Viewing posts tagged TV

Further Thoughts on Hannibal

This really is how these stories have to be done.  Not the faux-realism of the movie of Silence of the Lambs.  That approach jars with Anthony Hopkins' (less than entirely successful) attempt to capture the uncanny and semi-demonic nature of Hannibal himself, who was always a creature of evil magic.  Look at Harris' descriptions of him in Red Dragon, with his maroon eyes and his extra finger and his preternatural senses.

What the TV version of the stories has done is capture (with the proper ambiguity) the essentially magical nature of Hannibal and his world.  He lives in a twilight interzone between our world of quotidian normality and the deep, dark pit where human nature as brutish meat intersects with human nature as beset by devils and shades.

Yes, it glamourizes him and his violence, in contrast to real murderers... but that seems a superficial way to look at these stories, even if it's a perfectly valid one which should be given its own space.  Below that, there is more to say.  Treating Hannibal as an uncanny creature who blurs our senses of place and time and knowledge is actually much better in ...

Shabgraff in Wonderland (Shabcast 7)

"[T]he speaking of language is part of an activity, or a form of life."
- Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations

Today is the 150th anniversary of the origins of Alice in Wonderland.  A century-and-a-half ago today, Lewis Carroll took a boat trip with the Liddell family, and told the children a story.  Alice Liddell asked him to write it down.  He started the next day.

To celebrate, follow me down the rabbit hole and listen to Shabcast 7 - here.

A special one, this.  I'm once again joined by Josh Marsfelder (of Vaka Rangi) and for the first time by the wonderful Jane of many fames.  We watch (and chat about) the neglected 1966 Jonathan Miller TV version of Alice in Wonderland.  A forgotten masterpiece.  Well, maybe not forgotten... but not exactly remembered either.





This podcast had various titles before I settled on my final choice: 'Alice Narrates Herself'.  It was going to be called 'Cobwebs on the Tea Urn', then 'Mock Turtles all the Way Down', then 'Pig Latin'...  I even toyed with a facile but amusing 'Shabcast Madness Returns'.  I eventually settled on a title which reflected something myself and my ...

1

What can I do but cheat?

Three moments, not in chronological order.


1

Barbara Wright is in a junkyard.  She walks into a Police Box.  She's in a large, brightly lit control room.

This can happen on screen because of the cut.  The material conditions of TV production, manifested as a splicing together of two recorded moments into the appearance of one fluid event, makes this possible.  We have "discovered television".  We can put huge buildings inside small boxes.  We can put Narnia inside the wardrobe; Wonderland inside the rabbit hole.  The quintessential trait of British fantastic literature for kids - the eccentric relationship of impossible spaces - can be made visual.

Doctor Who's very nature as storytelling is utterly bound up with the limits of the material conditions of television production.  So much so that living on that limit became its raison d'etre.  Its development has always been inextricably connected with what can materially be done, and how it is done.  And what it has done has always developed what it wants to be able to do next.  As I've said elsewhere, 'The Space Museum' pushes ...

10

"We waited here in the dark space," booms the Dalek Emperor, "damaged but rebuilding. Centuries passed, and we quietly infiltrated the systems of Earth, harvesting the waste of humanity. The prisoners, the refugees, the dispossessed. They all came to us. The bodies were filtered, pulped, sifted. The seed of the human race is perverted. Only one cell in a billion was fit to be nurtured."

So, In Russell's rewrite of 'Revelation of the Daleks' (which would be a better title for this story than it was for Saward's script), the Daleks are no longer harvesting the elite.  Brought to the brink of extinction, they have been forced to resurrect themselves from the 'dregs'... which seems to be synonymous with the contestants who lose game shows.  The Daleks take the people who get knocked out before the finale.  Because the Daleks have become TV producers.  They've become the people who run Big Brother and Trinny & Susannah and The Weakest Link.  They've become the bosses of reality TV.  They've become Simon Cowell.  (Which is kind of an insult to the Daleks, if you ask me.)

Big Brother, in our ...

20

For March Against the Mainstream Media Day


The Editor (apparently he edits the whole of human society) has uncovered Suki's true identity.  Instead of being just another inoffensive wannabe employee, she's actually...

"Eva Saint Julienne, last surviving member of the Freedom Fifteen. Hmm, self declared anarchist, is that right?"  His tone is patronising.  Non-mainstream political principles are a quaint and amusing affectation.

"The Freedom Foundation has been monitoring Satellite Five's transmissions," says Suki, pulling a gun on the smug bastard, "We have absolute proof that the facts are being manipulated. You are lying to the people."

"Ooo, I love it," he giggles, still in the same tone of amusement, as though he's listening to hilariously naff dialogue in a period drama, "Say it again."

"This whole system is corrupt. Who do you represent?"

The Editor is self-aware enough to know that, for all his power, he's a slave himself.

"I answer to the Editor in Chief.... If you don't mind, I'm going to have to refer this upwards."

Suki looks up, to see what the Editor is referring to.

"What is that?" she asks.

"Your boss. This has always been ...

You'll Go Blind

I just rewatched a Channel 4 documentary series I originally saw first time round back in 1999.  Pornography: The Secret History of Civilisation.  I remembered it as fascinating, and it certainly was... but not for the reasons I remembered.  Watched now, it's fascinating for its intense and suffocating provincialism.  I refer to a provincialism of time and cultural moment.  To be cruder: the series reeks of the stale atmopshere of the 90s.  I don't just mean that it's dated.

After two decent episodes dealing with the Victorian creation of the concept of pornography (i.e. as a closed-off anteroom of culture, only to be studied... and perhaps enjoyed... by responsible, educated males) in the wake of the unearthing of Pompeii, and the revolutionary porn writing of the Enlightenment, the series starts dwelling on 20th century visual forms, from the photograph to the internet.

The last episodes are particularly mired in the stagnant and repellent atmosphere of their era.  All the hallmarks of the late-90s intellectual milieu (during which I endured acres of trendy theory at University) are there.  The social and political cynicism masquerading as consumerist utopianism.  Utopianism ...

And the award for the most nuanced bigotry goes to...

This article - from Rachel Shabi in The Guardian - is really great.  It's about the Islamophobia encoded in the recent spate of much-lauded movies (and a TV show) about Americans, Arabs, terrorism... and all that kind of stuff.  Argo, Homeland, Zero Dark Thirty - all recently rewarded at the Golden Globes.  Supposedly nuanced and complex, they peddle the same old lies... just in a way acceptable to liberals.

Here's a snippet:

The three winners have all been sold as complex, nuanced productions that don't shy away from hard truths about US foreign policy. And liberal audiences can't get enough of them. Perhaps it's because, alongside the odd bit of self-criticism, they are all so reassuringly insistent that, in an increasingly complicated world, America just keeps on doing the right thing. And even when it does the wrong thing – such as, I don't know, torture and drone strikes and deadly invasions – it is to combat far greater evil, and therefore OK.

Funny how the culture industry obediently steps up when the imperium is trying to relaunch (yet again) a rinsed-clean project of Muslimcidal 'humanitarian intervention'.  I'm all for complex, structural analyses of ...

We are the Borgias. You will be Excommunicated. Renaissance is Futile.

It's good that TV dramas have become more complex and ambiguous, particularly with regards to morality.  But there is a tendency for them to lose any moral compass in their eagerness to show us the dark sides of the characters with whom they want us to empathize and to care about.

The Borgias wants us to follow Cesare's career with sympathy, but also shows him having people tortured into madness.  What is the show's position on this?  Oddly, it tries to whitewash him even as it revels in his dark side.  It makes his victims into rapists and murderers.  It depicts him as personally involved in tormenting Savonarola, but makes Savonarola a fanatic (of course) and a vicious homophobe.  Now, it's true that Savonarola instituted strictly puritanical laws in Florence, including against sodomy... but that was applicable to hetero sex as well as homo.  Of course, I wouldn't want to defend Savonarola's views in their entirety.  He was not a modern democrat.  But he and people akin to him - Munzer, Cromwell, the Levellers, the Diggers... the p/Protestant revolutionaries of the era of transition from ...

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