02-05-13 - Some Media Reviews

"The Rings of Saturn" (WG Sebald) is the most incredible book I've read in a long time. It's like one big rambling stream of consciousness aside; there's no story, it's not really about anything in particular, there's no paragaphs - all things that I normally hate - and yet it's totally compelling. It's a real "page turner", an easy read, I love his writing and I just wanted to consume more and more of it. Touched me deeply, amazing book.

(followed up by reading "The Emigrants" which is good, but much more of a normal book, it's terrestrial, not so oddly magical and other-worldly as "The Rings of Saturn").

I've just discovered "The Sky at Night" (ex of Sir Patrick Moore) on BBC. What a marvelous show. I don't really even care much about astronomy, and yet here is a show with real scientists, talking to each other about things they actually understand, and talking at a very high level and not really dumbing it down much for the audience. I've never seen anything like it on television before, actual intelligent people talking to each other, it's amazing. I love Patrick's interviewing style, the way he just blurts things out; he reminds me so much of the real scientists I've known in my life who are super direct and straight to the facts without dancing around the point. It's best to watch early episodes before he got too old/ill.

They did a demo of the Higgs spontaneous symmetry breaking on The Sky at Night which is the best I've seen. Take a wine bottle (with a good hump at the bottom; those familiar will recognize that the hump is the key to symmetry breaking) and put a piece of cork or a ball or something inside. Now shake the bottle vigorously. At high energy like that (bottle shaking), the location of the cork is random, so the whole assemblage still has rotational symmetry. Now stop shaking (low energy) and the cork will settle somewhere - not in the middle of the wine bottle where the hump is, but off to one side in the trough. Symmetry broken.

"The Loneliest Planet" is a really terrible movie and I don't recommend it (jesus christ the scenes where they sit around the camp fire and say the same words over and over are excruciating torture), but it has these few scenes that are some of the most beautiful I've ever seen in a movie - the scenes with the wide static shots that the characters slowly walk across, they're staggering, breath-taking.

"Hello Lonesome" was good. The director obviously knows loneliness; it reminded me a lot of various times in my life; the weirdness of being alone for a long time, the sad joy - you do whatever you want, but it all kind of sucks. The long idle times, so much free time, rambling around your property, hitting fruit with a baseball bat (me, not the movie).

also watchable : Summer Hours (quiet, nothing ever happens, and yet very adult interactions, somehow compelling), Bernie (irresistible, charming), Bonsai (simple little movie that reminds me of life at that age; tasteful), Youth in Revolt (much better teeny rom-com than the more well known teeny rom-coms), Breaking and Entering (some great characters; in the end it's a movie about sad and lonely people)

GAYLE is crazy funny. Weird as hell, wtf is going on, and yet it's the most biting mockery of normal suburban life.

"Utopia" is pretty retarded; the plot is standard unrealistic conspiracy crap, straight out of that awful graphic-novel type of writing; there's no part of it that's clever or insightful or well thought out (so far), and the characters are pretty awful to boot. I don't really care for the torture-porn stuff either (just skip it). All that said, the look of it is just super beautiful, amazing art direction, subtle and realistic but strikingly odd; every shot has these dramatic geometric forms and colors in it. And there's an eerie stillness to it, lots of long holds. It's so good to look at, and good sounds too.

(a lot of recent British stuff is just staggeringly good looking. See also "The Tower", "Red Riding", "Wallander".)

The new season of Top Gear is finally here, and good god is it painfully bad. I guess I should face the fact that it's been awful for many years now, but I was clinging on, hoping it would perk back up (as it occasional has done, eg. the Bolivia Special). You develop this almost pavlovian response to things that have given you pleasure in the past; the sound of a beer bottle top popping off, the smell of coffee, that Top Gear opening theme song, it starts the pleasure molecules bursting in my brain, even if I don't actually want a beer, and I know that Top Gear is going to suck, there's still this vestigial fondness I have for it. The best part of the series so far has been the meta-comedy moment of James May falling asleep on the show because he too was so bored of it.

ADDENDUM : "Beasts of the Southern Wild" is amazing! joyous, sad, hard to watch, thrilling, it's a rich emotional feast, but it's also an incredible work of art. There's obvious allegory, but it's characters aren't unrealistic victims without faults. More than any thing I think it's a modern fairy tale (of the old style); not "fairy tale" like in the shit Disney sense meaning "princess, happy ending, dreams come true" but in the original sense, like Grimm's and all the old stories that were terrifying ; they were fantasies, but grounded in real world horrors, and often were obvious warning messages. Real fairy tales are magical and beautiful but also scary and sad.


Tom Forsyth said...

We leaven Top Gear with Fifth Gear. Every now and then it strives to be Top Gear, but fortunately it usually fails and accidentally tells you something useful about cars.

John Turkleton said...

If you like the Sky At Night stuff, you might also enjoy the Sixty Symbols series of videos on YouTube.


old rants