Sunday, October 16, 2005

Veronica Mars is smarter than me.

She's also younger, blonder, prettier, snarkier and more interesting than me.

And I love her.

Unlike another series revolving around a perky blonde with uncanny wit and mad skillz, I actually like the main character. Don't get me wrong, Buffy the Vampire Slayer = landmark series and the true love of my pop culture saturated heart. However, Buffy herself - not so much. And the more I watch BtVS, the more I realise that, yeah, she's not supposed to be likeable, she's not part of the world - she's above it, apart from it, and never really connects with anyone or anything.

Veronica, on the other hand...oh Veronica.

Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell), 17, lives in Neptune, California, where you're either a bazillionare Have, or a cleaning the bazillionare's houses Have Not. Veronica is one of the Have Nots. The children of both the Haves and Have Nots all go to Neptune High. There's a lot of pre series plot to get through, so let's try for vaguely informative in this review/rant/fangirl squeal of joy about the series...

About 12 months ago, Veronica's boyfriend, Duncan (Teddy Dunn) - one of the Haves - or as they're called in the series, 09ers - dumped her with no warning or explanation. A couple of week's later, her best friend Lilly (Amanda Seyfried) - Duncan's sister - was brutally murdered. Veronica's dad, Keith (Enrico Colantoni), was the sheriff, and went after Jake Kane (Duncan and Lilly's father) for the murder. Keith was booted out of office and became a private investigator. Veronica stood loyal to her dad, and was socially ostracised because of it. A couple of months after Lilly's murder, Veronica was drugged and raped at an 09er party. She never told her father/parents. A couple of months after that, Veronica's mother bailed on the family, leaving only a note and a music box for Veronica.

So, all of that took place before the series begins, and most of it is explained in the first 20 minutes of the Pilot episode. Brilliant. Also, in the first 20 minutes of the Pilot, we learn that Veronica now works with her dad at his PI agency, and is obsessed with finding out what happened to Lilly Kane. We also meet: Wallace (Percy Daggs III), who is a fantastic sidekick for Veronica; Weevil (Francis Capra), tiny sexy Latino biker; and Logan (Jason Dohring), the Obligatory Psychotic Jackass (incidentally, Logan is so my pretend boyfriend, and nothing anyone could say will change that fact. What - he's a fictional character? I can't hear you lalalalalalalalala.)

Where was I? Oh yeah, Logan. Mmmmm. Logan.

Oh, you want something other than Logan? Okay, here you go.

The first season is wonderfully constructed - two major mystery arcs (Who killed Lilly Kane? and Who raped Veronica Mars?) that played out over the season, and at least one Mystery of the Week in every episode. There are pop culture references left, right and centre, the clues to the major mysteries trickle through every episode and the performances are amazing. The writing is tight and funny and filled with pain and horror. The characters are sharp, and their arcs are subtly and surprisingly played out over the season.
To me, the series is in some ways a linear Twin Peaks. There's so much of the Twin Peaks vibe to it - a young vibrant woman is killed, there are twisted secrets behind the doors of suburbia, and nobody is who they think or show or profess that they are. It's also a classic noir setup - Veronica is the hard boiled PI, and her cynical, tired and beaten down self sees the worst of the world.

Also, the stunt casting in the series mostly works out brilliantly. The tour de force is casting real life couple Harry Hamlin and Lisa Rinna as Logan's parents. Both of them were really strong, and Harry Hamlin in particular pulls off an amazing performance. Colour me stunned.

Season One of Veronica Mars is available from Amazon - I highly recommend you get yourself a copy - you will not regret it! I am so grateful to my friend Rowan for getting me hooked on the show!

And to close, here's the review of Season One of Veronica Mars that some random guy wrote.

Friday, October 14, 2005

My eyes by the light of the cathode tube.

Dead Like Me

Dead Like Me is about a cynical, slacker, 18 year old girl named George, a college dropout from a fairly wealthy family. The pilot opens with George trying, not very enthusiastically, trying to get a job. On her first day, whilst on her 35 minute lunch hour, she is killed by a rogue toilet seat that was ejected from the Mir space station.

And thus a very dark, very funny, kinda confronting, emotionally engaging series takes off.

George doesn't move on after her death. No, instead, she finds that she's now a Reaper - not the Grim type, just a Reaper. Reapers take the souls of people just before death, and help those souls to go to wherever they go. Reapers do this until they reach an undisclosed quota, and then they themselves are allowed to move on. Reapers have physical form, and have to support their UnDead life somehow - however, the way the living view them is different from the way that they view themselves. So, George can go and visit her family, but none of them are going to freak at that - because, to them, she doesn't look like George.

Confused yet?

Anyhoo. The Reaper section that George has been assigned to appears to be the "death by ridiculous accident" section. Ridiculous accidents are caused by little creatures called Gravelings, who, occasionally, Reapers can see.

The other Reapers with whom George works are:

Rube (Mandy Patinkin) - a paternal, pissed off leader. He receives the assignments from TPTB, and hands them out to the Reapers on post it notes, with ETD (Estimated Time of Death), name and address of the soon to be departed. Love Mandy Patinkin. Love him. He can do no wrong, and is brilliant in this role.

Mason (Callum Blue) - or, as I like to call him, Doyle. (But not the same actor, obviously.) Cute, slightly sleazy, heart of gold, and occasionally carries 'illegals' in his bottom. Doesn't like get to get too close to the soon to be departed, but does so despite of himself.

Roxy (Jasmine Guy) - gumsnapping, foul mouthed, angry and sarcastic meter maid. When she's not being a Reaper.

Betty (Rebecca Gayheart) - slightly bitchy, always enthused and seemingly happy, girly Reaper. And I just realised why I got a slightly off feeling from the actress when I was watching the series - anyone seen Urban Legends? Yeah. Not really worth the revelation, huh?

Oh, and Jewel Staite, currently gracing cinema screens as Kaylee in Serenity (see it! See it now!) has a cameo in the last episode of Season One. So cute!

The series creator is Bryan Fuller (hey! I knew I'd be seein' that name again!) - he seems to like creating nice dark, slightly twisted worlds. I like that he does that. Someone needs to! Except, you know, dark slightly twisted worlds tend to lead to cancellation - Dead Like Me got a second season...and then got cancelled during that second season.

It took about 5 episodes for me to get into this series. The whole concept - of 'old' dead people taking the souls of, well, 'new' dead people - is actually really confronting. Having humour, having it treated as a job one second, and then reverently the next - also confronting. Having at least one to two graphic deaths (which range from really funny to heartwrenching) - hey, how many times can I say confronting? But man - by the end of the second disc? Hooked. So hooked.

I have one major beef with this series - and that is the lead actress, Ellen Muth, and her extreme skin-and-bone-y-ness. One the one hand - convincing as a dead person. On the other hand - seriously, fucking eat something. And, you know, keep it down.

I highly recommend this series - have a Bryan Fuller marathon of Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls. And then try and see the outside world and think that it's real.

Tune to the tube.

Well, apart from all of the Serenity hoohah of the last couple of months (if you haven't seen it, go and see it now! It's a great ride, and lots of fun, and you're guarenteed to understand and enjoy it! 'kay?), I've had the opportunity to experience some interesting, quirky and predominantly cancelled US television.

Which I will explore here and in additional posts...


Wonderfalls is about Jaye Tyler, a cynical slacker from a wealthy family, who dropped out of college and now works in a gift store at Niagara Falls. One day, a wax lion starts speaking to her, and wackiness ensues. Except not really - but kinda. Essentially, inanimate objects (but only ones with faces) start to speak to Jaye, and tell her to do certain things. And if she doesn't do what they have told her to do - well, then, they keep her awake all night, by singing endless rounds of 99 bottles of beer on the wall (Jaye's response: "They do this in cults, you know!")

Tim Minear, who had previously written for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, wrote a number of episodes - which is essentially how I got interested in the series. I've started following the careers of Whedonverse writers since the demise of Buffy, Angel and Firefly, and they always seem to be involved in very interesting series. And generally cancelled series - Wonderfalls had a run of (I think) 4 episodes on telly before being cancelled. There are, however, 13 episodes available on DVD.

The series was created by Todd Holland and Bryan Fuller - neither of whom I had ever heard of, but from whom I have not heard the last, I suspect. (Wow, that was a really torturous sentences, wasn't it? Stupid attempts at grammatical correctness).

I liked Wonderfalls. It's quirky, and funny, and the lead actress, Caroline Dhavernas - who reminds me an awful lot of Jennifer Connelly - is strong and sympathetic. Plus the actors playing Jaye's love interest (Tyron Leitso) and brother (Lee Pace) are both hotties. Which, me being shallow and all, is very important in my enjoyment of any sort of visual entertainment...Also, Jewel Staite, currently gracing cinema screens as Kaylee in Serenity (see it! See it now!) has a recurring role in the series - and disturbingly enough, plays a very convincing uber bitca.

My reservations with this series...hmmm, well there are a few. The most obvious reservation I have is the question of Jaye's sanity. Is Jaye psychotic? Are the talking inanimate objects simply aspects of her psychosis? This issue is partially addressed occasionally throughout the series, however, having friends who have suffered from psychoses - it's all too flip. It's so hard to not be "Disease of the Week" heavy handed about mental illness, but it's also easy to be too dismissive of mental illness. But I guess that's always going to be the case, until someone who has been psychotic gets a chance to write and star in a series!

However, I must have really liked Wonderfalls, because I'm anxiously awaiting my very own copy to wing its' way from the US...

Thursday, October 13, 2005

I think I'm turning 30.

I have recently celebrated my first birthday where I have a blog to write about having a birthday. Weird.

I'm not 30 - at least not in my head. I turned 30 in early September, and I keep saying that out loud, keep calling myself "old", because I truthfully don't feel (nor do I think I look) 30. If I was to attribute any age to myself, it would 24.

Much as I loved my time in Katoomba, and much as I took a lot away from my relationship with my ex, my experiences with my friends, and much as I wouldn't trade any of that away, sometimes I do feel that I...lost...5 years. That those years in Katoomba were a dream, were not real, and when I got back to Sydney, I was all...5 years came crashing down on the back of my neck, and I wasn't really sure how to deal with that.

I had a tremendous birthday. Vegan yum cha was consumed on the actual day, and I got some beautiful gifts of homeware-y goodness from my friends (my current thing is making my room as Inara like as possible - all asian stylings and deep sensual colours...not sure it's going to work out, but it's fun to try!) And Meff made me a gorgeous necklace (did I mention that not only do I love Meff for being Meff, but it's amazing having a tremendously talented maker of jewellery as a friend?)

I had a big party a week or so after my birthday. Cocktail parties are always fun, and I made people dress up in formal gear - any excuse to wear my cheong sam again! Many cocktails were drunk, and many ridiculous faces, statements, slurred declarations of world domination were made.

And, of course, I got to meet Joss Whedon the next day, which pretty much made this the Best.Birthday.Ever.

But I'm totally not 30, 'kay? That's our little secret.

A long drink after drowning.

That's been a long time between posts, eh? It's been kinda insane being me in the last 2 months, and my energies have really been directed externally, and I couldn't think of anything interesting to say that wasn't Serenity related - and this is not the venue for talkin' 'bout Serenity.

However, I have written up a couple of the more amazing experiences of the last month at Take the Sky, and I hereby direct you there for a bit of an update on my fan life.

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