As a friend of mine has taken to saying, "PACK YOUR PLAYSTATION AND GET OUT!"
Yes, the time has come. Films From the Supermassive Black Hole has enjoyed a good run in its current home. Truth be told, I'm absolutely thrilled with the time I spent here. The site went from this unknown entity with barely any content to a fairly thriving institution with a decent reader base.
I also made some great friends along the way.
But now, it's time a for a change of scenery. I'm been wrestling with this notion for a health portion of this, the year of our lord 2012. A guy at Sundance who I got to talking with recommended that I make the jump, as it gives me more credibility.
Alright. That's a brand of juju I can jive with. I've been working at this for a couple of weeks now, and, with some help from a few buds, I think it turned out all right.
Make sure you update your blogrolls, links, and what have you. Thanks all for making this experiment worthwhile. And don't worry, there's more to come.
The Demonstration of Gentleness, a film by Ian Whittlesea was premiered at the Studio Cinema BFI Southbank, London, on Monday 25 June 2012 and is now online on the website of The Stanley Picker Gallery until the end of July: www.stanleypickergallery.org/gentleness/
Hamish Fulton – Limmat Art Walk Saturday 23 June 2012, 13.00 / 1pm Zürich a group walk with at least 500 people, as a part of Art and the City, A Festival for Art in Public Space, Zürich-West, 9 June – 23 September 2012, for participation: http://www.artandthecity.ch/de/agenda/limmat-art-walk/
Forth & Back Posters by Richard Bevan, Melanie Cousell, Sean Edwards, The Everyday Press, Richard Healy, Ian Homerston, Pernille Leggat Ramfelt, Sara MacKillop, Jonathan Monk, Catalina Niculescu, Ben Öztat, Colin Sackett, Jake Tilson, Watts of Goodwill, Ian Whittlesea Punctuation Programme Event at Limoncello, organized by Tamsin Clark on Wednesday 27 June 2012, 7-9pm & a performance by Catalina Niculescu & a snack by Jake Tilson & some music chosen by Watts of Goodwill Limoncello 340-344 Kingsland Road London E8 4DA www.limoncellogallery.co.uk www.tamsinclark.com image Richard Healy – Bowties and Boulders (or Zig-zag Zigzag) at NW 1st Av, Miami, USA
Ridley Scott, for some strange reason, has gotten into the habit of switching gears completely during the production of his films. Recall that Robin Hood was initially supposed to be told from the perspective of the Sheriff of Nottingham, rather the the green bedazzled outlaw. That final product didn't turn out to be all that, so you'd be forgiven for being worried about Prometheus. Prometheus started life as a basic prequel to Scott's legendary sci-fi/horror masterpiece Alien. Somewhere along the way though, Scott's ambition got bigger. Rather than simply tell where the xenomorphs come from and how that ship ended up on LV-426, Scott is going for something much bigger, and more cerebral. In a film that is equal parts philosophical character study, horror movie, and effects vehicle, Prometheus asks tough questions. Questions about life, human nature, God, etc. And while it runs into some bumps, the ambition and scope of the project cannot be overlooked, and Prometheus delivers the goods and turns in a thought provoking, engrossing, and chilling sci-fi epic.
After discovering that civilizations separated by thousands of years shared the same pictogram, Doctor's Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway surmise that it is some sort of invitation by beings from another world. What sort of beings? Why, the ones who created us, after all. Shaw and Holloway take their discovery the powerful Weyland Corporation, which funds an expedition aboard the vessel "Prometheus" to the world that the pictogram leads to. Aboard the ship, amongst the rabble of crew members and scientists, is an android, David, who is wrestling with his own budding humanity. Also along for the ride is Meredith Vickers, a Weyland employee who seems to know more than she is telling. Once they reach their destination, Shaw discovers that she was right, that the pictogram pointed to a world inhabited by alien beings responsible for humanity's creation. She also realizes that she should have never attempted the expedition, and soon, the entire crew is battling a destructive threat that, if uncaged, could mean the end of the human race.
Ok, yes. It is a prequel to Alien... sort of. There are elements of that film here. It clearly takes place in the same universe, as if the inclusion of the Weyland Corporation, androids, and a fifteen second final scene weren't enough to tip you off to that. But Prometheus is not interested in simply setting the trial of Ellen Ripley. No, it has something far more intense on the mind. Prometheus is all about questions. Right from the beginning it's clear that the movie is trying to answer the most loaded question of all; Where do we come from? Did God create us, or some other beings, and if so, who created them? So many ideas are thrown at the screen, that it's inevitable that some of them wouldn't be answered, and indeed, you leave the theater with many more questions than answers.
But that's ok. First off, there's plenty of room for a sequel here. And secondly, the film isn't about giving you the easy way out. It wants to provoke conversation, about the meaning of the events and the implications of them. The last big science fiction movie to attempt this was Inception, and Prometheus succeeds far more admirably than that did.
Unfortunately, all this philosophical debating does get in the way of the actual movie. While the narrative is tight and holds onto a steady forward momentum, a lot, and I mean most, of the characters are left in the dust. Oh sure, Shaw and David, the real stars of this thing, are developed beautifully, but everyone else is barely touched on at all. They just fulfill you basic character conventions of the genre, conventions that Scott help call into existence with Alien. You have your trigger happy head of security. You have you skeptical, sardonic scientist. You have the nice guy who wants to be friends. You have your steely corporate executive who is none to keen on taking anyone's bullshit. None of these archetypes ever really transcend their predisposition traits, so you know how each one will play out.
Luckily, the two main players are anything but archetypical. As Elizabeth Shaw, Noomi Rapace displays grace, intensity, curiosity, and sheer balls of steel. Shaw is something of a paradox, a scientist who believes in God. She's on the search for beings who created life, which is something she herself cannot. Her arc is beautiful, as she goes from an eager adventurer, excited to discover our origins, to a frantic survivor when she discovers it was nothing like she thought. Rapace is excellent, proving to everyone that she is more than just a little girl with a dragon tattoo.
Her equal in terms of narrative focus is the android David. Through him, the film presents interesting parables. Shaw is looking for her creators while David is attempting to be more like his. Michael Fassbender continues his streak of incredible performances, presenting a chillingly robotic specimen that is also imbued with traces of humanity. At times funny, at others scary, his David is one who calls into question many of the characters motivations. At one point, he asks Holloway why humans created him. "Because we could" remarks Holloway. "Imagine your disappointment if you got the same answer" quips David. It's a remarkable performance, and Fassbender disappears into it completely.
Everyone else performs well, though, as previously stated, they aren't given as much to play with. As Vickers, Charlize Theron is all gruffness and chilling intensity. It's another quasi-villanous role, which Theron can do like no one can, even though it's not as meaty or interesting as Ravenna from this summer's Snow White and the Huntsman. Idris Elba turns in another scene stealing supporting performance as the captain of the "Prometheus" and Guy Pearce shows up briefly in a memorable cameo as the aged Peter Weyland.
It really is a pleasure to see Ridley Scott return to sci-fi. After years of historical epics, crime dramas and war films, I was worried that he would have lost his touch. He hasn't, not by a long shot. Though Prometheus boasts a significantly higher budget and top of the line special effects, it is the still the same, visually precise, claustrophobic style that Scott perfected with Alien. He displays a keen mastery of shot composition, artfully creating an humbling sense of scale. Prometheus is a big ship, but is dwarfed by the majestic storm clouds of the planet and the never-ending nethers of space. Often times, Scott will the pull waaaaaaay back, so the the ship is nothing more than a dot against a back drop of chaotic weather and landscapes.
His use of symmetry is also amazing. Many times, the object of focus is placed directly in the center of the shot, heightening the sense of space and the claustrophobia, which really helps with the tension.
Oh yeah, make no mistake. Scott still knows how to scare your pants off. The "No one can hear you scream" tagline certainly applies here. Though it's not as relentless as Alien, and boasts more scenes of "big action", Prometheus is still an unbearably frightening and grotesque thriller. Ok, sure. A good amount of that terror is instigated by characters behaving stupid, but, for the most part, this is intelligent horror, more keen on making you uncomfortable rather than grossing you out. A bevy of well conceived jump scares, plenty of scenes of die hard suspense, and a sequence of body horror so intense, it gives the chestburster a run for its money; it all adds up to a quality horror movie.
It's not perfect, but Prometheus presents a return to an older style of sci-fi, one that didn't eschew intelligence in favor of spectacle. Though it has it's foot firmly in the realm of blockbuster, it is still of the smarter ones to come along in a long while. Boasting incredible visuals, a duo of superb performances, and a complex, but ultimately rewarding screenplay, Prometheus is just what I was hoping it would be. If the story continues on from here, I can't wait to see where it goes. The fact that xenomorphs might be included no longer matters.
Last Day Bik van der Pol, David Blamey, Pavel Büchler, Rhona Byrne, Theo Cuff, Liam Gillick, Håkon Holm-Olson, Mark Hutchinson, Gareth Long, Brighid Lowe, Ronan MacCrea, Anouk Merchier, Ian Whittlesea 29 June – 18 August 2012 curated by Paul O'Neill Cartel The Old Police Station 114 Amersham Vale London SE14 6LG www.cartelgallery.com
Hamish Fulton will be presented at Art|43|Basel by Galerie Tschudi, Glarus/Zuos and Galleri Riis, Oslo/Stockholm in both stands. Galleri Riis and Galerie Tschudi will present the wall work Hamish Fulton – Tibet / Tibet, 2008/2009 at Art|43|Basel|Art Unlimited 14 – 17 June 2012 www.galerie-tschudi.ch www.galleririis.com
Sweet lion of Lannister!!! Has it been a year all ready? It seems like only yesterday since Ned Stark lost his head, Daenerys hatched her dragons, and Tyrion stole our hearts. My how the time flies. And now a second round with the denizens of the Seven Kingdoms has come to an end. We saw horrors beyond our comprehension. We saw warfare of untold magnitude and destruction. We saw savagery that would make the hardest person squirm. And there was some nudity as well. Wouldn't be Game of Thrones if there wasn't.
This season was one of many triumphs and a parse few set backs that nevertheless lived up the standard of quality that the brilliant first season laid out. In many cases, it ever surpassed it.
BEWARE: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!!!!
Picking up where season 1 ended, season 2 recounts the second book in George R. R. Martin's series, A Clash of Kings. Following the death of Ned Stark and the capture of Jamie Lannister, Westeros has been plunged into a bitter and unrelenting war. From the North, Robb Stark, now King in the North, rides against Lannister forces, seeking revenge for the death of his father and hoping to win dominion over all his lands.
In the South, King Joffrey sits the Iron Throne, ruling over King's Landing with a iron fist. He is still betrothed to Sansa Stark, who is more hostage than guest. At the request of his father, Tyrion Lannister arrives in the capitol to serve as Hand of the King. As he contends with his nephew's cruelty and ineptitude, as well as the machinations of his sister, Cersei, and the rest of the small council, the Imp readies the city for the eventual siege.
At Dragonstone and at Storm's End, Stannis and Renly Baratheon, brother's to the late King Robert Baratheon, have called their banners and are marching against King's Landing, and each other. Each declares himself the rightful king, and will not bow to the other's will. Renly takes up with the influential Tyrell family, gaining a bevy of support. Stannis, meanwhile, enlists the help of a red priestess from Asshai, one who worships the "Red God". Stannis is enthralled by her promises of victory, but her foreign religion and ghastly powers are cause of great concern to his right hand man, Ser Davos Seaworth.
Beyond the wall, Jon Snow is marching with The Night's Watch against the wildling horde that is gathering. As he gets deeper and deeper into unforgiving and harsh lands, he is faced with true tests of character and duty.
Arya Stark, having escaped King's Landing, is now headed North to the Wall. The war finds her first, and she is sent on a journey that brings her very close to the enemy.
Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryen is the mother of the first three dragons in many centuries. As she continues to pursue her desires of returning home and reclaiming the Iron Throne, she is beset on all sides by those who would seek to use her and her dragons to the their own advantage.
In Winterfell, Bran Stark is busy trying to be Lord, and finds that he shares a deeper connection with his direwolf, Summer, than anyone thought possible.
Theon Greyjoy finally returns home to the Iron Islands, only to receive a less than loving welcome from his remaining family. Though he is dedicated to Robb's cause, Theon craves the love and admiration of his father and sister, leading him to make a terrible decision that leaves much of the North reeling.
And winter is coming. And the White Walkers are still out there, waiting, beyond the wall, for the moment to strike.
This was a packed season, to be sure. Whereas in season 1, everyone was in one of three/four places, here, all the characters are spread all over the land. This, unfortunately, led to some episodes that were too busy. A few times, we were treated to short scene focusing on a major character, and then we wouldn't see them again for the rest of the hour. This was particularly noticeable with Daenerys, who, after her beautiful arc in season 1, was kind of given the short end of the stick.
Be that as it may, the show was always focused on what matter most at any given time. Tyrion was the real star this season. I mean, he totally stole the show last season, but this time he is front and center. His story is fascinating, as he evolves from the witty, intelligent, badass we knew into a cunning and devoted tactician, both on the field of battle and in the halls of King's Landing.
And even though Tyrion was the the clear focus this season, everyone is given their just deserves. When the season finale ends, you will feel horrified, elated, depressed, or whatever, at where each of the characters has ended up. Though some are prioritized, everyone is developed.
And now, the rankings!!!!
A bloody masterpiece, this was! Bundled into what is, quite possibly, the best hour of television I've ever seen, we had the usual excellent dialogue and character moments that the series is known for, in addition to the most carefully conceived, sprawling, epic, brutal battle ever seen in a TV show. Stannis lays siege to King's Landing, and the course of many of the character's stories are changed in one night! The wildfire scene, and the ensuing carnage, is spectacularly chilling!
2. Valar Morghulis
This episode had a lot on its shoulders. Not only did it have to close out the season in a memorable fashion, but it had to adequately follow up on the groundwork laid by "Blackwater". It succeeds in both. Following the Lannister victory, Tyrion is recovering from his assassination attempt, only to find that he has been removed from power by his father, Tywin. Robb forsakes his vow to the Frey's and marries Talisa. Daenerys finally gets her dragons back and gets revenge on the denizens of Qarth who murdered her khalasar and almost killed her. Jon is forced to kill Qhorin Halfhand to fool Ygritte and the rest of the wildlings into believing that he is with them. Brienne and Jamie run into some trouble on the road, and Theon is betrayed by his men. Winterfell is destroyed, but Bran, Rickon, and Osha survive and begin the long journey north to the wall. This was a packed episode, but one the wonderfully tied up all the loose ends of the season. I was already to go for season 3 with the final scene with Dany, but after that last scene with Sam and the Night's Watch, that shows the White Walkers beginning their assault... FUCK!!! I CAN HARDLY CONTAIN MYSELF!!!!
3. The Old Gods and the New
The first real triumph of the season, The Old Gods and the New is powerfully wicked. As Myrcella is sent to Dorne for her safety, the public's dissatisfaction with Joffrey's rule comes to the boiling point, inciting a huge riot that almost results in Sansa getting raped and killed. Theon, having joined with his father and renouncing Robb, attacks and seizes Winterfell. Nevertheless, Bran and Rickon, with a little help from Osha escape. Jon Snow meets Ygritte, a wildling woman with fire red hair, who takes great pleasure in messing with him. Arya continues to serve Tywin, who continues to take interest in her. And Daenerys, having settled in Qarth, now turns her sights on Westeros. But someone in Qarth is not keen on her leaving just yet, leading the slaughter of most of her followers and the kidnapping of her dragons. In a season full of stomach churning moments, this was an episode defined by them, from Theon reluctantly and messily decapitating Roderick Cassel, to the mob literally ripping the High Septon to pieces with their bare hands.
But hey, Tyrion slaps Joffrey again. All is well.
4. Garden of Bones
Game of Thrones is already a dark show, but it goes to untold depths in this one. Tyrion is getting increasingly perturbed by how Joffrey tortures Sansa. In an attempt to calm the boy, he sends him two whores. Things don't really work out the way he intended there, with Joffrey turning what should have been a nice roll in the hay into a twisted scene of perverse agony. Arya has been captured by Lannisters and is brought to the sprawling castle of Harrenhal, to await interrogation. Littlefinger returns Ned's bones to Catelyn as a gesture of good faith. Stannis and Renly meet, but negotiations quickly collapse. Stannis sends Davos and Melisandre into the heart of Renly's camp, where Davos is made aware of how powerful Melisandre truly is! Apart from the scene with Joffrey and whores, which just might be the most fucked up scene of the whole series, this episode was a real turning point. It was the first time we saw real sorcery at work. It's easy to forget, amongst all the political backstabbing and tomfoolery, that is really a fantasy series, and if anything is going to remind us of that, it's seeing Melisandre give birth to a slimy shadow baby! Twisted stuff!
5. A Man Without Honor
Cersei finally talks openly with Tyrion about her relationship with Jamie, and revealing that she believes Joffrey's sadism is a punishment from the gods. Jamie makes an escape attempt, only to be brought back, having incited the wrath of the Stark bannermen. Sansa finally bleeds, causing her to enter into hysterics because she can now have Joffrey's children. Jon has his hands full with Ygritte, who really knows how to push his buttons. Dany sees Xaro what he really is, and flees into the bowels of Qarth as Xaro and Pyat stage a coup and take over the city. Theon hunts for Bran and Rickon. And Arya continues to be of great interest to Tywin, who is on to the fact she is not who she says she is. Though there were no crazy moments, the scenes of 1-on-1 dialogue in this were so good it more than makes up for it. Arya and Tywin are a match made in heaven. We saw something resembling affection between Tyrion and Cersei. We Jon begin to doubt his Night's Watch vows and be swayed by Ygritte. And Jamie proves to be the most practical man in all the land. It was a pleasure to see him shatter every insult sent his way with his blunt logic. Beautifully done!!
6. The North Remembers
As a kick-off, "The North Remembers" couldn't have been much better. Tyrion arrives in King's Landing, immediately asserting himself and setting to work. Dany is trapped in the Red Waste with what remains of her Khalasar and her three newborn dragons. Robb has the Lannister's worried. Not only does he have Jamie as a prisoner, but he has yet to lose a battle and doesn't show any signs of stopping. The Night's Watch receive the generous hospitality of Craster, a man who lives beyond the wall with his daughter/wives (ick), with whom Jon Snow is immediately at odds. Stannis makes his claim and begins his war effort. And Joffrey, none to pleased with the rumors circling around about his mother, orders his guards to do something truly despicable. It was everything we had missed, and as the final montage showing the City Watch massacring all of King Robert's bastards played out, we are welcomed back with cold, open arms.
7. The Night Lands
Things get up to steady head here. Theon returns home to Pyke, intending to persuade his father to join with Robb's cause, though he's in for a surprise when he gets there. Dany is still trapped in the Red Waste, and loses a member of her Blood Riders. Arya meets Jaquen H'ghar, a prisoner going north with the caravan to the wall, and befriends Gendry, the only one of Robert's bastards to make it out of King's Landing. Jon Snow discovers something chilling about Craster. Davos enlists the help of some of his pirate friends for the war effort, and Tyrion continues to gain footing in King's Landing. It was a solid episode, though nothing major really happened in it.
8. The Ghost of Harrenhal
Catelyn and Brienne witness something foul, causing the death of Renly and forcing them to flee. Renly's bannermen flock to Stannis, while Littlefinger persuades the Tyrells to join the Lannister's. Tyrion discovers a dangerous but effective method of defending King's Landing. Jon Snow heads out into the wastes with Qhorin Halfhand on a mission to assassinate Mance Rayder. Davos confronts Stannis about what he saw, and Jaquen gives Arya a proposition as a reward for saving his life. Dany realizes Jorah's feelings for her, leading he to doubt his trust. There was some craziness in the beginning, to be sure, but after that it calmed down. Again, a fine episode. Just not a stand out.
9. What Is Dead May Never Die
Jon confronts Mormont about what he saw happen to Craster's baby, but doesn't get the response he expected. Catelyn travels to Renly Baratheon's camp to negotiate with him and is introduce to Brienne of Tarth, a maiden with more interest in wielding a sword than bearing a lord's children. Arya and the recruits are attacked, leading to their capture and the death of Yoren. Theon makes his decision on Pyke, and joins with his father against Robb. Tyrion continues on his war path, engineering a scheme to weed out who on the high council is spying for his sister. And Margaery Tyrell reveals the lengths with which she will go to to help Renly keep up the façade that he is in fact not sleeping with her brother. A lot of good stuff happened in this episode, but the only that REALLY stuck out was Yoren's death. That dude was a badass, and to see him go out so valiantly was a real bummer.
10. The Prince of Winterfell
As the siege preparations continue, Stannis' fleet inches ever closer. Theon's sister arrives at Winterfell, but not with the reinforcements he asked for. Arya twists the agreement she had with Jaquen in a clever way, clearing a path for her and her friends to escape Lannister controlled Harrenhal. Robb is forced to arrest Catelyn after she releases Jamie, and finds comfort in the arms of Talisa. Tyrion declares his love for Shae and finds uncommon common ground with Varys. As an episode, there was a lot of set up here. Most of it had to do with the upcoming battle, and was thus important, but apart from Arya being a badass and Robb sleeping with Talisa, nothing really happened.
Let me tell you, the final 5 in that list were hard to sort. It's because there wasn't a single bad episode. There were some that were weaker, sure, but none of them could be considered bad. It's a testament to the absurd level of quality that the series maintains that an episode that is considered weak would still rank as one of the best hours of TV to air that week.
And when it was on top of its game, Game of Thrones could not be beat. "Blackwater" especially, is a good example. The potential influence that that episode could have cannot be overlooked. Not only is it sure win the series a ton of Emmy's, including another Best Supporting Actor for Peter Dinklage, it presented something that had never really been seen before on TV. Oh sure, we've seen battles on TV, from the likes of Spartacus, to Rome, to Camelot, but never at this scale. In those, the action was always close up, focusing on small pockets of men. In Spartacus' case, the big battles often took place in doors or on the sands of an arena. But with "Blackwater" we saw a full on siege with a scope on par with Lord of the Rings, on a TV budget. It was true marvel, and one that I think will have a legacy down the road.
The writers continue to be masters at adapting Martin's books, while adding in stuff where it's needed. A lot of the fantastic 1-on-1 conversations that pepper the season are the writers creation, and they do loads to deepening your understanding of the characters. Even if you've read the books, which I have, you'll still be surprised with some of the things here, which I was.
Oh, what's the point? Really, what I can I say that you don't already know? If you've been watching the show, you know how brilliant it is. If you haven't been watching it... well, what the hell is wrong with you! Torrent that shit ASAP!!!!