This Week in Geek (17-23/03/14)


Got a few DVDs this wee: Rush, Only God Forgives, Inside Llewyn Davis, and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.


DVDs: Burning Man is an astonishing achievement in editing, playing as a fast-cut jigsaw that's positively Proustian. It's a very personal film for Autralian writer-director Jonathan Teplitzky who based it on his own personal tragedy, though the protagonist (Matthew Goode) is a chef rather than a film director. I'm not sure I want to tell you what it's about exactly, because the editing is such that you believe it's one thing until it becomes another, but Goode plays a man behaving badly because of an overwhelming loss, forced to raise a son alone while going through this. The narrative is completely achronological, moving across his experience from scene to scene, even from shot to shot, based on the emotion of each moment. We're basically in his head, flashing back to images and moments based on the previous image or moment. A downer, to be sure, but not sentimental. Rather, true to life, hopeful and perfectly acted. I'd use it as a companion piece to The Tracey Fragments as far as maverick editing goes, though the portrait Burning Man paints is less experimental in form, and about an hour longer. The DVD includes a commentary track, interviews, and behind the scenes footage.

It was @ElyseHamel's turn to present a film dear to her in our "Cultural Exchange" initiative, and that she chose Rent, which she's always talking about, wasn't a surprise. I'd never seen it. I didn't even know what it was about (landlords and tenants..?). It's a musical about struggling artists in New York, most of whom have AIDS. That sounds terribly melodramatic, but the play (and thus the film) has the virtue of being inspired by the author's own life. As a musical, it's almost wall-to-wall music and unlike the last musical I watched, Les Misérables, the songs aren't all sung to the same two or three melodies. Plenty of variety in staging and tone (always love a good tango), it's not all heaviness and tears. There's plenty of humor, whether that's the observer character's awkwardness, the drag queen's impish personality, or that crazy performance art. I found it a little heavy-going at first because of imperfect dubs, theatrical acting and dated musical cues, but it picks up steam and I was eventually invested in the cast of characters.

Audio: With Big Finish's Lost Stories range of Doctor Who audios, I think it may be true that the less of the script that survived, the better the adaptation. Paradise 5, for example, existed only as P.J. Hammond's outline and script for Part 1 (Part 2 in the audio). Hammond, best known for Sapphire & Steel, can be felt in the nature of the alien menace, but Andy Lane's adaptation has a lot more humor than the story might otherwise have had. This is basically The Macra Terror for the 6th Doctor and Peri, taking place in a resort where aliens are feeding on the guests. It's a rather lovely script for Peri, who takes center stage going undercover into Paradise 5 as a hostess (would love to see the get-up described), while the Doctor lurks behind the scenes. It's all down to the adaptation of course, since this story was originally developed for Terror of the Vervoid's spot, and would have introduced Mel and featured a lot of pointless Trial scenes. A fun story (my only real complaint is the sniffling, whimpering Cherub voices) that probably dodged a bullet by not being produced for TV.

Point of Entry was one of the stories developed by Enlightenment's Barbara Clegg, here adapted by Marc Platt, so yeah, it's got some great DNA. And it pays off! This Elizabethan era story guest stars Christopher Marlowe, so OF COURSE, it has to reference Faustus - it's a Doctor Who tradition that alien events and the supernatural in fiction all be based on the authors' real-life experiences - but also lots of spy stuff, an Aztec treasure stolen by the Spanish, and Peri posing as Elizabeth the First! That's a highlight (and an improvement, the original script would have had her dress as a boy, like Vicki in The Crusade) and gives some comedic highlights to what is otherwise a creepy horror story that could almost been Lovecraftian. The only thing I don't like is the title. Rather terrible.

The Song of the Megaptera was a long time in coming. Comics writer Pat Mills first submitted it to Douglas Adams in the 4th Doctor era, rewrote it for the 5th and then 6th, and decades later, adapted it for audio. The story, about giant space whales and the corporate stooges that hunt them for profit, is filled with quirky characters and is given a modern gloss full of video game references, irreverent computers (a Douglas Adams contribution?), and the kind of word play you see on Twitter a lot. The ideas are slightly crazy, which is exactly why you want someone like Pat Mills doing Doctor Who, and I especially enjoyed how the Doctor walks into the adventure with a plan and the tools necessary to stop the whaling (he's almost 7th Doctor at times, and I'm completely on board with that). The idea of space whales was, as you know, used by Steven Moffat in his first 11th Doctor series, which was made before the audio was produced. That explains Peri's Geronimo then. Hehe.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
IV.vii. Ophelia's Death - Tennant (2009)


jdh417 said...

If you didn't know, Rent is based on the opera, La bohème. Substitute AIDS with "consumption"
(tuberculosis), a fairly common 19th century disease, especially among opera characters.

Siskoid said...

I did know! Elyse provided all the necessary context because, well, she's a Rent nut.

Siskoid said...

And of course, La Bohème is one of the better numbers.


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