Read It and Watched It, Late March 2016

Word Cloud

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989 Film)

We didn’t watch them the night we planned to, but the Potts family did watch the last two of the original cast Star Trek movies. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is pretty much as bad as I remembered it to be. It is widely considered to be the worst of the series. I think it is pretty much a toss-up between III and V, but it is pretty bad. I particularly dislike the way the film used James Doohan, portraying him as a clown. He deserved better. To add insult to injury, this film on DVD also suffers from a poor transfer and shaky color.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991 Film)

The last movie to feature the original cast, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is, if anything, even better than I remember it. The script is simply much better. It is an allegory for the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, but it does not bludgeon the audience too hard with this; it becomes, in part, a murder mystery and police procedural.

The acting is excellent, with the exception of a few slightly clunky line readings here and there. There are some scenes that remain just wonderful, particularly Nimoy’s scenes with Valeris (Kim Cattrall). James Doohan gets to play a more dignified character and he has some excellent lines. Christopher Plummer as Chang is a very entertaining villain, over-the-top for the win, and reminiscent of Ricardo Montalban’s Khan. For the most part the film looks great. There only really notable exception is the Klingon blood in zero-gravity — an early CGI effect, it now looks odd and dated. But overall this film is really a joy. We actually watched it twice. It opens with a bang, literally ends with the cast “signing off,” and in between it’s a fast-paced and exciting adventure movie stuffed with your favorite Star Trek characters, a few new ones, and a psychopathic villain who quotes Shakespeare. What more could a Star Trek fan ask for?

The Magicians, the Syfy TV Series, Continued

Let’s see… what’s next? After the somewhat weak episode of The Magicians entitled “The Mayakovsky Circumstance,” the next few episodes have been better. In particular, The Writing Room is very creepy, re-imagining the character Christopher Plover and putting us into the events in the Plover household as he wrote the famed Fillory books. It was very well-done, and creepy as hell, while remaining true to the textual cues in the book. The next episode, “Homecoming,” has Penny trapped in the Neitherlands. This place was portrayed quite nicely on screen with a modest budget, and it is a good example of how such a budget can force the producers to be creative with practical sets and props. So, I am encouraged. There are three more episodes in season one, at least according to Wikipedia, and I am eager to see how they wind up the season.

My Struggle: Book 2 by Karl Ove Knausgaard

I’ve been reading Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle: Book 2. In this book Knausgaard writes extensively about the birth of his daughter and the struggles of domesticity. These are strange books. On the one hand, they are about the commonplace and everyday, rendered only marginally more exotic by their location and culture. But the text is like a river — there are shallow spots, and rapids. At just about any point I can start reading, and while I might be hung up a bit in a shallow spot, the story will go around a bend and I will find myself fully engaged, living Knausgaard’s life, vicariously, until I look up and realize I’ve read fifty, or seventy, pages. I can’t convince my wife Grace to read fiction — she generally just doesn’t enjoy it like I do — but I did read her a section of the book, about the birth of his daughter Vanja. It’s a great birth story, both like and unlike our own experiences.

One thing that makes Knausgaard a bit distant from my experience, and seems conspicuous by its absence, is this: he and his wife never seem to be desperate to know where their next meal is coming from. They worry about finding and keeping a great place to live, but they never seem to worry about becoming homeless. For a text that is so detailed and direct about every detail of life, it seems that talking about money: how much the family has, how much they earn, how much they spend, etc., is taboo. He does mention spending too much on books and too much on gourmet food. I often look at the lives of musicians and writers and wonder “how are they earning a living?” Is the family living on government assistance while he works to develop his writing career? Is there other income? Is he living on inherited money, or savings? We are’t told, and I remain curious, and as an American who has repeatedly wiped out my savings and risked losing my home during periods of unwanted unemployment, perhaps more than a little jealous.

Anyway, I will soon finish My Struggle: Book 2, and The Magicians will be done for the year. There will be no new Doctor Who until the end of 2016. And my work project edges closer to release. So I expect to get some more reading done in April. Onward!

Saginaw and/or Ann Arbor, Michigan
April 1, 2016

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