Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

Caprica

January 24, 2010

[Mild spoilers, but probably nothing you don’t already know if you’re bothering to read this…]

Mother of the Cylons

Finally saw the pilot of Caprica today (huzzah for HD TiVo!), and I have to say, it was pretty frakkin’ great. I’m really not sure what I expected, apart from “Battlestar Galactica prequel, with proto-Cylons,” but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t what it turns out to be. (Well, OK, it did have proto-Cylons, which I admit brought a nostalgic tear to my eye. Kind of like the half-finished Death Star at the end of Revenge of the Sith.)

Apparently the story was originally nothing to do with BSG, but the good people of SyFy have done a surprisingly good job shoehorning it in to the pre-existing framework—(ur-)Cylons! Gods! Retro-hip clothing! “Frakkin’!”—and more importantly of continuing the BSG tradition of moral ambiguities and inversions.

The techo-babble doesn’t bear too much thinking about, but you didn’t really expect it to, did you? And it all goes down pretty easily thanks to some excellent production design (I suppose I should be pretentious and refer to mise-en-scène here). As in BSG the design is all “earthlike”; no wild Star Trekky aliens and costumes on Caprica. It reminds me a bit of a great line from Babe: Pig In the City: it’s set “a little to the left of the twentieth century.” The Caprica City backgrounds reminded me a little of old matte paintings from movies set in the not-too-distant future Year 2000, except of course in nice sparkly HD; I’ve always been a sucker for matte paintings. The actors were reasonably good, especially Alessandra Torresani, in what I imagine is the most fun role in the series. That’s her in the picture, being Eve, in case you missed the Gnostic relevance of her character’s name.1

I’ve no idea how long it will take Caprica to run out of steam, as I’m sure it will. It took BSG about a season and a half before it started becoming obvious that the writers were starting to flounder. I’ll take a season and a half of this.

1.  See also Genesis 3:20 in the Septuagint.

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Goodbye, Naughts

January 2, 2010

I’ve enjoyed the little spate of articles about what to call the decade that’s just ended now that it has, well, ended. I’m also impressed that apparently we mostly haven’t needed to call it much of anything at all (although a reliable expat friend assures me that in England they really do call it “the noughties.”)

Insofar as I called it anything myself, it was “the aughts.” I think that’s mostly because of fond but dim memories of Jethro Bodine as a double-aught spy. Very dim, as it turns out. Jethro was actually a double-naught spy.

For higher culture, here’s a Language Log piece on how we might pronounce the coming year. I think I had planned to alternate between “twenty-ten” and “two thousand ten.” It would not have occurred to me that anyone would have thought there was and Official Way. So thank you for setting us straight, National Association of Good Grammar!

Lazing Into The New Year

January 2, 2010

Happy New Year! I broke with tradition by staying up ’til 10 on New Year’s Eve, rather than sacking out at the usual 9.

As a family Christmas present—well, mostly for me—I second TiVo. It being an HD DVR, I could no longer live with the ancient non-HD TV, so I got a new one of those too (an LCD/LED, selected in part for the high contrast and brightness the LED backlights get relative to CCFD, but really more for the techno-coolness). That being in place, I am finding it difficult to live with the old DVD player and its pathetic low resolution and sorry black level, so Blu-Ray is next.

How long ’til all these things are obsolete?

A disadvantage of getting a super-thin closer-to-the-bleeding-edge-than-usual-for-me television is that it makes few concessions to old technology. The thing has only one component/composite video input; it expects you to use HDMI. So I had to run out and overpay hideously for an HDMI cable, not wanting to wait a week for a reasonably-priced one through the mail. Why are cables such a racket, anyway? Is it not obvious that they’re just pieces of wire and plastic, and are usually overpriced by a factor of 10?

The neatest thing about the TiVo (at least until I get a cable guy to come and install the card(s?) for the digital channels) is the streaming Netflix. I’ve been watching Netflix streaming stuff for a while on the laptop, which was just good enough to keep me from overcoming my natural laziness and cheapness and getting a TiVo/Roku/whatever. Which was of course stupid of me. The Netflix/TiVo thing turns out to mostly work pretty well, and the picture quality is much better than I had expected. The only glitch I’ve run across is that there is no way to control the aspect ratio—it is whatever it is (mostly 16:9 in what I’ve seen, but some 4:3), and the TiVo box makes no effort to convert it, as it will for plain old cable. That means you can’t really use it with an old TV that doesn’t have a settable aspect ratio. Unless you don’t mind stretched or squashed pictures.1

The TV/TiVo are in probably the worst wireless reception area in the house, so I ran an ethernet cable under the house, through the basement and the scary crawlspace (seriously; that part was like being in a horror movie). I also learned to crimp my own RJ45 cables, so I’m feeling pretty manly. In the nerdliest possible way.

 

1 Which apparently many people don’t. Widescreen televisions in public places are invariably set to 16:9, even though they’re often getting 4:3 signals. Does that not make anyone else crazy?

Plate o’ Shrimp

April 4, 2008

Thing I came across today include:

  • A movie of Angels & Demons is in the works (with Naomi Watts! Maybe I’ll actually see it).
  • The Galactica Code.

Sense and Sensibility

April 3, 2008

I don’t know whether it makes, um, sense to say anything about the new Sense and Sensibility when we’ve only seen half of it, especially since for the life of me I can’t think of anything original or witty to say about it. But I shan’t let little things like that stop me!

The first thing to strike us–after the sex scene at the beginning–was how very like the 1995 Ang Lee/Emma Thompson version it was. A quick look about the more Janely neighbourhoods of the web confirmed that we were hardly alone in noticing. Given the talent involved in this production I had really expected something more original. Besides the skin, I mean. Not that following the older version is entirely a bad thing–it was, after all, very well done.

Some specifics. Dan Stevens as Edward Ferrars looked rather like Hugh Grant: certainly neither quite fit the description of Edward as “not handsome.” Perhaps that’s because “not handsome” doesn’t really work for leading men in movies and on television. Similarly neither’s manners would seem to “require intimacy to make them pleasing,” but again that might not work particularly well on television. I’ll reserve further comment on Edward until I see more of him next week.

Little Margaret also seems to be treated much as she was in the 1995 film, down to her hiding in the library. I’m not sure I could tell the two Fannys apart. The very first (non-sex) scene, Fanny talking John out of supporting his stepmother and sisters, seemed lifted directly from the older one, although I suppose that in that case they both stay fairly close to the book.

Where I disagree with some of the other comments I’ve seen (and with my wife) is about Hattie Morahan’s Elinor. I did not think she was noticably aping Emma Thompson–she can hardly help having an alto voice and acting, well, sensible. Indeed I thought she was quite perfect in the role. Not to mention closer to the proper age than Ms. Thompson was (Ang Lee is said to have told her not to look “so old.”).

I haven’t been able to get used to David Morrissey’s Colonel Brandon. He’s just too darned manly and heroic for what I think of as a rather sad character. Have I been overly influenced by Alan Rickman’s melancholy Brandon? Probably. I also might feel differently if I were a woman. Or gay.

Conversely I thought Dominic Cooper’s Wickham was a bit wimpy, but that might be appropriate to the sort of (apparent) swoony romantic Marianne likes.

One jarring aspect of many of these latter-day adaptations is the massive romantic over-dramatization of the incidentals. The beautiful and craggy seascapes, the pounding hooves in breakneck carriage rides, the dramatic and anachronistic incidental music–these things don’t say “Jane Austen” to me. To quote the New Yorker‘s review of Pride and Prejudice, “Jane Austen has been Brontëfied.” Although it’s not just Jane; I found the scene transitions in Bleak House fairly unbearable (my only complaint with that production).

Although I just quibbled about the anachronistic incidental music, I was greatly pleased with the, I’m not sure what to call it, maybe “non-incidental music?” What Marianne played on the piano (and it sounded like a period spinet, not a modern piano!), I mean. I’ll have to figure out what those pieces were.

Northanger Abbey

January 23, 2008

Last night we watched the new Northanger Abbey on The Show Formerly Known as Masterpiece Theatre. Very cute; certainly much better than the dreadful Persuasion last week (the scriptwriters didn’t seem to realize that Jane Austen had a sense of humor; how is that even possible?). It’s been a while since I read the book–that must have been in the Great Austen Boom of ’95–so I have no idea how faithful the adaptation was, but I don’t really care (especially as NA was by far Jane’s weakest book).

Music notes that no one but me will care about: the soundtrack was certainly not period music, but it was nonetheless nice; again certainly better than the abysmal Persuasion‘s soundtrack. On the other hand the music in the show, in the dance and concert scenes and whatnot, was (I’m pretty sure) played on modern instruments, again unlike Persuasion, where the crappy fortepiano was one of the few things I actually liked. But I’m funny that way.

Another note: Gillian Anderson is no Alistair Cooke, or even Russell Baker. Coudn’t they have found someone more lifelike?