peleritti). There was also an animated series, which was in English and produced in Canada. This is probably the most famous version of the franchise, and the one I will discuss.

First, the good points. Really good writing, directing, and animation. The fact is 90% of what makes a show a show is done right in this cartoon, and there are few things to argue about. The subtleties are there, and some clever use of colour and shading for dramatic effect (outside the realm of realism). On the whole you can enjoy all 13 episodes, with only occasional flinches and winces. There are a few ongoing flaws, such as the hair depiction (short hairs shown as ridiculously large magic marker lines, as it were, and long hair in very odd styling that wouldn’t work in the real world). Some of the subtleties include accurate depictions of automobiles to the extent where you can identify some even if they are “non-specific” makes. Remember this was done in 1999, long before Pixar started flaring up our movie screens with excellent CGI work.

The bad points include a lack of the back story found in the original comics, laughable bad guys, and some ridiculous monsters that spoil certain episodes. It’s like they occasionally got tired of working so hard and went for silly. In my opinion “The Eye” is the worst of these.

Now to the meat of the matter.

I’d like to see it remade, with a few changes. Basically raising it up to ‘adult’ level across the board, with more examination of the underlying love story which is so poignant and less emphasis on the monsters. In fact the love story is a complex one, involving not only Cybersix (with her conflicting inner feelings) and Lucas (and his odd friendship with Adrian as well) but also with Lori (who seems a shallow character but obviously has more depth than is related) and Adrian and how it all centers around Adrian being Cybersix in disguise.

Some character changes I would make:

Cybersix/Adrian. They did a fantastic job on her. Okay, a big floppy hat, cape, and stiletto heels are probably the worst possible costume for a superhero imaginable. I mean it’s all just an accident waiting to happen. Never mind the palm gloves. But this impractical outfit creates such a distinctive, seductive look it should not be discarded. About the only adjustment I’d make is a little attention to detail over matters like how well the voluptuous Cybersix can disguise herself as an indistinct literature teacher. Let’s face it, there’s only so much binding of breasts that can be effective, and a pair of rimless glasses doesn’t do much to hide a face. We need to have her hair flow over her face more (again this is a seductive move) and Adrian’s combed over back to hide the bounty. More attention to each version of the character trying to hide their obvious similarities.

Lucas. Well all he really needs is a check on proportions. He’s supposed to be a big, strong, smart guy and as such is a perfect companion and love interest for Cybersix. Remember he has to be strong enough to effect the Fixed Idea units even if he can’t defeat them himself.

Lori. Just tone her up and give her some more story line. That her crush on Adrian might develop into real love would be a good angle, especially when the truth is revealed at the end. Yes, put her through the emotional wringer and grow her up the hard way.

Julian. Not a thing wrong with the street urchin, frankly. They did a great job here.

Von Richter. Okay, that nose is absurd. Make him more human proportioned and keep up the good work with the shadowy depictions; it doesn’t do good to fully reveal your master criminal.

Jose. Give me a break. This is the dumbest character in the whole thing. I’m sure they found it amusing to make him an eight-year-old brat, but he’s not menacing enough in that form to pose a serious threat to our heroine. He’s incompetent and so are his helpers. I’d make him an adolescent clone of Von Richter, with the accompanying angst of puberty getting in the way of his megalomaniac manner. Get rid of the short jokes, and play up the father/son conflict (as it figures importantly in the end).

Fixed Idea units. Ditch the dollar store Frankenstein Monster depiction. Make them believably large and powerful, sure. But the green skin is silly as is the flat head and weird mask-like eye depiction. Don’t make them stupid, make them dumb. The name origin is from the psychological “idée fixe” which is a notion that once implanted is not easy to change; so you have these biological giants capable of following simple instructions literally but not good with handling new situations, adapting, thinking for themselves. This provides the contrast for Cybersix with her advanced strength, agility, and intelligence and provides a basis for her being considered a failure by Von Richter (she wouldn’t follow rules blindly).

Miguel. I’m not sure that’s the right name, but Von Richter has a right-hand man (who looks suspiciously like Michael Jackson) who gets displaced by Jose in the organization and becomes #3 in the outfit. Not much wrong with him in depiction, but needs a bit more story to fill out the whole relationship.

Data 7 (#29). Well, he’s an enhanced panther with a human brain. How do you make that better? The back story needs better explaining because I think some people may not assemble it just from the pictures (brilliant narrative device, though).

Various Monsters. Some of them need to go. They need to concentrate on the two main themes of Von Richter’s plans: control of the world and destruction of Cybersix. This is why he & Jose & Miguel are always trying to get money (taking control of the city’s criminal base is a good plot point, don’t lose it) to fund the operation. Not all of the monsters make sense to this goal. Certain ones specifically sent to get Cybersix work well, but the ones designed to help take control of the city (prelude to the world) are sometimes not well-thought-out.

I’ve mentioned certain aspects of the story that need attention, but over-all it is fine. If there was more time to explain it would work out better. Note I said “time” not “words”; the last episode does a brilliant service to watchers by not being a wordy explanation at the end. Yet I would change that a bit. I’d like to see Lori break down in tears as she struggles to understand if she really loves Adrian and/or Cybersix (a whole new sensation for her there) and wondering if her love interest survived the blast. Lucas is seen looking up at a lighted window of Adrian’s apartment and smiling, which is too telling. Turn the light off and let him wonder too.

There. Have I offended enough people now?

Give us this day our daily struggle

Just thought I’d mention a few things you may not know about.

First of all, the most accurate information about Autism is buried on a hard drive somewhere. You see, they asked an Autistic person who was high functioning (Asperger’s) and also happened to be an electrical engineer and psychologist to look into the matter. So he studied a lot of Autistics, analyzed the results, theorized against known medical knowledge, and came up with the most extensive understanding of the condition that there is. It included symptoms and coping strategies.

Everyone immediately rejected this because it didn’t pander to their favoured theories and prior prejudices even though it “worked out” in absolutely 100% of cases subjected to analysis. But since it wouldn’t allow thousands of people who do not understand it to go on writing as if they did based on their tiny, singular experiences the information has never been published. It probably has evaporated off magnetic storage by now. So keep on with your thousands of different sects of Autism as Religion, because science is dead now anyway.

WordPress is utter garbage, existing only to try and dupe people into giving them money for nothing. It’s Facebook Fallacy; where users are led to believe that giving the host company money will somehow improve their coverage and potential return. Pay to feed your egos if you like, but understand that “up to” starts and ends at zero.

I’m just trying to get through today. That’s my plan for the foreseeable future, which isn’t far ahead. Having a helluva time fighting depression right now. It’s true depression: there’s not much wrong in my life at the moment, yet at the same time I’d prefer to be dead.

The Saab model 99 was not named for Agent 99 from the Get Smart! TV show of the 1960s.

People who make jokes a lot are often the most seriously depressed. Robin Williams.

I need a massive government grant to study something. I want to create two identical Facebook Pages, one advocating the summary execution of all Democrats and another identical but for Republicans. Load them up with the same content, only altering the subject where needed, and then see what happens. My guess is the one demanding the death of Dems would be heralded as an expression of free speech whereas its mirror image for Reps would be taken down ASAP as hate speech. Why? Because the most vocal opponents would be Reps who revel in violence – except if it is applied to them. So you would have members of both parties calling for the removal of the anti-Rep Page but only Dems demanding the anti-Dem Page go.

It’s sunny and bright and cold and getting through today is difficult. I know tomorrow will be too, then it will become slightly easier for a little while.

So this guy I know got a great deal on a box full of diecast and I offered to buy 3 I was interested in from him. You need to know I’d sent him like $200+ worth of goodies last year utterly free, and he only paid $35 for this box of dozens of cars. Right. So he wants $80 for 3. He can get stuffed. I could have reimbursed for the whole cost of what he got plus shipping, but no he had to be greedy. What he doesn’t know is I was about to send him some more free stuff. Not sure I will now.

Have I mentioned I’d like to be dead?

There is no joy in life. Marie Kondo is an self-important ass who needs to shut up.

Just a few things I thought I’d mention. I don’t care what you think about any of it, because none of you care what I think about it.