WALL-E: thriumph of the nice guy

So seeing WALL·E over Christmas again got me thinking. That love story between WALL·E and EVE, that’s pretty much the nice guy fallacy in a nutshell, isn’t it? WALL·E falls in love with EVE and pesters her while she’s doing her job, not taking no for an answer. He keeps hanging around and bringing her gifts she doesn’t need, isn’t honest about his feelings for her but seems to think that if only he brings the perfect gift she’ll like him. That by accident he does bring her just the thing she needs doesn’t alter anything. After this he stalks her to her home, interferes with her work again, makes her an accomplish in his jail break from the mental hospital for robots, keeps her in trouble with lawful authority and finally guilts her in loving him when she sees how he took care of her when she was incapitated. All that’s missing is the negging.

Yes, this may be tongue in cheek

John Carter – Borelord of Mars

Had the movie been more like the the trailer it would’ve been more successful. But having just watched it on the BBC tonight I understand why it was such a box office failure. Boy did this drag, mainly out of the misguided desire to put a framing story around it. It also doesn’t help that John Carter himself is a huge dick during most of the film and an incompentent dick at that. Or that the story itself, that of the reluctant hero unwillingly learns to fight for a greater cause than his own greed, is so predictable.

All of that is fixable though. Cut out everything in the first fifteen-twentyfive minutes until Carter is chased by Apaches into the cave with the portal to Mars/Barsoom, tighten up some of the running to and fro once he’s on Barsoom and with the Tharg, cut at least some of the “Carter gets angry, gets in a fight and gets his arse kicked” scenes, then end the movie with him calling himself John Carter of Mars. That should cut out at least half an hour of tedium and puts the focus back on the fighting and the great setting. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom is a great place for a spectacle film, but not if you load it up with tedious extras.

I’m not sure why Disney felt it necessary to make the film the way it did, why it didn’t just film A Princess of Mars, but it’s such a shame because it could’ve been a great sci-fi romp. When it does gets going it’s a great movie to watch. The CGIed Tharg look great, the Martian technology looks cool and the low gravity jumping looks fun. A missed opportunity.

Doctor Who cares

So I’ve not been too impressed with the latest Doctor Who series. None of the episodes have been great and a great many have been actively bad with shoddy characterisation and nonsensical plots. Throughout the series there have been the usual hints at thr big mystery waiting in the season final, with the irritating Missy popping up at the end of various episodes to vex recently killed extras. I wasn’t that confident that it would all add in the end and the trailer, which already gave away that the Cybermen would be involved, didn’t help. Giving away the big reveal like that took away much of the tension in the episode.

Now my pet theory had been that Missy somehow was the spirit of the TARDIS, revealed to a) exist and b) be female a few series ago, but this fortunately turned out to be wrong. Instead she’s a gender changed master, not even another Time Lord like the Rani, for a revival of that camp flirting between the Doctor and the Master that we saw in his previous appearance as well. There really are no new ideas in NuWho.

And then there was the plot catalyst that set the whole story in motion, as Clara’s boyfriend Danny Pink gets killed off screen in a car accident, she turns eevil and threatens the Doctor with losing the TARDIS if he doesn’t find a way to bring him back. Danny meanwhile finds himself in the Afterlife being interviewed by Chris Addison in which a Mysterious and Awful Secret from his Soldiering Past is revealed. So that’s a fridging, a Danger Room scenario and a troubled past in one sequence, which is impressive with its cliche denseness.

Things did get better as details of this afterlife and its implications became known, reminding me somewhat of Iain M. Bank’s Surface Detail, but this seems to get lost once Missy starts chewing the scenery, the Cybermen are revealed and all this afterlife business turns out to be a way to get recruits for their army: the dead outnumber the living.

It does feel as if two different stories have been smashed together, to the detriment of both. Why go through this whole charade if the whole intention is just to reprogram dead people as Cybermen? Why go for a tedious Cybermen invasion (again) if you have the whole idea of an artificial afterlife to play with?

As for the revelation that Missy is the Master, this both seems about the least interesting thing to be done with her and a deliberate snub of those who had been wanting a female Doctor for this series. I can’t even find it halfway progressive, as some seem to find it.

So yeah, of course I’ll be watching the second part to see if there’s any improvement, but I’m not hopeful.

For Hugh, but you weren’t listening

Robert Wyatt talks to the Grauniad about the Soundtrack of his Life:

When I’m not watching Russia Today, obviously, I’m watching pop TV. Even my son’s embarrassed by the infantilism of my tastes, but there’s some good stuff out there now. Pharrell Williams’s Happy– that’s absolutely fucking knockout. Williams is as good as any 60s soul singer and the song is brilliantly put together. It’s a great drum track, and there are only four chords or so, but they’re just enough. It’s really subtly done, absolutely spot-on. My granddaughter tells me I should totally disapprove of that other song he did, though. With someone else… something lines? Blurred Lines! That’s the one. Take it from me that I don’t like that one at all.

Cult prog rock hero, Robert Wyatt was of course one of the founders of Soft Machine as well as part of ur-Canterbury group the Wylde Flowers before that. He has the sort of sense of humour that left him to call his own group after leaving the Softs Matching Moles, as a pun or play of words by way of the French Machine Molle. Not to mention calling his first solo album after having become paralysed from the waist down after a nasty fal out of a window dead drunk, “Rock Bottom”. That sort of humour explains why his one and only brush with hitdom was with a Monkees’ cover:

Wyatt is no rockist snob:

There was a bit of mischief there, too. I didn’t like the fact that hierarchies had developed between what people thought was “serious” rock music and pop music– that was all rubbish. I was very uncomfortable with that. That was exactly the kind of situation I thought our generation had got rid of. I’ve always admired pop music, because I think it’s the modern post-industrial folk music. Everybody can join in, you don’t have to be a specialist. You can sing along with it. But there’s not much room in pop music for all the things I want to do. It’s a bit like food: I like all kinds of interesting food, but in the end, I can just sit down with an egg sandwich and really feel great.

Wyatt actually reminds me a lot of Alan Moore, carving out a similar uncompromising career in writing and with some of the same concerns and interests in magic and parascience, as well as magnificent bushy beards. In Wyatt’s case, there’s pataphysics:

Wyatt was introduced to ‘pataphysics in 1967, when Soft Machine—already established, alongside Pink Floyd, as darlings of the London underground scene, and about to tour the States with the Jimi Hendrix Experience—performed a live soundtrack to Ubu Enchaîné at the Edinburgh Festival. By the time of their second album, Wyatt was introducing the band as “the official orchestra of the College of ‘Pataphysics,” going on to prove these credentials by singing the letters of the alphabet in reverse.

Though sometimes the idea of Wyatt’s music appeals more to me that actually listening to it, at his best he’s brilliant, both solo and with groups like Matching Mole: