crap i have watched recently #2

old tv test patternThe Rockford Files.  Once upon a time, men wore bad suits, women had horrible  hairdos, the police did not dress like commandos, bad guys did not have assault weapons, and everybody smoked indoors while they were eating.  In this world, there were no computers, no cell phones, no SUVs,  TVs could fit on your desk, and apparently you could live in a trailer in a parking lot by the beach and no one would say a word.  That world, my friends, still exists in old 70s TV shows and The Rockford Files is among the best of them.  You can stream the entire series off of Netflix and lose  yourself in a world that, come to think of it, you probably didn’t miss that much.   James Garner plays private investigator Jim Rockford, a pardoned ex-con who lives in a really decrepit trailer on the beach in Malibu (which must have been much lower rent back then).  His quirk is that he only takes cases that the police have closed.  His dad is a lovable old coot, he has a friend on the police force and another in the underworld, and most of the women he meets are sexy in that 70s feathered hair way (think Lindsay Wagner, Gretchen Corbett, Linda Evans).  He doesn’t use violence until he has to and then he’s pretty formidable.  And although the car chases are laughable by today’s standards, Wikipedia tells me that Rockford’s signature escape maneuver is still taught to Secret Service agents.   All in all, it’s a fun watch, if for nothing else than the few dozen culture shocks you will get every episode, even if you personally remember those days like they were yesterday.  Pay phones on every corner?  Really?  And they only cost a dime?

Score:  W00t!

Babylon 5.  Another oldish TV show, but not quite so ancient.  Babylon 5 ran in the mid to late 1990s and although set a few hundred years in the future it  has that outdated look most science fiction shows get when they’ve been around a few years.   Things like communication devices, video displays, computers, weaponry, furniture, all seem woefully inadequate when compared to the stuff I use every day in my personal life to do stupid shit like order Chinese food and check my friends’ FB updates.   Clothing, hairstyles, and general decor seem quaintly retro, and of course, it would be uncharitable to snark about the special effects.   But, like sci-fi on the printed page, the best of these shows transcend the  necessary limitations of the now and focus on some fairly eternal truths.  Just like the original Star Trek was really about the war in Vietnam, civil rights, women’s equality, and other pressing social issues of its day (including hot Kirk on Orion slave girl action), B5 is not so much about a giant space station as it is about the conflict between totalitarianism and freedom, free will and repression, the better angels of our  nature and the demons of fear and greed that plague us all.   It is about what happens when peaceful means fail and how peaceful people must decide how and when to pick up a weapon.    It is about making the right choices even when you will probably die for it.   I have been told by many people that B5 was intended from the start to last the duration of a five  year story arc and that even the self-contained episodes all contribute in some way to the larger plot.  I don’t know if this is true (and I tend not to believe these claims in general) but it actually seems likely in B5 for no other reason than that, so far at least, there are an amazing lack of continuity conflicts.  Since I am watching it compressed in time compared to its original run of five years, the number of small incidents in the earlier shows that have larger meaning in later events is probably more apparent to me than it would have been had I watched it when it originally aired.   I am now nearly done with Season 3.  Babylon 5 has seceded from the corrupt Earth government and is serving not only as a safe haven for war refugees but as the spearhead for a guerrilla attack force in the war against the Shadows.  Against this epic backdrop are more personal tales of addiction, spirituality, sacrifice, and redemption.  And yes…there is (at least implied) hot human on alien action.

Score:  Meh.  (good meh though)

The Kingdom.  Dear god, I don’t even know where to start with this.   Maybe all I need to say is “Lars von Trier”.  Many years before making incendiary remarks in public at major film festivals von Trier was well known as a producer and director of unusual and artistic films, quite a lot of which have won or been nominated for major film awards, and none of which I have seenHe is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a mainstream filmmaker.  Back in 1994 he made a four episode miniseries for Danish television called The Kingdom and in 1997 four additional episodes were released.  It’s one of the creepiest made-for-TV things I’ve ever seen, even if it is basically a straight up old school ghost story.    The story takes place in The Kingdom, the most modern and scientifically advanced hospital in Copenhagen.  The main characters are a spiritualist who is convinced something is not right in the Kingdom, a self important neurosurgery consultant who through gross negligence caused a little girl to become permanently brain damaged (he’s scummy enough to mock both her and her mother), a befuddled hospital director, a resident who lives in the basement and procures things people need (drugs, supplies, information), and an extraordinarily dedicated medical researcher working in the area of liver cancer.   All sorts of unusual things happen in this hospital:  a little girl sits in the elevator shaft and cries, the halls and tunnels below the main building appear to date from medieval times, a ghost dog roams the hallways, a woman gives birth to a ghost’s child, the upper echelon of hospital staff conduct odd quasi-Masonic rituals in the basement, a head goes missing, and every night an empty ambulance pulls up to the emergency room doors and then vanishes.  Somewhere in the bowels of the hospital a young man and woman with Down syndrome endlessly wash dishes and comment cryptically on the various supernatural manifestations around them and the actions of the hospital staff.   The entire show is shot in red-washed sepia tones which give it an ancient, archaic atmosphere and despite the hospital’s modernity and attachment to science everything is freighted with supernatural portent.  The first four episodes are very good; the second set of four collapse into incoherency and weirdness for weirdness’ sake but are still creepy as all hell.    Watch this.

Score:  Meh (would have been a w00t for the first four episodes alone)

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~ by gun street girl on June 29, 2011.

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