Dir. Mark Frost
A steamy belch of bayou gas, Mark Frost’s Storyville features senators behaving badly, lawyers acting erratically, and judges packing heat. A story this silly could only come out of the fevered dream of New Orleans, and Frost is working from a novel called Juryman by Frank Galbally and Robert Macklin. I assume he was faithful, because I can’t find anything about the book on the web.

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K-Punk tackles Mark E. Smith

I’ve enjoyed K-Punk’s Lacanian takes on Cronenberg, Lynch, and Doctor Who, among others. This week, he starts a two part series examining The Fall, primarily the early albums. It’s good stuff, as usual:

On ‘Specter versus Rector’, any vestigial rock presence subsides into hauntology. The original track is nothing of the sort – it is already a palimpsest, spooked by itself; at least two versions are playing, out of sync. The track – and it is very definitely a track, not a ‘song’ – foregrounds both its own textuality and its texturality. It begins with cassette hum and when the sleeve notes tell us that it was partly ‘recorded in a damp warehouse in MC/R’ we are far from surprised. Steve Hanley’s bass rumbles and thumps like some implacable earth-moving machine invented by a deranged undergound race, not so much rising from subterranea as dragging the sound down into a troglodytic goblin kingdom in which ordinary sonic values are inverted. From now on, and for all the records that really matter, Hanley’s bass will be the lead instrument, the monstrous foundations on which the Fall’s upside-down sound will be built. Like Joy Division, fellow modernists from Manchester, The Fall scramble the grammar of white rock by privileging rhythm over melody.

And just in time for the M.R. James anthology I ordered to come in the mail…

Best of Youth

Dir. Marco Tullio Giordana
Spanning four decades in the life of one Italian family, Best of Youth recreates the depth and psychological breadth of a fine novel.
It’s also compulsive viewing, though I spread its six-hour length over a few days. And to talk about what happens in the film would ruin your potential enjoyment of its character development and plot twists (which are often sudden and shocking).
But essentially we have two brothers, Nicola (Luigi Lo Cascio) and Matteo (Alessio Boni), who we join as they are about to graduate from college in the early 60s. Along with two of their friends, they have a great European trip planned. Nicola is the studious one, Matteo is the impulsive one, though even at the beginning, they share each others qualities. The trip goes awry–Matteo, who is volunteering at a psychiatric hospital, rescues a young female patient,Giorgia (Jasmine Trinca), convinced she is being tortured with electroshock therapy. The two friends go on ahead, while the two brothers abscond with the girl to return her to her family in the north. Yet, that doesn’t work out either, in surprising ways, and Nicola winds up being the only one to really travel outside the country, up to Norway.

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Doctor Who – The Girl in the Fireplace

Written by Stephen Moffat
At last. Finally. An episode of Doctor Who that can stand up with the best from Season One.
The Girl in the Fireplace looked like it was going to be a typical “run away from mechanical monsters” story in the preview, but Stephen Moffat’s script managed to be a thoughtful piece about time and love.
The Doctor and companions land on a 51st century spaceship that contain time portals into 18th century France. Why and how are discovered over the course of the episode, but at the center is, Reinette, a young girl who will grow up to become Madame de Pompadour, mistress to the king. She also believes, when the Doctor enters her room via the fireplace that he is her imaginary friend come to rescue her from the monster under the bed, a V-for-Vendetta style clockwork robot, all that’s left of the ship’s crew.
The Doctor’s trips back and forth between the ship and France are only minutes, but each window is another stage in Reinette’s life. Like Sarah Jane Smith last week, the madam waits for the Doctor to return to save her from the moment when the robots return at age 37 to claim her head.
Now, there are lots of unexplained facts and plain plotholes in this episode (why do the robots have to watch her evolve? Why can’t they just skip ahead to age 37? Why can’t Reinette just leave the palace and get out of danger? Why is there a white horse wandering the spaceship?) but in this dreamy episode all this is secondary to the love that builds between the Doctor and the rapidly aging mistress (again, reflecting what was said last week to SJS about watching companions age). She has spent her life waiting for these brief moments of pleasure, while the Doctor must choose between traveling through time or resigning himself to a temporal existence (much like a Greek Gods desire to become mortal) for love. We know what the end result will be, yet Moffat manages to wring as much pathos and sadness out of the Doctor’s decision (and his equally rash return to the spaceship).
Rose and Mickey are essentially marginalized for the majority of the episode, which is a weakness. Some stories really only belong to the Doctor. But the irritating breakneck pace of the earlier episodes is gone and the same amount of time delivers the kind of bittersweet emotion that School Reunion should have had.
Next week: Cybermen!


Dir. Takashi Shimizu
Made in conjunction with one of Tokyo’s film school’s and starring Shinya Tsukamoto,
better known as a film director of Tetsuo: Iron Man, Marebito successfully marries Japanese grunginess with a particular brand of early 20th century Lovecraftian horror. It’s a relief to see that this was shot by the same director of (and at the same time as) the U.S. remake of The Grudge, and that Hollywood hasn’t gone to his head. Instead, this is a creepy, shot-on-several-kinds-of-video story.

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Theater Review: Lola Goes to Roma

‘Lola’ offers a world tour of clichès
May 3, 2006 8:19 AM
Yet another frustrated movie script masquerading as a play,
Josefina Lopez’s “Lola Goes to Roma” follows in bitty and piecemeal fashion the travels of a Los Angeles-based mother and daughter in Europe. Apart from a colorful set and glamorous parade of costume design, the play has little to recommend it — full of anti-intellectualism, tired clichès of European nations and perfunctory writing.
The play tells us little about life lived, but more about the amount of European-set Hollywood films watched, stitched together as it is from remnants of “Roman Holiday,” “Three Coins in the Fountain,” “Shirley Valentine,” and a whole slew of Yanks abroad romantic comedies.

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Time Out of Joint – Philip K. Dick

Penguin Books
1959 (1979 reprint)
My friend Jeff literally gasped when I told him I was reading Philip K. Dick for the first time.
He of course has been a fan for years, and quickly rattled off a list of must-reads in his bibliography, including a biography which will give some context.
Dick novels are hard to find used here–the Public Library has a few, and the Book Den has at most one at any time. This is not a reason for me not reading earlier, just a fact. There’s something groovy, then, in picking up this Penguin UK paperback, a thin novel–it feels like a coffee break.
Time Out of Joint is an early work, and tells the story of Rangle Gumm, a 40-something layabout who starts to suspect that his small-town suburban reality is not what it all seems. Objects disappear in front of him, leaving only the object’s name on a scrap of paper. His young cousin finds old magazines and phonebooks that don’t correspond to the era. The cousin also builds a crystal radio and Ragle begins to hear pilots passing overhead, talking about him. And why does he keep winning his local paper’s mail-in quiz?
The publication date was 1959, and not only is Dick presaging all sorts of recent alt.reality movies like the Matrix and Truman Show, but part of what I liked about this novel is his depictions of life in late-50’s America. He understands the phony veneer of post-war suburbia around the same time Twilight Zone was doing the same. The early chapters are now a glimpse into how people thought and acted back then, just before Dick bends their reality. He gets the consumerism that we are still suffering from, the “reality” that America creates around itself to keep out the messy Real. Baudrillard would have a field day with the book; so would Zizek. I breezed through, and got a kick in the pants–fun stuff.
For a much more intelligent consideration of the novel, for those who have read it, check out The Four Levels of Reality in Time Out of Joint by Yves Potin.

All Your Childhood Base Belong to Us

Us, being, the denizens of the Internet, and one particular blog called Scarstuff. They’ve dug up and posted the MAD Magazine
Super Spectacular Day
flexisingle that I owned back in 1980. The single was particularly interesting for having eight different endings, all randomly determined from where the stylus landed. This meant that as you tried to listen to all eight endings, the song got stuck in your head. I’m almost scared to relisten to it– I still have that obnoxious “UNTILLLL!!” knocking about my brain all these years later.

Doctor Who – School Reunion

Written by Toby Whitehouse
Ironically, on the weekend the Beeb broadcast this latest Doctor Who episode,
America’s Sci-Fi channel was finally getting around to showing “Father’s Day,” one of the best episodes of the first season, and one of the best–dare I say–of all Doctor Who. Ironic in that I so wanted “School Reunion” to at least aim for the emotion of that episode, knowing that it would be bringing back former assistant Sarah Jane Smith (Elizabeth Sladen), and well, it comes up short.
The plot was straight out of Rodriguez’ “The Faculty,” with a school overrun by aliens in teachers’ clothing. There’s some mysterious oil, a supercomputer, large bat creatures, and a headmaster who is cartoony evil. For 45 minutes, it still feels rushed, leaving out the usual Tardis-landing, where-are-we introduction. Instead, The Doctor and Rose are already in place, working undercover in the school as a teacher and a school lunch lady respectively. Then Sarah Jane Smith turns up as an investigative reporter and the episode heads towards its emotional core.
“I waited for you, all these years!” Sarah says to the Doctor, and fans will remember how she was dropped back off on Earth, suddenly after the Doctor was called to Gallifrey alone. Trouble is, every time the story turned dramatic (ie. interesting), some silliness intervened, including being attacked by giant bats and such. Rose’s kneejerk jealousy was a bit too obvious, especially after her character’s development last season, which suggested that her mind had expanded beyond her time-and-space-bound earth perspective. The same goes for the little bitch-fight the two assistants have later. (“I saw a werewolf!” “Well, I saw the Loch Ness Monster!” etc.) It was cute, but designed purely for fans. Much better was the Doctor having to defend why he changes assistants over the years–it was suddenly brutal and harsh and Rose was taken aback.
Maybe it’s too much of me to ask for more drama in a sci-fi serial, but go back and rewatch “Father’s Day” and be amazed at how much emotion (and time-paradox goodness) is packed into a simple siege scenario.
The last five minutes, though, nearly made up for it, with a final goodbye insisted on from Sarah, and K-9 returned to its mistress. Silly tin dog.
Surely this story deserved a two-part arc?