An Accurately Named Trilogy II: The Dark Knight

It seems silly to start anywhere besides the Joker. We’ll set aside the cynical but not entirely unfounded question of whether the performance would be as celebrated as it is were it not for Heath Ledger’s untimely death and the ghoulish speculation (since refuted) that the psychological intensity of the role was a cause. Sure, it’s tough to imagine a Batman film winning an acting Oscar under less tragic circumstances, but that’s in no way what’s interesting here. What’s interesting is that Ledger and Nolan took the most oversignified character in Batman mythos (and yes, of course I’m including the big rodent himself) and offered a game-changing take on him. The hunched, disheveled figure with a Glasgow smile is a new angle, skewing the Joker towards a materialism that is generally precisely what’s discarded in other efforts to make him more grandiosely crazy. Ledger and Nolan offered a new way for the Joker to be.

By some margin the least interesting parts of this are the most often remarked upon. Yes, Ledger’s schlubby maniac was an easier fit for a certain strain of geek masculinity than the more overtly queer portrayals that came before him. But frankly, anybody who needed ...

The Punishment of Luxury: Album Reaction and Commentary

With a title like The Punishment of Luxury coming out into a geopolitical climate like this one, and knowing OMD's past dalliances with progressive social and cultural criticism, I can't help but read great things into this new album from the get-go. It's been out since September so literally everyone in the world has had a chance to listen to it before me, but my copy (yes I still buy CDs, certainly when it comes to stuff like this, shut up) just arrived a few weeks ago as of this writing due, happily, to the fact it was out of stock on release date, which implies it's selling really well! I'm not going to attempt a “proper” review or anything like that: I'm not a musicologist, music historian or music critic (Andrew Hickey and Phil are both much, much better at that sort of thing than I could ever hope to be) so I'm going to stop pretending I am and just give my thoughts on what this album says to me and how it makes me feel on a gut personal and emotional level.

The first thing we have to square away ...

The Vault of Horror and the Ambassadors of Death

It's November, a time of complicated anniversaries. Of Octobers that became Novembers and barrels of gunpowder left in the bowels of a building that fire would eradicate in a couple hundred years anyway, sadly emptied of the fat landowners and wealth horders of the day. We've had Samhain and All Hallow's Eve and the fields are asleep until the planting time.

Perfect for watching the rain hit your windowpanes and relaxing in the warm with some audio goodness.

I'm very pleased to be able to finally announce the return of Pex Lives.

http://pexlives.libsyn.com/41-the-ambassadors-of-death-or-i-dont-believe-in-them-thats-why

Kevin and I talk here about The Seventh Seal, Jodie Whitaker, the Ambassadors of Death, personal hypocrisies and much more. It's good to be back. Kevin seems to have recorded on location from a cathedral of furious wolves, so that's something.

Also very happy to have a new City of the Dead, the podcast Lee and I do about every Amicus film. We're actually nearing the end of this journey so jump onboard while you still can. One of the things I love about CotD is that it isn't a show that demands a huge ...

An Accurately Named Trilogy I: Batman Begins

It may be an accurately named trilogy, but its edges are both fuzzy. The Dark Knight Rises ends by gesturing forwards to an unrealized draft of DC’s film aspirations. Batman Begins, on the other hand, is inexorably tethered to the Burton/Schumacher films its title declares its separation from. Batman begins because his franchise had been driven into the ground by Batman and Robin eight years earlier. The choice of villains is perhaps the clearest remnant of this - two villains who had not been used in the previous series, including the Scarecrow, who was going to be the villain of a fifth Batman film ever since it was going to be directed by Joel Schumacher and called Batman Unchained. Even Hans Zimmer’s score interpolates Danny Elfman’s.

Even considered purely within terms of the Dark Knight Trilogy, Batman Begins is odd. Again, the title is a clue - it’s the one part of the trilogy not to have the phrase “Dark Knight” in it. But more to the point, it’s the only film in the trilogy to be directed by Christopher Nolan, promising young director coming off of Memento and Insomnia as opposed to Christopher Nolan, director of major blockbusters. And this shows ...

The Punishment of Luxury: Revisiting Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark in 2017

Longtime readers will know it's been a very long time since I had anything at all to say about pop music. Newer readers will probably not know that I ever did in the first place: In my late high school years and into college I started to get really into contemporary music, as, I suppose, you do at that age. I used to say music was the art form that touched me more than any other, and when I first started my writing career (or what passes for it) I spent a lot of time trying to write about music and used to do an end-of-year recap of what I thought were the best and most important releases for me personally of the past year. I stopped doing that in 2013 (incidentally the last year the band du jour released something), I don't say anything that dramatic anymore and I thought I was kind of done with pop music after that: Almost all of my listening these days is done on Soundcloud and I couldn't hope to be considered any kind of an authority for what's out there now, nor, really, should I be (though I ...

About Time Volume 8 Review

At long last, there’s a new volume of About Time. For those who are unaware, About Time is the gold standard of comprehensive studies of Doctor Who - a towering project whose Alan Moore it has been my pleasure and privilege to serve as Grant Morrison to. This latest volume covers from The Runaway Bride through Voyage of the Damned, with stops off for “Time Crash” and The Infinite Quest. The short form is that it's another great entry in a great series that's absolutely worth buying if you're the sort of person who buys massive and sprawling reference boks on Doctor Who. You can get it on Amazon right here, or on Amazon UK here. I recommend it highly. 

Now for the meaty bits. I want to start with the kind of obvious red flag the book throws up, which is the fact that the entire book is covering just one year of Doctor Who.  For one thing, this incremental progress is frustrating given that the book’s been a long time coming - Volume 7 was four years ago. For another, at 350 pages this means that About Time is spending more time on the Martha ...

Hyrule Haeresis 8

This is the story they used to tell in the lands of Ordon.

A long time ago...

Many generations passed, before these lands were called Hyrule, its spirits sang a different song. The first people to land on these shores were the People of the Art, and thunder and lighting heralded their arrival as they rode their storm-ships down the sky into the barrows and fields. The People were very skilled sorcerers and oracles, and as they wove song-lines across the mythic landscape it was said The Art must have been part of the very fabric of their being. And when they spoke, their voices and those of the spirits were one.

The People were ruled by a well-loved and well-respected Shaman-Queen, who was unmatched in beauty as she was in spiritual power. The Queen ruled from her palace in the hills. She was very wise, consorting and allying with the Wolves and the Birds, whose language she could speak as fluently as her own and with whom she discussed the Mysteries of the Universe. The Queen rarely interacted with her subjects directly, but took questions and answers relayed through a male attendant and companion. Though she was rarely seen ...

The Proverbs of Hell 26/39: Mizumono

MIZUMONO: Dessert. Unlike savoureux, mizumono is in fact sweet, suggesting that the show has allied itself with Hannibal’s perspective as opposed to Will’s.

The shooting script called for a flash forward of Will screaming in pain from the end. Instead the episode begins with a moment of quiet ritual, with Hannibal writing out, in exquisite calligraphy, an invitation to Jack, setting their eventual confrontation as a piece of theater - a staged event the shape of which is defined by formal considerations of etiquette.

The opening sequence, which cuts between both Hannibal and Jack talking to Will and enjoining him to their side in the coming face-off. This is in some regards an odd framing for the episode, in that Will is never really given the chance to take a side, arriving on the scene after Jack and Alanna have already been dispatched. But it’s such a weird and uncanny visual that one is inclined to lay the blame on the denouement for not paying off its setup than on the setup. (Even more uncanny is the reaction shot to this, a split-screen Will.)

The otherwise unmotivated reappearance of Garret Jacob Hobbs - who seems at this point slightly dated in the ...

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