Monthly Archives: November 2013

Reel Talk Episode 8: Hunger Games, Doctor Who & Don Jon

Contains what it says on the tin.

Reel Talk is now an hour long you guys, which means more reviews, more news and more Pete being confusing and telling me that I am secretly an old man. Which I contest. I am simply a young man with the soul of a 40 year old – rather like David Mitchell. Only less amusing.

Give the show a listen!

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M.A.S.H. & The New Context

The film MASH is a comedy that, in a series of gags, degrades a determined, professional woman into an imbecilic girl. This fact does not destroy the movie. The essential point of the film, the insight into humour as a compulsive and necessary reaction to tragedy, passes by unscathed. The only consequence of this unfortunate character arc is that the film is decidedly less funny now than it was in the 70s. So then, so what?

After all, the movie was made in and set during a time when the onscreen presentation of women had not become quite as big an issue as it has today. That doesn’t excuse MASH, but it might invalidate criticising the film in light of modern sexual politics. If criticism is to fairly judge the quality of art, is a critic allowed to evaluate according to belief systems that held comparatively less influence in the artists’ culture?

Well there’s theoretical replies to be made to this query, concerning the nature of criticism as necessarily subjective, and how all-pervasive sexism or racism actually was in past milieu (The Thin Man is a mystery/comedy made in an era where onscreen married couples had to sleep in separate beds, and there’s not a lick of sexist humour there). But I want to dispense with these (check out MovieBob for a more in depth discussion), in favour of a simpler reply. It mattered to me. MASH wanted me to laugh at the degradation of Major O’Houlihan. I laughed at the first gag, because her officiousness deserved pranks. I stopped when the ‘pranks’ became undeserved humiliation, as Major O’Houlihan was rechristened Hot Lips, as her nakedness became a show for the men, as the competent, uniformed nurse was made into an idiotic cheerleader with her hair in girl’s bunches. That’s simply not funny, no matter how thematically consistent or well-shot or scored MASH is. It is not funny.

Devin Faraci once wrote an article expressing his concern over the idea that 48fps might become the new industry standard for film. He felt that by redefining the visual standard in such a way, the industry risked cutting its audience off from past movies in a manner even more drastic than that which occurred naturally. Quote:

‘For the last few decades it’s been tough getting younger film fans to watch black and white movies. People raised on color films have an almost automatic reaction to black and white as old fashioned and archaic. Forget silent movies – almost nobody watches silent film for fun anymore. And those are just the big technical changes in film history – anyone showing a pre-1980s movie to people of a certain age will find them recoiling against the pacing and camerawork; other younger viewers are repelled by the pre-Method style of acting in colorful 1940s and 50s films.’

In essence, the form art takes is determined by the context in which it is made. If that context is particularly different to the context in which future audiences exist, the art from ages past can feel alien and is therefore less moving. Well, that’s not a phenomenon totally associated with craft.

It is no hyperbole to say that We Today are living through one of the most significant cultural revolutions humanity has ever experienced, thanks to our simultaneous assault on racism, sexism and homophobia . Gradually, step by achingly slow step, we are dragging ourselves away from a culturally dominant belief in the inequality of gender, race and sexual orientation. However as we do so, the non-purposeful racist, sexist and homophobic aspects of older artworks are going to lose the veneer of acceptability they had when the artwork was made. MASH may still work as a comedy for the most part, but to modern eyes that movie is now a damn sight less funny than it once was. Nor is it the only movie that will suffer in the new context.

So, what do we do? Obviously we cannot abandon our film history, no matter how alienating it becomes. But neither do I believe that we can ignore the sins of the past. Objective criticism becomes nonsense when it requires me to override a gut reaction and claim an emotion that was not felt, simply because people watching 40 years ago might have felt that way. The only way forward is to be clear headed about the art of the past. Aaron in Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus may state ‘Let fools do good, and fair men call for grace/Aaron will have his soul black like his face’ but my dislike for the imagery does not destroy my affection for the gore of the play. The proper response to the new alienation is to abandon the concept of the one-sided reaction. It is rare now that we will ever be able to look back on the past and say ‘that is all good’ or ‘that is all bad’. Our reactions will be qualified into complexity, but such complexity, I believe, will serve to make our opinions all the more worthwhile.

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Reel Talk Episode 7 – I Will Never Be Christopher Walken

Meant to have this up earlier in the week, but being turned into a sock puppet, even for just a few minutes, really disorientates a person.

Also Podbean seems to be down currently, so you may have to wait for the podcast goodies. But what goodies they are! Pete & I discuss raising children, how to look good, terrorism, and many other things we view from afar but don’t intend to be part of. As for films, we’ve got The Battle of Algiers, In Fear and Seven Psychopaths. So, when the site’s alright, give the show a listen, and possibly an iTunes subscribe? And hey! While you’re there, why not leave us a review? Good, bad, a confusing batch of obscenities, whatever you have to say, we want to read it.


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Reel Talk Episode 6: Brodie Gone Bad

This episode may sound weird. Hopefully that just better reflects the strangeness of the content.

Discussed! Gravity, Thor the Dark World, Creepy Twilight Babies, and Tom Hiddleston. I need a better mental filter around that last subject.

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Reel Talk Episode 5 – ‘Blokescast, No Girls Allowed!’

In which a Zhana-less Pete & I ramble at length about James Bond, magical realism, and the British class system. Opinions on Short Term 12 & Valhalla Rising too, so what are you waiting for? Click the link below, or subscribe on itunes!

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Webcomic Review – Nice Teeth


Nice Teeth is a nice surprise.

It is a glaring truth that the Internet’s favourite form of humour is absurdism. From the cluster of webcomics following the thunderous footsteps of Penny Arcade, to YouTube, with the asdf movies, Jack & Dean and Bravest Warriors, even unto the lolcat itself, the Internet brims with humour tuned to the absurd. Indeed, there is so much that sometimes the Internet can seem like a kid who has just discovered jokes, and, finding one he likes, repeats it over and over and over.

It’s not that I don’t like absurdism. Grow up on a diet of classic British comedy and the taste for zany never leaves you. It’s more that any kind of humour loses impact after sufficient repetition, particularly that which has no point beyond ‘look at this thing. It is a strange thing’. So it was that my first thought on starting Nice Teeth was ‘Oh. This again.’

Specifically, the comic’s opening pages (in which the reader is introduced to Dr Nubs, a purple demon-lookalike creature with a portal in his mouth and a borderline annoying manner of speech) reminded me of Looney Tunes. The Doctor initially appears to be insane in the bouncy, Daffy Duck sense, being similarly fond of costumes and cartoonish violence. He eventually runs into Shell who is also a bit of a nutter, if less hyperactive. Several pages in and the comic feels like yet another iteration of Internet standbys, right down to the animal-people and the Goldmember-ish celebration of its own strangeness.

Still the look of the comic kept me reading. Nice Teeth has the aesthetic of a hallucinogenic ramble through a tropical country, and the sheer variety of bright warm colours was enough on its own to appeal. Combined with the distinctive, evocative character designs, Nice Teeth is at least visually memorable from the off. Also, bland though the story might be at first, it wastes no time, barrelling forwards at the pace of a good film script. So, while I was not initially impressed by Nice Teeth, I was not repulsed either. It was engaging, if not interesting, until suddenly… It made a point.

Nice Teeth is set on a magical Island where the food grows without cultivation, power seemingly comes from nowhere, and all survival needs are taken care of. It is a utopia free from want, and the stated result is that the Islanders have become lazy, shallow and stupid. Imagine an entire society where the standard personality was The Situation and you have the Island. With this stroke Nice Teeth breaks the mould. In drawing a causal link between existence without hardship and cultural collapse the comic moves from simple absurdism to sudden satire.

Taking things even further, the opening of the comic mentions how the smartest member of the island’s society reacted to living in a cesspit of idiocy by going mad. As far as I know this enigmatic opener refers to Nubs, though given how all the comic’s characters are at least a little mad that’s not a certainty. Also, said madness seems without fail to relate to a dissatisfaction with or alienation from the surrounding vacuity, inviting the question of whether all this absurdity is objective silliness or whether it’s actually sense that only seems strange due to opposing a prevailing norm.

The comic is not currently perfect. It has yet to actually explore its themes, though to be fair it has not been around for long. Still, as it is, Nice Teeth shows real promise. It has gone the step further. On an Internet where it seems you can have comfortable success telling the same joke a billion times (cough asdf cough), Nice Teeth takes the absurdist standby and actually does something with it. This is a webcomic that cares to have an identity, and that, combined with its mad-coloured beauty, keeps me eager for every new update.

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