Under the (SKINS)

January 31, 2010 at 5:11 pm (Uncategorized)

Behold, the return of SKINS! My first foiree into the world of teenage British drama started up again on Thursday, January 28th, for its fourth consecutive season. The brainchild of E4, it is the very first drama made exclusively and originally for the channel, as opposed to the normal airings of specific American shows or reruns of the popular, slightly older British sitcoms and rom-coms.

Skins follows the lives of teenagers in Bristol trying to cope with things way beyond their maturity level. School takes a second to drugs, alcohol, sex, relationships and sexual confusion. This sounds like a typical teenage soap opera, but it really isn’t: The actors are actually the same age (or maybe a year off) as the characters they portray; the series does not take place in some rich upper-end neighborhood like Manhattan or Orange County; and the love triangles are way less ridiculous.The writing is unusually gritty for a teen drama, and the minds behind it have given birth to plots that make my brain churn: a Casanova-esque lad who must relearn how to feel after being run over by a bus; a financially bankrupt teen who is living on his own, having an affair with his teacher, and is being actively destroyed by some mysterious illness that runs in the family; an almost clinically insane, depressed girl hopelessly in love and desperately trying to find something in life to hold on to….and that’s just in the first two seasons. The third season started with an entirely new cast (after the older cast graduated), and the fourth season has picked up right where that new cast left off.

I have high hopes for this new season. The first episode focused entirely on Thomas, a pleasant surprise and strange departure from the Effy-centric plot lines. It follows his struggle to deal with a death in a nightclub on his watch, a drug dealer who it turns out he knows personally, and pretty extreme girlfriend problems. It also explored something I have rarely seen on teenage dramas: the need to reconnect to a spiritual community. Thomas is a Frenchman, and I feel as though he his from Haiti because of the colorfulness of the community and the tropical beat of the hymns they sing, and I find it really refreshing. It isn’t often that I see religion portrayed in a positive light, or religion that is not only there to discourage sex and drugs, and I really like that Thomas actually wants to be a part of it.

While I liked parts of this episode, it seemed too incredibly mopey and moody for me. Or maybe I was just waiting for some Emily/Naomi story lines? Emily and Naomi are the two halves that make the whole of the ground-breaking lesbian plot line that has garnered attention from gay and straight communities alike. In series three, it was a heart-wrenching path to self discovery and acceptance, and watching Naomi struggle as a straight girl having feelings for a gay Emily was revealing and honest. Naomi breaks Emily’s heart several times and breaks her own in the process, until she just gives up trying to be straight and gives in to her feelings. It’s a lovely, lovely story and it makes me very happy to see. I love gay rights and anything that portrays gay people in a positive and normal light.

So that I don’t rant about gay rights and why some of us straight people are downright crazy for not supporting it, I will just say this: thanks for coming back, Skins. I await the return of Effy, the conflicts between Thomas and Pandora, and some cute JJ antics.


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The Inbetweeners! A gem.

January 31, 2010 at 4:06 pm (Uncategorized)

Oh, BBC America. You please me yet again. The television series “The Inbetweeners” is now available to American audiences!

I couldn’t love a television show any more than I love The Inbetweeners. Think of one of those horribly raunchy teen comedy movies that never do very well nor succeed in actually being a comedy. Now think about if one of those movies was actually uproariously hilarious, set in Bristol, and intelligently written. FANTASTIC. Another brilliant example of an original series for the E4 channel, catering directly to teen/young adult audiences. It’s of course filled with the standard group of male teen nerds or outcasts who just want to be accepted, pass their A-levels, and maybe get laid along the way; but it is told with such blunt honesty and biting wit that it is unlike any other show I’ve ever seen. The summary on the show’s Facebook fan page (which I shamelessly follow) reads as follows:

Every Thursday at 10pm on E4 from the 2nd April, the six-part series voted the Best New British Television Comedy at the 2008 British Comedy Awards will continue where the first series left off. Centred at Rudge Park comprehensive school, four dysfunctional friends are all desperately trying to work out how to fit in.

Will (Simon Bird), is still trying to be part of the crowd, but now also has a new challenge: to raise the social standing of his new friends to ‘cool’ – it’s not going to work

At his side is Simon (Joe Thomas) who is still hopelessly besotted with Carli D’Amato (Emily Head) and anything she thinks is cool he immediately goes along with. Jay’s (James Buckley) still boasting stories of impressive exploits and sexual conquests that are just a little too fantastical to believe. Making up the quartet is Neil (Blake Harrison), an easy going lad who is not exactly the brains of the outfit and whose dad is definitely not gay.

Just reading this makes me laugh. The language is vulgar and witty at the same time, filled with awkward teen moments that make me cringe because they are so ridiculous, yet so relatable. The four main characters do an astonishingly fantastic job at playing giant, lovable prats who just don’t know what the hell they’re doing, and the supporting cast of various parents, teachers, and fellow students are superb counterparts. The series ended months ago with Neil, Simon, Will and Jay passing their A-levels and moving on to university, but with it finally airing on BBC America, I have great hope that it will garner an even greater audience and be more appreciated than ever before.

I’m honestly at a loss for words as to how to further describe this television show. Just…watch it. There’s a reason I watch The Inbetweeners when I’m unhappy. Enjoy.

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Movie Music News!

January 22, 2010 at 7:36 pm (Uncategorized)

Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be an expert in music, music theory, composition, orchestration, or performance. I’m just really obsessed with music.

Darklings, I have some juicy bits of news concerning upcoming movie scores.

First of all, I had NO IDEA that there was a Movie Score Magazine!!!! Seriously? It makes my heart smile to see that there is actually a periodical dedicated exclusively to movie scores. I never would have guessed! Audiophiles/movie buffs, eat extra helpings of this because there’s a feast of knowledge here. Thanks to my friend Candice for alerting me to its presence!

It is to Candice that I also credit one of my new findings: Howard Shore will be composing the score for the next film in the Twilight saga (she was outraged. A quality composer writing music for some half-assed vampire flick? no way.) Now, I’ll be the first to admit: I read the books and found them mildly interesting (mostly because I like scifi/fantasy stories with vampires and such), only to watch the first movie and laugh my ass off at the quality of the acting which can be described, very kindly, by words such as “poor,” “cheap,” “inexperienced,” “dreadful,” “horrendous,” “near-sighted,” etc. Yet the score, I thought, was really quite charming–I could honestly care less about those whiny emo songs featured on alternative rock stations around the globe that made it onto the film’s soundtrack. Alexandre Desplat and Carter Burwell, both favorites of mine because of very specific individual scores, both had a turn to change some of that teenage-vampire-romantic angst into a coherent musical theme. I guess it all depends on your point of view. I didn’t necessarily fall in love with either of the two film scores, but I won’t go so far as to berate them for participating in such a pop-culture phenomenon.

Meanwhile, thanks to MuggleNet, I have finally found out who will be composing the next (and penultimate) Harry Potter film.  I’m hopelessly attached to Nicholas Hooper’s haunting bass lines, cheerful woodwinds and crescendo-prone string pieces, and was upset to hear that after 2 movies, he would not return for the final installments. Hope is not lost, however. The aforementioned Alexandre Desplat has signed on for Part 1 of the Deathly Hollows, and while I am skeptical, I have faith. His score for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is, to me, truly moving and beautifully, poignantly sad. The first part of Hallows is based largely on traveling, delving into a deeper and more dangerous journey than has ever been depicted in the Harry Potter series–something I think Desplat can handle.  However, he has a tremendous legacy to live up to: the legendary John Williams wrote the music for the first 4 Potter films, followed by Hooper’s 2 consecutive years of success. Let’s hope he doesn’t let us down!

More news! This is technically old news, but I saw it as a headline and felt obligated to report it. A splendid musician by the name of Michael Giacchino won the Golden Globe for the best original score in the Pixar film UP. His previous works include other Pixar works such as Ratatouille and The Incredibles, the television series LOST, and the recent remake of Star Trek. His work is incredibly fantastic, and I encourage everyone to not only see the movies I just mentioned, but listen to them as well. You will be blown away.

Other random tidbits: Randy Newman’s score for Disney’s The Princess and the Frog was “denied eligibility in this year’s pony show” by the Academy (read more here). Cinemusic.net goes on to describe other projects,  such as The Dark Knight and LOTR: The Two Towers, as being cruelly snubbed by the Academy as well. But based on the rules for submission, the Academy says that Newman’s score does not meet the requirements.  I have not yet seen this film, but I have heard rather melancholy things about the music–this is especially surprising because the non-computer-animated film was supposed to mark the return of the Disney musical. Thoughts?

Hans Zimmer has decided to take over MORE of the world by launching head-first into the video game genre. Yep.

If you didn’t know, Carter Burwell, along with Karen O, is the master behind the Where the Wild Things Are score.

Damn. If I could just find some current news on my all-time favorite man, Thomas Newman, life would be fantastic.

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Hot Glue and Horatio.

January 20, 2010 at 2:31 am (Uncategorized)

It has come to the point that I don’t mind being covered in hot glue, foam, thread, or permanent marker from head to toe anymore. I might complain about my schooling like any normal college student, but I really and truly love what I do…working in theater.

The crafts class I am taking has given me an opportunity to try my hand at puppetry with my seasoned instructor, Holly Cole. I have always been fascinated with puppets, from The Muppets to Sesame Street to Avenue Q, and I jumped at the chance to make one this quarter. After much deliberation, I decided to make a giraffe puppet (based on the long-nosed donkey pattern that Holly has honed to perfection) and powered along with much enthusiasm.

Fast forward to a few days later–my first day doing extra work on my puppet. I’ve spent about 24 extra hours in the crafts shop since Friday working on that thing. I never realized how hard it is to make something that seems so simple at first glance. Developing a pattern, deciding what material to use, and then actually beginning to build the shape of your object/animal/person, etc., is incredibly difficult–to me, anyway. The bulk of my time was spent trying to make the shape of the giraffe. The eye ridges, the hump on the forehead, the eyes themselves….I wanted to tear my hair out. By the time our first “rough draft” of our puppet was due, I had managed to create a somewhat giraffe-like silhouette (this meaning that if I stood a few feet away and squinted, I could kind of see the essence of the giraffe in my big pile of foam and hotglue). With Holly’s helpful suggestions and revisions, I finally achieved success today. Horatio (his name, of course) looks magnificent, even though he is nowhere near completion. He looks nothing like the semi-retarded, possessed horse that he did a week ago, or even yesterday, for that matter. I’m so excited!

The process isn’t over, of course. Next, I have to drape muslin over it and create a very clean, precise pattern–which I know I will have a hard time with. Draping on dress forms is fairly easy, but draping over a shaped mound of foam with bits of three-dimensional pieces sticking out for eyes and other various parts feels foreign and very intimidating. But I know I can do it. I’ve come so far already–why stop now?

Pictures to come soon! Each time I go in to work on it, I end up only having my phone to take pictures with.

What lesson have we learned today? Making puppets is a hard, but rewarding, skill to master. I think everyone should do it. Tomorrow is going to be great: 4 hours in the costume shop making a fabulous mock up for a coat, a meeting with a senior performance major who would like me to do costumes for his show, and then more Horatio. I love Wednesdays.

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Phatasmagoria: Alice/Marilyn Manson?

January 19, 2010 at 1:59 am (Uncategorized)

Holy Damn, Batman. And I call myself an Alice in Wonderland freak fanatic? Then why did I have no idea about this project?

First of all, how did I come across this? I was reading up on model/actress Lily Cole, who starred as the lovely Valentina in The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. On her page listing her upcoming films, Phatasmagoria: The Visions of Lewis Carroll popped up. (A few articles on the subject are here, here, and here). It has apparently been in the works for several years. Written and directed by Marilyn Manson, the film is supposed to be a Hitchcock-esque psychological thriller that provides an in-depth look into the psyche of author Lewis Carroll. Carroll, in the late 1860s England, is apparently locked into a tower and is frequently visited/tormented by visions of a girl named Alice.

According to wikipedia, the film was to start production in 2007, but due to the writer’s strike the start date was pushed back to March 2008. IMDB categorizes the film as “in-production,” and I haven’t been able to find news on current progress. The cast includes Manson as Lewis Carroll, Cole as Alice, Evan Rachel Wood as Alice’s alter-ego, Tilda Swinton as Carroll’s wife, and other fantastics such as Alan Cummings and Angelina Jolie.

Marilyn Manson has broken all the rules when it comes to music, fashion, and self-perception, and his perspective on Alice could quite possibly break rules the world of film didn’t even know it had. As I said before, Manson intends for the film to be deeply psychological, feeding on the roots of evil at the base of all of Carroll’s metaphors for life, childhood, etc. He’s been quoted as saying that horror films should be more than just slasher movies, but a narrative about a person’s personal, lonely hell. He apparently plans to push the boundaries of sexuality as well–again, according to wikipedia, Tweedledee and Tweedledum might be twin lesbians…and not like Tegan and Sarah are twin lesbians. Add to that his portrayal of Carroll as a haunted man who has a penchant for photographing young girls, and this will definitely live up to Manson’s reputation for excess in all areas–not necessarily in a good way. But films that have portrayed worse have done well at the box office before.

Aside from his odd sexual perception, I think this movie could really be something. A cult classic at the least, or even higher status right up there with A Clockwork Orange. Only time will tell. In the meantime, enjoy these photos that I scalped from google image search for you.

Marilyn Manson and Lily Cole

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I rant lovingly about the BBC.

January 18, 2010 at 10:57 pm (Uncategorized)

I had originally intended to write about last night’s Golden Globes, but as I am still reeling from the unexpected, disastrous results of a politically and fiscally motivated voting system, I will refrain for now. Unless you would actually like to hear a page-long rant about why Avatar did not deserve any of the awards it was given and is a poor excuse for a film. I digress.

As the resident science-fiction nerd of my entire group of friends, it should come as no surprise that I have found yet another delicious television show courtesy of BBC3. This television station is brother to BBC4, which is breaking tremendous ground with its new, hilariously edgy teen-oriented dramas and comedies (look up Skins and The Inbetweeners). These shows are written as original series for the network, a challenge that has been welcomed with open arms and received extraordinarily well by the network’s teen viewership. Yet along with these original new pieces comes an impressive array of scifi/fantasy shows that are actually extremely popular with most of the general public. The new Dr. Who series, the spin-off series of Torchwood, Primeval, and Life on Mars are some of the most well-loved and critically acclaimed shows around–so much so that BBC America has begun airing all of these and more to share with us on the other side of the Atlantic. Thank God for that. Needless to say, I expect the best of quality from anything affiliated with BBC.

I could spend a day raving about how much I love the new Dr. Who and why I wept for hours upon David Tennant’s dramatic exit from the show; I could lavish John Simm with such attentions as to make him blush like a little school girl, but that is not what today is about. I come to you today to talk about my hesitant, burgeoning love for a little ditty called Being Human. I realize I am incredibly far behind in discovering this potential diamond-in-the-rough (the pilot aired in Britain in 2007 and was granted a first series in 2008), but I’m going to use my “I’m an American and my television networks aren’t lovely” card for this one. BBCAmerica usually does not air a successful BBC show overseas until the first two series have gone into reruns in Britain, therefore, who knows when Being Human will surface in the hearts of those who aren’t die-hard enthusiasts? If I am going crazy waiting for the fourth series of Skins to air on it’s original premiere date of January 28, what are my poor fellow internet-illiterate neighbors going to be like? Scary thoughts…

I’ve gone off the beaten path once again. To continue: Being Human is an hour-long drama that, as seems to be the trend these few years, portrays the lives of three undead persons: Mitchell, a vampire since the civil war; George, an ordinary bloke who happens to turn into a wolf every month, and Annie, a woman confined as a ghost to the flat she died in. Mitchell and George, who happen to be friends, move into Annie’s flat and friendship ensues between the undead ones. The concept seems promising, but I am still waiting to find the wow-factor that I know the show has the potential for. I just finished the second episode, and while the writing is charming and the cast is attractive, the plot lines of each episode are a tad thin. Much more can be accomplished in 57 minutes of run time, of that I am sure. I’m waiting for it to get juicier, to dangle the bait and reel me in. I feel slightly obligated to like this show simply because it is a scifi series from BBC, but I refuse to do so. I like the show, but I don’t love it. Come on, lads (and lass). Give me something to love. More action, more humor, less brooding Mitchell and more witty banter. Give Annie something to smile about (perhaps a meatier role?). Also, maybe, just for a second, think about having more supernatural elements in those 57 minutes. George turning into a werewolf is fine, but it is the only fantasy that we physically see–the rest is just passed on through dialogue.

I could totally change my mind after viewing the next few episodes. SFX magazine certainly gives it an extremely high rating, as one of the best shows of 2009 amongst Who, Mars, and so on. I hope they aren’t wrong.

Original BBC3 Series

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