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Well. One out of two ain't bad.



It wasn't as good as A Christmas Carol but it was better than every other Christmas special of new who yet. Probably 90% of the reason was Clara. The other 10% was Vastra and Jenny (spin off show please?) and Richard E Grant as a deliciously stiff lipped villain (loved this guy ever since I saw him in A and E's The Scarlet Pimpernel mini series- I even saw him live in My Fair Lady once) I also enjoyed the sheer audacity of multiple Sherlock references and even the claim that Doyle based his characters off Vastra/Jenny who of course are Moff creations. Oh Moff. Really? Troll!

Clara reminded me of Susan Sto-helit. This is a good thing. She also reminded me of Mary Poppins. Also a plus. I don't think her debut was as strong as Amy's in The Eleventh Hour, but then The Eleventh Hour was a fucking masterpiece. All of s5 was actually, with the brief exceptions of Victory of the Daleks and Craig's episode (but dw I love Craig!) I do worry about Moffat's frenetic story telling pace. He has so many ideas that are just so ambitious and they crowd out episodes. s6 would really have benefited from being split across two series imo, which would have allowed time for better exploration of child River and Amy losing River. I did wish that the threat of the week was a little stronger. However, the threat of the week is rarely the point under Moffat. And this time a new look and companion was where it was all at.

I LOVED the new retro opening credits with Matt Smith's face swirling. I am not so sold on the new TARDIS, though I hear there is an episode set in it exploring the interior better which could sell me on it. I was kinda sold on the old steampunk interior tbh. But you can't have everything you ask for.

I LOVED Clara. I wish 19th century Clara could have been the new companion. That would have been awesome. Still- the mystery around Oswin is enough to keep me interested. I like her mirroring of Eleven and I liked her fairy story vibe- it was different enough from Amy's story to feel fresh. A man in the clouds? That was magical. Moffat does love exploring what's in a story? What's in a myth? What's in a name? doesn't he?

Which brings me to my 50th anniversary theory. Silence will fall when the question is asked. I am guessing that the question is Doctor Who? Oswin is going around erasing The Doctor from the universe's memory (see Asylum) which means that when the question is asked there will be no one left to answer the question. I don't know how that causes the cracks in the universe and the TARDIS to explode but it will centre on Clara. I am sure of it. Is she a message from the universe- a cipher? Is she another manifestation of the TARDIS? (a TARDIS avatar inside the TARDIS would cause a paradox which could explode the actual TARDIS) Is she a Time Lord survivor like The Master or The Rani or Romana. Whatever she is, she bodes something ominous for The Doctor.

Gees- this is all getting a bit Hogfather isn't it. The effect happened before the cause. Time travel!

So er- what was your Christmas special opinion?

ps: In other TV news, I finally deleted all of s10 Spooks off my computer hard drive. I hadn't watched it again since 10.6 aired and I knew it was time. I haven't re-watched s9 either. Pretty ironic in hindsight that I won the s9 dvd as I probably will never re-watch it either. I may sell on to a kind and good spooks fan. The only reason I haven't yet is because it is signed by Nicola and Peter.



Les Miserables Film



I wanted to like this film. I really, really did. I love the musical. I saw it live on London's West End when I was on exchange. We own the CD's, yet something about this film really did not work for me. I feel like I am missing something as it is such a big oscar contender but this actually just makes me more annoyed. Sweeney Todd was a far superior movie and got nothing because somewhere between 1999 and 2005, it became cool to hate on Burton. What an unoriginal hack. Well of late yes (though I hear Frankenweenie is brilliant), but no one could ever accuse him of not knowing how to direct a decent film.

Tom Hooper cannot direct a decent musical. The King's Speech was great. I saw it twice. I couldn't stand the way Les Miserables was filmed. There were too many actor close ups, too many sets that looked like play sets and too little emphasis on character motivation and interaction. The thing that Burton got- really got- was that film is different to stage. You have to shake things up to make things work. Burton decided that the heart of Sweeney Todd was a tragic revenge story and he cut out anything that didn't relate to that to make a film with terrible emotional heart.

Hooper slavishly follows the three hour musical and in doing so entirely relies on actors to carry the film. This is fine up to a point. Hugh Jackman is brilliant as John Valjean as is Anne Hathaway as Fontine. Helena Bonham Carter and Sasha Baron Cohen were excellent comic relief as The Thernadiers (hello again decent Helena role. How I've missed you!) The child actors were also good. Russell Crowe as Javert was abysmal. He was so wooden I couldn't believe he had ever been cast in the part- it is after all the other main part. The others were serviceable. The problem is Les Miserables is a sprawling epic with an enormous stage cast. For the film to work as a movie musical, the raging heart had to be pinpointed and brought to the fore (in this case the story of Valjean). That story wasn't highlighted because of the side shows and it especially showed in the second half of the movie. On top of this, the obsession with staying on one person at a time and doing solo numbers without anyone else around, meant that actors were doing an awful lot of standing around. That's fine on stage. It's really not in a film. The hard part is figuring out how to remedy that.

This is why the only two movie musicals I've truly loved are Moulin Rouge and Sweeney Todd. Both used the beauty of music to tell heart breaking stories whilst still being visually interesting. Ironically and tellingly, both films were directed by extremely arty directors. See this for example from Moulin Rouge:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9XGsp8FpOQ

There is tangoing. There is swift editing. There is character development. There is emotive acting at the same time as singing. There was too little of this innovation in Les Miserables. The one time we really saw it was in Master of the House.

But, you say, this movie was made for film. It wasn't a musical beforehand. True. So try Epiphany from Burton's Sweeney Todd.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxoFi5Lie34

Burton could have filmed Depp standing by Mrs Lovett for the entire song, but he didn't. He took us inside Sweeney's head literally and punctuated it with the swishing and flicking of Sweeney's precious razor. And if that doesn't convince you, what about By The Sea? Burton could have had Mrs Lovett sing that song straight at the audience and just focussed on Helena's voice but that wouldn't have taken us into Mrs Lovett's head. It wouldn't have given her character filmic resonance. Instead he took us into her deluded day dream and then contrasted that to the brutal reality of Sweeney's (non) feelings for Mrs Lovett. It is a scene of fucking genius, frankly.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EragTs4mMw4

I honestly don't know why Hooper didn't try for more variation. Oh yes, the singing was spot on (bar Javert), but the emoting was all over the place and the film merely adequate. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter made me believe in Sweeney and Mrs Lovett. I forgot I was in a cinema and I forgot I was watching an opretta. I will probably get flamed for this opinion, but I never forgot that Les Miserables was a musical and I never forgot how artificial the whole thing was. The only time I believed in it all was with Fontine and Anne Hathaway. I couldn't understand all of the applause at the end from my cinema.

Sweeney Todd was superior in every way.

But then again, I've given up on that film ever getting the praise it deserves.



After the disappointments of Burton's Alice in Wonderland (the most un-Burton film ever?) and Dark Shadows (Burton's crassest film ever?) I was beginning to think I had lost the Burton love. Reviews for Frankenweenie have started coming in and the general consensus is that he is back on form. What a relief. I was getting worried! Watching Les Miserables has reminded me that I'm almost due for a Burton filmography rewatch. He has directed some of the most haunting and beautiful films I have ever seen. It is a shame that he is so maligned these days.

As usual, opinions are welcomed flist!
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