Hitting an all-time low

Am I the only one that thought that Ashes to Ashes wasn’t a patch on Life on Mars? I mean, I get that it’s an 80s show now, but half of that was just bastard absurd. Perhaps it’s just that I’ve got more affection for the 70s species of cop show, but I can’t help hoping they tone down some of the more ludicrous excesses of the genre a bit, once they’re past episode one, and get on with some of the more interesting elements of the set up.

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Sunshine

Is a bloody good film. I couldn’t stop thinking of a quote from Alan Moore as I was watching it:

“We parade with the magicians on the endless plazas of the sun and watch them trail gem-warted fingers through six-thousand degrees centigrade degrees of photosphere. We walk there at their side, become them are them. Are at last our true and only selves. We flourish, we ignite. And as with each, so with us all. So with our culture and our world where information brinks its saturation threshold, and we all look up in that white moment when the sky unwraps, and the unfiltered truth of us rains blazing down; a searing holy deluge where those parts of us we’ve not yet turned to gold are utterly devoured, are made incinerate.”

That’s Moore talking about heaven. About glory. About the ultimate human achievement. And that’s what the film is about. And Sunshine isn’t perfect, but I love the theme, and I really, really enjoyed it. Seriously, go see it.

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Today’s links:

1) Bush Moves Toward Martial Law. The US has previously had admirably strict laws regarding the use of the military on it’s own soil. Is this a move toward a dictatorship? I’d be astonished if it were (although the fact that the question is one that even occurs is a little disturbing). Is it alarming anyway? Yes. You all know the quote I’m thinking of about liberty and safety…

2) Via sigma7, strong rumours that Studio 60 is to be cancelled. Not a shock, given that it’s a ratings disaster, but the rumours that it’s to be replaced by reality TV or a game show have a particularly (sickeningly) inevitable ring.

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Over

So, that’s it for The West Wing. A slow shuffle off to the end. There were a couple of lovely moments in the last episodes, but that’s all they were, lovely moments. As much as seasons six and most of seven were a marked recovery from the awful fifth season, the last few episodes had nothing in them. A function of the drama – this isn’t the sort of fiction you can build to an explosive climax, because we all know how it has to end – exactly as it did, with a wind down.

It never got back to the days of seasons one and two when it won all those awards for a damn good reason, but still: this is the first and only TV show that I can make any sort of claim to have watched end to end (I joined in at the back end of season one, but I got the DVDs as damn fast as I could…). I’ve never actually had a TV show end that I really genuinely was sorry to see go before. It’s an odd feeling. I suspect it’ll be a long time before it happens to me again.

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A little dose of the future

I should have mentioned this on here before now, and the more switched-on of you have probably seen it on BoingBoing by now anyway, but still:

Bloodspell is a feature-length serialised machinima fantasy film. Machinima, in case you’ve been under a rock, or just don’t care about the future, is the art of making 3-d animated films using computer game engines. The product doesn’t look as slick as Toy Story, or Shrek, or anything else, but it can be made by anyone with a little dedication in their bedrooms for an outlay of a few hundred quid for a decent computer and an appropriate game. It is punk animation, and if you can’t see why that’s important, or get past the slightly clunky visuals to see what it will one day be able to do, then you are probably quite stupid.

Bloodspell is pretty much the most ambitious project yet made with machinima, and deserves your attention precisely because it is ambitious. It’s pushing the boundaries of what has done in its field. If people do not pay attention when others do this sort of thing, we stagnate as a culture. This is bad. And also, rather more importantly, because it is a cracking, fast paced action-fantasy film that is bloody good free entertainment.

And as if all that weren’t enough, it’s available on a creative commons license. Check the site for the full info, but basically, you can distribute and remix it however you’d like, for free, so long as you don’t make money off it. There are lots of reasons why that’s good.

Pay attention: this is the future of cinema, starting here. Even if Bloodspell itself isn’t to your personal taste, these are some very sharp people, working out how entertainment media will be made and distributed in the future. Tell your friends, because it’ll make you look clever if you do.

Full disclosure: My mate cairmen is the mad bastard behind this, and I’m listed as a creative consultant on the project. This mostly meant I sat about, got drunk, and talked rubbish, and said “why don’t you try this…” on a couple of occasions.

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This evening, I have made myself steak sandwiches, on ciabatta with mixed leaves mozzarella, sundried tomatoes and a little balsamic vinegar, drunk a bottle of pretty reasonable quality french red wine, and am now sipping an oak-aged Macallan single malt. What would make the night complete is a really good cigar, but one can’t have everything.

I assure you that at some point, I will stop taking about food and drink. Possibly when I’m dead.

At some point, I must bore those of you who haven’t seen Boston Legal by going on about how great it is at length. It’s not the first season of the West Wing, or anything, but it’s probably the best TV I’m currently watching, if only by virtue of the fact that it’s a bit less formulaic than House. Which, love it though I do, is just about the most formulaic show (that I’m willing to watch) on telly.

In the meantime: “Denny Crane! Trix are for kids!”

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Today’s Hot Tip

The Skeleton Key: avoid like the plague.

The best thing about it are the snatches bits of top class old delta blues that get played on a couple of creaky old record players, and The Dixie Cups version of “Iko Iko”. And while I might well buy the soundtrack, this really isn’t enough to carry a whole movie. I mean, I like voodoo mentalism as much, hell, probably quite a lot more than the next man. I should not be a hard sell for this. But this was poor. They spend the fiirst half of the movie setting you up for a “make-you-jump” voodoo fest with what looked to be first-act-guns for a showdown involving poor bastards with their eyes and mouths sewn shut, and animate severed tounges, and dead black men swinging from lynching ropes and looking for revenge. Top class nonsense.

This is not what it delivers, and the sudden gear change two-thirds of the way through is annoying. It’s got a perfectly sound basic horror premise, but it sets you up to believe it’s going to exectue it one way, and then does it another, and rather than the “Ah! Shock Twist!” reaction they were hoping for, I just felt like I’d been cheated out of my voodoo zombies.

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