This Week in Geek (15-21/09/14)


DVDs aplenty this week. When I realized my collection was missing some key directors' films entirely or almost entirely, I sought out cheap ways to plug those holes. I got a Hitchcock collection with 14 of his movies at a reasonable price, but couldn't do the same with Woody Allen, so I scoured the bargain bins for a random collection of low-priced movies, which yielded Hannah and her Sisters, Vicky Christina Barcelona, Match Point and the more recent To Rome with Love. I also got Homeland Season 3.


DVDs: That Bondathon we started two years ago is going to see some progress in the short term, what with my -athon buddy Nath having moved into the building. We were up to Timothy Dalton's brief era, and I was very curious to revisit (revisit? had I even seen it in the first place?) The Living Daylights now that Dalton is a well-known and cherished actor. His Bond is certainly the most sympathetic of them all, and certainly the first since Lazenby to be offered an actual romance (as opposed to a disposable fling). I also spy shades of Daniel Craig's Bond in him, as a jaded killer who seeks to hide from his inner turmoil through sex, drink and thrills (i.e. more like Fleming's Bond). While there are still elements of Moore's Bond hampering the script - silly cartoon comedy like the chase on the ice field and gags whenever Q is around - the story is more solid than most and progresses logically from one set piece to the other which really WASN'T something the late Moore era was any good at. And instead of sticking to boring old San Francisco and Paris, as the previous film tiredly had, the canvas really is international. That's great, no matter how strange the boisterous Afghanistan scenes might seem today. John Rhys-Davies is excellent as Gogol's edgy but sympathetic replacement, and Myriam D'Abo makes a good Bond girl, as willful as she is beautiful, and more than capable of getting in on the action. The focus on spy games doesn't exactly spell out high stakes, which makes the experience less-than-exciting at times, but I'd rather have a little more John Le Carré in my Bond than have it turn into an action-comedy. It's far from perfect, mind you. The new Miss Moneypenny is TERRIBLE - with the original, you had the sense that SHE wasn't giving in to James' advances; here she's a fawning nerd and HE'S withholding; that's a step back - and the ending is badly paced, with an overlong pre-climax and a tacked-on climax between foes who have never met, resolved rather disappointingly. The DVD's commentary track is the usual collection of cast, crew and experts edited together to give their accounts of the production.

Also still going through some time travel movies I've never seen, so watched Somewhere in Time. With this one, leave your cynicism at the door and you'll be find. It is a highly romantic movie where things are explainable only as matters of the heart. Christopher Reeve is a contemporary playwright who falls in love with a actress (Jane Seymour) from 1912. He convinces himself he can go back in time for her, and indeed uses self-hypnosis to make the psychic journey back in time. That it works so well is a testament to the script, direction and acting. Yes, the music is a little cheesy and oppressive, and the love at first sight element almost absurd, but like I always say, buy the premise, buy the bit. As a time travel story, it has some interesting timey-wimey bits for sure, with much of the relationship trapped in a time loop (the reason he falls in love with her picture is because it was taken while she lovingly looked at him in the past, and so on). Christopher Plummer as the tyrannical impresario might be a time traveler too, or at least there are hints that he might be, but it's never resolved. I think I like the ambiguity and am not frustrated by it. Whatever the often jaded modern audience may think, Somewhere in Time, both as a romance and as a time travel fantasy, certainly commits, and that's something not all films (see previous in this post) can make a claim to. The DVD includes a strong, hour-long retrospective making of documentary that touches on every aspect of the production, a director's commentary, production notes and photographs, and a short featurette on the Somewhere in Time fan club which skeeved me out (so now I know how outsiders might react to my own fandoms).

Books: The Book of Negroes, the 2007 award-winning historical novel from Canadian writer Lawrence Hill, or as readers in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand might otherwise know it, "Someone Knows my Name", is the story of the fictional Aminata Dialo, an African girl taken into slavery in the 18th century. Because she has a sharp mind, and through no small measure of willfulness and luck, she manages to live through the full 18th-century black experience, moving from Africa to the Carolinas, then to New York during the American Revolution, emigrating to Nova Scotia, then to the Sierra Leone, and finally falling in with Abolitionists in London. My interest was piqued by the promise of learning more about the black experience in my native Maritimes, but that's a relatively short chapter in the story. But I can hardly express disappointment. Hill's prose is strong, his research sound (with all deviations listed at the back), and Aminata as narrator has a memorable voice. A composite of many men and women who survived slavery and became voices for freedom (and who didn't), her fierce mind, literacy and independence make her uniquely suited to telling this story which, Gump-like (if you will, I sort of hate the comparison), allows her to interact with various historical characters and situations. Slavery in the Americas is so often seen through the lens of the Civil War to come, it was extremely interesting to see what it was like and what impacted it in the previous century. Beyond that intellectual pursuit is a character you can empathize with telling the poignant story of her incredible life.

RPGs: Starting a little project at some of my neighbors' request which we will call "Role-playing for n00bs" (see LAST Week in Geek for more), and the instigator, which we'll call Ludger because that's his name, came up to create his character (that first step, which we sometimes never get past). If you'll remember, we're playing Planescape using AD&D 2nd. What he has come up with is a bariaur (think goat-centaur) priest of Poseidon who tends to bull breeding in Sigil the City of Doors. He made his dump stat Intelligence to have an interesting (but in gameplay, relatively mild) weakness, which I've found is how all improv players approach character generation. Weaknesses are a source of comedy and conflict, which is what improvisors thrive on in the ring. These choices forced him into a True Neutral alignment, and led him to take Peasant Priest as a Kit - so he would be community-focused - and the Transcendental Order (or Ciphers) as a faction. Ciphers believe the universe is acting through them and have taught themselves to clear their minds and simply let things happen. That seems natural for a low-INT space cadet with no moral hang-ups and a simple, rural/pastoral upbringing. As one last bit of silliness (again, because improv), the character will be called Brother Tohnee. At least he isn't some kind of tiger-man. More chargen to come!

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
Other Hamlets: Dirtbag Hamlet


Anonymous said...

"My interest was piqued by the promise of learning more about the black experience in my native Maritimes, but that's a relatively short chapter in the story."

That would be a point of interest to me too. I'm in Ohio, Cleveland to be specific, and every school kid here learns that runaway slaves came up through Ohio (and other Great Lakes states) to sail to Canada and freedom. So ... what happened after that? Were they welcomed into Canadian society as equals? Did they found settlements that have a remarkable history? There's a story to be told.

LondonKdS said...

Havig enjoyed the first two series of Homeland I absolutely loathed the third - it seemed to me to be unduly manipulative and, in one sub-plot, (you'll know it when you see it) outright ethnic and religious hate propaganda.

Siskoid said...

And this book tells a good part of it. Funneled from the colonies to NOva Scotia and New Brunswick after British withdrawal of the nascent United States, many stayed while an important contingent eventually went back to Africa to found a colony there. The story is rife with broken promises and hardships.

As for the underground railroad and what happened after, which I think is what you're alluding to, that's an entirely different story that must still echo this one.

Siskoid said...

Thanks for the heads-up, LondonKdS.


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