briarwood: (UTS LifeYouDontHave)
Morgan Briarwood ([personal profile] briarwood) wrote2016-01-04 09:01 am

Watching, reading, listening

What I watched, read and listened to last week:


Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2nd viewing)

I never had the same love for SW that I did for SF on TV. Maybe that's why I don't get the universal adoration for TFA. I mean, it's not a bad film and all the good things people are saying are true. But After my second viewing I just came out with stuff bugging me. And I don't mean unresolved plot threads.

For instance: why are there so many droids in the SW universe? C3PO I understand: he's a translator programmed with 6 million languages - no human could match that. But the other droids don't seem to do anything that people couldn't (certainly nothing that requires sentience) and mostly they don't do it as well. The cynical answer is that they exist to sell toys (and I'd love to own a moving BB8 and don't dare as my dogs would kill it) but their presence should make narrative sense as well. In the original Star Wars, C3PO and R2D2 each had a function that a human (or alien life form) couldn't have fulfilled; in SFA this no longer seems to be the case.

Also, how did BB8 manage the stairs at Maz's cantina? We saw it following Rey down - with some difficulty - but gravity would prevent it rolling *up* the steps in the same way. Is it secretly a dalek?

The other thing that's bugging me is more philosophical. I don't understand the draw of the Dark Side for Ren. In the original trilogy Luke is tempted by vengeance when he believes Vader killed his father and by hatred as he sees more and more of the evil of the Empire. In the prequels, as clumsy as the narrative was, Anakin had a horrible childhood, he was driven by fear and drawn to power and control. I saw nothing in the film that makes sense for why Ren, being who he is, would turn dark. He doesn't even seem a particularly bad person - except for the one obvious evil deed at the end.

Branagh Theatre Live: The Winter's Tale

Shakespeare on the big screen is rarely average. Terrible or wonderful seems to be the way of it. The Winter's Tale has the plot of a Wagnerian opera and is most famous for its impossible stage direction "exit, pursued by a bear". In Branagh's production, the bear was the only disappointing part: impressive sound-effects but so overdone the sense of peril was entirely lost. Otherwise it was a really good production.

TV bingeing:

The Big Bang Theory 1-3

Sis bought me seasons 1 through 7 for Christmas. She's been telling me for ages that I'd love this show so I suggested she buy it for me (I rarely watch scheduled TV because I loathe the ads). So she did, and I am watching.

So, basically it's "Friends", except every character is Ross. Except the girl, who is Joey. And with added nerd jokes. I don't have much sense for comedy but overall it doesn't seem that funny to me. There are exceptions - 3 or 4 episodes so far that I've found really funny, but that's a pretty poor ration.

On the other hand, I am very fond of Sheldon. "I'm not crazy: my mother had me tested" brings back memories of my mother doing the same thing (no, really, though it wasn't until much later I figured it out), and his room-mate agreement with its provisions for what to do if one of them should develop super powers or invent time travel seems a far better model contract for a life partner than wedding vows.

I'm still watching...


Tales of Max Carrados by Ernest Bramah (read by Stephen Fry)

This was a freebie, or I wouldn't have listened, but I'm glad I did. An interesting story that feels very unfinished. It's essentially Daredevil meets Sherlock in a Dickens story.

The Dead Won't Sleep by Anna Smith (read by Sarah Barron)

This is a thriller set in Glasgow, centred on an ambitious young journalist who stumbles across a police corruption story. The story plot is unremarkable but the focus on the forgotten of society gave it a level of realism that's unusual in this type of thriller. The prostitutes, runaways and addicts come across as real, rounded characters instead of plot devices and I have a sense that the author has at least some experience of what that world is like. It felt right, and in a way that makes poverty a villain more evil than the "bad guys" of the fiction. The narration was also very good: she does enough to bring the characters to life and draw me in to the tension without being over-dramatic.