Tag Archives: Game of Thrones

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Extravaganza

Doctor-Who-50thThere’s something really lovely about being involved in a fandom, a special sect of people that understand why a TV show/movie/book is incredibly important and amazing.  There’s something even more wonderful when that fandom is recognized and appreciated by the wider public.

Though Doctor Who has been mainstream in the UK for many years (decades, really), it’s only grown to great prominence in American culture since the newest iteration started with Christopher Eccleston in 2005.  It’s still a bit of an outsider’s club on this side of the Atlantic, but that makes it a little bit more fun, if I’m honest.  But even in the US, the knowledge that the 50th anniversary special was happening this week was everywhere.  Theaters held special simulcasts of the episode, pubs had special nights for Whovians. I’ve heard rumors that a Mini Cooper painted like a TARDIS was spotted nearby.  We got our Google Doodle, though ours came one day later than the google.co.uk version. Is there any greater measure of cultural importance and legitimacy than a Google Doodle?  I think not.

BBC America started their Doctor Who marathon early in the week, and new content was there when I started my weekend.  Though I didn’t learn much from Doctor Who Explained, I really loved An Adventure in Space and Time. This was a made-for-TV movie about the origins of the show, and about the first doctor, William Hartnell.

4482503-high_res-adventures-in-space-and-timeI’ve actually never seen any of the pre-2005 episodes of Doctor Who, so I learned a lot from this movie about the beginnings of the show.  David Bradley (Harry Potter, Broadchurch, Game of Thrones) plays William Hartnell, and I think he did a superb job.  I also think the whole movie made me very sad.  When I compare William Hartnell’s love of the character and devotion to the show, with Christopher Eccleston’s attitude toward it…I’m forced to think very badly of the latter.

The movie also starred Sacha Dhawan (Outsourced, the History Boys) as the first director of the show, and Jessica Raine (Call the Midwife, Doctor Who) as Verity Lambert, my new personal hero.  She had a wardrobe of the most amazing ’60s clothes I’ve seen ever. Way better than on Mad Men. More importantly, she was a kickass feminist, dealing with a bunch of stodgy old men in sweaty tweed suits (the Old Guard).  She fought for Doctor Who, not just because it was her first producer job, but because she grew to love the subject matter and what it could be used to communicate. She forced the BBC staff (from executives, to set designers, to technical staff) to take the show seriously; we owe her a huge thanks.

Jessica-RaineThe movie itself was well-acted and had incredible sets.  A good portion of it took place at the iconic elliptical BBC building:

BBC-Television-Centre-007Probably didn’t take a lot of work to make it look like the 1960s again inside here, though they must have cleaned up since James May & co. drove a motorcycle through the interior.

After the movie, we had the Saturday simulcast to watch.  The 50th Anniversary special, complete with Doctors 10 and 11 (together at last), and John Hurt (Harry Potter, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), all playing different iterations of the Doctor:

Doctor-Who-2458109Seeing David Tennant in his brown suit and Converse sneakers again made me literally giddy.  I miss his Doctor so much.  And we got to see Clara, and Rose (but not really), and all of the living actors who’ve played the doctor (sort of…damn you Chris Eccleston).

I thought the special was actually really excellent.  As long as I never think too much about the timey wimey stuff, I will continue to think that.  I have the feeling that the ‘time fissures’ and the Time Lord art won’t stand up to much rational scrutiny, so I will dutifully avoid any such scrutiny. I loved seeing Matt Smith and Clara, I adored seeing David Tennant again, and I thought John Hurt was fabulous.

It also felt really appropriate that we finally get to see the moment of the Doctor’s life that has really defined the show since the 2005 reboot.  The Time War. The moment the Doctor had to decide to kill his own species, in order to save the rest of the universe.

We also got to see the much-talked-about relationship between Ten and Elizabeth I.  Starring Joanna Page (Stacey of Gavin and Stacey) as Elizabeth I.  I thought she was great, although I don’t really think Elizabeth would have had a Welsh accent.

DOCTOR-WHO-50TH-ANNIVERSAR_THE-DAY-OF-THE-DOCTOR_01

I think my only real complaint is that, despite having Billie Piper and David Tennant together again, they don’t get to interact as Rose and the Doctor.  And I was hoping for more of Peter Capaldi as 12 (or he’s really 13?) , more than just a shot of his furrowed eyebrows. I suppose their keeping his costume and his persona under wraps until the actual regeneration happens.

Sometimes, when Doctor Who tries to do something big and important, it can be a bit of a belly flop.  I usually end up enjoying the little, one-off episodes more than the big important two-part season enders.  But this, despite hype and importance, was really fun and lovely and I was just grateful to see David Tennant again.  I think if he’d turned up with the suit and the shoes and the glasses, and read the phone book, I’d be just as thrilled.

I’m ready for the Christmas Special! To which, we now have a short teaser trailer:

The Iron Lady

I have mixed feelings about this movie, partially due to my mixed feelings about Thatcher herself. The movie is excellent, don’t get me wrong, but in the same way that an excellent movie about Hitler wouldn’t make you like Hitler, I’m not left with much affection for Thatcher at the end.  I am left with a better understanding and a lot of empathy.

I didn’t realize beforehand that the majority of this movie was told through flashbacks.  Our first glimpse of Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher is of a small, doddering old woman out to buy a pint of milk.  Not recognized or respected, she’s just another of the large percentage of elderly people in England. She returns home and we discover that her husband is dead and she is mostly cared for by paid workers. She has hallucinations that her husband is still with her. That’s a powerful place to start a story about a powerful woman. I can’t say I expected anything like it from the trailers.  And by the end of the movie I started to feel that it often resembled the Notebook, because ‘MT’ is clearly a bit mad, a bit forgetful, nothing compared to her former self.

The movie jumps around a lot. We see snippets of high-school aged MT, meeting her future husband at Oxford, her first (unsuccessful) bid to become an MP, the assassination attempt, her bid for leader of the Conservatives, and her time as PM.  None of it in that order, however. It’s not terribly hard to follow, but you do have to keep your wits about you. Also, the movie assumes a lot of knowledge about what was going on in England at that time–why people were rioting, why there were strikes, etc. etc. I took a Contemporary British History course so I understood most of the reasons behind footage of striking workers and riots, but I’m not sure how cogent the movie would have been without that background knowledge.  I suspect it would still be a good movie, because the majority of it is about her and her ambition and her love for her family, and the rest is just background noise that affected those main three things.

So this is a portrait of a woman who…I think in her own head she just wants to do what’s right, to stand up for what she believes in.  But in reality, that desire is fueled by a need to overcome her roots (as a grocer’s daughter) and to prove that she is someone to be taken seriously.  I don’t know that being leader of the country was ever particularly her goal, but the desire was to be important, and in some way to show all the people who underestimated her because she is middle-class, and a woman, and a conservative. It’s an ambition spurred on by insecurity.  And like all insecure people, there is a tendency toward egomania.  By the time she is elected leader, and finally given that recognition, she isn’t inclined to listen to anyone else.  Least of all the members of her own party, it seems.  She still feels the need to prove that she is the most important person in the room.

And with her family it’s just the same. She doesn’t just need to be important to them as a mother or wife, she wants to be, in a sense, so important that she doesn’t have time to be a mother or a wife.  She does always want to be the center of attention. she is always the center of attention.  I read an article during that course I took about how she would always confuse her children’s names with her secretary’s and vice versa.  Work came first, essentially. Perhaps if she had been born 10 or 20 years later, she wouldn’t have had children at all.  That’s what I would guess.

But through the movie you do see an absolutely beautiful love story that made me weep.  She’s not always pleasant to her husband, and as we are looking back through her memories and not his, there may be quite a bit of mistreatment not included or remembered.  But her affection for him and her reliance on him is very obvious.  And that reminds us that she is human, and not such a terrible person after all.  She is an obstinant, extreme, egotistical person, but she is also not a bad person.

On a side note, the acting is great. Jim Broadbent (aka Professor Slughorn) is really wonderful as Denis Thatcher, and there is something really quiet and sad about Olivia Colman as her daughter Carol. The young MT was really quite good too, but I have to say I loved Harry Lloyd as Young Denis.  Apparently he’s in Game of Thrones, so I’m sure we’ll see more of him, but he’s quite charming in this movie. I can’t help but be charmed by any man who listens to a woman talk about how she will not spend her life cleaning and cooking and then ‘die while washing up a teacup’ and says that’s why he wants to marry her.

So what about Meryl Streep?  Well, quite plainly, she is amazing. The majority of the movie is just her, and even when other people are in the room it’s hard to remember who they are or why they are there. She’s the only one that matters (which is sort of an interesting mirror of her own idea about her place in the world).  Meryl Streep is spectacular in this movie, and she goes on a real transformation from a young MP to the leader of the country to an old and senile woman.  It’s very moving and an excellent film.  Despite my reservations about Thatcher, I definitely recommend it.