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Archive for December 4th, 2010

By Bob Clark

The 2000’s were a high time for adventurous sci-fi programing on television, not to be confused with television sci-fi adventures, though they often could be the same thing. Though the decade began shakily enough from genre standards, with The X-Files ending its ten-year run (on a less than stellar note), and new shows like The Lone Gunmen and Firefly canceled almost as quickly as they hit the air, it would soon see more quality series enjoy a mainstream and critical level of success that was usually believed impossible for anything but straight-laced dramas and sit-coms before. From the twisty serial-narrative of ABC’s Lost redeeming the network for driving Twin Peaks into the ground by giving creator/showrunners J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse unheard of creative freedom, to the explosive and racy action of the Sci-Fi Channel’s (now SyFy) exhaustive reboot of Battlestar Galactica, where writer Ronald D. Moore and his fine cast pushed the material of the original Star Wars knockoff into heady political and philosophical directions, and even the BBC’s long-overdue resurrection of the beloved Doctor Who franchise under writers Russel T. Davies & Stephen Moffat (not to mention Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant as Drs. 9 and 10, respectively), science fiction on the small screen was very often just as smart and entertaining as that of the big screen, if not more-so, and the successes the genre enjoyed with fans and commentators alike was absolutely welcome.

At the same time, the decade was also littered with any number of shows that weren’t quite as warmly received by audiences, or never quite found their niche until they hit DVD or iTunes. Heroes was a bang-up hit on NBC for its first season and a half, at least, and subsequently lost all trace of its mojo (Was the writer’s strike to blame, or the writers’ decision to bow to listless fanboy criticism? The world may never care). Joss Whedon’s Firefly and Dollhouse milked every ounce of the short lives they were given by Fox, a chance never given to the one-season wonder of Flash-Forward, or the mere pilot-episode brilliance of Virtuality. While at first glance it’s a rather sad state of affairs, the abundance of sci-fi greenlit on the small-screen during this period is also rather encouraging if you look at it from a completist’s perspective– yes, not all of them were homerun hits, but just look at how many of them were given chances to swing the bat in the first place! There was a greatly permissive attitude for creativity in these years, as though network heads suddenly realized how many viewers were out there looking for a sci-fi fix. Show creators could experiment with the medium just as much as mad-scientists like Walter Bishop and William Bell did, and still do, on Fringe (though for how much longer is open to debate). How else did the UFO abductee mini-series Taken get off the ground (not just by piggybacking on Spielberg’s good name)? Or the similarly themed, more ambitiously dramatized The 4400? Or, perhaps most of all, how does one explain something as post-apocalyptic as Jericho being allowed on the air at all in a post-9/11 world, let alone being brought back from the dead after cancellation? (more…)

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(USSR 1957 63 min)

Director Lev Atamanov; Voice Acting Yanina Zhejmo (Gerda), Anna Komolova (Kay), Mariya Babanova (The Snow Queen)

by Stephen Russell-Gebbett

There are certain films that one can easily understand why people enjoy, even if you don’t yourself.

Whilst most would probably concur that Lev Atamanov’s The Snow Queen (from Hans Christian Andersen’s tale) is well animated and a happy, charming and inoffensive enough little tale, they may not be able to understand its high ranking here. Likewise, I may not be able to (properly) articulate the reasons for its elevated position.

Much like Peter Madsen’s Valhalla and the films of Hayao Miyazaki (The Snow Queen played a role in inspiring him to continue in animation) there is an ineffable quality, that quality of gentleness that characterises so much of the best animation. As the Snow Queen herself, it casts a spell. These films are a balm, not just nice but somehow invigorating.

Gerda is a girl. She lives opposite a boy called Kay. She likes him and he likes her. They meet on the balcony in between their two houses. One day she takes him to her Grandmother’s house. There she tells them of the Snow Queen, cruel and vicious, icy and unforgiving – the harsh of Winter incarnate. Foolishly she insults the Queen. Soon the ruthless sovereign is at the window cracking its pane with frosty tendrils.

(more…)

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