My Opinion of Season Eight

1 Comment

Now that I have seen season 8 in its entirety, I am ready to offer my thoughts and opinions to the internet. To be honest, I was multitasking while watching most of those episodes, and probably missed quite a few significant details. Maybe that’s why I still haven’t decided exactly what I think about this season.

Peter Capaldi“But wait,” some of you may be saying, “what TV show are you talking about? You only said a season number, not a title.” My first response would be to remind you that questions are still sentences and therefore should not be ended with prepositions, and my second response would be to inform you that of course we are talking about Doctor Who. What else?

I initially loved Peter Capaldi as the Doctor. Yeah, he’s a lot older than the ninth, tenth, or eleventh Doctors, and it’s not as if many current Doctor Who fans actually remember what it was like when William Hartnell played the Doctor. But for me, having an older actor play the Doctor wasn’t a problem. In fact, I kind of liked the idea of taking some of the romantic undertones away. As much as I liked David Tennant, the tenth Doctor did a lot of staring moodily into space while thinking about Rose. Such things never happened in the days of Tom Baker. Even before season 8 began, I predicted that a non-Doctor character would be introduced to be a love interest for Clara, and I was okay with that and glad to see that I was right. And then, when that first episode came out and I actually got to see Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, I found him reminiscent of Tom Baker, which is a definite plus.

But the thing is, the twelfth Doctor is mean. He bickers with Clara (and Mr. Pink, and Robin Hood, and pretty much everyone else) and shows a lack of regard for human life that you would never see from the fourth Doctor, the ninth Doctor, the tenth Doctor, or the eleventh Doctor. I have to admit that I’m not particularly familiar with the other Doctors, but if they were less compassionate towards the human race, then I’m not particularly fond of them. So for me, the twelfth Doctor’s mean streak is a weakness that cancels out, and sometimes even outweighs, the humor and personality of the character. I like the eyebrows, though. You’ve gotta like the eyebrows.Peter Capaldi eyebrows

My favorite costume of the season: Clara's Robin Hood dress.

My favorite costume of the season: Clara’s Robin Hood dress.

Episode One, Deep Breath, was one of my favorites of the season. Robot of Sherwood would have been great if it had consisted of just a little less arguing. The Doctor’s feud with Robin Hood was hilarious at first, but got old fast. Time Heist, Mummy on the Orient Express, and In the Forest of the Night were my other favorites. I really liked the ideas behind some of the others, like Listen and Flatline. And the two-part season finale was pretty good, too, especially considering that the season finales are rarely among my favorite episodes. If I had to choose one favorite episode from the season, I guess I’d probably go with Mummy on the Orient Express, because it has a really great monster, which is a trait shared by all of the awesomest Doctor Who episodes.Mummy on the Orient Express

All in all, I definitely did enjoy season eight, even if I had some misgivings about the personality of the new Doctor, and even if it wasn’t one of my favorite seasons. I still say that my favorite two seasons are three and seven.

Advertisements

Christmas Movies

2 Comments

When I little, there were certain movies that my family made sure to see every single year around Christmastime. Many of them were cartoons, like How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but they also included others like It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street. Of course, as the years went by and my siblings and I got older and our schedules got more complicated, it became harder and harder to find time to watch all of those movies in just a few weeks, especially because it is obviously impossible to allow Christmas movies to interfere with other important things like Star Trek night.

Then, in the past few years, there have been other movies that I have come to associate with Christmas. Of those, Elf is the only one that is specifically a Christmas movie. The others are only Christmas movies to my mind because of personal connotations, so I have left them off of this list. (Even Jesus Christ Superstar and Passion of the Christ, despite the fact that it is valid and theologically meaningful to associate the non-nativity events of Jesus’ life with Christmas) There are a few other movies that I had planned to include, but left off for various reasons. For example, I only have seen A Christmas Story once, and don’t remember it well enough to say much about it, and I personally don’t associate Sleepless in Seattle or Meet Me in St. Louis with Christmas even though a significant section of each one takes place on Christmas.

With all of that being said, I have a list of eleven movies that I specifically associate with Christmas, that are typically categorized as Christmas movies, and that I have seen many times. I realize that pretty much any holiday-movie-lover will be able to think of several important ones that I left off of my list. But nonetheless, I would like to observe the continuance of this Christmas season (It’s still Christmas until Epiphany, y’all!) by stating my opinion of these eleven Christmas movies.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (animated TV short from 1965)

A Charlie Brown ChristmasThis classic Christmas cartoon is a prime example of the anti-commercialization message that is so prominent in holiday movies. That message has become so common and so clichéd that it is almost a new form of commercialization, one that is used to sell movies and other forms of art rather than toys and the like. But that shouldn’t be held against this particular movie, which I think is more sincere than many true-meaning-of-Christmas stories. So, yeah, I like this movie.

A Christmas Carol (movie from 1951 starring Alastair Sim)

There are quite a number of different movie versions of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but this is one of the earlier ones and it’s the one that depicts the ghost of Christmas future most creepily and it’s the one that includes Patrick Macnee in a small role, and Patrick Macnee went on to be John Steed in the awesome 1960s British show The Avengers, so yes, this is the best movie adaption of A Christmas Carol. Also, it’s my understanding that it’s a fairly close remake of the 1935 movie Scrooge, which I believe is the original movie version.

Elf (movie from 2003 starring Will Ferrell, Bob Newhart, Zooey Deschanel, and Mary Steenurgen)

ElfI actually hadn’t seen Elf until just a couple years ago, by which time it was already considered a holiday classic, at least among people approximately my age. (Technically, 10 years plus a couple months isn’t old enough to be a classic, but pop culture ages very quickly among frequent internet users.) The basic plotline is that Buddy, a human who has been raised as an elf, travels to New York to meet his real father and attempts (with little success) to function in human culture. It’s not the most original movie idea ever, but it’s one that is practically guaranteed to be funny. Humans love seeing their lifestyle parodied by viewing it through the eyes of a character who is likable, but not the brightest banana in the bunch. I think that Elf is an entertaining movie and deserves its position as a beloved Christmas film, although it should perhaps be pointed out that there’s not much that can be said about it from an intellectual perspective. But in that respect, it certainly isn’t any worse than the plethora of Christmas-themed chick flicks and animated Christmas movies. Elf deserves some recognition for the fact that it is an entertaining, feel-good Christmas movie that falls into neither of those categories, even though it actually does include a romantic subplot and the characters are about as cartoonish as a character in a non-animated movie can be.  Also, it has an incredible cast. I mean, Mary Steenburgen is from Back to the Future III, y’all.

Frosty the Snowman (animated TV short from 1969)

As far as I can recall, this was only among my favorites for one or two Christmases. It features memorable characters who are fun to quote and it has a hilarious antagonist, which are the most important criterion for evaluating the coolness of an animated movie, but the plot didn’t particularly appeal to me. And it’s way too sad. Christmas-themed television is supposed to be happy, and cool characters aren’t supposed to die on Christmas. Are you listening, Steven Moffat?

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (animated TV short from 1966)

GrinchIt is with great regret and sorrow that I admit that I didn’t see this particular movie this Christmas season. How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a very important movie. Pretty much every little piece of it is entertainingly quotable, and it contains two songs that deserve a place among everyone’s Christmas music. Granted, one of them is mostly gibberish and the other one is only Christmasy when you consider it in the context of the story as a whole. But seriously, if this movie isn’t a part of your Christmas nostalgia, you have missed out on something that everyone should have.

It’s a Wonderful Life (movie from 1947 starring James Stewart and Donna Reed)

This is probably the most famous of all Christmas movies. I get the impression that very few people have a neutral opinion of this movie; you either definitely like it or definitely dislike it. I definitely like it, although when I think about it, I can’t explain why. A lot of people think that it’s heartwarming and that it expresses a positive message about the value of each individual person, but I think it’s actually pretty depressing and discouraging. (If you want to read a bit of a ramble about why I think that, take a look at this blot post from last year) A lot of people think of it as a quintessential Christmas movie, but the storyline doesn’t actually require the story to take place on Christmas. If it didn’t involve a holiday, it wouldn’t have been as popular, but the basic plot would have been the same, so I don’t see that as a reason to like this movie specifically. I suppose it wins some bonus points for the likability of most of the characters and the believability of their lives. And part of my personal penchant for this movie probably comes from the fantastical and almost science-fiction-like nature of the alternate-world part, even though the characters don’t describe it as an alternate world. Those factors do give it some basis for its reputation, but I still can’t exactly explain what sets it so far ahead of so many other great movies.

On a completely random note, I’ve always been intrigued by that bit at the end, where George tells Mary that she has no idea what happened to him, and she starts to say the same thing back to him. After watching this movie twenty gazillion times over the course of my life, I have had to conclude that she is simply referring to the fact that she has found out that the entire population of the town is glad to do whatever they can to help George in his time of need. But I want to think that she, like George, has had some abnormal and supernatural experience, and that the moviemakers deliberately left it up to our imagination to figure out what exactly happened to her.

Little Drummer Boy (animated TV short from 1968)

This one wasn’t particularly a favorite of mine. When I was younger, this was one that I was usually willing to miss if necessary. It’s a fairly short animated movie that leads up to a depiction of the scenario in the song. To be honest, I don’t even remember much of the plot except that I seem to recall that it’s actually pretty emotional; I think the little drummer boy was orphaned and enslaved, or something like that.

Miracle on 34th Street (movie from 1947 starring Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwen, and Natalie Wood)

Miracle on 34th streetI always have thought of this as a Thanksgiving movie rather than a Christmas movie, but it’s about Santa Claus and it ends on Christmas day, so we’ll count it as a Christmas movie for the purpose of this list. I enjoy it largely because I like the characters, especially Susan. But it’s really an awfully hokey movie. The basic point of the movie is to communicate the value of belief and imagination, but it links the two to such an extent that it equates not believing in Santa Claus with having a pessimistic attitude and an unhealthy inability to trust people. Of course, as in watching every movie, the viewers are supposed to suspend their disbelief and imagine that all of the characters are real, which, in this case, includes Santa Claus. Within this story, Santa Claus is a real person even though most adults don’t believe in his existence. But still, I would argue that either in real life or in a relatively lifelike fictional setting, a person can be practical and unimaginative without being cynical.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (animated TV movie from 1964)

This is a delightful movie except that it has bad music. That Silver and Gold song that the snowman sings is incredibly boring and adds absolutely nothing to the plot. A Holly Jolly Christmas is one of the most annoying Christmas songs of all time. I think it came in at #4 the year that my sisters and I actually made a top ten list of annoying Christmas songs, and it might have come even higher than that if I’d been making the list myself. Aside from the title song, those are the only two I even remember, so the others must not have been anything special, either. The best thing about this movie, of course, is the Abominable Snowman. That needs no explanation; Abominable Snowmen are automatically cool.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town (animated TV movie from 1970)

It’s been quite a number of years since I’ve seen this one, but I recall that when I was little, it was one of my very favorites. It describes Kris Kringle’s early life, and offers a backstory for various aspects of the Santa Claus tradition. Also, the Winter Warlock was almost as cool as the Abominable Snowman. (There’s something about the genre of children’s Christmas television that automatically leads to awesome antagonists) And Burgermeister Meisterburger was pretty entertaining, too.

White Christmas (movie from 1954 starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen)

White ChristmasThe first time I saw White Christmas was probably around 2004 or 2005, and it doesn’t carry the same nostalgic connotations for me that it does for a lot of people. I’ve still only seen it a few times. My opinion is that it’s a fairly good movie that is fairly enjoyable, but it doesn’t especially stand out as a particularly great movie, either within the genre of Christmas movies or the genre of musicals. (Even though it does have Danny Kaye, and Danny Kaye is cool, y’all. Also, I really like Vera-Ellen in this movie and I presume that I would enjoy seeing her in her other movies, too.) Probably my favorite part of it is the song and dance The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing near the beginning. And that part of the movie has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas.

Halloween Movies

2 Comments

Romana

Here we see my kitten on my lap from a webcam picture I took a few days ago.

There are two ways to observe Halloween. One is to do stuff and the other is to sit around with your kitten and watch stuff on Netflix all day. My original plan was the second option, because I’m a loser or something. As it so happens, though, Thursdays are the days when I have plenty of time to devote to homework and to all of the pleasure reading and online thing-doing that I don’t have time for during the rest of the week. So the aforementioned kitten and I have just been watching a little bit of internet television today and I have thus not really done anything to observe Halloween. But I have decided to acknowledge the Halloween-ness of today by listing Halloween-ish movies that I have seen and giving my opinion of them. With the exception of one movie that I don’t really remember, I have rated them on a four-category scale from “You’ll have seen all that this movie has to offer if you watch the trailer on youtube” to “You haven’t lived until you’ve seen this movie”. There are sixteen things on the list, including recent horror movies, classics, and family movies that seem related to Halloween. I should perhaps add a bit of a disclaimer saying that I’m not a big fan of horror movies in general, so my opinions on those movies will not necessarily be informative for anyone who has a particular affinity for the genre.

Not to be confused with the novel by Kate Chopin

Not to be confused with the novel by Kate Chopin

The Awakening (2011) Starring Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton

I saw this movie on Netflix a couple weeks ago when I was specifically looking for a Halloween-type movie. It’s a ghost story set in 1920’s England, and while I won’t give away any of the plot, I will say that I enjoyed it because it’s creepy in a fairly thought-provoking way, rather than relying on gore or special effects to startle the viewer into feeling fear. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t have any gore or disturbing images; I can understand why it’s rated R. (It’s also worth noting that it has more sexual content than is necessary for the plot) But I think that it has value in terms of being interesting, and I would consider it to be a worthwhile horror movie.

My rating: Recommended

Black Swan (2010) Starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel

Although it has nothing to do with Halloween and doesn’t involve any undead or otherwise supernatural creatures, I’m including it on this list because it’s been classified as a thriller. (Cue Michael Jackson music) I’ve only seen it once, and yet I could find quite a lot to say about it, both from a dancer perspective and from an over-analytic English major perspective. But for the purpose of this blog post, all that’s really relevant is its value as a scary movie, and in that sense, it’s very good. I found it to be more disturbing than a typical ghost or zombie story because it feels closer to real life. The frightening aspects of this movie mainly boil down to the mental and emotional problems of the characters; the protagonist in particular has a very weak personality and a progressively fragile grasp on reality. I think it’s actually fairly realistic to imagine that the mental instability that she faces is what would happen to any dancer who somehow managed to rise to such a high status in a major ballet company without developing strength of character. In my opinion, this movie never answers the question of what is hallucination and what is real, and that ambiguity is what keeps this movie in your head long after you’ve seen it.

My rating: Recommended

It's a cool picture anyway

It’s a cool picture anyway

The Cabin in the Woods (2012) Starring Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison

Okay, I admit it; I fell asleep twice while watching this movie and missed probably about half of it, including the end. That’s kind of a bad sign for this movie, because technically, horror movies aren’t supposed to put you to sleep. But I probably should acknowledge that it was well past midnight and I was already in bed. From what I saw, it looked like it had some very interesting themes and philosophical ideas, and I’m actually curious enough about it that I might at some point watch it when I’m awake. But it’s certainly not one of my favorites from this list. I felt like the scary parts weren’t very effective and relied too much on gore and special effects, and it seemed to me that it had a lot of unnecessarily mature content.

My rating: It’s worth your time if you have time to spare

Carrie (1976) Starring Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving

I promise, there will be some non-R-rated movies on this list, but this is not one of them. This movie is a fairly typical high school coming-of-age movie with all of the stock characters and a plot that revolves around who is or is not going to the prom. But then the movie takes a very sudden, yet totally predictable shift into a violent and bloody ending. Maybe it wouldn’t be so predictable if it wasn’t given away by every review or synopsis, but I guess that might be necessary, because an audience doesn’t want to watch a horror movie when they thought they were watching a typical high school coming-of- age movie. With that being said, I thought it was a relatively good movie, but not necessarily deserving of its reputation as a horror classic.

My rating: It’s worth your time if you have time to spare

E.T. (1982) Starring Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Peter Coyote

Here’s the part where I come to a movie that isn’t a horror movie and that could be classified as a family movie. I don’t really think of it as a Halloween movie, but a prominent part of it does take place on Halloween, so it counts. You can tell it’s awesome because the music is by John Williams, and because all of the main characters are humorous and cute and lovable.

My rating: You haven’t lived until you’ve seen this movie

Just remember: Frankenstein is the scientist dude. This guy here is called Frankenstein's monster.

Just remember: Frankenstein is the scientist dude. This guy here is called Frankenstein’s monster.

Frankenstein (1931) Starring Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, Boris Karloff

I actually don’t remember this very well; I only saw it once and that was many years ago when I was but a small child. But it’s a famous classic and I’ve seen it, so it was necessary to put it on the list.

My rating: NA ’cause I don’t really remember it

Ghostbusters (1984) Starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver

To be honest, I would have totally forgotten this one if my sister hadn’t made a tumblr post that said, “WHO YOU GONNA CALL?” a few hours ago. I saw this movie on Netflix a couple years ago and had high hopes for it because it has an awesome song, but as it turns out, the song is really the only awesome thing about it.

My rating: You’ll have seen all that this movie has to offer if you watch the trailer on youtube

House at the End of the Street (2012) Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Elizabeth Shue, Max Thieriot

I saw this one last spring break, which I mostly spent watching horror movies in my sister’s room, except when I fell asleep during them because I was sick. I don’t think I fell asleep during this one. We were very excited about it because it has Jennifer Lawrence in it and Jennifer Lawrence is cool. I found her really likable in this movie, and the plot was fairly interesting, but not quite enough to make it a really memorable movie that I’m inclined to recommend.

My rating: It’s worth your time if you have time to spare

Charlie BrownIt’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966) Starring Peter Robbins, Christopher Shea, Sally Dryer

I have not seen this movie in such a long time. Now I really regret that I didn’t find time to watch it earlier today. This movie is important, y’all.

My rating: You haven’t lived until you’ve seen this movie

Labyrinth (1986) Starring David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly, Toby Froud

This one is important, too. In fact, it was already my plan to watch it tonight, because I always try to watch it within a few days of Halloween. It’s not a horror movie, nor does it take place on Halloween, but it has goblins in it, so that’s Halloweeny enough. It’s a fantasy movie about a teenage girl who accidentally summons goblins to come and kidnap her baby brother, so then she has to go and rescue him, and that’s basically it. But there are lots of quotable lines and entertaining characters and eighties-ness in the meantime.

My rating: You haven’t lived until you’ve seen this movie

Michael Jackson's Thriller was the only really good zombie movie ever, as far as I know.

Michael Jackson’s Thriller was the only really good zombie movie ever, as far as I know.

Like, Every Zombie Movie Ever (Of all time)

Okay, I admit, I’ve only actually watched one zombie movie, and I don’t remember the title. (Although it was definitely one of the really famous ones) I am given to understand, though, that I am correct in my impression that most zombie movies are more or less the same. I don’t really like zombie movies because I feel that they rely on cheap startle tactics rather than playing off of psychological metaphorical connotations to instill fear, which is how horror movies ought to work. For more information, see this blog post from that time I watched that zombie movie.

My rating: You’ll have seen all that this movie has to offer if you watch the trailer on youtube

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) Starring Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien, Mary Astor

It’s not really a Halloween movie, but it has a Halloween scene that is pretty much the quintessential depiction of the stereotypical old-timey trick-or-treating experience. So it at least earns a mention on a list of Halloween movies.

My rating: Recommended

Orphan (2009) Starring Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman

Now we’re back into relatively recent R-rated horror movies. This is another one that I saw with my sisters over spring break. It’s about a family that adopts a girl that turns out to be totally creepy and she kills people and stuff. I found it to be more thought-provoking than my short and facetious summary makes it sound, though. While it did contain some violence and gore, the horror element relied upon basic and relatable human fears, such as harm to loved ones, loss of control, and people about whom nothing is known.

My rating: Recommended

This here was the scariest part of Paranormal Activity I. Because, you see, she's standing there and looking at him.

This here was the scariest part of Paranormal Activity I. Because, you see, she’s standing there and looking at him.

Paranormal Activity (2007, 2010, 2011, and 2012 with another one coming in 2014)

I’ve only seen the first three, or rather, I’ve seen bits and pieces of the first three, and my sisters mocked me for falling asleep repeatedly. Guys, it was late and night and I was sick and had a really high fever that week, okay? Anyway, I actually didn’t really think much of these movies. They are metanarratives in that they are meant to be home videos that the characters are deliberately filming, and for that reason, there’s no background music and the camera never moves unless a character is holding it, and sometimes there will be a few minutes where there’s nothing much happening. I presume that this is intended to have the same effect as in certain old fictional books that have a blurb claiming that they’re true. But in my opinion, the complete lack of any cinematic techniques and effects made the movies dull.

My rating: It’s worth your time if you have time to spare

The Phantom of the Opera (various movie and TV adaptions including the 1925 silent movie with Lon Chaney, the 1990 TV movie with Burt Lancaster, and the 2004 movie version of the stageplay by Andrew Lloyd Weber)

The Phantom of the Opera was, for much of my childhood, one of my favorite stories in all of its manifestations. That included the book, the soundtrack with Sarah Brightman, all of the movies mentioned above, and the game that my siblings and I liked to play with the Legos. The Phantom of the Opera isn’t really a horror story, but it certainly does have a dark and creepy tone to it.

My rating: Recommended

Awkward confession: I sometimes say "Mel Brooks" when I mean "Mel Gibson" or vice versa. I know, I'm a terrible person.

Awkward confession: I sometimes say “Mel Brooks” when I mean “Mel Gibson” or vice versa. I know, I’m a terrible person.

Young Frankenstein (1974) Starring Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman

This movie was directed by Mel Brooks. That’s pretty much what you need to know about it. For the benefit of any readers who aren’t familiar with Mel Brooks’ work, I will helpfully add that it’s very, very silly.

My rating: Recommended

Doctor Who: City of Death

3 Comments

Doctor and Romana

Every time I see City of Death, I appreciate it a little more, and I now have decided that it is one of my three favorite classic Doctor Who stories. (I say “stories” rather than “episodes” because in the classic Doctor Who series, most stories were four episodes long.) In chronological order, my three favorites are The Pirate Planet, City of Death, and State of Decay. Incidentally, they all have the fourth Doctor and Romana, who is so awesome that I named my awesome kitten after her. Also, it is interesting to note that two of these three are by Douglas Adams. (State of Decay, however, was written by Terrance Dicks) This is further proof that Douglas Adams was one of the awesomest writers of all time. True, the name given in the credits is David Agnew, but this was a pseudonym. The note on the back of the DVD case makes it unclear whether the script was team-written or whether this pseudonym was used by multiple writers at different times, but at any rate, Douglas Adams was at least in part responsible for the awesomeness that is City of Death. In appreciation for this television masterpiece, I hereby share a list of my favorite lines, a few screenshots, a couple random observations and thoughts, and expository plot points as necessary. I wrote this over the course of two days, while watching City of Death in fragments.

  1. I can’t help wondering if the line “Help us! Skaron! You are our only hope!” from the very beginning of the first episode, is a deliberate Star Wars reference. It seems likely, given the fact that this episode is from 1979, two years after the original Star Wars movie was released.
  2. If for no other reason, this is an awesome episode because of the exchange where Romana asks the Doctor, “Where are we going?” and he says, “Are you talking philosophically or geographically?”
  3. This music that plays as the Doctor and Romana are walking through Paris is some of the best Doctor Who music ever. I think I like it just as much as the theme, and that’s saying a lot because I love the theme.
  4. A Portrait of a TimeladyThe sketch that the man in the café draws of Romana is fascinating, or, as Romana says, “extraordinary.” He draws her face as a fractured clock face, which I think is a very artistic idea. That’s how he perceives Romana, but what does it mean? The Doctor thinks of it as an accurate representation of a timelady, but why does a random Earth man see that in Romana? And does it mean anything to the plot besides a foreshadowing that something’s wrong with time?
  5. The Doctor tells Romana that the Louvre is one of the greatest art galleries in the galaxy, and she lists various other art collections that are evidently well renowned. It’s a classic Douglas Adams moments.
  6. It amuses me that the Doctor and Romana discuss the Mona Lisa’s lack of eyebrows. Current Doctor Who fans wonder why Matt Smith doesn’t have eyebrows. If I could make gifs, I would make one of this segment from City of Death, but I would edit a picture of Matt Smith into the frame where the Mona Lisa is. It would be funny. If anyone reading this has the right computer program to make such a gif, feel free to steal this idea, post it on tumblr, and send me a link so I can reblog it.
  7. Another good line, from the mouth of the overworked scientist working for the Count: “I appreciate many things. I appreciate walks in the country; I appreciate sleep, regular meals…”
  8. Funny how it’s okay for the Doctor to steal a bracelet just because he can tell it’s extra-terrestrial, but it is ultimately important to keep the Mona Lisa from being stolen. It just goes to show, if Doctor Who was D&D, The fourth Doctor would be chaotic good.
  9. “Romana, I think something very funny is going on. You know that man who was following us? Well, he’s standing behind me pointing a gun in my back,” says the Doctor. And when the man forces them into the café at gunpoint, the Doctor orders three glasses of water. The fourth Doctor is awesome.
  10. The countessI think that the Countess must have a tumblr account. She tells the Count, “Well then I had the fool of a detective followed.” “Why?” the count asks. She gives him a look and says, “Reasons.”
  11. Another great part: Duggan, the detective who was following the Doctor, asks him, “What’s Scarlioni’s angle?” The Doctor doesn’t know; he has never heard of Count Scarlioni. Neither the Doctor nor Romana know who Scarlioni is or what his angle is, so Romana says, “I never was any good at geometry.”
  12. For no readily apparent reason, Duggan befriends the Doctor and Romana after the bracelet is taken from them and returned to the Count and Countess. The detective explains that the Count is in some way connected to the sales of suspiciously many valuable artifacts, which evidentially are not fakes, but the Count himself is “clean; so clean he stinks.” Another classic Douglas Adams line.
  13. End of the first episode: The Count locks himself in the laboratory while the scientist is resting. He takes off what we now see is only a mask, and lo and behold, he’s a creepy-looking one-eyed space alien! *theme music and credits*
  14. Tom Baker“I say! What a wonderful butler! He’s so violent! Hello!”  the Doctor says upon being pushed into the room where the Countless wants to interrogate him. And then, moments later, he thanks the butler and sends him away, then welcomes Romana and Duggan into the room and offers himself a drink. “You see, I’m a thief,” he explains to the Countess. “This is Romana; she’s my accomplice. And this is Duggan. He’s the detective who was kind enough to catch me. That’s his job. You see, our lines of work dovetail beautifully.” The Countess says that’s very interesting.
  15. “You’re a very beautiful woman, probably,” The Doctor tells the Countess.
  16. I remember one time years ago when my parents were discussing how funny it is the way the fourth Doctor can play stupid when it suits his purposes, and I didn’t know what they meant. But this scene is a perfect example. The Doctor claims that he stole the bracelet because he thought it was pretty. He adds that he would have preferred to have stolen a painting, but he’s tried that before, and all sorts of alarms went off.
  17. “My dear, I don’t think he’s as stupid as he seems,” the Countess tells the Count. “I don’t think anyone could be as stupid as he seems,” the Count replies.
  18. The cell“What’s the point of coming all the way here just to escape immediately?” –The Doctor, from inside a dark prison cell.
  19. I love the way Romana can measure space just by looking at it and therefore realizes that there’s a hidden room next to the prison cell, while The Doctor and Duggan are busy trying to escape.
  20. Now comes the bit where we discover what exactly Kerensky, the professor guy, has been building in the laboratory.  He puts a chicken egg in his machine and grows a chicken out of it in seconds. Then the Doctor sneaks up behind him and says, “Which comes first? The chicken or the egg? What you’re doing is terribly interesting, but you’ve got it all wrong.”
  21. I can’t figure out what that thing on the Doctor’s lapel is.
  22. Oh, dear. The machine thingy has a few technical difficulties. Or, in the words of the Doctor, the scientist guy has “created a new time continuum that is totally incompatible with ours.” That is to say, the chicken’s dead now.
  23. The plot thickens. The Doctor sees the evil alien’s face in the machine thingy and Duggan knocks the professor guy unconscious for no particular reason. (Duggan does that kind of thing a lot.)The Doctor is angry; he tells Duggan that if he ever does that again, he’s going to have to take very, very severe measures. “Like what?” Duggan asks. “I’m going to ask you not to,” the Doctor says very, very severely.
  24. The bad guys (That is, the Count and the Countess) have a sonic knife that can cut through glass, such as the glass protecting the Mona Lisa. And they have a machine that can alter the refractive index of the very air itself, which can move laser beams, such as the ones guarding the Mona Lisa. Just for example. Dearest me, what can they be plotting?
  25. Guess what’s in the hidden room that Romana so cleverly found? It’s a bunch of Mona Lisas! Six, to be exact. “They must be fakes!” Duggan says. But the Doctor checks, and indeed, they are real. Duggan says that there are seven people who would want to buy the Mona Lisa. Clearly, Duggan and Romana deduce, the Count’s plan is to steal the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, and then, when he sells his seven Mona Lisas, each buyer will assume they have the one that was in the Louvre. Clever.
  26. Mona Lisa room“I wouldn’t make a very good criminal, would I?” The Doctor asks Duggan. “No,” the Count agrees, “good criminals don’t get caught.” He catches them.
  27. “Can I ask where you got these?” The Doctor asks. “No,” the Count tells him. “Or how you knew they were here?” The Doctor adds. “No,” the Count says.  “They’ve been bricked up a long time!” The Doctor observes. “Yes,” the Count agrees. “I like concise answers!” the Doctor compliments him. “Good,” the Count says with satisfaction.
  28. “I came down to find Kerensky” the Count continues. “But he doesn’t seem to be able to speak to me. Can you throw any light on that?” The Doctor cannot. “I can!” yells Duggan, and he throws a light. Nicely done, Douglas Adams.
  29. “Duggan, why is it that every time I start to talk to someone, you knock him unconscious?” The Doctor asks in annoyance.
  30. Da Vinci's HomeNow Duggan heads off to the Louvre to stop the robbery, Romana heads off to the Louvre to keep an eye on Duggan, and the Doctor heads off to meet a late Renaissance Italian. Dark music plays as we watch the Doctor sneak through an art exhibit, presumably the Louvre, as he goes to the TARDIS, despite the fact that he and Romana walked to the Louvre, so that’s not where the TARDIS should have been. Dearest me, it’s a plot hole!
  31. As the second episode draws to a close, The Doctor finds an unexpected guest in Da Vinci’s home. ‘Tis the Count! *theme music and credits*
  32. Romana’s only 125! Interesting. I don’t know exactly how Gallifreyan age corresponds to Earth human age, but she’s very young compared to the Doctor.
  33. It’s too late; the Mona Lisa has already been stolen from the Louvre. Meanwhile, Kerensky finds the hidden room with the Mona Lisas and the unconscious Count. And The Doctor is still in Leonardo da Vinci’s home, trying to persuade the Count that he doesn’t know how he time travels. He’s just walking along minding his own business and suddenly he’s in another time and place. Still playing stupid, he is. And the Count reveals that he is Skaron, the last of the Jagaroth, who died 430 million years ago. His ship landed on Earth and blew up. “I was fractured,” he says, “Splinters of my being are scattered in time, all identical, none complete.” Interesting. Does this remind anyone else of The Name of the Doctor, from May 18,2013?
  34. I figured it out; I know what that thing on the Doctor’s lapel is. It’s a pin that looks like three tubes of paint. Cute.
  35. The Doctor and the soldierThis soldier pointing a sword at the Doctor is another classic Douglas Adams character. He says he’s paid to fight and he believes whatever he’s told. He reminds me of a Vogon. I seem to recall that there’s also a similar exchange in The Pirate Planet.
  36. We are given to understand that the reason there are seven genuine copies of the Mona Lisa is that the Jagaroth guy has commissioned Da Vinci to paint seven identical pictures in order to set up his plot in the year 1979. He needs to be extremely wealthy in 1979 so that he can fund Kerensky’s research as he works to build a time machine so that he can go back and stop his ship from exploding. The Doctor cleverly foils his plot by knocking the soldier unconscious, in true Duggan style, and then writing “THIS IS A FAKE” on the blank canvases. He then leaves a note for Da Vinci apologizing and instructing him to just paint over it.
  37. “You never cease to amaze me! That such a giant intellect could live inside such a tiny mind!” –Count Scarlioni (I doubt I’m spelling that correctly)
  38. Why are they talking about how many dollars the Mona Lisa is worth, when this is a British TV show and this episode takes place in Paris?
  39. “If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s being tortured by someone with cold hands.”  And moments later, “What do you mean, time’s running out? It’s only 1505!”
  40. Romana and the countOoh, interesting development. The Count is now taking credit for “causing the pyramids to be built, the heavens to be mapped, invented the wheel, shown the true use of fire, brought up a whole race from nothing, to save his own race.”  There are some interesting grammatical problems in his sentence, but I guess you can’t expect one person to know how to do everything.
  41. Oh dear, something is wrong with the space-time continuum, and a voice is calling Skaron’s name across time and space, and all his selves start to yell, “The centuries that divide me shall be undone!” Meanwhile, the Doctor escapes from 1505 and returns to 1979.
  42. “Here, have some coffee,” Romana tells Duggan.  One of the best lines ever on television.
  43. “I used to do divorce investigations. It was never like this,” Duggan says to Romana.
  44. “You can have two adjacent time continuums running at different rates,” Romana explains. “But without a field interface stabilizer, you can’t cross from one to the other.” Douglas Adams was such a great science fiction writer. I mean, this totally makes sense even though the terminology is just made up.
  45. “Can anyone join in this conversation or do you need a certificate?” –Duggan
  46. The Doctor rushes back to the chateau, where Romana and Duggan have already gone, for no readily apparent reason. The Count now knows who Romana and the Doctor are, and he wants to force Romana at gunpoint to work on his machinery, since Kerensky says he is both unwilling and unable to continue the research. So the Count uses his machinery to zap the unfortunate scientist into old age and death. *theme music and credits*

    Famous last words: "No, not that switch!"

    Famous last words: “No, not that switch!”

  47. When the evil space alien guy tells Romana that his spaceship exploded, she smirks and says, “That was clumsy of you.” This amuses me.
  48. So this space alien was divided into twelve pieces. I feel like this is somehow very clever in a way that has something to do with the twelve hours on a clock face, or maybe something to do with the fact that a timelord has twelve regenerations. Which reminds me of Romana’s clockface in that sketch back in the first episode of this story. There’s some very awesome connection here somewhere, I think.
  49. The Countess has the original copy of Hamlet. She assures the Doctor that it’s genuine. “I know,” The Doctor says, “I recognize the handwriting.” “Shakespeare’s,” The Countess says. “No, mine,” The Doctor corrects her. So now we know.
  50. “I hope you’re not making a time machine; I shall be very angry,” The Doctor tells the Jagaroth guy.
  51. The JagarothFascinating… I’m noticing some similarities to The Phantom of the Opera. A creepy-looking guy who wears a mask is in the cellar and threatens to blow up Paris.
  52. Why is Romana helping him? Why, Romana, why? Don’t you understand that it will tear the space-time continuum apart if he reunites himself? Wait, why will it do that? I just realized that his goal makes perfect sense. Why isn’t the Doctor helping him? Why, Doctor, why? Don’t you understand that he just wants to exist as a single person?
  53. Now the Doctor has told the Countess who her husband is, so she’s pointing a gun at him. Oh, dear, she’s still wearing the bracelet, and he just killed her with it.
  54. Oh, I just remembered why Romana isn’t supposed to be helping him. Jagaroth are evil or something. Romana only knew he was an alien; she didn’t know he was a Jagaroth, and if she’d known that, she wouldn’t have helped him. His plan was to go back in time to stop himself from letting his ship blow up. And there’s a major spoiler that explains why that’s such a bad thing, but it’s not time for that yet.
  55. “You now see me as I really am!” The Jagaroth guy says. “Very pretty,” the Doctor tells him.
  56. John Cleese in City of DeathIt’s John Cleese and the lady from The Beatles’ Help, discussing the TARDIS as a work of art. And when it dematerializes, she says, “Exquisite. Absolutely exquisite.”
  57. The Doctor, Romana, and Duggan go back in time to prehistoric Earth to keep the Jagaroth guy from keeping his spaceship from exploding. And here’s where we get the climax of the story. It turns out that the explosion of the spaceship started all life on Earth. Unless The Doctor stops the Jagaroth from stopping the explosion, the human races ceases to have ever existed. Guess what happens? Duggan punches the Jagaroth and knocks him unconscious. The spaceship explodes. The Jagaroth guy is somehow transported back to his laboratory in his own basement, but his butler throws a vase, causing his machine to blow up. I think he dies, but I’m not sure.
  58. Here’s the good bit: All of the Mona Lisas are in that basement, and six of the seven get burnt up. One survives, but it is one of the ones that says “THIS IS A FAKE” under the paint. This, we are given to understand, is the real Mona Lisa that has been in the Louvre ever since then. The Doctor and Duggan discuss whether or not it’s really real. After all, it was painted by Leonardo da Vinci himself. Everyone lived happily ever after, the end. *theme music and closing credits*

Mona Lisa

Things I’ve Learned From Watching The Big Bang Theory

Leave a comment

The Big Bang Theory 1I can’t remember exactly when I first became aware of the TV show The Big Bang Theory, except that it was at some point during spring semester my junior year. (That is to say, last year) I also don’t remember exactly what I saw first, except that I know I saw a lot of short clips on youtube long before I ever saw a full episode. In fact, I still haven’t seen many full episodes beyond the first season. I enjoy The Big Bang Theory for two reasons: the characters and the nerdiness. The main characters are all unrealistic enough to be ridiculous while still being realistic enough to be relatable, which is a combination that maximizes the humor. Sheldon Cooper, for example, is more socially inept and more obsessive than anyone in real life could possibly be, but there are at least a couple moments in nearly every episode where he says or does something that is exactly the kind of thing that I would say or do, or where he seems exactly like certain people I know. That fact actually has to do with both of my reasons for liking The Big Bang Theory; the fact that I find Sheldon relatable just goes to show that I’m a nerd and that the nerdiness is the real reason that I like the show.

The Big Bang Theory 3The problem with The Big Bang Theory, though, is that it’s kind of inappropriate. Not only is there often some obscene humor, but the plotlines themselves are often pretty raunchy. It’s annoying enough when you’re watching something that contains a lot of sexual innuendos, but it’s pretty hard to ignore when the story itself revolves around the characters’ promiscuity. I know that The Big Bang Theory isn’t exactly X-rated and that it might sound a bit prudish to find it offensive, but I think it’s pretty sad that our culture is so accepting of obscenity that it can be considered prudish to be disturbed by it.

My point here is that, even though I enjoy The Big Bang Theory, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.  However, I don’t regret the fact that I’ve watched a good deal of it. I would here like to offer a list of random nerdy trivia that I have picked up from The Big Bang Theory. This list comes entirely from season one and only contains facts that I didn’t already know. (For example, I felt no need to include the fact that tomatoes are technically a fruit.) It also omits all of the physics stuff that admittedly went over my head. Most of the items on this list are direct quotations; those that are paraphrased are the ones that I didn’t put in quotation marks. Also, it is worth noting that I was too lazy to look up any of these facts yet (even though that had been my intention when I started making this list) so it’s possible that some of them were fabricated by the scriptwriters.

1. “If the height of a single step is off by as little as two millimeters, most people will trip.”- Sheldon

2. “Curry is a natural laxative.” –Leonard

3. “Thailand has had the fork since the latter half of the 19th century. Interestingly, they don’t actually put the fork in their mouths; they use it to put the food on a spoon, which then goes into their mouth.” –Sheldon

4. “Evolution has made women sensitive to high-pitched noises as they sleep so that they’ll be roused by a crying baby. If you want to avoid waking her, speak in a lower register.” (Note: I kind of cheated by putting this one on the list, because I’d actually heard it before)

5. The development of the atomic bomb was in part due to someone named Oppenheimer, who regretted his involvement in the creation of such a weapon.  –Leonard

6. “You can’t prove string theory. At best, you can say, ‘Hey look! My idea has an inherent logical consistency!’ “- Leonard (Note: I kind of cheated on this one, too, because technically it’s not really a fact. It’s just a quotation I like that happens to be about a specific scientific theory.)

7. There are only eight consonants in the Hawaiian language. –Sheldon

8. “A serape is open at the sides; a poncho is closed.” –Sheldon (Note: Actually, I knew this one, too.)

9. “When you start a party at seven, no one actually shows up at seven.” –Penny (Note: It’s really sad that I picked up a fact of commonly accepted social conventions from a TV show that is largely defined by the fact that the characters have a poor understanding of commonly accepted social conventions.)

10. “A bed is oriented with the headboard away from the door. It serves the ancient imperative of protecting oneself against marauders.”- Sheldon (Note: I have always instinctively followed this rule whenever possible, and now, thanks to TV, I know why.)

11. The phrase sleep tight “refers to the early construction of beds, which featured a mattress suspended on interlocking ropes which would occasionally…” –Leonard (Note: It disappoints me that Leonard doesn’t actually finish the sentence, because I was genuinely curious. I presume that the following words would have something to do with the ropes either breaking or stretching.)

12. “Indian parents continue to have a greater than average involvement in their children’s love lives.” –Sheldon

13. The brain chemistry of white mice is actually more similar to that of humans than is the brain chemistry of guinea pigs. –Sheldon

14. Dentists have an extremely high suicide rate. –Raj

15. “Gram for gram, no animal exceeds the relative fighting strength of the army ant.” –Shldon

16. “In a proper sandwich, the cheese is adjacent to the bread in order to create a moisture barrier against the lettuce.” –Sheldon

17. Bertram Forer, in 1948, conducted research to debunk astrology. –Sheldon

18. “Starch absorbs fluid, which reduces the amount of vomit available for violent expulsion.” -Sheldon

The Big Bang Theory 2

Bonus Interesting Metaphors:

1.When Penny said that she both hated and loved her ex-boyfriend, Leonard equated this with the paradox that light acts both as a wave and a particle.

2. When both Penny and Leonard ask Sheldon for advice about whether or not they should go through with their date, Sheldon compares their uncertainty about the future of their relationship with the uncertainty described in the Schrodinger’s Cat thought experiment. (Here is a link to a blog post I wrote a few months ago that described Schrodinger’s Cat)

This concludes my list. Just for the fun of it, I might make similar lists for later seasons, if I find the time to watch them.

It’s a Wonderful Life, but not really

4 Comments

It's a Wonderful Life

Late last night, I told myself that I would celebrate being done with my English senior seminar paper presentation by watching a movie, and I selected It’s a Wonderful Life. While I watched it, I was multi-tasking, and when I say multi-tasking, I mean I was sleeping at the same time. Actually, I did that on purpose, because I seriously needed to be asleep just then. Needless to say, I wasn’t very aware of the movie. (Because I was distracted by my dream in which people kept randomly sticking knives into my car tires, and also, there was a gas station in my little sisters’ bedroom, which would have been very convenient if I could drive, but I couldn’t, because my tires were full of holes, although they were magically fixed a couple times. I have weird dreams.) I’ve seen that movie many times, though, so my inattentiveness to it this time doesn’t prevent me from having things to say about it.

In case anyone reading this isn’t familiar with the movie, I’ll give a quick summary of the plot. On Christmas Eve, presumably in 1946 because that’s when the movie was filmed, a man named George Bailey is considering suicide. An angel named Clarence is assigned to come to help him through his time of trouble. The majority of the movie is the story of George’s life, which Clarence watches before coming to George’s rescue. We see George as a twelve-year-old boy who works in a drugstore, as a young adult who has to give up his plans to travel and to go to college when his father suddenly dies, and as a somewhat less young adult who still works at his father’s Building and Loan and suddenly finds himself in trouble for the loss of money that his Uncle Billy misplaced that morning. He’s just about to jump off of a bridge when Clarence the angel

This one facial expression in particular always really scared me for some reason.

This one facial expression in particular always really scared me for some reason.

interrupts him. While talking to Clarence, George says that he wishes he’d never been born, and Clarence gives him a view of what the world around him would be like if he didn’t exist. What follows is a scene that terrified me when I was little, which shows George running frantically around town and finding out that all of the pleasant people he knows are miserable and bitter, the entire town is owned by the mercenary Mr. Potter, and it isn’t even snowing anymore. (I have never entirely understood why George Bailey’s state of existence affects the weather patterns, but it evidently does.) George changes his mind and decides that he wants to be alive again, and when he returns home, fully existent, he finds that his friends have all chipped in to raise money to help him, and then they all have a lovely Christmas party and everyone is happy.

Rotary Phone

Rotary Phone

One thing I did notice about it this time through is that, in the drugstore near the beginning, Mary and Violet have their hair in 1940s hairstyles, even though that scene took place in 1919. Then I noticed that there was a rotary phone on George Bailey’s father’s desk. For a moment, I felt very proud of myself for catching this anachronism, but then I looked it up, and it turns out that rotary phones came into common usage in 1914. There was in fact no anachronism committed. The moral of this story is that I should stop being a smart-aleck and accept the fact that moviemakers know what they’re doing. The other thing I learned from this was, of course, that rotary phones came into common usage in 1914, a fact which I shall add to the list of random facts that I like to keep in my brain just in case they may someday be relevant to a conversation I’m having.

If this picture has no sentimental connotations to you, then you are in the minority.

On a more serious note, as much as I like It’s a Wonderful Life, I think it’s actually a really depressing movie. The central message is that life is worthwhile because individual people have a positive impact on the world around them, but George Bailey isn’t a good example of that because his life is more influential than most peoples’ lives. I mean, he saved two people’s lives when he was a twelve-year old kid, he single-handedly kept the Building and Loan running and thereby provided affordable housing for a significant portion of the population of his town, and, even though we actually don’t see much of his children in the movie, we see enough of them that we find his family likable and that popular culture associates that specific part of the movie with “The Christmas Spirit”. And he seems to be friends with everyone in town except for Mr. Potter and his daughter’s teacher’s husband. Even though he’s lived in the same place for his entire life, George Bailey has done a lot of important things and had a beneficial impact on a lot of people’s lives. His life really is pretty wonderful, despite the events of that one Christmas Eve. (In fact, that crisis only lasts for a few hours; everything’s fine that morning and everything’s fine again by that night.) Most of us can’t say the same things about our own lives. I bet that if I could see what things would be like if I’d never been born, the world would basically look no different than it does now. I’ve never saved anyone’s life, I don’t run a business that is vital to the prosperity of my town, and I highly doubt that my existence has any impact on the personalities of the people around me, or the weather. (If it did, that would actually be a good reason for me to stop existing, ‘cause I know my sister really wants it to snow this week, and it sure isn’t snowing now.) In fact, if it wasn’t for the fact that I have dance rehearsals, dance performances, and two finals between now and Monday, I could probably suddenly disappear without anybody even noticing for a few days, even if my existence wasn’t erased from the past like George Bailey’s was.

If this is all it takes to make your life wonderful again, then you've got things pretty good. Although it sure would help. Just sayin'.

If this is all it takes to make your life wonderful again, then you’ve got things pretty good. Although it sure would help. Just sayin’.

So, yeah. When I watch that movie, instead of thinking how wonderful it is that everyone’s life is special, I think how sad it is that my life isn’t special like George Bailey’s is. And instead of being happy for him that all his problems were solved when his friends gave him all their money, I am sad that in real life, even little problems take more than a fairly obvious plot twist to solve. And I feel no sympathy for someone who wants to commit suicide because of one bad day, when most people in the world have had a lot more than one bad day in their lives.

Oh, what holiday cheer.