Moving Pictures Roundup 2019

We discussed books highlights of 2019, now it’s time for movies and TV-series. A few of the favourites and a few of the disappointments in both categories, to round up the past year in media :).

Ola’s choices

I haven’t had much time for movies and series. I’ve watched a nice mix of old and new, and enjoyed quite many of them – though only few made a lasting impression. The absolute winner in this category is…

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Nostalgia post #6: Ad Astra Per Aspera

Star Trek (1966-?)

Star Trek Space

The other science fiction franchise. Or the science fiction franchise, if we christen Star Wars science fantasy. Where George Lucas took Campbell’s ideas and put the eternal myths into a space adventure story, Gene Roddenberry envisioned a better future for spacefaring humankind. He created a vision of an utopia, in which more enterprising, unruly individuals join the Starfleet in order to find adventure, because in the post-scarcity Earth society there’s not much of that. In Starfleet, they travel across the universe, to meet exciting new people and… not shoot them, unless absolutely necessary.

Piotrek: I’ve always been more of a Babylon 5 guy, but I appreciate Star Trek more and more. As a kid, I’ve seen a random selection of mainly The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine episodes, and there was not enough large-scale conflict for my taste. I generally liked it, but John Sheridan was my space captain. So, my introduction into the world of Star Trek was pretty chaotic… but I always liked the idea of trekking through galaxies in a big spaceship, and in time I came to also appreciate stories about (relatively) peaceful exploration.

Enterprise

Ola: My own acquaintance with Star Trek was no less chaotic, I must admit. I watched nearly all episodes of The Next Generation as a pre-teen kid, and for years Picard was the only true captain of the Enterprise 😉 I waited with bated breath for each episode, and while some of them were rather convoluted for a six- to eight-year-old, it was still a great adventure. Fantasy worlds, various races with distinct cultures, drama on the ship, imminent danger… What I liked about Star Trek then and value even more now was the nearly non-violent approach, so rare in modern pop-culture. Differences were abundant, conflicting interests as well, but more often than not a peaceful resolution could have been – and heroically was – achieved. Exploration and understanding were the key values of the Star Trek universe, and inspired countless SF visions since. As for the liberal vision of future military, with its weirdly relaxed and convoluted structure, the red- and mustard-colored uniforms and the variety of ranks coupled with a nearly total lack of discipline, back then I didn’t even bat an eye 😉

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House of Cards

I had a discussion recently about the “book was better” trope. It usually is, I believe. But, as a contrarian, I like to find exceptions to every rule, even one I believe in.
Long before Netflix ordered the American version of “House of Cards”, I believed HoC to be such an example, contradicting this particular rule. British HoC is listed among my favourite shows of all time, while I just couldn’t bring myself to love the novels, even if the first one predates its tv adaptation.
So – I decided to re-post my thoughts on the topic. I still haven’t seen the last season of the Netflix show, and I don’t think I ever will. Regardless of the crimes of Kevin Spacey, it was too long and nowhere near as god as the original version. I want to remember how good it began and not spoil my impressions by seeing its progressing deterioration. I’d rather re-watch Sir Ian Richardson’s Shakespearean prime minister.
In a time of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Urquhart is perhaps an unattainable dream 😉

Re-enchantment Of The World

No, not that:house-of-cards-kevin-spaceyAlthough I’m very happy that I could binge-watch it now, in Poland, on the day of release, on Netflix, like a normal human being, not one episode a week on… what was it called, television?

Not even that:

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Although I believe it’s a superior product. Kevin Spacey is excellent, but Ian Richardson is great. Shakespearean villain, veteran of political system even more ruthless than the one we know from the American version, Francis Urquhart would outmanoeuvre Frank Underwood before breakfast. And then Underwood would remind him that UK is a pygmy next to the world’s biggest superpower. Realpolitik is a tough business.

Actually I’d love to see a series where Urquhart/Underwood had to cooperate, sort of evil version of Roosevelt/Churchill duo. Magnificent bastards both of them…

Anyway.

Ladies and gentlemen, today I give you this:

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Michel Dobbs, House of Cards (1989)

or

the book…

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Game of Thrones finale – reflections

It’s been over a week since we all saw the final episode of the TV series of the decade, and we had time enough to calmly discuss how we feel about it. We’re not too impressed by the last season, but mostly happy with how the story ended. What resulted from that is a short, story-focused two-shot.

Piotrek: Season 8 has some fans, but it’s been widely criticized, not only on the social media and genre pages, but also in such venerable papers as The Guardian and Polityka. There’s a petition on change.org, with 1.5 million supporters, to remake the entire season! And even if I’m not ready to go that far, I’m not happy with these 6 episodes. The Benioff/Weiss duo stumbled when they had no more source material to refer to, and now they simply failed. Good things were inherited from earlier years, or clearly part of the general outline they got years ago from GRRM, but how did they go to the endpoint? With a story clearly rushed, full of plot-holes and characters going against their nature.

Wimpy Jon, foolish Tyrion, passive Cersei… Dany suddenly losing her mind just because that’s what was needed for the final confrontation. GoT stopped developing organically, around its many strong protagonists, and started running a short hurdle race, to quickly tick off all the major plot points.

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Ola: Agreed. Benioff and Weiss knew their destination, but not the road to it. They chose too many shortcuts along the way, and even though I can relate to the problems of such a big and lengthy production, spanning a decade, and I understand why the mechanisms of group thinking might have entered into this situation, so bound up in secrecy and the necessity to keep the story development to a very limited team of people, I still think it all had a detrimental effect which could have been easily avoided.

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Gateway drugs to genre fiction

Quite a big part of the enjoyment I get from genre fiction, books, movies and often even music, is when I discover the connections and inspiration. It’ a very rewarding experience, and the motivation behind my ongoing project to familiarise myself with the great classics of fantasy and s/f. It’s great, but it is also quite hermetic. It’s hard to discuss such things with the uninitiated. I find it easier to devise long term plans to hook my nieces on genre than to recommend something to a mature reader/viewer who might be open to some light genre.

Lets make make it purely technical, not about the importance of keeping an open mind and appreciating people with other hobbies, different cultural needs etc. 😉 It’s going to be strictly about the titles and techniques helpful to hook people on our stuff!

We’re also talking strictly adults here (and I mean mature readers, not necessarily readers over 18). Getting kids to enjoy genre is a different topic, something easier in my experience, and quite wonderful, but not what I want to explore today.

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Marvel’s The Punisher (2017-present)

The-Punisher-przyjaciele-i-wrogowie-Franka-Castle_article

Piotrek: And the winner of my personal favourite tv series of the year award is… Stranger Things, again. Punisher is a close second. It means a lot, considering in 2017 I’ve seen American Gods, Legion, Samurai Jack’s final season and discovered Rick and Morty. It was even better than this little beauty that sparked my hopes a few years back. I might go as far as to say Netflix might have saved its part of the MCU with this, although it is not a typical superhero show. And it’s not as linked together with Jessica Jones or Daredevil, Frank Castle wasn’t even part of The Defenders (and good for him 😉 ). It is a TV series based on a Marvel comic, part of the geek takeover of the pop-culture of our times, but mostly it is a great story about, and commentary on, the war on terror, military/society relations, and, most of all, individuals involved in all this.

Ola: Huh, for me it’s the other way round: Punisher just a hair breadth before Stranger Things, right up there with the first season of Daredevil among the very best MCU has to offer. Punisher is the comic-based TV series I’ve been waiting for: dark, gritty, realistic, tackling vital and controversial themes and topics in a way that is both respectful and immensely entertaining. It is closely linked with Daredevil, both in the overarching theme of violence as a means of justice, with DD and Punisher two sides of the same ethical coin, and in the supporting cast of characters – most notably Karen Page, who plays an important role in both series.

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Happy New Year 2016!

2016 is coming… To start it in a good mood and escape from dreary Polish political reality, let’s see what the New Year will bring us :).

Ola: The silver screen looks Marvelous, with Deadpool coming to cinemas in February, Captain America: Civil War in May, X-Men: Apocalypse in May, and Doctor Strange in November.

Deadpool looks promising. I wouldn’t have given one grosz for Ryan Reynolds before (ill-fated Green Lantern!), but if the movie delivers what the trailer promised it can be a really decent movie. Irreverent, disgustingly funny and full of black humor, if they don’t botch the story, it can really be a pleasant surprise. Take a look at this trailer:

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