A Line, a Loop, a Tangle of Timey-Wimeyness

The London International Festival of Science Fiction and Fantastic Film, or Sci-Fi-London is in its eleventh year, and I’ve never been to anything in it before. That’s kind of bad, isn’t it?

This week, though, I’ve been to the presentation of the Clarke Award, which is held in association with the festival, and at its main venue; and last night, the whole family went to the BFI (or the NFT, I can’t quite work out what its official name is these days) to see a film.

Which was Dimensions, a low-budget British film about time travel — or maybe dimension-hopping — which doesn’t even have a distributor yet.

Which is a great shame, because despite some flaws it is a very enjoyable piece. We were still talking about it at lunchtime today.

It’s also something of a costume drama, being set in the 1920s and 30s. The Sci-Fi-London page about it likens it to Merchant-Ivory.

It did show its low-budget nature in one or two places, but nothing that destroys the overall effect. The couple who made it (Ant Neely wrote and composed the original music, and Sloane U’Ren directed and did much else) had to sell their house to fund it, so almost anything can be forgiven.

I won’t say too much more about it here, but if you ever get a chance to see it, you should take it.

There was a Q&A with writer, director, lead actor & editor after the screening, which was very interesting. I was geared up to ask a question, which would have gone something like this: “When you make a time-travel story, especially in Britain, you’re walking among some long shadows, especially Wells and Doctor Who; to what extent would you acknowledge those as influences?” I had my hand up to speak, when the interviewer asked a question touching on exactly those points. So I didn’t ask. Pity. I would also have mentioned the fact that they have a mysterious wise man know only as “the Professor”.

Anyway, lots of fun: highly recommended.

A Line, a Loop, a Tangle of Timey-Wimeyness

Aliens Among Us

I never bothered to watch Alien Resurrection because I didn’t like Alien3 (or Cubed, as I always see it). So now, browsing the new, freshly-in-beta SF Encyclopaedia I find it was written by Joss Whedon (who doesn’t yet have an entry in said volume, but no doubt will have eventually).

Why did nobody tell me this?

It seems a particularly timely piece of information as we’ve been introducing the kids to Buffy recently (in part to get us all over the lack of Doctor Who), and also to Firefly. We are deep in the Whedonverse.

Aliens Among Us

Mad bampot on a rope

Went to see [Man on Wire](http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1155592/) last night, the documentary about Philippe Petit’s 1974 high-wire walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. It’s a great film. I was a bit worried that it would be kind of dull, since we already knew the story. But it’s paced like a thriller, complete with starting near the climax and then flashing back to fill in the back story.

I did have a few moments of gut-wrenching horror (I’m not good with ridiculous heights, even when it’s just images of other people experiencing them), but overall found it absolutely amazing, and touching. Great music, too.

There was a poignant moment when they showed documentary footage of the construction of the twin towers. Seeing pre-formed steel sections being lifted into place; sections that I last saw white-hot and crashing to the ground.

Mad bampot on a rope

The only ‘Transformer’ I really like is an album by Lou Reed

Took the kids to see the Transformers movie tonight. It’s not a franchise that I grew up with, of course, but my two older nephews were into them when they were kids, and so I was aware of them even before my son started watching the more recent cartoons a few years ago.

But I gather that there is a whole generation of twenty-somethings — maybe even thirty-somethings — who went to see the movie with a sense of worry, even trepidation, that it would stamp a great big metal foot all over their memories. And I gather that, largely, for them, it did not. I had heard quite good things about it (or I thought I had); and the trailer looked great.

So I was mostly disappointed. I didn’t hate it all the way through; nothing as extreme as that. I was just disappointed at how weak and overlong it was; and mainly by the American-military porn. A great deal of it was showing the fantasticness and coolness of American military technology. I’m not sure that’s really what I want to see in a film I take my kids to (though as it also revealed that all human technology came from reverse-engineering the frozen Megatron, they may have been sending mixed signals).

Also, since it starts with a US military base in the Middle East being attacked (by a giant alien fighting robot, and in Qatar, admittedly, but still), you might reasonably expect there to be some political point. But there wasn’t.

Unless, perhaps, it was this. The grunts (actually Special Forces, so I’m not sure we should call them grunts) were shown as cool, professional, skillful and competent. The secret government agency in charge of crashed alien artifacts, and the FBI, were shown as feeble, useless and pathetic; easily outwitted by a couple of teenagers and, err, a group of giant alien fighting robots. So, soldiers good, government bad, or something.

Also, one bit that really surprised me was when Megatron and Optimus Prime were fighting: Megatron turned into a plane, Optimus Prime grabbed him, and together they crashed into the side of a tower block and slo-mo’d all the way through it and out the other side. 9/11 can’t be as raw a wound in the American psyche as I had thought.

We could have done without the whole teen romance thing, but it’s an American summer blockbuster, so what can you expect? And we could have done without at least half an hour of the start.

It’s also incredibly visually noisy, and the Transformers themselves, especially the Decepticons (the baddies) are so similar when they’re in robot mode that it was really hard to tell what was going on at times.

But then, what was going on didn’t really matter that much.

The kids enjoyed it though, and it was a nice treat to end the summer holidays with; but since we started them with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and middled them with The Simpsons, I don’t think it really stands up.

Still, it’s definitely been ‘The Summer of Film’, as they were calling it in the trailers a while back.

The only ‘Transformer’ I really like is an album by Lou Reed