Apr 082018

Yesterday I wrote about my TV watching in my log for Transparent. Rereading today I realize I may have given the impression I have something against TV shows and have lived without watching them until recently. This isn’t true.

It is true that I didn’t have a TV for for most of my 20s and once I did have one in my 30s I didn’t pay for cable beyond the basic broadcast channels. The TV was almost exclusively a screen for my VCR and DVD players.

I didn’t have anything against TV shows though. It’s just that I couldn’t be bothered to figure out when shows people were talking about were on, generally forgot to be home or to turn on the set when I did figure it out, and when I did remember, was never able to muster the patience necessary to endure (or tune out) the commercials. (And they drove me batty.)

Because I was guaranteed to miss episodes for any show I tried to watch, I couldn’t follow story arcs and hated episodes that ended with “To Be Continued.” So what I watched were either short episodic comedies such as Seinfeld or The Simpsons or series that were iconic enough to be a group activity. Star Trek: The Next Generation night was a quasi-standing appointment for my college friends.

Troi senses commercials coming but can’t find the remote to turn down the sound.


So my point yesterday wasn’t that I was living in a cave for most of my life. I was simply pointing out that that my current experience of TV is not a symptom of my movement from one mode of viewing (broadcast) to another (streaming). Instead, I’ve shifted from watching TV only rarely or incidentally to viewing enthusiastically and with genuine interest because of the arrival of streaming.

There are problems with streaming obviously. I especially dislike the way it encourages viewing as a race, which makes the experience about quantities (time, speed) and the fact of consumption rather than qualities related to the experience of story, character and form. But overall, streaming has made TV series a part of my imaginative life in a way they never have been. And I’m pretty excited by that.

One final note: inspired by streaming, The Beav and I recently subscribed to cable, thinking we’d maybe enjoy it now that we were more TV savvy. We couldn’t have been more wrong. Cable TV is like The Machine from The Princess Bride, sucking life directly from your body, leaving you dull and listless. After one month we’ve already decided to cancel it all.

Westley discovers that “cable” doesn’t mean “commercial free.”

Dec 232016

To the extent this movie is a TV episode blown up to two hours and with better effects, it’s a return to the pre-Abrams form. But in every other way, this movie is a repudiation of the values and sensibilities that in the earlier incarnations of Star Trek made me want to be a better person when I watched it.

What Abrams created and Justin Lin builds upon is a Bizzaro-Federation that I wouldn’t want to live in and leaves me nothing to aspire to. Call me a fuddy-duddy but I miss the calm good faith of Roddenberry’s utopia.

Oct 072013

I loved season three and had been waiting for a reason to drop the money for season four. When the shit hit the fan after the first few weeks of my semester, I thought “Bingo!” and clicked “buy,” and settled in for some quality time with dear sweet Pam and the lovely Eric. Alas, this was not to be.

Good things first. I liked the neat trick used to jump the timeline forward a year. The strict chronology of the first three seasons had gotten claustrophobic and the jump let in some much needed air. The Star Trek homage of the faerie world and the much needed death of major characters in the final episode were also much appreciated. Jessica also became cool enough that my vamp-love is now split three-ways, no small feat.


If season three pushed all my favourite aspects of the show front-and-center and exaggerated them just enough in just the right way, season four took those same things and absolutely ruined them. Pam ruined. Eric ruined. Sookie ruined. Hoyt ruined. Jason more-or-less ruined. Sexy sex ruined. Gay camp ruined. Pretty much everything and everyone ruined.

Things were so bad that I binge viewed the second half of the season just to be done. I disliked it that badly. What a waste.

Aug 042013

Not much to say about the movies I’ve seen in the past few months. The worst of the lot were just loud and shiny, exhausting. Logging them in a batch.



The Best of the Lot

Hannah Arendt

A film dealing with a non-dramatic but fierce intellectual conflict. How do you represent a fight that happens in writing between people who compose their words sitting alone and still in their homes? The film doesn’t shy away from showing the stillness. The actress creates intellectual depths. The dialogue offers exposition deftly without condescending. An exciting movie.

Man of Steel (first twenty minutes)

The opening segment of this movie—which offers up a completely imagined alien world ripe with imagery and symbolism and is wonderfully free of geek-dream, Marvel Universe-style exposition—is pretty much the best thing I saw all summer. It is also better than most of the science fiction movies I have seen these past few years. The view-screen technology was interesting and new. Better still, the mammalian insect mount—a live animal, a biological presence in a highly advanced technological culture—and the way the ships echoed this biological model suggested an entire way of life in miniature. Quite an achievement.


Completely Good

Louis Cyr

The ellipses make the narrative work. A scenic biography that moves confidently through the life. 

World War Z

An old-fashioned quest narrative. The narration could have tracked travel using the map device from The Raiders of the Lost Ark without ruining the tone. CGI and frantic violence were there at the beginning but the movie kept toning the noise down after that, finding drama and tension in slowness and silence. The best blockbuster of the summer. (Book log here.)

Children of Men

Beautifully shot and moving vision of a near-future apocalypse. A nice companion piece for teaching The Road.


Completely Okay

The Kings of Summer

This film is about the moustaches. The mystical snake-charming coming of age moment—save the girl!—feels off key but actually shows the movie’s cards. This hour and a half is a wish: “please please please make me an old-fashioned man, tough, competent, primitive and unemotional. So my dad will love me.”


…sur fils plutôt que père.

The Man of Steel (Everything after the young Clark saves the bus)

This movie slowly descends into the mud of too-loud sound design and pointless CGI stupidity. There is plenty here that, I suppose, looks cool—if cool is determined in your belly and scrotum and is pronounced “Awesome”—but nothing makes sense. How much does Superman weigh? Because in this movie, his Mass x Speed = enough force to destroy a mountain. Cool? Maybe but it doesn’t make sense. He takes off in flight and leaves a crater beneath him every single time. Cool? Maybe, but who wants a local hero that destroys your streets every time he moves from one place to another?

In other words, the already exaggerated-out-of-all-reasonable-proportions source story is being even further exaggerated until the whole exercise—and it becomes an exercise in sound and animation—becomes self-defeating. The “realistic” special effects create a completely non-sensical image of our world that is so unreal that you can’t care. Worse, it makes judgment—and important part of narrative—impossible: in what universe does it make sense for a woman looking at a city reduced to cinders (literally) say “he saved us”? I mean what exactly has been saved? And what happened to heroes who prevented damage? There was a time when they did that.

Thought of in another way, the movie suffers from the increasingly common problem a filmmaker setting up a strong opening, that either establishes a sense of place or a strong character or a particular mood, but then has no idea where to go from there. To often, sensation and excess are offered up as if they amounted to narrative resolution.

People laugh about the obligatory happy ending in Classical film, but I’m a bit nostalgic. Today, Hollywood has no idea how to end movies.


Time Wasters (Unless Seen on hot day to have air-conditioning)

The Great Gatsby

Iron Man 3

Star Trek: Into Darkness

Dec 312011

Star Trek

Rewatched this movie and still love it. A great sci-fi movie and a great Star Trek film. I can’t wait for the next one.

I really can’t.