2014 Review – Films, Music and Everything in Between

30

As the year comes to an end I’ve picked out my favourite moments from across twelve months, covering a number of different areas both good and bad. 

It only feels like yesterday I was writing up my review of 2013 and looking forward to another year. And now, in what can only be described as a time period that feels like half an hour, it would appear I am writing my end of term review for another year. Whether or not it is because I have enjoyed myself or simply because I feel older I’m not sure, but it’s safe to say a lot has happened across twelve months and through good times and bad we’re all still standing.

In a similar fashion to last year I have decided to produce a review for the year, with different awards for areas such as film, music, television etc. to provide a comprehensive overview of how the year was, to remember the bad points but also to celebrate the good points. And just to clarify when it comes to the film categories I am including films that were in the awards season, but I live in the UK so I am going based on their public release in the UK, thus for obvious reasons this does not cater for other countries or early showings at film festivals. So without any further delays, I present to you my end of term review for 2014.

Award for Best Film goes to… The Grand Budapest Hotel – It’s been a favourite of mine all year and it did look like it was going to be threatened by other films during the second half of the year, but nothing has stolen the title. It’s an all round fantastic film that is so tightly wound but runs like intricate clockwork. Fantastically written, laugh out loud funny, with a superb cast that is headed by Ralph Fiennes in his funniest role yet as Gustave H. In my opinion it is Wes Anderson’s finest work, with precise direction as always and excellent screenplay, all visually accompanied by another colour scheme and new fictional locations that I wish existed.

Award for Best Animated Film goes to… The Wind Rises – There were a couple of films that could have taken this award, until I watched this film about three weeks ago. It is utterly fantastic. The animation is beautiful, the historical context is important and it has a lot of heart. It is sad to know this could very well be Miyazaki’s last film but he has left us with his most beautiful film yet. I cried during the film and indeed afterwards however it is a film I would recommend to anybody and everybody.

Award for Best Acting Performance in a Film goes to… Joaquin Phoenix in Her – I’m counting this film because it wasn’t released in the UK until February, which is lucky because the lead performance is utterly fantastic. Phoenix manages to capture every angle of Theodore’s character, from the highs of being in love to the lows of being completely heartbroken and alone. It was a character that was just so human through their gentility and how events do not necessarily have a happy ending, and Phoenix captured this perfectly. It was a chilling performance on some levels also because it shows just how lonely someone can get in a world where technology removes a lot of human interaction.

“The Film I know I shouldn’t like but I do” Award goes to… The Double – I know a lot of people didn’t like it, they thought it was very much a classic case of style over substance, which it may very well be but I have to admit I liked it. I really admire Ayoade as a writer and so I think he did a good job with what can only be described as challenging source material in the form of the classic Dostoyevsky novella The Double. It was very much a dark turn for Ayoade after Submarine but I think he adapted his writing style quite nicely to create a film that was different from what we have previously seen.

Award for the Best Film Surprise goes to… The Lego Movie – I can’t actually think of a person that doesn’t like this film. I loved it. I sat down to watch it thinking it probably won’t be that good or funny, but it is genuinely fantastic. Impressive animation, intriguing plot and laugh out loud gags continuously. If you haven’t watched it then do it as soon as you can. It’s awesome. *snigger*

Award for the Film Let Down of the Year goes to… Maleficent – honestly I wanted this film to be good. I sat down to watch it having bought it the week it came out on DVD. Suffice to say this is the only time I genuinely considered returning a film and getting my money back for it. I like that it has some important messages in there and that is addresses some very serious topics, but honestly the film as a whole is bloody awful. A total lack of imagination and the non existent plot leaves the film feeling like a deflated balloon with an elephant stood on it.

Award for The Misunderstood Film of the Year goes to… Interstellar – Some people really hated it, critics were very mixed about the whole thing, but personally I really liked it. I’m not going to go on and on about it because obviously each to their own, but I think people got so bogged down in the complex nature of the plot that they were completely missing out on just how visually impressive the film is. I admire the film for being a big and bold science fiction film that was let loose on mainstream audiences so Chris Nolan is still very much in my good books for treating cinema audiences as intelligent beings. However, after a second viewing I think I’ll be able to say more about the film so watch this space.

Award for Best Score goes to… Interstellar by Hans Zimmer – I have to admit I have fallen out of touch with Hans Zimmer a bit but this film was different. In the past Zimmer has made such brilliant soundtracks that are loud, which this film has its fair share of, but for me it’s about the delicate parts of this score. It’s for the tracks that are slower and rack up the tension to leave you left in your seat feeling like absolutely anything could happen. It’s a score that very much reminded me of the score from Alien which was very quiet and unnerving. In particular for me the moments that stood out were when the musical accompaniment just suddenly cuts, leaving you with this shot of a tiny spacecraft in the vastness of space. It was chilling and unsettling but it’s undeniable that the score was utilised fantastically.

Award for Best Soundtrack goes to… Guardians of the Galaxy – this is a prime example of a time that I watched a film and bought the soundtrack immediately afterwards, it is just fantastic. Full of popular music from the seventies and eighties it’s the sort of soundtrack that reminded me of the soundtrack to Boogie Nights in which you just feel like putting on your dancing shoes and dancing as badly as that one friend you have who drinks too much and suddenly thinks they’re John Travolta. Fantastically uplifting but also well timed in terms of being used for comic purposes, well worth a listen.

Award for Best Song written for a film goes to… both The Last Goodbye by Billy Boyd (written for The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies) and Hikouki Gumo by Yumi Arai (written for The Wind Rises) – I could not decide between the two of these because they both for me symbolise the ending of a journey. The Last Goodbye obviously symbolises the end of this incredible tale through Middle Earth that Tolkien fans have been on for years now and it was really emotional to have a previous cast member return to write the song. And Hikouki Gumo signifies the end (supposedly) of Hayao Miyazaki’s career as a filmmaker. Both are beautifully written and moving so for me there is no way one can be picked as a winner.

Award for Best Television Programme goes to… Fargo – If ever there has been a show to completely grip me and make me want to keep watching in recent years, it’s Fargo. Breaking Bad did it to an extent, as did Sherlock originally but Fargo was an all round fantastic programme. The plot was perfectly on point, as was the screenplay and the cast were utilised fantastically to play such a diverse gang of misfits who you grow to love and hate over ten episodes. It was nice to see the Coen Brothers make the leap from film to television in such a stylish way, and I hope we see more of the show in the future. *fingers crosses the rumours of a second season are true*

Award for Best Television Moment goes to… The Mountain vs Viper fight scene in Game of Thrones – I cheered. Then I gasped. Then I cursed. Then I screamed. The scene is terrifying and the tension goes completely through the roof, but the whole thing is just fantastic. It is so brilliantly directed and the pace of it is pinpointed to perfection. I still watch this scene and think back to how scared I was when I first watched it.

Award for Television let down of the Year goes to… Doctor Who – I was looking forward to seeing what Moffat would do with such a talented actor as Capaldi and don’t get me wrong I think Capaldi is doing a fantastic job, but honestly, nothing excuses bad writing. Moffat claims to be a massive fan of the show so it’s high time he proved that by stopping his most consistent hobby of shitting on the show from a great height.

Award for Best Acting Performance in a Television Programme goes to… Natalie Dormer in Game of Thrones – I don’t know what it is about her. I know her character is crafty and slimey one moment but then all smiles and loyalty five minutes later, but she does it so well. I can’t tell if Natalie Dormer is a nice person in real life or not because she confuses the fuck out of me in GoT. She’s got the smile of someone who knows you’ve got a really big surprise coming on Christmas day and that they can break you just with the power of suggestion. Margery is a complex character but I think Dormer has consistently played her to such a high standard, incredible talent.

Television Event of the Year goes to… Black Mirror: White Christmas – It’s a late entry I know but honestly I have not been as excited for any element of television this year as I was for the one off special of Charlie Brooker’s phenomenal Black Mirror. It was the show I was most excited for and was the show that disappointed me the least. Well worth the wait and one that definitely had to be mentioned as a highlight of 2014’s television offerings.

Award for Best Song goes to… Moving on by James – There’s a lot of older acts still trying to recapture former glory. AC/DC are still clinging on, G’n’R are somehow still going, for some unknown reason KISS still exist, and it’s all becoming very tiresome. So it’s a nice surprise when an older band keeps it together and manages to still make such brilliant music. In the waves of music that doesn’t mean anything (I draw your attention to songs such as All about that Bass) James are still writing fantastic songs about love that have both heart and substance. The whole album was brilliant, but this song in particular stood out.

Award for Best Album goes to… Antemasque by Antemasque – this is the sort of album that you don’t really pick favourites from, because the whole thing is fantastic. It’s great to see Cedric Bixler Zavala and Omar Rodriguez Lopez working together again doing what they do best: writing amazing songs and going fucking nuts whenever they feel like it. It had a rough time due to early release and then being withdrawn for re-release and it seemed like for a while we wouldn’t see this album again. But then with the worldwide release in November meant anybody could listen to what is one of the best albums to have been released in recent years.

Award for Worst Song goes to… Shake it Out by Taylor Swift – it’s funny how some people talk without saying thing, and then people like Taylor Swift sing without saying anything. It’s a song that consists of the polystyrene shapes that come in a box when you first get a new washing machine. It lacks any form of substance and basically has a message that’s as strong as Russell Brand’s political opinions. It’s hard to say what the song is about really as it is so badly written that there isn’t a hope in hell of analysing it because it would be as a futile as trying to teach a fish how to climb a tree. The lyrics remind of the moment that happens every so often when a child spontaneously makes up a song and proceeds to dance to it. I have cousins under the age of eight, and right now they’re showing more of a talent than Miss Swift is managing. I feel less at risk to Ebola than I do to internal hemorrhaging after being bored to death by this trashy attempt at song writing. If only the people who have heard the song could shake it off and erase any trace of the stupid song ever being near them.

Award for Best Internet Moment of the Year goes to… the rumours surrounding Glastonbury – It was just fantastic to see all of the people on Twitter getting excited about rumoured acts like Kate Bush, Fleetwood Mac, Oasis (somehow), Foo Fighters, and then the big day came and Metallica were announced. The look on the faces of those I know that had tickets was that of a child who has their balloon popped right in front of them by some bastard with a pin. Priceless.

Favourite blog post of the year goes to… https://adamdlester17.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/leonardo-dicaprio-doesnt-need-an-oscar-no-one-does/ a short blog post I wrote earlier this year about how the Oscars don’t matter. It’s not just my favourite because it was well received, it’s because it meant the most to me. I listed some of the greatest film talents of all time who have never won Oscars just to show how films should not be made competitive in such a silly subjective fashion. If you haven’t read it then please give it a quick look, it would mean so much to me if more people read it and shared it.

Award for Best Film News of the Year goes to… Star Wars Episode VII being filmed literally ten minutes away from my house – yep. This happened.

All in all it was a busy year with a lot of ups and downs but overall it was an interesting experience. I hope it was a good year for everyone, but more importantly I hope this next year is even better. On a personal note I would just like to add that this blog is now two years old. After nearly stopping it altogether a couple of months ago I have to admit I’m glad I stuck with it and kept on writing. So really I just want to thank everyone who has ever read it, be it a loyal fan or a close friend or even a random viewing from another country, thank you for taking the time out of your day to sit and witness a young man pontificate. Thank you to those who have stayed loyal and thank you to those who have recently followed. 2015 should be a big year so I can’t wait to post more, including some bigger projects so keep your eyes peeled. ‘Blunt Reviews Presents’ was just the beginning.

I am aware there are things I have missed in this post so if there is anything you would like a judgement on then please feel free to leave a comment and I shall address it as soon as I can.

Happy new year to all, and a much awaited goodbye to 2014.

020513-fine-wine-rushmore_17

My Predictions For How Game of Thrones Ends, Place Your Bets

I can guarantee that the majority of people who see the title of this post, wherever they may see it, will continue to scroll because they’re not interested. In which case shame on all of those people, they don’t know what they’re missing out on.

As of last week I am fully up to date on all Game of Thrones events, having blitzed through the third season over the space of two afternoons. I now understand so many references and can indulge in various discussions about the programme, and with the fourth season now airing and two more seasons confirmed, it seems only appropriate to talk about the different possibilities for how it all ends. So what I thought I’d do is take every main character and guess what will be their eventual outcome, based on their current state, what I think of them, and what I would like to see happen. So I’ve devised two different outcomes for the characters, what I want to happen and what I think will actually happen.

I will say in advance I haven’t read the books so I don’t actually know what happens to the characters, the predictions here mere guesses, written to provide some form of entertaining experience for fellow GOT fans. There may be slight spoilers, but I shall do my best to speak spoilerese.

Tyrion Lannister 

Ideal – I want him to be happy, settle down with the woman he loves in a nice condo in California and become a successful director. Possibly becoming king by some bizarre route, alas there is more chance of Ned Stark becoming king.

Actual – I get the feeling he’s going to continue being unhappy and having decisions made for him, forcing him to take a part time job on the checkouts in a supermarket. Tywin will probably push him into working for Walmart.

Cersei Lannister

Ideal – just to be unhappy. To realise that she is quite a repellent human being and to be banished to a place that fits her personality. Like Hull.

Actual – she will remain the same, annoying everything and everyone and being one of the few people that does not die. Her inappropriate behaviour will continue to grow, expanding in to areas such as internet fraud, and still she will receive no form of justice for her actions.

Arya Stark

Ideal- can she just be happy please? She’s gone through so much already, I just want her journeying to reach a nice conclusion and for her to settle down somewhere. She could even become a teacher of self defence for young people. Or use needle to teach sewing, I don’t know, just as long as she’s happy

Actual – she is doomed to spend the next three years walking/ running, in a Forrest Gump like fashion, until she needs new trainers and grows a full beard

Daenerys Targaryen

Ideal – she finally reaches Westeros, still bent on claiming the throne and becoming Queen, however when she gets there it turns out all of the soldiers are a figment of her imagination and her dragons are mere kites she guides on string. It turns out she was a patient on Shutter Island who was allowed to act out her fantasy as a way of realising who she really was. It didn’t work.

Actual – I want her to continue building her army up to make it strong and stronger, until she eventually reaches Westeros and no one recognises her. She has no reputation and so has to open her own pet shop, specialising in lizards and other reptiles

Jon Snow

Ideal – finally knows something

Actual – knows nothing

Jorah (AKA Captain Friend-zone)

Ideal – he finally tells Daenerys what he thinks of her, and after venting his emotions he goes on to lead a happy life and eventually moves on to someone who is less obsessed with bloody dragons. The mentioning of the word “dragon” causes him to have panic attacks for some time.

Actual – he delves deeper and deeper in to the friend-zone, forever doomed to see naked Daenerys, but no touchy touchy

Sansa Stark

Ideal – she realises that Joffrey had essentially brainwashed her in to this whole “traitor” mindset, she slaps him and applies for a place at the University of Sheffield to study graphic design. Eventually she defers her entry and moves to Alaska with Sam Tarly. He’s used to the cold weather and he’s looking for a career change so it works out perfectly for the both of them.

Actual – I can’t be too specific, but I don’t think she’s going to be happy. There’s more this “I’m not hungry” and “I’m going to pray” rubbish so all we can do is hope it’s a teenage phase she grows out of.

Joffrey Baratheon 

Ideal – suffering, lots and lots of suffering. Involving his crossbow. Oh and Tyrion gets to slap him again and tell him to go to bed.

Actual – his reign of error shall continue and he’ll grow old as a the king, and none shall oppose him. It’ll be a similar situation to Margaret Thatcher; he’ll lose his position but only after a number of years and a lot of controversial decisions. There will be an uproar of celebrations once he eventually dies (another possible link to Thatcher, interpret as you wish)

Hodor

Ideal – Hodor

Actual – Hodor

‘The Hound’

Ideal – He will continue with his “not giving a f***” attitude and his anti-establishment views because he’s his own man, allowing him to form his own punk band called “f*** the king”. Their debut album “don’t play with fire” reached number 17 in the charts.

Actual – a freak accident will lead to permanent brain damage, restricting his vocabulary to the word “yarp” and forcing him to become a trolley boy at Somerfield working for Timothy Dalton. I hope people get the reference.

Bran Stark

Ideal – he shall continue with his animal talking and shall live in the jungle like Mowgli

Actual – he’s going to take over from Eddie Murphy and make some more Doctor Dolittle films, nearly killing off his career completely

Jaime Lannister 

Ideal – he realises that he no longer needs his sister for coitus and moves on to a more conventional relationship with someone who isn’t psychopathic.

Actual – with his new metal hand he goes on with Han Solo to take on the empire and defeat Darth Vader

Tywin Lannister

Ideal – he backs down and gets his arse back to Harrenhal, leaving Tyrion to his own devices

Actual – he moves away to Hawaii with Hodor, where they elope and have a healthy relationship, running a cafe on the beach

Lord Baelish

Ideal – he becomes more and more mysterious as a person until he eventually just disappears as a puff of smoke in the night.

Actual – he goes on to become a very successful Gary Oldman impersonator

Bronn

Ideal – the banter never stops and he continues to serve Tyrion through thick and thin, with various disputes about whether he is being paid enough.

Actual – HBO funds a comedy programme consisting of Bronn and Tyrion improvising conversations. It runs for 16 successful seasons before ending with a christmas special set in Spain.

Ygritte 

Ideal – she stumbles across the Doctor as a young child, goes travelling through time and space and marries Rory.

Actual – she wanders for miles and miles before realising that she’s actually two centimetres tall and is in fact living inside a giant snow globe. She curses the glass sky and shouts “who am I to have sexy cave times with now?”

Now I’m not particularly good at maths, I got my A at GCSE and left it there, so I don’t know what the odds are of these things actually happening, but at the moment I’d say they’re about 3:1.

Already I can hear fans of George R. R. Martin leaning back in their chairs and cracking their knuckles, ready to type various comments about how wrong I am or how childish I am for writing such nonsense, but I look forward to reading them. It can’t be as bad as all of the abuse I got for my views on The Hobbit. Tolkien fans are vicious. And quite bitchy too.

So those are my guesses as to what happens, I’m very interested to find out what other people think is going to happen, please feel free to leave your opinions.

I’m nearly certain that some of these things could possibly happen.

 

 

2013 Review – from Music to Film and Everything In Between

It appears the end is nigh. As many customers at my weekend job have reminded me, yes it is nearly the end of the year, and yes I should have a happy new year. And yes they would like the receipt in the bag.

Seeing as though I have nearly had this blog for a year now and how much has happened this year I thought I’d take advantage of this opportunity and sum up all of the best elements of 2013 for me. It’s in the style of an award ceremony, and it branches from elements such as music and film to experiences I’ve had. My year would not have been the same without them.

Song of the year: Do I Wanna Know?, Arctic Monkeys – it was up there with ‘Four Simple Words’ by Frank Turner and Black Sabbath’s ‘God Is Dead?’ but being released in the middle of the year as the first song by the band in well over a year, it was always going to be something special. It was a nice surprise returning from a camping week to hear this song, a nice blend of heavy guitar and bass accompanied by Alex Turner’s incredible vocals. It is masterfully written and presents a clear and strong message based around the connection you have to someone. 

Album of the year: Evil Friends, Portugal. The Man – having not heard of the band before spending a weekend away in Southampton to visit my sister back in July, I was excited to hear what music was produced by the band. Their new album was released and instantly became a favourite of mine, every single song on it is brilliant and makes me want to keep listening. Sure ‘AM’ was brilliant but it didn’t have me as hooked as Portugal. The Man did. If you haven’t listened to them before then I would heavily recommend them. Their music is a little different but beautiful nonetheless.

Best Live Act: shared winners Arctic Monkeys and Fleetwood Mac- I know I’m cheating by choosing two, but despite Reading Festival in the summer nothing compares to either of these acts. Fleetwood Mac performed for three hours straight and were musically perfect whilst still putting on a good show. Then Arctic Monkeys differed from that, being more energetic and making me dance harder than I’ve ever danced before. A particular highlight for me was the blend of their song ‘Arabella’ and the Black Sabbath classic ‘War Pigs’. Both were completely different styles of performing, but either way I witnessed true titans of music.

Television Programme of the Year: Breaking Bad – I don’t think I need to elaborate here. It was insane and there was no Sherlock to compete. Next.

Film of the Year: Kings of Summer – A beautiful, charming, funny and heartwarming film that was probably missed by most people I know. An obscure comedy about three teenagers who decide to live in the forest, reminding us all of the times we wanted to be free when we were younger. It shows the value of friendship, challenges the value of family and makes you laugh out loud in between. It is a genuine treasure of the year and it’s a shame so many people missed it. I would heavily recommend this film to anyone that is human. 

Cinema Shock of the Year : Trance – I came out of the cinema screening and didn’t know what to think. It was how I imagine ‘Inception’ would be if it was directed by Quentin Tarantino. I’m not saying it wasn’t good because it was a very good film, it’s just not one for the faint hearted. Danny Boyle did a terrific job but it should not have a 15 certificate. 

Film Soundtrack of the Year : Silver Linings Playbook – I can’t really say a lot more than it’s a perfect soundtrack for a damn good film. A good blend of old and contemporary songs that link to the mindset of the characters so well. I love it. My review of the film can be found here: https://adamdlester17.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/rapid-reviews-silver-linings-playbook/

“I shouldn’t like it but I do” Film of the Year : The World’s End – those who are followers of my blog will know how much I thought of this film. Yes it was ill disciplined, yes it wasn’t as funny as ‘Hot Fuzz’, but I don’t care. The use of sci fi humour and the underlying theme of what it means to be a human, and furthermore being proud of being human were enough to make me very happy indeed. Again, my review of the film can be found here: https://adamdlester17.wordpress.com/2013/07/21/the-worlds-end-review-no-spoilers-the-cornetto-trilogys-worthy-last-installment/

Acting Performance of the Year : Joaquin Phoenix, The Master –  I know it was technically a 2012 film for some but it was nominated for the 2013 Academy Awards so I think it counts. Honestly I cannot give Mr Phoenix enough credit for this role, he was absolutely superb. The scenes that were improvised were chilling and gritty and then the scripted scenes were perfected. This award very nearly went to Jennifer Lawrence for ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ purely because of the shock factor but in the end Joaquin really put on a good show and showed us just how unstable a character can be.

Nerd Pleasing Moment of the Year : Doctor Who 50th Special – Star Trek didn’t get this award. Thor didn’t get this award. Superman definitely didn’t get this award. There was only going to be one winner, and that was indeed the anniversary special of Doctor Who back in November. The combination of David Tennant, John Hurt and careful writing (finally) made the episode as good as it was. I was overjoyed when it turned out to be as good as it was and I think it was a near perfect way of celebrating what is one of the best television programmes ever to be made.

I Told You So Award :  shared winners Man Of Steel and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – This is again an award that is shared between two films, and it is for the films that I warned people about before but they didn’t listen. What I mean by this is simple: ‘Man of Steel’ was ruined because Zack Snyder concentrates too much on visuals and so the film lacked substance. A secondly, ‘The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug’ is still too long and it doesn’t need to be that long. Both films could have been a lot better and it’s a shame because I wanted to enjoy them both a lot more than I did. Incidentally I reviewed the second installment of The Hobbit recently which can be found here: https://adamdlester17.wordpress.com/2013/12/24/the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaug-the-film-is-long-meaning-my-review-is/

Blog Post of the Year : “Tim Burton vs Christopher Nolan – The Batman Argument” – this was always going to be a favourite of mine. It took a long time to write due to the research behind it, but it was worth it. It was a lot of fun to write and to this day it still remains my most viewed blog post. It was my response to an article saying that Tim Burton made better Batman films than Christopher Nolan. In all fairness the article was very well written and they formed a strong argument, however I responded accordingly, and if you haven’t read it then it can be found here: https://adamdlester17.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/tim-burton-vs-christopher-nolan-the-batman-argument/

Runners up for my favourite blog post were:

Cloud Atlas review: https://adamdlester17.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/rapid-reviews-cloud-atlas-dvd/

Great Gatsby review: https://adamdlester17.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/the-could-be-better-gatsby-no-spoilers/

So there you have it, my review of different elements the year had to throw at us. Were they the best choices? Probably not but they were the ones that stood out to me and the ones that had the biggest impact.

On a side note I would just like to say a huge thank you to everybody who has followed my blog or indeed anybody who has read it. Even the one time means a lot to me and I’m grateful for anybody who takes the time to look at my work. I started this blog a year ago and didn’t even imagine it would be as well received as it has been so I would like to thank those who have supported me throughout the year. Thank you to everyone who has made this year so brilliant, and I wish everyone all the best for 2014.

Approaching Science Fiction – Stop Setting Phasers To ‘Dumb’

Those who follow my blog posts will no doubt have noticed the recent section I’ve created entitled ‘Rapid Reviews’. This is where I take a DVD release (old or new) and review it as quickly as I can. One of the latest reviews I wrote was for the new Star Trek film, which very nearly made it is a four star film but just missed out. Some people (for some bizarre reason) disagreed with my judgement and slated the film for being too action packed. I refer these people back to my review, particularly the section where I discussed the different themes and underlying messages, clearly they were too blinded by the lens flares to notice what was right in front of them. It didn’t annoy me that much, it did however get me thinking about science fiction and the layers behind it.

When outsiders to science fiction take a glimpse at it all they mainly see is two actors, one dressed in terrible alien costume, in front of a strange setting and locked in poorly choreographed combat (not your best moment Shatner). Not being able to look past this shows quite an unengaged and impatient person if you ask me. The depths that some pieces of science fiction explore are so much more than what you see on screen. Take ‘Star Trek’ itself for example, the basic message behind it is that equality is something we should strive for. It displays a hopeful future where people live together harmoniously, regardless of gender, ethnicity, age or any other factors. Admittedly it’s not all perfect and the sense of conflict is still present, but that’s just what happens when a fleet of Klingon war-birds are approaching and shields are at 30%. Regardless of this people take one look at Leonard Nimoy in the ‘silly ears’ and give up watching, which denies them access to one of the best forms of entertainment; intelligent sci fi.

From watching as much science fiction as I have you start to develop an understanding of who has a true grasp of the subject matter, and who quite frankly hasn’t. Ridley Scott is one for me that is a pioneer of science fiction, he steers away from the bog standard 12A certificate sci fi fling and presents the audience with a piece of intelligent cinema that means something. Take ‘Blade Runner’ for example, one of the best science fiction films of all time, not only was it a big, bold and unashamed science fiction film but it had depth. The underlying messages focused on quite a central idea; the idea of wanting to meet your maker. The characters that are replicants have actions that at first seem irrational and odd, until you realise that they’re merely representing the human instinct present without an understanding of rules or boundaries. The film focuses a lot on the human condition, testing the audience on what it means to be human, and what makes us who we are. There are action sequences admittedly, but they show a more gothic approach to science fiction, with Rutger Hauer giving an outstanding performance as a machine that has the freedom all humans want and the question that all humans ask; why are we here?

It’s a message that Scott keeps quite close to him in his films, ‘Prometheus’ had quite a similar message behind it. The key characters of the film are all questioning the same thing; who is their maker? The humans are on the search for who made them and what they were designed for, and then the robot character of David, played brilliantly by Michael Fassbender, understands fully who made him and what he was made for so he questions what intrigues the humans so much. It’s the sort of science fiction that makes you think about how small you are as an individual human, and if there is ever going to be an explanation for our existence. Linked closely to this there is the idea of questioning religion and faith in ‘Prometheus’, with the main character making use of the response “because it’s what I choose to believe” when justifying her actions. It shows truly intelligent sci fi when a film plunders such depths and presents philosophical arguments. David questions why Doctor Shaw still has faith even after all of the pain and loss she suffers, but she represents the human urge to seek the truth.

Cinema isn’t the only place you’ll find science fiction that has meanings to it as well, all you need to do is flick through your television channels on a Saturday and you’re sure to stumble across one of the most important science fictions creations of all time; ‘Doctor Who’. Running for fifty years now ‘Doctor Who’ is one of the single greatest science fiction creations ever to be made, presenting the audience with an interesting character that is both human and yet not human and adventures every week that take the audience away from their lives for a short period of time. The character of the Doctor is very interesting because he represents a lot of ideas linked to being human, such as the sense of adventure we all share and the need to find someone who you consider a friend. The Doctor is just like any human, he had the chance to run away from the reality of life and took it to go off and live properly, an experience I think everyone will admit they want. The show allows a lot of room for thought because it’s the alien side to the Doctor that makes him friends, and the human side that takes them away. It makes you think about the ones you love and how much you’re willing to do for them. 

On the other hand I know that a crucial element of science fiction is the action because that’s all part of the adventure. I mean if I’m honest if I want to possess a working time machine, alone with a sonic screwdriver, lightsaber and phaser. I understand that different people take different thinks from watching film and television, but being open minded helps when it comes to pieces of intelligent science fiction. I’m not saying that what I take away from science fiction is down to me watching them correctly and others not doing so results in them not enjoying it. I just feel as though judging something before you understand it properly somewhat holds you back from the key purpose of it. The purpose of it is to enjoy the experience in any and every way you can, and I thoroughly hope everyone does.

 

Put the ignorance and the money to one side, with the revolving furniture, and stop being idiots.

Apologies, I know my next post was going to be a continuation of my discussion of films but this is a spur the moment post that has been set off like a fire work.

Now in terms of opinions I’m pretty open. I know I may not seem it at the best of times, but honestly I am open minded about most topics. So why then, did television have to take a moment of optimism from me and exploit it? I have tried to give reality television a chance, believe me I have, it just doesn’t work. It’s like me being in a relationship with a cactus; works well until you find out the other member is a prickly idiot you can’t stand to be around (interpret that how you will, it works both ways). With this optimism at the fore front of my mind I kept The Voice UK on when it appeared during a routine flick through the channels. I was not pleased, entertained or amused in the slightest.

See people have accused me in the past of being grumpy, and have labelled me “the grumpy old man” on the basis that I’m old fashioned in my views and don’t give things a chance. Reality television is one of the things they say I need to give a chance. In this case I did, and it ended with me shouting at the television, being needlessly aggressive and inappropriate before rushing to a computer to start typing. It was one of the most infuriating experiences of my life. Which isn’t easy to say considering I’ve been paragliding with my mother. Trust me, being suspended in the air with my mother talking constantly with death being the only escape was less painful than watching this abomination.

I’ll take you through it.

The judges are all sat there with their backs to the singer, listening eagerly to their voice and wondering whether to press the button and be in with a shot of being their mentor. If they press the button their silly little chair revolves and that’s it they’re in with a shot of helping a potential star, and if none of them do it then it’s a disappointing journey home for the contestant. So if the singer is the most important aspect of the show, and helping them is the priority, why are the judges looking at each others hands constantly? Why does the opinion of the others matter so much when they could be the one to help someone? I know, because they’re in it for themselves.

I watched contestant after contestant turn up on the stage, sounding exactly like so many other people and the judges are all eager to spin their chairs around, but only if the others do too of course. So it angered me massively to see a matured singer with an acoustic guitar doing quite a good cover of Pink Floyd faced with the backs of the judges. Not one of them turned their chair around on the basis that no one else did. Now I’m sorry but if you really wanted to help someone that you think has got immense talent then you would jump on them and hope and pray that none of the others do. Not in this show, oh no. It’s all about getting one up on each other and having the bragging rights in the dressing room back stage.

The result of this incident was that the man went home disappointed all because William Adams, yes I refuse to give a full grown man such a ridiculous stage name, decided that someone else who is like so many other artists in today’s industry is worth a better shot. I’m sorry but people as silly as that shouldn’t be given such responsibility. If they want to mess around with buttons then they should be taken off of the television and given one of those children’s toys that has different buttons that make different animals pop out and make a noise. It was disappointing to see the judges act in such a selfish manner, acting based on what the others are doing instead of keeping morality in check and going with their instinct. It was simply a case of Jessie wouldn’t turn because Tom didn’t, Tom wouldn’t because the Irish man didn’t, and he wouldn’t because William Adams didn’t, who wouldn’t go in the first place because Jessie didn’t. Can these people not think for themselves? They’ve shown that they can think ABOUT themselves well enough.

I think the concept of the show is flawed on a moral because it is basically just any other talent show with the added touch of moving furniture. The impact of this is that the judges are even more competitive to beat the other and benefit themselves. The contestants feelings and ambitions aren’t considered by the judges. If the person does eventually end up happy then that’s just an added bonus to the judges topped up bank balance. Loyal fans of the show would respond to my opinion as they have before with comments such as “the judges don’t care what the others think” which they clearly do because otherwise their eye line would not be directed towards each others hands, and “it adds a real sense of tension that other reality shows don’t provide”. Which is silly really because if you’re looking for tension in a reality television show then you’re really looking in the wrong place. It’s just the same as all other reality talent contests; the judges are looking to make money and this is achieved through exploiting the public who are manipulated in to thinking they have a chance. Did we really need The Voice to come to the UK? We’ve got enough reality television as it is without needing to create more shows.

So the show is still continuing, more contestants come and go with the average talented, cliched ones getting their big break and the niche market, unique acts being sent away. Jessie J is still as annoying as ever, can’t really look at her in the same way after ruining “we will rock you” at the Olympics, Tom Jones is disappointing listeners of old music nationwide, William Adams (again) still looks like a Tim Burton creation who’s been kicked through Top Man, and I’m not entirely sure who the Irish fellow is. Either way the four of them with some Ikea furniture and big buttons is enough to keep me away of television and loose faith in our society a little bit more.

The grumpy old man strikes back I know, but as long as there is awful television being created then I will have something to complain about. Mind you it could have been worse, I could have stopped on ITV to watch Britains Got Talent.