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2008 Hindsighted

Sunday, January 18, 2009

sp-011Hmm?  What’s that, oh?  After long sabbaticals, the others have gone the “Year End List” route?  I see…

Well, I too have been morbidly unproductive of late.  And I too have experienced numerous items of culture over the course of 2008, many of which I enjoyed more than others of which were enjoyed (by me).  So who am I to not do something other people have already done?

Here’s what tickled my fancy in the year of our lord ’08.

DOCTOR WHO “Silence in the Library” / “Forest of the Dead”
I can’t make any comparisons between the new and the old Doctor Whos, having only seen bits and pieces of the old and mostly dismissing them as the kind of lame crap my mother likes.  Maybe I was right, probably not; but this new series is the kind of lame crap I like.  I’ve found that each of the four “Serieses” (motherfucking British) adheres to a standard list of ingredients: a handful of cute episodes, a few serious mythology episodes, a ridiculously goofy episode or two, a couple of episodes with genuinely interesting ideas, and then an episode or a two-parter with a brilliant, original, perfectly executed piece of science fiction.  Series 1 had “The Empty Child” 2-parter, 3’s were “Blink” and the 3-part finale, and now Series 4 gives us the 2-part “The Library” / “Forest of the Dead.”

This plot is something of a mishmash of clever scifideas (term coined), all unrelated and then woven together in a completely coherent, logical way.  Then it takes these merged ideas and slides them cleanly into the Doctor Who mythos, strengthening ongoing arcs, giving David Tennant a chance to flash his charisma and his acting chops, and teasing us for possible events to come in future series.

New Zealand had already well-established its capacity for nerd; now we learn it can also be musically funny.  Maybe next we’ll find out they’re adept at ping-pong.  Wouldn’t that be something?

It’s four player co-op against the zombie apocalypse.  It’s the the closest I’ll ever get to living the dream.

I’ve already gone into the business of (Razzie-nominated) Speed Racer’s greatness, so I’ll just quickly add that repeat theatrical and Digital Versitile viewings have only emboldened my passion for this amazing beast.  And now I’ll move on to what everyone else wants to talk about: The Dark Knight.  I’ll agree that it is a very good movie, though an enormously flawed one.  Holy shit, the ways this movie fucks up.  All the internerdly pre-release cries of “masterpiece” were wrong — it’s not a masterpiece, but it could have been one.

sp-021So much fat that needed to be trimmed:

  • Subplots to be dropped
  • Needless action sequences to be exorcised
  • Appropriate action sequences to be better staged/directed/edited
  • Big themes to be focused
  • “Event picture” protocals to be ignored

Still, with all the Dark Knight’s fuckupery, the film that came out the other end is remarkably good.  Ledger’s Joker is a great performance of a great character — though I can’t help but feel when I watch that there was still some unrealized potential somewhere in there.  I can’t quite place my finger on it, but as a comparison, No Country For Old Men’s Anton Chigurh, a character who serves a lot of similar thematic and plot roles as The Joker, does not suffer from this problem.

Oh, biology.  You’ve got all the cool toys.  (Plus Dawkins cameoed in the 2-part finale of Doctor Who Series 4!  He was pleading for rational thought in the wake of the Earth being teleported across the universe!)

Great science fiction that isn’t really science fiction by a damn good writer who isn’t a science fiction writer.  Almost nothing happens and the average chapter is a third of a page long.  I got all teary at the end.

sp-03 I knew I was intrigued, as I walked out of the theatre, but I didn’t expect to dwell on this film as much as I have.  I saw it first at the Toronto After Dark festival in October then again less than a month later in its proper, limited release.  I wish I’d seen it a third time.  This is a simple little movie, a vampire story and something of a love story.  Its setting is a vivid, cold Swedish commoner class, its leads are a pair of young’uns, one sadly awkward and the other unnervingly confident.  Everything else is up for grabs; this is a movie to be interpreted and re-interpreted at will.

It’s a strange recommendation, one I don’t really know how to make.  I’m not sure how to argue in Let the Right One In’s favour.  Maybe those who are fans of film in any sort of casual way will find it dreary and boring; you need to be someone who really wants to carefully contemplate a teenage vampire movie in order to appreciate this one.

Sometimes you want art to be pushed forward, and sometimes you want fun.  Latter!

And yes, as I’ve only just now realized, it’s a cover.  1976:

I was not expecting to love this movie this much.  It’s long and talky, but so much fun.  And Mr. Kurt Russel is a gentleman’s gentleman.

This is not hyperbole: The Wire is an easy contender for best television series ever.  Okay, maybe it’s a bit of hyperbole, but only because “ever” includes the future, and we can’t know the future, and the future could very well have millennia of good TV in store for us.  So allow me to amend: The Wire is an easy contender for best television series ever (so far).  That was not hyperbole.

Each season is a novel, perfectly paced.  Each has its own grand theme, on inner-city life and culture, played out by such great characters.  Characters who manage to straddle a line between dramatic exaggerations and absolutely genuine authenticities.  Characters I’ll miss, because season 5 was the last one.  No more McNulty?  No more Bunk?  I’m not sure that’s a world I want to live in.  So much so, that I’ll compose a haiku.

Spring, unchanged Ballmer
Hoppers rest on their corners
For no more Omar

If you were wondering what them few little interstrewn comic book pictures were all about, your wondering needn’t continue from this point hence.  It’s Scott Pilgrim — Bryan Lee O’Malley (Toronto guy) put out these four fantasterisk digest-sized (word origin: “easily-digestible”) comic books, with more impending soon (as soon as February 4th, I exclaim!).  They are great.  They are witty and sweet and hilarious and odd.  They contain references to River City Ransom.  And they’re loaded with Toronto locations.  Support local art!  Unless you don’t live in Toronto!  Then support Toronto art in addition to your local art!


Kinda like Doctor Who, nowadays every season contains a few okay eps, a few solid eps, and one or two or three absolute homeruns.  This time, it was when Cartman gets HIV during a tonsillectomy and then … well, it’s South Park, so that’s really just the tamest part of the episode.  Anyway, coining the phrase “I’m not just sure, I’m HIV positive,” is truly the work of god.  No, you know, in this case I think it warrants capitalization.  The work of God.

I’m an adult who owns toys.  I don’t call them “collectibles”; I do not deny reality.  I will continue to buy toys into my thirties, maybe beyond.  My toys are mostly connected to the film, television, comic book, video game, and in one case, toothpaste, properties that I love, and I have many.  These are the greatest and best toys in my possession.






Maybe the best things in my possession.  In case of fire, please save my Turtles.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. James17930 permalink
    Monday, January 19, 2009 1:58 am

    I want to play Left 4 Dead.

    Also — the necks look a bit long on those Turtles, don’t they?

    And yes, I was thinking how the whole HK thing in DK was really completely pointless, but . . . well, it sort of gives the Joker his way of coming out on top in the end, so it sort of works.

  2. tgjkennedy permalink
    Tuesday, January 20, 2009 1:47 am

    Have you seen the black and white version of the Neca turtles? We sell them at the toy store where I work and I think they are fantastic… I’d get them but I just finished buying all the Nightmare Before Xmas miniatures and I can’t indulge again.

  3. Tuesday, January 20, 2009 8:58 pm

    J: Sorry, Macboy. No L4D4U. Unless you get an Xbox 360. Or maybe if you run one of those Windows clone things Macs can run. Actually, if you can, and if it works well on such a thing, your computer could probably handle the game just fine. It’s based on technology from 5 years ago, albeit tweaked and improved. But it runs on my computer, which uses a 5-or-so-year-old graphics card, at highest settings.

    And yeah, the necks are long, but I think it looks really good, in addition to the addition headmoveability.

    And they could’ve gotten to the Joker’s success in a much quicker, more sensible way than all that Hong Kong BS. Also: the Jim Gordon faux-death? BS.

    T: Indeed I have seen them. And I’ll get them, eventually, though I definitely prefer the colour versions. The B&W paintjob seems less Eastman & Laird and more Charles Schultz.

    More importantly, though: you work in a toy store? That’s quite cool. Are we talking Toys ‘R Us or Nerd Shit ‘R Us?

  4. tgjkennedy permalink
    Thursday, January 22, 2009 9:00 am

    I’m talking MindGames in the Eaton Centre basement… although I work there sporadically at best. It’s a combination of the best boardgame selection and an expansive collection of drinking games and gag gifts. Also cool toys. I think we have the B&W set for $39.99 right now for all of them together.

  5. James17930 permalink
    Thursday, January 22, 2009 11:09 pm

    You know, the blue-haired girl in the first Pilgrim pic actually looks a bit like Tanya.

  6. tgjkennedy permalink
    Friday, January 23, 2009 11:07 pm

    I should dye my hair blue. And play cartoon volleyball.

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