Monday, August 8, 2011

Left Buttons vs. Right Hooks

Movies are a window into other cultures when watching foreign films. Despite performing the same activity, it sometimes catches us unaware and leaves us thinking 'something's wrong'. Occasionally it's obvious: watching Irish films, the cars are on the wrong side of the road, which just feels wrong until you actively stop and think "oh, yeah, it's from [insert country that didn't bother to kick out the English before 1900]. There are other things which pop up, trigger "something just feels wrong".

Masterpiece Mystery: Sherlock is a modern re-take of Doyle. I highly recommend it - so much so that I'm planning to write a review of it. Holmes & Watson are going up an escalator. For you Americans, imagine a pair of escalators side by side. One up, one down. On which side is the Up escalator? On the right, right? Same as the side of the road we drive on. The scene on the English TV show, however, caught my attention by "something's wrong". The pair of escalators has the Up escalator on the left. It just looks wrong.

The Man with a Camera, a Russian film from 1929, is a fascinating look at ordinary life there. Short - a few seconds each - images of activities ranging from cars driving in town around horse-drawn carts, coal mining, factories, store fronts, and a woman waking up and rising from bed. The film returns to the woman several times, doing the various things one does, including getting dressed. With her back to the camera, she put on a bra. Again, my brain catches and my thumb hits 'pause'. The bra has a button/loop closure, and not a hook & eye. I've never actually seen a bra with that kind of closure. I'm left wondering if we used them here. I'm all the more amused because she's clasping it behind her back, rather than the hook-in-front-then-rotate method every women I know uses.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

[review] Masterpiece Mystery! : Sherlock

(Apparently the exclamation mark is required in the title.)

A Study in Scarlet is the first story/novella describing the meeting and beginning friendship between John Watson, a medical doctor invalided out of the British Army occupying Afghanistan, and Sherlock Holmes, an independent investigator and master of deductive logic. The stories are all written in the first person voice of Dr. Watson. I've read a few of the short stories and the longer Hound of the Baskervilles, and do not claim to be a fan of Doyle who goes off the deep end because of some bit of minutia. E.g., Holmes gets his nicotine from patches, since as he puts it, it's impossible to sustain a smoking habit in London these days.

A Study in Pink is the first episode of the 21st Century re-make. Not being a rabid fan, I can't tell you if the other 2 are directly based upon Doyle's works. A comment, though: I read Study in Scarlet after watching the show, wondering how this back-story of Watson matched up to Doyle, or if it was just a dramatic license to make it appeal to a 'modern' audience. Oh, the irony of history re-written upon modern flesh.

The most remarkable two points are the script and Martin Freeman. The script is sharp, witty, fairly representative of the characters from the books, and fairly non-stop with the only pauses for a breath being the (unfortunately repetitive, but at least infrequent) cuts of Our Heroes in a London taxi en route to something.

Martin Freeman, aka Dr. John Watson, is absolutely stellar. Subtle is the only succinct adjective I can provide for Freeman: not too much, not to little, perfectly aligned with the script. Rarely am I so impressed with an actor's work at first view. Given this fact, I am perhaps doubly looking forward to The Hobbit. This Watson is a 40-ish ordinary man, nothing physically remarkable, with a strong sense of the value of human life and curiosity. I can't imagine Holmes keeping an inept companion, so seeing a competent and active participant in the investigation is pleasant; I wouldn't have been able to take a bumbling doctor. He is still writing their stories, only today it's in a blog rather than the magazines Doyle used.

Holmes is, as always, an excessively arrogant and obsessively objective man, though Cumberbatch is an unexpected choice for his age; Mr.Gopher & I both had an image of a more mature man. He pulls off an elegant Holmes, always well-tailored, and smooth, but physically and verbally, but I still think he should have looked older. Rather like DI Lestrade (Rupert Graves), who looks like a senior detective inspector for Scotland Yard. Well, he totally pulls of an arrogant SOB, too, who nevertheless grows to rely upon the participation of his friend. He comes across as the primary hero, which is how he's written by Doyle's doctor.

The adaptation of things for the modern life are amusing at times: texting is sort-of like telegrams. And, for mild humor, the initial episode finds Watson confronting modern assumptions of why two men are living together when initially meeting their landlady.

Watson is a far more approachable character, either in the books or this film, finding our sympathy for putting up with a pain-in-the-ass colleague, balancing Holmes' absolute objectivity with emotional perception. As Doyle's Holmes states, "You see, but you do not observe"; Watson could return "you observe, but you do not feel".

As I haven't read everything Doyle wrote, I don't know if episode 2 or 3 is from original material. The plots are interesting. Other characters are introduced to some degree. If you know in which story Holmes first runs into Moriarity, I would like to know.

My only significant complaint is one element of an otherwise perfectly fine filming style. I notice most often in made-for-TV shows an over-use of the "Hey, This Is Significant" shot. There's a fight in an apartment, the dining room table gets scratched by the villain's weapon, Watson comes home, notices the table is scratched, gets annoyed at the disregard for the furniture, meanwhile being ignorant of Holmes nearly getting decapitated. I really don't need a close-up of the weapon making the scratch. In a show which should appeal to an educated audience, the patronizing use of these shots is just annoying. Again, luckily they're infrequent - it's just extremely annoying.

Overall, they're wonderful. Carefully considered modernization, good cast, great script-writing. And since I could watch it on Netflix, great price.

Gopher Rating: Worth paying for.
hmmm. I don't have a rating scale for TV shows, so "See it on the big screen" isn't really an option. I'll have to come up with one. Everything boils down to money, though: either its worth paying for or it isn't; either it's worth an hour or two of your life or it isn't.

post script
Everyone in the world seems to want to make movie versions of Sir A.C. Doyle's master detective. Netflix isn't streaming the 1930s versions w/ Basil Rathbone, so I can't compare them, since I think I saw one of them on Channel 9's Saturday Afternoon B&W Matinee on LBI 25 years ago. The Downey/Law version that came out in 2009 looked like a souped-up action-adventure movie with the same names. Robert Downey is awesome when his game is on, but the preview left the impression of what would happen with Tony Stark playing Sherlock Holmes. Perhaps unfair, but the trailer is what's supposed to entice me. As I write this, I pause and search for a trailer for the TV show ... well, perhaps that wouldn't have enticed me, either.

by the way:
Who assigns idiots to making movie trailers? The worst EVER was for Terminator 4.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Fruit salad

Neighborly Fruit Salad

2 C. mandarin orange slices, drained
1-1/2 C. crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 large tart apple, chopped
1 C. peaches, chopped
1 C. pears, chopped
1-1/2 C. diced celery
1-1/2 C. slivered blanched almonds
dried cherries
dried cranberries

Mix fruit, celery and almonds. Sprinkle dried fruit as garnish. Serve cold. Adjust proportions as desired.

The almonds and celery provide a pleasant crunch with the sweet fruit. Make sure the fruit is ripe and soft, otherwise use canned fruit to make sure the crunch isn't from the fruit.