brief thoughts on TV and film

I caught a few eps of S5 because it’s on before Fringe, and liked it enough to Netflix the first season. I have to say, House is a much more tolerable asshole in S1. But I think I got the worst possible introduction to him: the first ep I saw — sorry, I don’t remember which one it was; a couple into the current season, I think — he ignored several emergency pages concerning his patient because he was busy having his own personal drama with Wilson. Which basically presented me with a character so self-centered that he’ll risk other people’s lives to get what he wants. This? Is not a recipe for making me tolerate him. I like the show, and S1 is teaching me to like House okay, but I’m not going to forget that incident. My hope is that I can bracket it off as crappy writing, rather than truly indicative of the character as he is in S5.

Having said that: clever writing, yes. And I generally enjoy that.

Not as bad as the second film, but that isn’t saying much. Generally enjoyable. I wish Valentina had been anything resembling an active character (or that her actions had consisted of anything productive), but apparently that’s too much to ask. I did, however, love her insistence on the strip-tease. As I said to kurayami_hime, it looks like the writers figured out they have two major groups in their audience: people who like Jason Statham’s pretty action scenes, and people who like Jason Statham’s pretty muscles. (Which groups occasionally overlap.) I have no problem with them catering to both.

The plot was made of string cheese, but we expected that.

Why did I go see this? Because I didn’t want to read the book. And because I read a quote from Robert Pattinson, who plays Edward, saying that the more he read of the script the more he hated the character, and the only way he could deal with Edward was to play him as a manic-depressive who hates himself. Everything I know about the book, I’ve gotten from reading other people’s dissections of it, but that strikes me as the only real way to deal with Edward’s psychotic mood swings and other behavioral problems.

Which pretty much sums up my reaction to the movie: I get the distinct impression that it goes some way toward repairing many aspects of the book that would make me throw it across the room. Bella’s friends are diversified and treated as real people rather than non-entity obstacles between her and Edward and OMG WHY DO THEY INSIST ON HITTING ON HER. There’s the occasional bit of voiceover, but not having the entire story processed through Bella’s first-person narration means you don’t end up drowning in her monomaniacal fixation on Edward. And while the plot is made of tissue paper (not string cheese — it’s a coherent fabric, just flimsy as all hell), the film makes an effort to have a plot before the last quarter or so. Sure, sometimes I was squirming in my chair thinking MAKE IT STOP, but that was because it evoked the overpowering awkwardness of high school so very, very effectively, not because it sucked.

Except the Meadow of Great Sparkling. That really was ludicrous.

Anyway. I still don’t know if I’ll ever read the books. My only real motivation is cultural literacy, and I’ve pretty much gotten that via the film and various blog posts. (Oddly enough, I would probably read Midnight Sun, if only because the bit in the leaked chapters where Edward’s calculating how many people he would have to murder per second to get the whole biology classroom before anybody could scream so that he could snack on tasty Bella-blood in peace was kind of perversely enchanting.)

If there are more films? Yeah, I might see them. Provided I have suitable company again, as I did this time, and that Pattinson doesn’t let go of his vision of the character.

0 Responses to “brief thoughts on TV and film”

  1. anima_mecanique

    God help me, I read all four books + Midnight Sun. That chapter was the only time I liked Edward.

    The next movies are shaping up to be an amazing mess. They fired the director and the guy who played Jacob (!), and the new director they hired is the amazing mind behind American Pie and the Golden Compass movie, which I didn’t actually see but I hear it flopped like dying fish. Plus they’re filming the next two movies back-to-back, with 9 months budgeted for New Moon…which is apparently HALF of the usual time schedule for movies.

    Twilight: It’s my inverse fandom.

    EDIT: I was an enormous House fan during the first season, but by the end of S2 I had stopped watching because House had turned into a cringe-inducing shit-head. I was pretty much out when he basically tortured a girl to get a clear diagnosis; I stayed for the finale of S2 and got an exploding testicle scene for my trouble. So, while I like the first season, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend continuing.

    • chibicharibdys

      The exploding testicle scene (hell, that entire episode, actually) squicked me out majorly.

    • Marie Brennan

      That chapter was the only time I liked Edward.

      I suspect it may be possible to deal with that the way Pattinson did: by remembering that everything you get told about Edward is processed through Bella’s pov, and she’s hardly an objective bystander. But that requires way more mental effort from me than I want to put in.

      The next movies are shaping up to be an amazing mess.

      Damn. (Double-damn because one of my companions walked out of the theatre and said, “I hope we get to see more of that Indian boy.”)

      I actually didn’t think The Golden Compass was bad, but anything that involves big shakeups makes the quality of the next installments an open question. For all I know it might make the sequels better, but it’s equally likely to go the other way.

      Re: House — I remember hearing when S2 first aired that the writers had lost the delicate balance of making the character an asshole you could still get along with. It’s entirely possible I won’t end up watching all the back eps, too. But I figure I’ll just take it as it comes, and advise not to watch the S2 finale.

  2. owldaughter

    Okay, that bit about Midnight Sun interests me. I read Twilight and it left me so meh that I forgot about it by the next morning and didn’t bother with the others, but I haven’t had the violent extreme reaction one way or the other that most people seem to have experienced. Midnight Sun sounds like it could be much more interesting.

  3. diatryma

    I’m just going to take that tidbit of Midnight Sun and enjoy it. I will pretend a book exists that is mostly that.

  4. malsperanza

    The only things that make House interesting are a) a protagonist who is really truly not a good guy; and b) Hugh Laurie’s technical skills. The rest of the show is generic. But I don’t think what you saw was crappy writing: the thing that’s a hook is a protagonist who is genuinely not acceptable or heroic, as opposed to villain-with-a-heart-of-gold or Evil-but-Still-Really-Neat, or Wicked-but-Justified. The character aims for that last one, but there are episodes in which his actions are not justified. The problem with the show really is that like so much serial TV, the idea isn’t sustainable. Sooner or later House gets hauled up before a review board and/or arrested on criminal charges, and to keep the concept plausible, sooner or later he’d get his license revoked. And then the show would have to shift to him practicing medicine in Cincinnati or Mogadishu under an assumed name, and probably killing a lot of patients and maybe baking them into meat pies and singing about it.

    Instead, the show began to slide into prime time soap, with House’s romance troubles overtaking other story lines, and his utterly generic sidekicks’ uninteresting romance troubles as well. I lost interest in season 3. But I still think the concept was an unusual one. And Laurie is great fun to watch.

    Twilight: Only worth reading or skimming for the lulz, or if you have a preteen daughter or niece with whom you hope to have a conversation.

    • Marie Brennan

      Hugh Laurie’s technical skills are indeed impressive. I’m curious whether he’d worked with an American dialect coach before auditioning for the part, or whether his legendary audition tape was just the result of a really good knack for mimicking the accent.

      You’re right about the unsustainability, though that’s generally a component of the TV “suspension of disbelief” package for me. Any show that runs for five years is being unrealistic about the characters’ lives, even if not in such an extreme way; nobody’s life has that much interesting conflict that continually.

      I would, however, pay money to see House start baking patients into meat pies and singing about it. <lol>

      My impression is that in S1 they were aiming for one of the compromise positions you named off for the character, but eventually stopped hitting their mark; what I can’t tell yet is whether the writers know they’ve missed it, or whether they think he’s still a justifiable asshole. The answer to that question will strongly influence how long I keep watching.

      • moonandserpent

        Hugh could do an American accent long before doing Hugh did his bathroom-audition tape. He just can’t keep it up around other British types, especially Stephen Fry which is why despite all three of them (Fry, Laurie and Singer) wanting to do it, Fry has never guest-starred.

        • Marie Brennan

          I can sympathize. My own British accent fares a lot better if there aren’t any Americans or Canadians around. (As I proved repeatedly this May, when I kept being tossed into mixed company. But when left alone with a Brit, I was told I didn’t have much of an [American] accent at all.)

      • malsperanza

        Yes, I get the impression that the writers had in mind a gruff-but-appealing Quincy-type doctor, only more insane and more extreme because the 21st c is cooler than the 20th.

        But Laurie invented the character he wanted–I think that’s fairly clear. It’s all done with the style of the performance, rather than the writing. So I would not say that the writers aimed to hit a compromise position; they just provide situations (what is a noncomedic equivalent to a sitcom? A sitdram?) and then Laurie lets the character off its leash and it runs around and barks, and occasionally bites someone in the leg. That’s what was going on in S1, S2, and S3, I think, and it’s still more or less working.

        (What made me bag the show was its effort to refresh its franchise by introducing a flood of utterly uninteresting new secondary characters. This meant that any scene without Hugh Laurie in it died on the spot. By the end of the 2nd episode the piles of scene-corpses had begun to rot, and some turned into zombie-scene-corpses.)

        It’s a dilemma for a TV show (or a book, movie, play) when one character has to carry the whole thing. I think it’s fine for the character of House not to change. He’s a classic antihero. Heroes and antiheroes don’t change; they do what they do, and remain consistent–Odysseus, Buffy, Hamlet, Dracula, the Joker, Heathcliff, etc. (Unlike other protagonists, who Learn, and Grow, and Come to a Conclusion–Elizabeth Bennet, Raskolnikov, Macbeth, Lord Jim, Pip, etc.)

        It may be that the TV folks want to claim that House is justified (or redeemed) by his magical life-giving properties, but House himself relentlessly denies it. If anything, the tension between the character of House and the ingrained formulaic assumptions and expectations of TV (that the actions of protagonists must always be justified; that protagonists must always be heroes) is the thing that remains interesting in the show.

        I’ll probably rent S4 and S5 at some point, cause I’d watch Hugh Laurie read the phone book.

  5. unforth

    House can be a bit tough. I’ve seen most of it at this point, and I will say that the early episodes of this season were some of the toughest to take of the entire series – mostly because it’s Wilson, not House, who makes the series watchable from my point of view. That said, I sometimes need to take breaks from it, but I generally still enjoy it when I come back. What’s gotten old is that while everyone around him grows and changes, no matter what happens House always seems to end up back at center, and that gets frankly depressing after a few seasons.

    But I do still watch it – it’s so well written! and I

    • Marie Brennan

      I, too, have much liking for Robert Sean Leonard.

      But yes, House being the center of attention may get old after a while, even if he is the protagonist. <g>

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