Saturday, May 31, 2008

I don't want to set the world on fire...

In the comments section for “The Sontaran Stratagem,” Joan wondered why at the close of the episode “…no one thought to break the window of the car while Gramps was asphyxiating.” And so “The Poison Sky” begins with Donna’s mother, Sylvia, doing just that. It’s a huge anticlimax for the cliffhanger, but I would argue that the whole point of a cliffhanger is in the hang, not in the resolution in the next episode. Cliffhanger resolutions almost by their very nature are destined to suck, because if our heroes succumbed to the disastrous situations they’re left in, there would be no more show. We always want the resolve to be as thrilling as the minutes that preceded it in the narrative, but there’s a big difference in the first couple minutes of an episode, and the final moments of another. And there’s no point in delivering the best you’ve got at the start, right?

Read the rest of this piece by clicking here to visit The House Next Door.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Doctor Who at the 2008 Film & History Conference

2008 Film & History Conference
"Film & Science: Fictions, Documentaries, and Beyond"
October 30-November 2, 2008
Chicago, Illinois
Third-Round Deadline: August 1, 2008
AREA: Doctor Who

Doctor Who first entered the public consciousness on November 23, 1963, as a new science fiction serial on the BBC. Listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the Longest Running Science Fiction Television Show, the serial is a national institution in its home country - the subject of countless pop-culture references -and a popular export to American public television stations. As a televised serial, Doctor Who has exhibited features dared by few others, from its controversial content, to its public ranking in the 1970s as the most violent programming produced by the BBC, to the serial's constant re-casting of the leading man, the adventurous Doctor, whose alien biology conveniently allows for regeneration.

These controversies and innovations, along with the evolution of a complex "Whoniverse" of audio stories, novels, and entries in various other media(the "canonicity" of most of which is still in question), not only have turned the enigmatic Doctor Who into a cult figure but have interwoven time and history through grand adventures that address issues of human existence and the meaning of civilization. The newest edition of the series, which continues the storyline/timeline from the original, often features the Doctor interacting with historical figures (and making wry commentary on current events in the process) and explores more deeply the dilemma of the Doctor as a lonely traveler who will generally outlive any human companion who joins him or who falls in love with him.

The Doctor is clearly a man of science, yet his function on the show is often God like, with occasional explicit references to him as a Christ-figure. How does the Doctor's dual role comment on the role of science in society? In its peregrinations through human events, what does the show say about the construction of history? What does it say about national/British identity in the new millennium or about the uneasy relationship between Western empiricism and theological mysticism?

Papers and panels are invited on the topic of the Doctor Who series. Possible topics include but are not limited to the following:

Cultural commentary and trans-historical morality tales
Issues of and intertextuality and metafiction
Historical figures and the depiction of historical events (and the Doctor's role in them)
The role of technological innovation and special effects
Fan cultures
Gender and sexuality
Psychological models
Canonicity of other media
Use of guest stars/actors
Religious imagery and allegory
The role of visual technology (including film and television) in the show's content

Please submit all proposals by August 1, 2008, to the area chair:

Professor Christopher Hansen
Baylor University
Department of Communication Studies
One Bear Place #97368
Waco, TX 76798

Submissions by email are encouraged.

Panel proposals for up to four presenters are also welcome, but each presenter must submit his or her own paper proposal. Deadline: August 1, 2008.

This area, comprising multiple panels, is a part of the 2008 biennial Film & History Conference, sponsored by The Center for the Study of Film and History. Speakers will include founder John O'Connor and editor Peter C. Rollins (in a ceremony to celebrate the transfer to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh); Wheeler Winston Dixon, author of Visions of the Apocalypse, Disaster and Memory, and Lost in the Fifties: Recovering Phantom Hollywood; Sidney Perkowitz, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Physics at Emory University and author of Hollywood Science: Movies, Science, & the End of the World; and special-effects legend Stan Winston, our Keynote Speaker.

For updates and registration information about the upcoming meeting, see the Film & History website.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Muppet Show: Season Three

Cracking open a new season of The Muppet Show on DVD means two things: loads of Muppet madness and an eclectic cross-section of guest stars. The former can always be counted on to just be what it is, while the latter are the wild cards of each episode. I remember as a kid being generally unaware of who most of these people were, but, then again, kids were probably not really taken into the equation when the show was booking star acts. The guest stars provided a framework for the Muppet chaos and, more importantly, gave the adults in the viewing audience something to hook into; otherwise, it’s doubtful the show would’ve lasted for five years in syndication. Since I’m now an adult, the guests are usually the most interesting part of revisiting the series, because it’s such a kick to see how each guest’s talents are used…well, and also because “Pigs in Space” tends to get repetitive.

If you don't have a hand up your ass, then click here to read the rest of this review at Bullz-Eye.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Only One Cook in the Kitchen

It was worth sitting through months of American Idol this season just to watch this guy win tonight.
His journey wasn't too shabby either. Nice seeing a cool Missouri boy take the big prize.

Mr. Potato Head

"Sontarans are great… I think that's partly because they come from a very specific world. That back story gives them a great context. Robert Holmes didn’t just create a race, back in the 1970s: he created a world that they came from. Even if you never saw that planet, you understood why they did what they did." — David Tennant, Doctor Who Magazine #395

I hate to contradict our Time Lord and Savior, but he’s ever so slightly off in his close. It’s not that we ever understood why the Sontarans did what they did, but rather that Holmes’ vision of the race was so clear that we accepted what they did without question—and that was make war (not love). The “why” could make for a good story someday, but at present their reintroduction is plenty.

Read the rest of this piece by clicking here to clone yourself at The House Next Door.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Indiana Jones: The Adventure Collection

Surely the only movies that would be more pointless to recap than the Indiana Jones trilogy are the original Star Wars trilogy. Everyone’s seen the Indy films time and again, and countless consumers already own the first DVD box set. But that hasn’t stopped Paramount from reissuing them in preparation for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Unlike Episodes IV through VI, the Indy flicks can more or less work on their own and this time around Paramount gives buyers the option of purchasing the entries individually, or together in this set. The box packages the three discs in slimline cases, and it’s weird to have such a noteworthy chunk of movie history reduced to the size of a VHS tape (you remember those, don’t you?).

Best way to pimp the "other" trilogy is by offering up my thoughts on the DVD re-release. Click here and head over to Bullz-Eye to read them.

And by all means set two hours of your time aside between May 22nd and the 25th to go check out Indy's latest adventure...but show your kids the trilogy first.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Ood Abides

“Planet of the Ood” is a really strange episode (and yes—I had to restrain myself from describing it as odd). I don’t know if anyone was exactly crying out for more Ood, but since they played second fiddle to the Beast in “The Impossible Planet” two-parter, they’re a logical choice to revisit, as we didn’t get to know all that much about them. What we did learn about them is explored in greater detail here and it’s nice to see that they remain benign creatures so long as outside parties don’t abuse them through ulterior motives.

A Booming Commercial Voiceover: “The Ood! They came from a distant world. They voyaged across the stars. All with one purpose…”

The picture zooms into an Ood holding a cup of tea.

Ood: “Do you take milk and sugar?”

Reclaim your secondary brain by reading the rest of this piece at The House Next Door.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Backwoods

Comparing The Backwoods to either Deliverance or Straw Dogs probably does it a disservice, even though it’s clearly inspired by both. It’s unfortunate, too, because without those early 70s classics lurking in the background, it would seem far more shocking. (In fact, it will probably play much better to those who’ve seen neither of those films.) As if to pay further homage, it’s even set in 1978 -- although that could simply be a means of avoiding cell phones. Cell phones are such a given these days that when movie characters in peril don’t have one, we immediately wonder, “Where’s his cell phone?” The idea of cell phone technology even being available to the characters in The Backwoods would bring the entire affair crumbling down.

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here to visit Bullz-Eye.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Everybody Must Get Stoned

“The Fires of Pompeii” tinkers with a spot in the season where similar installments have been little more than clever dives into pseudohistory. Don’t get me wrong, “Fires” is by no means an accurate account of what went down when Mount Vesuvius erupted, but since the populace of Pompeii went along for the tragic ride, the episode manages to cover its ass. It features no historic figure (i.e. Dickens, Queen Victoria or Shakespeare); instead, the event itself is the figure. It also hints at events to come, further develops the new Doctor/companion relationship, and features effects work that’s outta this world.

Read the rest of this article by clicking here to get stoned at The House Next Door.