Friday, 9 November 2007

Five Random Things That Make Me Very Very Happy (3)

1: Robert Smigel as Arnold Schwarzenegger on Conan O'Brien:

File this alongside Great Moments in Presidential Speeches. Cheap, stupid, and utterly inspired, every time it gets dragged out. (Special bonus cameos: Mike Tyson and Don King!)

Also notable, Conan's own impression of Arnie, complete with obligatory sausage chomp.

2. The many faces of Carolyn from Tell Me You Love Me

As one of many characters in the huge ensemble on Lost, Sonya Walger was hard pressed to make much of an impression, through no fault of her own. Playing Desmond's great love, Penny Widmore, daughter of shady pharma-millionaire Charles Widmore, she turned up mostly in flashbacks, usually to cause the poor Scot some grief. I had no strong feelings about her either way. However...

We've gone on about Cynthia Mort's Tell Me You Love Me a lot here, because it is an insidious show that seeps into the brain and won't let go. There is a lot that annoys us: the oppressive and mannered lack of music; the glacial pace that makes Lost look like 24; Michelle Borth's pronunciation of the word, "fuck" ("fuuuuuuuuhk"). As it has progressed, though, there is also more and more each week that we like. Some performances have grown on us, but I've resisted one until now. Yes, Sonya Walger as show Gupta Carolyn. Because she is crazy, and selfish, and mean, and oh boy, because she has the weirdest facial expressions.

Whenever she suffers a big shock to the system, her face goes stiff and slack, her head slowly oscillating back and forth. It is the acme of incredulity. Most performers don't get much chance to look shocked at things as regularly as she does, but Carolyn is so self-absorbed she doesn't realise that the things she assumes are hers by right actually aren't, so when anyone (especially cowardly sleazebag husband Palek, played by Adam Scott) denies her her God-given right to get impregnated, like, now, dammit, she goes all durrrrrr.

For a long time we thought it was funny, especially because co-star Tim DeKay was prone to the most peculiar, unactorly facial tics. Was the show trying so desperately to be "real" that actors were being given directions to be as uncomposed as possible? If so, it was an odd direction to give. It added nothing to the veracity of the show, serving only to distract us. However, as the weeks dragged on, and with the help of Tyra Banks, I began to realise that Walger was doing something notable. In America's Next Top Model, the contestants are repeatedly told they should get out of their comfort zone and pose in ways they think might look crazy in order to chance upon a great pose. The results are often funny, but it does work. Many of the show's best shots are created by goofy posing.

In Tell Me You Have Countless Facial Tics, Walger is playing a really unappealing human being, and that alone takes acting courage, before we get into the issue of her many explicit nude sex scenes. Her crazy face is another method of pushing that envelope. Vacant stares, slack jaws, shaky head; it's all in the service of the performance. As the show has progressed, it's become obvious that Carolyn is severely screwed-up, and needs more help than just the occasional trip to see the cosmically awful therapist Dr. May Foster. Walger may seem to be going over the top with her performance, but compared to the naturalistic quietness of many of the other actors, her gurning stands out, adding to the audience's unease at her actions. Over time I've started to think that while Tim DeKay and the amazing Ally Walker deserve the awards, Walger is actually the show's secret weapon. Hey, Sonya! I just complimented you. Can I get a smile?

Nice one.

3: Trailer for Cliffhanger:

I recently watched a trailer for Jumper at work, and while it looks like a lot of fun, a colleague standing on the other side of the room commented that even though he couldn't see the trailer, he could guess what was happening as it sounded like it replicated the beats and rhythms of pretty much every trailer made in the last few years. He had a good point.

It got me thinking about great trailers, and how the style of them has evolved over the years. I love watching old trailers, and will probably seek some out and post them here in the future, but a while back there was one trailer so amazing, so different, so goddamn exciting, that it will almost certainly remain my favourite trailer forever. It was 100 times more exciting than the movie, and it was only ever ripped off once (the trailer for Stephen Hopkin's Blown Away which was also better than the movie). It was the Handel's-Messiah-powered trailer for Renny Harlin's thoroughly average Cliffhanger, and I cannot watch it without getting goosebumps.

That, my friends, is how you edit a trailer.

4: The first four pages of The Brave and the Bold #7

I've said before that Mark Waid is one of my favourite writers, with his celebrated run on the Flash and invigorating spell writing Fantastic Four with the late, great Mike Weiringo on art duties, and I'm glad to say his star still shines brightly. The Brave and the Bold is a revamp of an old DC title which pairs up heroes who don't usually work together (certainly not as a duo). This format allows the writer to bring out the best qualities and characteristics of the heroes by placing opposites together, and Waid has worked wonders with this conceit. In the first six issues of the title he paired up Batman and Green Lantern (not friends), Supergirl and Lobo (really not friends), and Batman and Blue Beetle (some grudging respect from Bats), and though that was all magnificent, Waid and world's best artist George Perez may have outdone themselves with the opening of the latest issue. (Click on the images to enlarge.)

The rest of the comic spins off from there in the most alarming ways, with every page holding at least one surprise or character revelation. I've heard people say both Wonder Woman and Power Girl are dull characters, but in Waid's hands they become two of my favourites. If only he could write them forever. I heartily recommend the title (though this is meant as a standalone it does have some connection to the first six-issue arc), though surely a prologue as awesome as that should be enough to drive even non-comic fans mad with anticipation. Right? Er, hello?

5. The super-pretty HTC Tytn II.

I once had a phone. It was the little phone that could. It didn't have GPS laser targeting, or a taser like in Tomorrow Never Dies, or a special connection to the Pentagon, but I loved it. I had no need of gadgets, I just wanted to text. And text I did, like the veritable wind. My connection to it was so strong that I often texted without looking at it. It was a powerful bond between man and machine, not unlike the bond between Michael Knight and KITT, only with less backtalk.

And then I broke it.

Damn, man, that wrecked me for over a year. Not just because I was upset, or because I lost all my numbers and texts and photos, but because I lost that amazing text synching. The next three phones I owned have been a disaster, with dead and unresponsive keys, fiddly shortcuts that make everything take four times as long, and batteries that hold enough charge for up to ten minutes usage. I was Chuck Yeager, grounded before his time, forced to give up hope that I would ever recapture that joy.

So I did the next best thing; buy a phone with a proper keyboard and a proper browser, not to mention Word. The Tytn II is a bloody gorgeous piece of kit, with a flippy screen and a keyboard way better than the Blackberry and a 3 megapixel camera and a touchscreen and so many other wonderful features I should probably shut up now. When the worst thing I can say about it is that both Canyon and I are finding it hard to type on it because we keep thinking we have to use the old text method of multiple button pushes for each digit, that doesn't even count as criticism. It's so helpful and lovely that this section of this post is being written on the Metropolitan line! ZOMG! Exactly what I've always wanted. I'm sure this blows no one's mind but mine, but it makes me very very happy (see post title), so that's all that matters. Except for the bit where I accessed this blog and flagged it accidentally. Ah, it's not the phone's fault. I can't stay mad at you forever, you beautiful gadget!


Masticator said...

I'm psyched for Jumper, if for no other reason than it sees the acting resurrection of Teddy Dunn, rescued from his beach hideway in Australia!

(Please consider the words "beach", "Australia" and "acting" to be contained in quotes.)

Admiral Neck said...

First Hayden Thimgamibob, then Jamie Bell, and now Teddy Dunn?!?!??!!!?

I now no longer want to see Jumper.