media list - december 2023
[2023/12/09] DOCTOR WHO 2023 SPECIALS
it's insanely british of me to say it, but i have to admit: i really, really love doctor who. at least i think i do? i grew up watching it, but only the seasons featuring the 9th, 10th and 11th doctors - in 2019 i revisited the series and binged the entire "modern" series (2005 and onwards) and found myself enjoying what the 12th doctor had to offer on top of what i already loved from before. but, thinking back, i really don't remember a whole lot from this binge, and i've since come to find that the seasons headed by steven moffat were a little more on the garbage side of things for a variety of reasons my goofy little brain wouldn't have understood. still, it wasn't any worse than what came after!!!
after binging all of what i considered good seasons, i began catching up with the 13th doctor, too, who initially faced controversy from weirdo freaks for being a woman so every time i explained my feelings on this era i had to go the long way of explaining "look, i promise this era is total garbage, and i promise it's not because she's a woman now, the writing is just really bad". and ever since then i became a woman too! i promise, it really is just the writing!!!
being there for the duration of the CHIBNALL YEARS had me pondering the identity of this series. it was grueling just wanting ONE good fun episode and instead getting something boring, or something that tried too hard to appeal to nostalgia, or something that was so convoluted and confusing that i wondered if the show would ever be good again. i saw every episode, i got through it, but ask me a single thing about any episode or something about (checks notes) dan i couldn't answer. it wasn't even stale, the potential was all there but the general handling of narrative from episodic stories to overarching plots was so poor that the series lost all relevance. and then by the end when they pulled that whole gay romance plot between the doctor and one of the companions it felt so forced and crammed in. there was no buildup, and we already knew this era would end after a couple more episodes, so i felt more offended than represented.
we knew that relationship wouldn't last because the next doctor was revealed, along with the info that CHIBNALL would get thrown out and replaced with "RTD" - the guy in charge during doctor who's most popular era (9 and 10). they also revealed the next next doctor - 13 would regenerate into 14, but 14 was just DAVID TENNANT again until 15, played by NCUTI GATWA. i swear this show is easy to follow it's not complicated at all.
the return of "RTD" and DAVID TENNANT indicated a return to form, that the show was growing stale (i guess) and needed to be refreshed (i guess) using its greatest talent to pull in viewers old and new. it was understood that GATWA would be the actual next guy to play doctor who, but i felt like getting TENNANT again was a little cheap and also confusing. he's been the doctor twice now?? how are they gonna pull that off?!?
fast forward to this november, and it seems like they pulled it off pretty well actually. they used this golden opportunity to conclude the storyline left relatively open all the way back in 2009, the last time "RTD" worked on the show, and so it hooked me in like the absolute fool i am. in my opinion the issue with the previous few seasons of the series was its lack of character depth combined with a lack of fun despite the endlessly potent setup of an alien with a time machine making friends with ordinary folks to go on adventures with. it was dry! so seeing a return not only to fun characters but fun characters we were left wondering about 15 years ago is pretty nice. i hate being the target audience for nostalgic material, but man, this scenario works just right and they give it a sweet conclusion!
the first special reintroduces donna noble and newly introduces her daughter, rose, who's just openly trans which is weird and funky and probably got more old people to yell at the screen again. of all the things these specials re-establish and introduce, appealing to queer demographics is the most sensible. not only is there a lack of genuinely good rep out there, but this is a sci fi show about someone who has changed identities so many times that it'd be hypocritical not to also have trans representation. doctor who is BASICALLY trans! even if it feels a little heavyhanded and in-your-face, uh, i don't care bozo. i've had to deal with straight people culture for my whole life. ANYWAY!
these specials serve as a sort of sample platter for what "RTD" has planned for the next era of the series. the second special is more of an ordinary lost-in-space episode with a fun concept blended with actual engaging character dialogue (two things that have been absent for some time) and then the third special is an overly goofy END OF THE WORLD scenario that sets us up for the actual next doctor. in a twist i didn't see coming, the doctor "bi-generates" and so now there's just two doctor whoses out there. tennant's doctor essentially retires so old viewers can get the closure they never got as gatwa's doctor just goes n fucks around and does some gay shit i guess.
as of adding this entry to the list, the CHRISTMAS SPECIAL hadn't released yet, but since i'm writing this after that released i'm also gonna mention it here. we got a taste of gatwa as dr who in full action for this year's special, a tradition lost for years because CHIBNALL chose to celebrate new year's eve instead, and i gotta say: i love this new guy! he's queer as hell!!! and they're expanding on the ridiculous plot twists CHIBNALL introduced?!? they're establishing an actual relationship between the doctor and the new companion, ruby?!? there's a storyline that balances fun and legitimate writing?!?? this should be the bare minimum but it's so refreshing after years of the show really being kinda stale and no fun. i really hope the series keeps up the pace - i would say "i'm glad doctor who is BACK" but that almost denies that the series should be anything new. what i missed about the earlier seasons of "modern" doctor who wasn't specifically the characters or scenarios, but the energy and spirit it had. this new iteration is only proving that that spirit can be renewed while being unique and different from the past, which i wish was maintained throughout a lot more popular media. i want new things! i don't want old thing but new! i just want new things!!!
anyway sorry that was a really long ramble about this show. it's good. i can easily recommend watching the christmas special and hopefully everything coming next, though it does rely on an understanding of the series many may not have. if you're totally new to it, just watch seasons 1-4 and then skip to the new stuff. it's some of the best sci-fi I'VE seen, and i'm not even a sci-fi fan!!!
[2023/12/15] THE BOY AND THE HERON
somebody help me, i don't know what to call this movie!
when it initially released in japan under the name "HOW DO YOU LIVE?", i found that title and the mystique surrounding its marketing fascinating. surely such an existential name would house such an important film. but then the english title got revealed and it was literally just "THE BOY AND THE HERON", which is a little less fascinating and mysterious. i wanted to criticize it, but apparently it was very much intended to be the international name as "HOW DO YOU LIVE" refers to a book that has way more cultural significance in japan than elsewhere. so, BOY AND THE HERON it is. at least the title isn't lying, it Is a movie about a boy and a heron!
disregarding the title situation though, this movie's whole deal is strange to me. of course it's a new miyazaki film, the first one in a decade, so it's going to be spectacular, but shouldn't it be more of a big deal culturally? the international anime demographic has definitely grown in the time since 2013's THE WIND RISES, japanese media is certainly a lot more mainstream, so i woulda thought this thing would get talked about more - particularly since i'm surrounded by folks who would eat this kinda thing up (game design students lol). i went to a preview screening, so sure it hadn't released in the uk yet, and sure the theater i saw it in WAS packed, but if i told anyone i was going to see it that day they would respond with "oh there's a new ghibli out? i had no idea".
maybe i'm just living in my own freak bubble, but i really believed this would feel like a big deal. that's kinda the thing i'm concerned about here, more than the contents of the movie itself. the movie is incredible, by the way. it's a masterpiece through and through. well worth the wait. but that's what worries me, i god dang Waited for this to release!! it was in development assumedly for all of the past decade, an enormous chunk of my lifetime, and all in all the movie is... another ghibli movie...?
it's just weird to me. perhaps this is my problem, and no fault of the movie or its promotion. it's a unique experience for sure, to see a studio's masterpiece and ahead of its regional release no less, but am i underwhelmed? what's going on?
[2023/12/22] CHICKEN RUN: DAWN OF THE NUGGET
right after watching BOY AND THE HERON i took a train to go visit my boyfriend for about a week. it was a fun week, a nice time, but we didn't watch any movies together - the bulk of what we did watch together was videos by hbomberguy and the collegehumor show GAME CHANGER, which i enjoyed a lot. all this means for the media thread is that right after i was thrust into CHRISTMAS SEASON. from my boyfriend's a caught a train to my family's house, during which i watched far too many christmas movies to keep track of.
in the deadzone between getting there and our traditional christmas eve movie binge, i watched CHICKEN RUN: DAWN OF THE NUGGET, the newly released sequel to a classic i seriously adore. it's weird that they'd even make a sequel to begin with, but i trusted that it'd be firmly entertaining. it delivers on just being a really solid family movie with incredibly clean stop-motion animation standard from aardman, and my only complaints are that it's a little too fantastical compared to the grounded, darker tone of the original. not that that really matters, but i'd say i prefer the original.
other notable stuff i watched during christmas included watching A MUPPET FAMILY CHRISTMAS and A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS for the first time. the muppet special is one-of-a-kind for having all of jim henson's characters cross over, so it's a licensing nightmare unavailable on any streaming service but up in its entirety on youtube. the charlie brown special was interesting because i'd never seen, uh, anything from that series before, let alone the christmas special that americans swear by as a holiday tradition. i liked it! sorry if you're an american finding out now for the first time that peanuts isn't nearly as much of a cultural staple outside of the US. our charlie brown is your wallace & gromit.
[2023/12/26] WEIRD: THE AL YANKOVIC STORY
during the holidays my older sister (who was also visiting for christmas) kept mentioning this movie, the WEIRD AL biopic, and convinced our stepdad to [LEGALLY ACQUIRE] the movie so we could watch it. at first the file didn't work since it wasn't compatible with neither the TV's video player or the family xbox's video player, but i managed to impress everyone by doing the UNTHINKABLE: i downloaded vlc for the xbox lol. screw whoever decided HEVC encoding shouldnt be compatible with anything for some reason, and praise VLC for solving all of my problems ever.
i'm actually totally new to al's work. this movie was my first exposure, and it impressed me not only as an introduction to the guy's work but also as an absolute demolition of biopic tropes. this released last year actually, it mainly goes after the musician biopics ROCKETMAN and BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY but after this year its commentary is especially fashionable. yeah, BLACKBERRY was good, but have you seen the TETRIS biopic??? brand biopics are all the rage now and while weird al's mainly satirizes those of musicians, it's particularly funny after understanding how some serious, genuine biopics are really that cheesy.
there are, of course, GOOD biopics. i didn't watch OPPENHEIMER but everyone loved that one, and of course BLACKBERRY is possibly my favorite of the genre for having legitimate intrigue with plenty of awareness of its brand's failure. 2023 is the year of the biopic, so it's great to see a biopic that's just total bullshit all the way through and knows it. even without knowing of al yankovic's legacy in detail, comedy runs through its veins, and i think it's a great parody in itself. i did get kinda bored of its absurdity in the last quarter or so, but it was still fun overall! i think i was drunk.
[2023/12/29] MERRY CHRISTMAS, MR. LAWRENCE
i wanted to watch this one sooner, it's sorta awkward that it's got "christmas" in the name but i only watched it after christmas, though that's not such a big deal - this is a god darned war movie, a japanese war movie, one of like three or four or five i've seen this year. i promise, i don't even like war movies, this is just a recurring theme?
i was curious about MERRY CHRISTMAS MR LAWRENCE solely as a fan of ryuichi sakamoto, not only a lead star here but also the composer of its soundtrack. the main theme is maybe his most famous single piece of work, at least that's what spotify's stats say, so i thought the movie it was made for would at least be pretty interesting. what pushed me to really wanna check it out is its co-stars,
the kusoge guy and the labyrinth goblin guy takeshi kitano and david god darn bowie.
i thought "damn that's a pretty solid cast, there's no way i would dislike this movie!" but then i finally watched it and i sorta really disliked it. i'm already not a fan of war movies, and this one seems like the type to be appealing if you're already a fan of war movies. there's good drama, i Think, but i found it difficult to follow and just a little grueling. maybe it's a good thing? a war movie depicting conditions so harsh that you actually feel uncomfortable watching might mean it's successful in its goals, but man i can't tell. this is so far out of the range of what i usually check out, i only wanted to know what a movie starring two icons of music could be like and it's unfortunately underwhelming to me.
one thing that DEFINITELY delivered was its music, sakamoto really just does not miss, and now i'm over here, pondering on the fact he passed away just as i would discover his work. not to mention david bowie, whose work i've known for longer but never really looked into. if you're a longtime reader (thats a joke, this website is still pretty new) you might know that i listened to some bowie earlier this year - at the start of the year, in fact. i really wanted to get into his music, as i knew a handful of his most popular songs but not much more. the few songs of his that i'm more than familiar with strike an emotional chord so strong and nostalgic that i can't help but be reminded of his passing in contrast. for a great artist to leave us is nothing short of a tragedy, and to look back as a stranger just makes me feel like i missed out.
i'm not sure why i hold these artists in such high regard when i feel like i only learnt about them yesterday. this sort of thing is so outside of my range of expertise, only tangentially related to my usual interests, that i'm wondering whether or not it's even for me. this isn't the sort of thing i like, but maybe i can still love it for what it is. i'm looking out from my window to narrowly witness a great parade as it fades away. i never knew anyone in the crowd.
[2023/12/31] PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE
i remember, a few months ago, friend of the website emily "BUNP" flowers watched this movie and posted about it being a fun cute time. i knew of pee-wee herman, i was familiar due to my sister's adoration of his career, and being reminded of this film made me remember that i've never really checked it out.
this is notable for being pee-wee's cinematic debut, but also the feature directorial debut of TIM BURTON. i don't like that guy! he's a total phoney but his earlier film work was pretty stylistically distinct and it shines through here. having never seen this movie, i had a pretty fun time! i watched it right after my new year's eve celebrations (i saw some fireworks out on the beach) and i felt like it would be a pretty fitting end to the year even if technically it was already 2024 when i put it on.
bunp was right, this movie is a cute little adventure. it appealed to me particularly because of its apparent influences on SPONGEBOB - there were a lot of similarities, chiefly the protagonist's naive childish behavior & outlook on life as well as how he gets lost and stands out against the world he's in. the differences were amusing though, pee-wee being known and adored by his neighbors while he acts like a tough guy to the girl madly in love with him is an adorable twist on the character. there are a lot of gay undertones too? pee-wee may be one of the gayest commercial icons of the 80s (which isnt saying a lot, but still).
painfully, this movie holds relevance to the previous entry. we lost paul reubens this year too, which is why folks talked about PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE a few months back. it's messed up to consider, and now i'm sad, and i don't even know how to conclude this. darn it!!! :(
2023 was a huge year for me in terms of exploring things i'd never explored before, and i think the media thread was a huge force in encouraging that exploration. to check out random media with the purpose of sharing & writing about it got me to appreciate it on a deeper level, and it even got me to make a website! back when i started this thread a year ago i had the intention of implementing it onto a personal site eventually. and though it took half the year to get there i did finally get around to making my neocities site, which transformed this media thread into an entire-ass blogging project. i have every intention of continuing it in 2024, and i hope i get to experience the revolution of emotions that i did this year all over again.
i shoulda finished more games though. i literally study those lol.