24 April, 2008

At Long Last, 'The Hobbit' Has a Director (Officially)

Well of course Guillermo Del Toro is directing The Hobbit. That's old news. But apparently the people involved had to, you know, make it "official."

I, for one, don't like the idea (and that's not just because I've had a long-standing [but fleeting] hope that Peter Jackson and New Line would come to their senses and put the Tolkien-maestro himself behind the camera). I simply think Guillermo's and J.R.R.'s styles are too dichotomous. While they both are drawn to fantastic--but ultimately human--characters, Del Toro's visuals are a bit too metaphoric for my taste, his characters a bit too allegorical. The Hobbit needs to function as a parable, for sure, but above all Tolkien writes about characters. Characters that need the assured hand of a born humanist like Jackson.

I admit that Del Toro's Hobbit may very well be visually stunning (though, perhaps, a bit too dark or dank), because Del Toro certainly has a capable imagination. But to think of the decisiveness and unbridled spirit Jackson could have brought--or the intelligence and reverie someone like Alfonso Cuarón would provide--I feel a bit too disappointed to revel in the thought of a future that holds not one but two new films from Middle Earth.

How? Why?!

There is no justice in the world.

23 April, 2008

Follow My Logic: from Dante to 'Big Brother'

I've been reading Dante's Divine Comedy, and that has me thinking about the Seven Deadly Sins. In John Ciardi's introduction to his own translation, he writes that, of the Seven, "Acedia is the central one, and it may well be the sin the twentieth century lost track of." Ciardi says that while Acedia is generally translated to English as Sloth, there is simply too much lost in translation: it's not just laziness or physical slovenliness--it's more of a spiritual failure, "the failure to be sufficiently active in the pursuit of recognized Good."

Now--follow me here--whenever I hear the word "sloth," I always think of "television." Perhaps that's a result of reading Devin O'Leary's "This Week in Sloth" entry in The Alibi, which features some of the noteworthy selections in the week's television schedule, or perhaps it's actually the result of the same attitude that fueled O'Leary in the first place: an interest in making fun of a wide range of the TV viewing spectrum, and the overwhelming existential torpor and depression that comes with it.

So, to the point: While I was reading about the Cantos of Hell (and thinking about where I'll fit in), I immediately thought of the time* that I watched an episode of CBS' Big Brother and kinda liked it. (...You know the show. The one with the dumb gregarious sluts pretty people, participating in ridiculous stunts, parading themselves around on national television in order to win two minutes of fame $500,000.) And though I, like, knew that something interesting was probably on public television (i.e., the Good) that very second, I still chose to ignore the truth. And therefore I am going to Hell.

Does anybody else ever feel like there is something out there that goes waaaaay beyond a "guilty pleasure," something that is so fundamentally evil, that by watching/listening to/reading/choosing it you are going straight to Hell?

*Oh, and that time I watched Big Brother? Yep, this past weekend. The same weekend I also spent my time watching Saved by the Bell.

Screech & Slater: Educational & Informative!

As I was channel-surfing this past weekend--as I am occasionally want to do, post-PBS cooking shows, pre-dinner--I happened across an episode of Saved by the Bell (pre-College Years, pre-Showgirls) airing on NBC. I'm not big into TV nostalgia ('SBTB' was a staple of my pre-teen years), but after a decade-long departure from Bayside High, it was kind-of a kick to return.

Despite the show's complete absence from my consciousness for so long, there is definitely a level of (uncomfortable) familiarity here, like being at a high school reunion--Look! There's overachieving Jessie Spano! Oh, it's meathead A.C. Slater! And fashionable Lisa Turtle! So, while I remember quite a bit (Remember when Kelly couldn't afford to attend Junior Prom, and Zach arranged their own private picnic just outside the gym, and they danced to the music coming from inside? ...No?), I, however, certainly do NOT remember Saved by the Bell being particularly educational, nor informative ...but NBC obviously does.

As part of an FCC requirement, broadcast channels are required to air at least 3 hours of "educational and informative" children's programming every week. Apparently, 'Saved by the Bell' fits the bill, earning it's E/I insignia. Why? Because it deals with "issues"? Like that time Jessie got addicted to caffeine pills? Or because it helps teach kids to "socialize"? Like that time Slater had to dance his way to a date?