His adventures aren't really that sedentary.
Check them out over on Amazon!
It's one of the best sci-fi shows out there. Maybe one of the best shows on TV currently, period, and for a number of reasons.
They say with good writing, you:
1) Create characters people love.
2) Put those characters through sheer hell.
FAM does exactly that.
The cast of characters is nuanced, diverse and easy to root for. Rather than engaging in easy breezy cynicism, it displays the resilience, courage and adaptability of humanity. And yet, these are no idealized supermen: they struggle with their own flaws and weaknesses, often being forced to acknowledge their own imperfections in order to better collaborate with others.
This is the latest foray into the cosmos by the extraordinary show runner Ronald D. Moore. Every time he gets both more brilliant, and closer and closer to reality.
He started his career submitting spec scripts to Star Trek (his favourite show), and on the strength of those, got into the writer's room of The Next Generation. That is no easy feat. From there, he went to the more serialized Deep Space Nine; where he wrote some of its best and most memorable episodes.
He followed that up with a very brief stint on Voyager. Unfortunately, he hated it, and quickly bounced. In an interview, he didn't hold any punches: Voyager failed to fulfill the promise of the premise.
|Not this Voyager, the other one|
"I just don't understand why it doesn't even believe in itself. Examine the fundamental premise of VOYAGER: A starship chases a bunch of renegades. Both ships are flung to the opposite side of the galaxy. The renegades are forced to come aboard Voyager. They all have to live together on their way home, which is going to take a century or whatever they set up in the beginning.
I thought, This is a good premise. That's interesting. Get them away from all the familiar STAR TREK aliens, throw them out into a whole new section of space where anything can happen. Lots of situations for conflict among the crew. The premise has a lot of possibilities.
...This ship was going to have problems. It wasn't going to have unlimited sources of energy. It wasn't going to have all the doodads of the Enterprise. It was going to be rougher, fending for themselves more, having to trade to get supplies that they want.
That didn't happen.
It doesn't happen at all, and it's a lie to the audience. I think the audience intuitively knows when something is true and something is not true. VOYAGER is not true. If it were true, the ship would not look spick-and-span every week, after all these battles it goes through. How many times has the bridge been destroyed? How many shuttlecrafts have vanished, and another one just comes out of the oven?
That kind of bullshitting the audience takes its toll. At some point, the audience stops taking it seriously, because they know that this is not really the way this would happen. These people wouldn't act like this.”
I can't argue with that: Moore makes very good points. Sadly, he couldn't make any headway against the executives running the show.
That fruitless creative collision led Moore to jump ship and reboot Battlestar Galactica instead, turning it into the best sci-fi show on TV in the early 2000s. It was innovative, gritty and far more adult than anything Star Trek had done to date. The fleeing survivors of Caprica dealt with all kinds of shortages, unlike the pampered TNG crew who could just replicate anything they wanted with the push of a button (or 'Tea. Earl Grey. Hot'). Ships flew in a more realistic manner, and they even toyed with removing all the sound from space scenes.
Storylines were daring, dark and tied back to The War on Terror, making it must-see TV.
At least, it was for the first two seasons.
|BSG: So good it can get away with a pic like this|
One of the main themes of the show (That everyone never agrees on anything, making compromise and negotiation necessary for civilization to function) got jettisoned out the airlock in the finale. The survivors put their ships on automatic pilot and sent them soaring into the sun, along with all their tech, universally adopting a hunter-gatherer subsistence existence on earth.
Yuval Harrari would be proud.
Thanks to the hive mind, BSG wrapped up with a neat if perplexing bow. Maybe I just didn't understand the premise of the show. Moore would know. I can't help but imagine a postscript where, once everyone else is frolicking in hippie-time meadow, criminal gangs reveal squirrelled away tech & weapons and take over.
But for the first two seasons, it was breathtaking, genre defining sci-fi. BSG pushed the sci-fi envelope and then some.
Now, Moore is back with some of his best work yet: an alternate history show centred around the space program. The central conceit is that the Soviets landed on the moon first. Like the flapping of the wings of a butterfly, this causes a cascade of further changes. As the show progresses through the decades, the more it diverges from what we know as reality.
Moore wisely avoids rehashing The Right Stuff, Apollo 13, and the like. Instead, the space program is the supporting scaffolding upon which human drama can be hung. For All Mankind is as much about culture, prejudice, social change, organizational and individual fallibility, and the human experience as it is about space shuttles and moon bases.
Each season covers a decade, starting with the sixties. The period details are wonderful, and the evolution of the cast's fashions fun to digest.
Thanks to the Soviets landing a woman on the moon, the Americans are forced to include women in the space program. Propaganda posturing propels them to become more inclusive, the better to win hearts and minds. Yet the social improvements that cascade out of these calculated, reptilian motives winds up improving society as a whole.
Allowing everyone to contribute to a society to the best of their ability maximizes human capital, making society stronger and healthier.
The show tackles everything from panic attacks, alcoholism, egotism, to geopolitics and space hazards, yet remains hopeful and positive throughout.
It's a virtuoso performance: For All Mankind sees all the warts, yet loves humanity anyway.
Give it a watch on Apple+.
It's too good to miss.
|Astronauts heading out to watch For All Mankind|
And also Mark Grayson.
No, seriously, the show is fabulous.
Great premise, great execution, great voice talent, and plenty of twists and turns to keep you engaged. Alternates between action and intimate character moments, comedy and gore, yada yada.
It's right up there with Guardians of the Galaxy (are those REALLY super hero movies?) and The Boys.
Of the three, only Guardians is really fully family friendly. Different brands, different audiences.
Invincible is every bit as dark, cynical and gory as The Boys, just in animated form. And while the gore is a lot cleaner looking, I don't think I'd recommend this to children.
Superfriends it is not.
|Sharp witted social commentary wrapped in spandex and capes. Just... without capes or spandex. Yet. I think Homelander is wearing some other kind of synthetic fabric...|
GenV is crass, graphically violent, irreverent, and cynical. It's also riotously funny and incisive, if you're in the right mood.
|There one minute, gone the next|
|By far our most capable cast member|
Hands down the most radical, unrestrained, gobsmacking, visually creative animated film I’ve ever seen.
Other than the first one.
Watching Across is like main-lining pure creativity. It’s a kinetic, visual cacophony of cinema marvels.
On the downside, it’s exhausting. Innovative approaches are jam packed into every frame. It’s so radically different, it overwhelms.
All kinds of sweet gee-jaws, evoking printed comics, saturate the film: half-tone dots shade character faces, colours are shown with slight off-register, scenes morph from 3-D backgrounds to beautiful pastel paintings. Characters change colour based on mood. People from other dimensions may be made of paper, scratchy scribbles, or LEGO. Frames are dropped from character movement, creating a staccato jerkiness that gets across the idea of watching moving pictures. Trips between universes are accompanied by kaleidoscope FX rainbows. Visual representations of emotion, and sound effects, punctuate important moments.
The direction is as kinetic and super-powered as the heroes, spiralling around and through them (in the case of the villain), then pulling back for serene scene setting long shots.
Across relentlessly pushes the boundaries of animation, taking the medium to infinity and beyond.
Pixar films are beautiful, but they’re not radical. This? This is radical artiste experimentalism in pop-culture packaging.
Unfortunately, you can have too much goodness. The movie is over two hours long; shorter, discrete episodes might be more enjoyable for my limited attention span. I wanted to freeze frame and have captions (the dialogue can be hard to catch at time, it’s so rapid fire).
Story wise, Across doesn’t hold back; it pummels the audience with The Multiverse’s kitchen sink.
Thankfully, Verse movies are grounded in authentic character moments. Without them, it might just be a gorgeous way to induce an epileptic seizure. Miles is an endearing lead, and the Morales’ family dynamic equally so. Even the villain has his charms. And Spider-Gwen is well matched with Miles. The other bajillion Spider-men (including an Indian one) are icing on the Spider-cake.
The film relentlessly barrels towards its no-holds-barred… To Be Continued.
Which is fine by me, I don’t think I could have taken any more in one sitting.
The story isn’t tight, but the characters and the visual spectacle are so incredibly enthralling it doesn’t matter.
In the theatre, it's an overwhelming visual feast; I look forward to watching it again at home, in smaller (both screen scale and time) doses.
There’s nothing else like it.
Radical, energetic, barely controlled creative chaos the likes of which I've rarely seen, it's audacity and innovative ferocity is breathtaking to behold.
It's genius in motion.
Highly, highly recommended… albeit not for everyone.
David Lynch is an exemplary film maker, but his work is not for everyone. Lynch's foray into blockbuster territory (Dune) was a bomb (I still love it's weirdness). He has difficulty raising large amounts of cash for his (personal) projects.
Steven Spielberg is the opposite: the Main Man has his finger on the pulse of the people. His films are colossal blockbusters that have redefined cinema and summer movie going. Studios salivate to fund his films, and spend more, much more, knowing Spielberg is at the helm.
A Spielberg flick is one of the surest bets you can make in Hollywood. And obviosuly he, too, is an exemplary filmmaker.
So... which is better?
That depends on your point of view, and what you value.
|From a certain point of view, this article is true.|
I’ve been lectured by professional writers that the best films are the ones that make the biggest box office. Studio execs no doubt largely agree: the Hollywood machine is a business, it has a bottom line, and they need to make oodles of greenbacks to fund their lavish lifestyles… and fund bigger and more spectacular films.
And yet, it isn’t that simple.
Award season exists, prestige films still get funded, despite studios knowing full well that, unlike Barbie, Women Talking isn’t going to be a global summer blockbuster. But so what?
Populist and elitist streams exist in cinema and they rarely meet. One leans thoughtful and introspective, the other towards thrill rides and escapist fun. One is in danger of being pretentious, the other of pandering.
But every now and then, the streams cross and you get an instant all-audience classic.
|Do what you shouldn't do?|
Sometimes this is immediately obvious, as the film generates both box office and critical conversation over pie. Populist films are sometimes re-evaluated in the years, and decades, after release. The initial critical disdain for tropes, archetypes and action gives way to a realization that the film was superbly executed and speaks to the human experience on a level that wasn’t obvious on first viewing.
Filmmakers like Lynch struggle to find broader recognition. While vetted at prestige film festivals, their sensibility doesn’t resonate with the mass audience. Sometimes, they find their place in genre cinema and successfully dwell on the edges of the industry. Others are ‘artsy’ or intellectual enough to be hailed by critics for eschewing the typical and titillating the elitist palate.
And I get it. Professional critics prefer the different, because they’re drowning in mass produced typical. They become bug eyed, gollum-like creatures, gaunt and pallid from watching movies all day, every day. Like I did during COVID lockdown.
On top of that, I’m old enough to have seen multiple reboots of blockbusters past, I’m tired of it. Honestly, if you’ve seen ten superhero movies, you’ve seen them all. Same for some long running TV shows that are caught in an infinite franchise premise loop, endlessly recycling a mushy scene and premise puree.
These are film flavours for the masses, visual equivalents to chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. And they’re great. But after awhile, people crave something… different. Rocky Road or Heavenly Hash.
You’re less likely to be truly surprised by a typical blockbuster than the most artfully crafted of art cinema (but there are notable exceptions that become event cinema, such as we've recently seen). Going off the beaten path will interest those tired of treading the same old same old, but that will annoy the majority who are looking for the well trodden path. We don't always want the unexpected.
Franchises have risen to dominate film and television during my lifetime. What’s a franchise? Take it as a simple outline of what happens… every time. A plucky gang of kids investigates paranormal mysteries and exposes them as frauds, for example. Familiarity is the appeal, so characters tend not to change. We’re not going to see Sherlock Holmes pivot to politics or become a tax auditor. People want him to be a detective, and so a detective he remains. Forever caught in amber, repeating the same loops. Westworld was as much a commentary on robots as it was on franchises and entertainment itself.
There’s a saying: people watch TV for character, and film for plot. I don’t remember a lot of plots from Star Trek, Fringe, Seinfeld (okay it was a kind of anti-plot show), or WKRP in Cincinnati. But the characters? Loved them.
But.. what if you have a film franchise?
How much did Indiana Jones change? Dominic Toretto?
Is Ethan Hunt really any different now?
They’re essentially huge budget TV episodes on gigantic screens.
Elitist disdain for populist films compelled Spielberg to stretch into more niche, high brow works, in an effort to get that sweet, sweet elitist recognition. To be recognized by the chi-chi cognoscenti.
On the one hand, I don’t think he should have felt such a pivot was necessary. Populist art ties into our common humanity, and to do that well requires every bit as much artistry and talent as the so-called high art. On the other, I’m glad he did, because he’s an interesting filmmaker, whatever he does.
The niche and the populist have their place and purpose, and entertainment would be lesser without both.
In this argument, there is no spoon.
|It's CGI, man!|