Saturday, January 02, 2010

Media Overload - Christmas/'Cultural' Edition

So my Christmas period has been a blur of food, chocolate, relatives and shopping (the penultimate informs the latter, which I may or may not bore you with later on). But it has also been a wonderful burst of media. Wonderful, unique, feel-better-for-having-seen-it media and because I still have some sleep to catch up on after last night's heavy duty drinking (still maintain my no hangover record though! Seriously. Water. Miracle cure.) I want to wax lyrical for a spell. I get the distinct feeling that if I don't get a little something down now I might go for a while without writing again.

Hamlet (RSC production)

So this Christmas telly period has been fairly David Tennant heavy. Along with guest presenting Buzzcocks, appearing on QI and cameo-ing on a bunch of TV shows, he played the titular role in this gem of a piece aired by the BBC on Boxing Day. Featuring the Royal Shakespeare Company cast from their 2008 production which I never had the fortune to catch, most notably (new knighted!) Sir Patrick Stewart as Claudius/The Ghost, it was an excellent television play, despite some gimmick with CCTV cameras that I never quite understood. Every part played to a more than satisfactory standard apart from the Cornelia who I felt was played a little too angsty even for Cornelia. David Tennant was an extraordinary Hamlet, flitting between hilariously manic, pensive, depressed and devilish fury. However, he also portrayed all these as Doctor Who and I will admit it was fairly difficult to detach him from this role. And I had forgotten how many common English phrases had derived from this play. "Neither a borrower nor a lender be" anyone?

This has led to another addition to my still-being-completed Year List/Bucket List/Life List. I have ordered the complete works of Shakespeare and I will complete it by this time next year. This traditional word but modern props interpretation really reignited my passion for Shakespeare in a way that merely reading it in a classroom did not in school. I can't wait to reread Othello, innuendos and all!

Ballet/Billy Elliot

BBC4 also showed a filmed production of Swan Lake in its entirety. I tried, I really did, but I can't get into ballet. I thought I would be able to, the Tchaikovsky music is epic but after a dozen minutes or so, I just saw admittedly very disciplined women in tights dancing in line. And most of them too skinny to really do anything for me.

Billy Elliot (filling this year's quota for Christmas Day ultra-British-preferably-Working-Title-film) was much better. It's hard to argue with any film that features music by the Jam and the Clash. Should I have capitalised those The's? And where did Billy Elliot learn to tap dance?

Les Miserables

What with out of towner relatives over for the Christmas period, I felt I would be remiss if I didn't take them to a show. Plus I have a penchant for live entertainment and hadn't seen Les Mis myself. Unexpected bonus, obviously, it's not like I suggested it to them or anything. Ahem. (Another 2010 aim is to see a play/musical/open air production at least once a month.)

It didn't disappoint, though being rather lengthy it dragged in places. But:
- The songs I knew prior (Confrontation, On My Own, Do You Hear The People Sing?, I Dreamed a Dream) were all performed to satisfaction and not overly 'ruined' for me.
- I was bemused/slightly put out that half the theatre practically stage whispered "Susan Boyle!" when I Dreamed a Dream started up. One has to wonder if a lot of the audience were there for that song primarily.
- The little girl who sang "Castle on a Cloud" (Young Cosette/girl on the illustrated pictures) was cute as a button, but didn't stick around for the curtain call. Bedtime?
- The spinning stage was cool and made a lot of sense especially now that Les Mis has been demoted to a smaller theatre.

Dr Who

You know, I'm only slightly ashamed to admit how much I was looking forward to this. Yet ashamed enough to semi-critically discuss the cultural impact rather than just gush like a fanboy.

It seems my generation loves a revival. James Bond (twice). Countless TV shows. A large handful of comic book adaptations. But none was so quintessentially British as that of Dr Who in 2005. Starting off with Christopher Ecclestone for one series, It was David Tennant (he of the omnipresent media appearances of December 2009) who took the role and seriously ran with it for three series. And at least for me, as he took the role so seriously and gave it such presence, in the same way that Pierce Brosnan will always be my James Bond, so shall Tennant be my generation's Doctor. Not that the ludicrous plot was hideously important or believable (even in comparison to normal standards?) or even as epic as some of the lower budget Christmas specials, but I shall not ruin it for anyone who may not have seen it. (That's pretty much directed at you Emily, if you're still reading me!)

What I will say is that it's perhaps a beautiful end to screenwriter and creator of the Dr Who revival Russell T Davies' stint as handler of all things Doctor simultaneous to Tennant's stepping down. There's a nod to the Donna-storyline of the last full series, a massive if temporary promotion for her Grandad Wilf, a shedload of self-referencing and a huge range of high-octane (as far as BBC license-payers' wallets will allow!) action and emotions that David Tennant is given to play with. Key moments though, actually come after the main story, with the Tenth Doctor's final actions, cameo-ing key players from the revival storylines and such puppydog loyalty displayed by Grandpapa Wilf that my eyes teared up a little. I could actually have done with just the last half hour of the second part if I'm honest.

"I don't want to die" is Tennant's last line as Doctor. Many of us may feel the same way, but in a lesson taken (and perhaps should be shared with Scrubs) maybe it is best to leave things on a high. Thank you David Tennant and more importantly thank you Russell T Davies.

p.s. not sure I'm going to even watch the new Doctor to be honest. He looks dim and "Geronimo" is not nearly as cool a catchphrase as "Allons-y!"

p.p.s. Also coming to an television end, as quietly and understated as it began is Gavin and Stacey. 'Stacey' is hot, 'Smithy' is that annoying but endearing friend everyone has, and while the plot has never been groundbreaking, the characters are so very real and I have enjoyed its run.

p.p.p.s. Normal, non-geeky, posting shall resume soon. Happy New Year everyone!

13 Response to Media Overload - Christmas/'Cultural' Edition

2 January 2010 at 05:01

First off - Les Mis is my favorite. I can probably tell you every song and every line. Love it. Love it! The rest... well not such a great hit over here in the states.

2 January 2010 at 06:05

Haha, I've never seen these (with an exception of Hamlet- and I'm reading and performing Othello! :D) but I've heard GREAT things about them. And listened to their soundtracks. :D Haha.

Have an AMAZING 2010!! :D

2 January 2010 at 06:52

As much as I loved the show, I agree with you about Scrubs! It's just not as good now!

Happy 2010 to you :)

2 January 2010 at 08:29

I had a little cry at the end of Doctor Who last night. But not as much as I cried at the episode where Donna went back to her old self and Rose went off with the human doctor. That had me properly weeping!

Haven't watched Hamlet yet, it's on my Sky+ waiting for a quiet afternoon. Looking forward to it though :)

Happy New Year!

3 January 2010 at 18:43

This is my favorite part of school breaks and holidays..catching up on movies! I haven't seen any of those but it sounds like you've had some good movie nights.

3 January 2010 at 22:18

haha thanks for the comment, you will have to stay tuned to see how i will top off my awesome summer this year! I've been meaning to read some of your blog. I think I have overloaded my blogger dashboard by following so many blogs but i promise to catch up soon!

4 January 2010 at 00:48

You know I've never seen Billy Elliot, but I keep hearing how awesome it is. I should rent it at some point since I can't afford to hit any Broadway shows for now.

Fortunately, there's a park not far from Times Square that has a free summer series where actors/characters from Broadway shows go and perform several numbers from their play. That's how I get my fix each year :)

Hope your new year has been off to a great start!

4 January 2010 at 06:51

I've loved the music from Les Mis for years now (even before Susan Boyle! and Lea Michele's version on Glee haha) but have never seen the stage show. I am quite jealous you went to see it.

BBCA was airing some marathon-esque thing of Doctor Who last night. I was trying to watch since so many friends have told me of its brilliance, but then I realized that it was something of a final episode. Possibly not the best time to start watching? Anyhow, I fully intend to track it down online somewhere and watch.

Lastly, Shakespeare <3. My blog URL is a line from one of his plays. I could (and will) read his plays over and over and over and find something more to love about it each time.

Happy New Year, Stephen!

(apologies if you get notified twice about this post, my computer froze and posted before ready, so i had to delete the first one.)

4 January 2010 at 18:58

Lorien - they were pretty England centric to be honest. A very self-indulgent post :D

Allison - Who are you playing? If you're playing Desdemona I will be very impressed. Otherwise I will just be impressed ;)

AR - I may have to soon take back my words. The last episode (first one sans JD) was actually rather good.

Emma - I didn't cry at this one (bit of eye watering though!) but I did basically cry at the last Donna one. And I didn't even like her when she first started!

SSTS - not really movie nights, more eat-the-Christmas-chocolate-and-veg-in-front-of-the-telly nights with family and friends, but no less satisfying :)

ALH - come in your own time. If I fail to hold your attention that's my own fault :)

Dorkys - I know what you mean. There are some pretty good open air productions for really cheap in London, but go figure they're for the summertime. I'm so glad I'm only 23 because a few of the big name theatres do big chunk discounts for under 25s! REALLY hope to make the most of it before then.

AR - Shakespeare is the dude. The Mac Daddy of 16th/17th Century plays, though I'm sure he'd LOVE that description of his. And I keep hearing tell of BBC America, I expect if I were ever to emigrate there, I would NEED that channel.

5 January 2010 at 02:03

Stephen - so you're saying the world DOESN'T revolve around the US? Say it isn't so!

5 January 2010 at 02:24

'Fraid not! But most of my favourite 20th Century authors are American. A country that spawned Hemingway and F Scott Fitzgerald is allowed to be slightly proud of itself.

5 January 2010 at 13:51

I've decided that I should probably watch Doctor Who. Thanks to you and I'm not sure if that's the Emily to whom you were referring. If not - COOL COINCIDENCE.

21 May 2010 at 11:33

It will be great to watch Les Miserables, i have bought tickets from looking forward to it.