Tuesday, 31 July 2012

"It Has Turned Out To Be An Annus Horribilis"

That is how Queen Elizabeth II described 1992 in a speech. You don't need to be an expert in Latin (I'm certainly not) to understand that it means Horrible Year. She said "1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an Annus Horribilis."

Between the separations and divorces of her children, a tell-all book and the Windsor Castle fire it had indeed been quite a year for the Queen.

1992 was also the year of that the Los Angeles Riots took place, that Czechoslovakia divided into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the Church of England allowed female priests, Sinéad O'Connor ripped up a photo of the Pope on TV and George H.W. Bush vomited into the lap of Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa.

These are a few of my favourite things from 1992:

Husbands And Wives
This a brilliant film that exposes the cracks in two marriages and the effect one break up can have on another. Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Sydney Pollack and Judy Davis make a fantastic quartet. Released at the height of the controversy surrounding Woody's relationship with Mia Farrow's adopted daughter this film makes for uncomfortable viewing at times. Here's the trailer.

The third Alien film is a blend of the styles of the first two with an extra slice of impending doom. David Fincher's direction is slick, while Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Paul McGann, Ralph Brown, Brian Glover, Danny Webb and Lance Henriksen are all great. Here's the trailer.

Peter's Friends
Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson, Imelda Staunton, Hugh Laurie, Phyllida Law and Rita Rudner are great in this gentle comedy with a tender edge to it. Here's the trailer.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer
While not in the same league as the far superior television remake, Kristy Swanson, Luke Perry, Donald Sutherland, Stephen Root, David Arquette and Rutger Hauer are great. Joss Whedon's trademark dialogue is still present even in this campy schlockfest which contains the best use of the word "clap" in cinematic history. Here's the trailer.

Red Dwarf: Holoship; The Inquisitor; Terrorform; Quarantine; Demons And Angels; Back To Reality
Series V opens with the Boys from the Dwarf encountering a Holoship in Red Dwarf's second remake of Casablanca, Chris Barrie and Jane Horrocks are fantastic and Don Warrington's cameo scene is wonderful as are Rimmer's sexual conversation, mind patch scene and goodbye speech, while all the Cat's lines are hilarious. The Inquisitor prunes the wastrels and deletes them from existence in an episode with a great SF concept, impressive use of time travel and the scene of the crew judging themselves is fantastic. Rimmer's psyche Terrorforms a psi-moon and the opening scene, the typing taranshula and Robbie Rocketpants are all brilliant, plus the episode also features some of the finest insults ever written. Rimmer puts his crewmates in to Quarantine and all the scenes of incarceration are great, the King of the Potato People, Mr Flibble and hex-vision Rimmer in drag are very funny and the positive viruses are great science fiction. The ship and crew are triplicated in Demons And Angels, the 'low' strawberry is gloriously disgusting, "Abandon shop! This is not a daffodil!", the destruction of the Dwarf is shocking, the 'high' pot noodle scene is lovely, the 'low' crew are nicely drawn and Kryten's "surprise" is great in an underrated episode that sometimes makes for uncomfortable watching as Lister is forced to confront his darker nature, but is still crammed full of great lines. The series finale continues this darker thread the Dwarfers awake into a fascist dystopia and the identities presented to the crew as their own turns them into their own worst nightmares, the Game Over reveal is brilliant, Timothy Spall is wonderful, Duane Dibbley provides great comic relief, the new crew playing out their lives better than they ever did is a nice touch, the chase sequence impressively plays to the strengths of a studio-bound multi-camera sitcom, the assured yet subdued ending. Comedy and tragedy go hand-in-hand, but it’s a brave sitcom that can sitcom that can truly embrace despair and as a result Back To Reality is fantastic. Once again Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Jules, Hattie Hayridge and Robert Llewellyn are fantastic and Rob Grant and Doug Naylor’s scripts for Series V blend comedy and SF effortlessly.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Conundrum; Power Play; Cause And Effect; The First Duty; I, Borg; The Next Phase; The Inner Light; Time's Arrow; Realm Of Fear; Relics; Schisms; True-Q; Rascals; A Fistful Of Datas; The Quality Of Life; Chain Of Command
Highlights from the second half of the show's fifth season include the excellent amnesia episode Conundrum which shows the crew attempting to make sense of their plight and the inherent misunderstandings are well handled. Power Play is a great action show and Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner and Colm Meaney are wonderful as their characters are possessed. After one of the best teasers Cause And Effect turns out to be one of the best time travel paradox episodes. Wesley Crusher grows up and throws off the shackles of the boy genius in The First Duty and Wil Wheaton, Ray Walston and Robert Duncan McNeill are great. Patrick Stewart, LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden, Whoopi Goldberg and Jonathan Del Arco are wonderful in I, Borg the episode that successfully does something different with the monolithic, unstoppable collective and also asks valid ethical questions. Geordi and Ro are rendered incorporeal in The Next Phase, an episode with a brilliant blend of action and high concept SF with a brilliantly shocking reveal and a great chase sequence. The Inner Light is beautiful and Stewart gives a fantastic performance. The season finale is the first part of Time's Arrow which features great performances from Spiner, Goldberg, Marc Alaimo and Jerry Hardin and all the scenes set in 1893 are fantastic.
The sixth season begins with the second part and the story becomes a great ensemble piece as the 24th century crew adapt to life in the 19th, the scenes between Stewart and Goldberg are magnificent and Jerry Hardin leaves you wishing his Mark Twain could have been permitted to stay in the future. Realm Of Fear is a nice Barclay episode and transporter psychosis is a great analogy for a fear of flying. James Doohan is fantastic in Relics, which is not merely a fan pleasing episode, but also a touching tale about retirement. Schisms is a great body horror episode and Data’s poetry is very funny. John de Lancie is great in True-Q. Rascals is very simple, but actually a lot of fun. Michael Dorn and Brent Spiner are hilarious in holodeck western A Fistful Of Datas. The Quality Of Life asks ethical questions in exactly the way Star Trek should. The two-parter Chain Of Command is another step forward, Ronny Cox is great in the scenes of conflict aboard the Enterprise, Stewart and David Warner are fantastic together and the story prepares the way for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

The Case-Book Of Sherlock Holmes: The Master Blackmailer
Jeremy Brett, Edward Hardwicke, Colin Jeavons, Sophie Thompson and Nickolas Grace are fantastic in another excellent feature-length episode. The The Master Blackmailer is darker in tone than many of its predecessors as Holmes and Watson find themselves embroiled with a particularly nasty little villain. The story doesn't require the usual deduction, but instead calls upon a variety of other skills. The undercover and burglary elements of the plot are great and Holmes' flawed logic after the auction is refreshing.

Northern Exposure: Dateline: Cicely; Our Tribe; Things Become Extinct; Burning Down The House; Democracy In America; Three Amigos; Lost And Found; My Mother, My Sister; Wake Up Call; The Final Frontier; It Happened In Juneau; Our Wedding; Cicely; Northwest Passages; Midnight Sun; Nothing's Perfect; Heroes; Blowing Bubbles; On Your Own; The Bad Seed; Thanksgiving; Do The Right Thing; Crime And Punishment
Maurice and Adam are great together as the third season continues with Dateline: Cicely and the former's poopscooping is very funny. Joel is even more more of a fish out of water than usual as he inducted into Our Tribe as Heals With Tools. Things Become Extinct seems bleak featuring Ed filming a dying art, Joel's cultural isolation and Holling's midlife crisis, but Shelly's puppet show is great. Chris' trebuchet art in Burning Down The House is wonderful and remember "It's not the thing you fling; it's the fling itself". The series examines Democracy In America with a mayoral election and everyone reacts differently first-time voter Ed is daunted, convicted felon Chris is envious, encumbent Holling is affronted, Shelly is aroused by power, Maurice is disappointed by the turnout and electoral officials Joel and Maggie argue over tenets of democracy and aesthetics in equal measure. Three Amigos sends Holling and Maurice into the wilderness to bury a friend and the juxtaposition of their adventure and Chris' reading The Call Of The Wild is beautiful. Joel identifies with a suicide victim in the touching Lost And Found. An abandoned baby brings Cicely together and Wendy Schaal is great as Shelly's mother in My Mother, My Sister. Joel and Maggie both get Wake Up Calls as he learns some better bedside manner and she falls in love with a bear, and the episode introduces the wonderful Graham Greene as Leonard. The Final Frontier's postal tale is very sweet. It Happened In Juneau and Our Wedding brings the will they/won't they? sexual tension between Joel and Maggie to an end of sorts, a pause maybe, Chris and Bernard's resyncing, Eve's revelation and the throwing of the bouquet are all very funny. The season finale is great as it recasts the regulars as the founders of the town of Cicely and Jo Anderson, Yvonne Suhor and Roberts Blossom are fantastic.
Elaine Miles and Peg Phillips finally make it into the opening titles for the fourth season starting with Northwest Passages, Maggie's hallucinations of her exes and Maurice's dictated memoirs meeting Ruth-Ann's hammer are very funny. The constant daylight of Midnight Sun drives Joel light loony and his basketball ball obsession combined with the attitudes of the team after the fact are great. Nothing's perfect in Nothing's Perfect: Maurice's ugly clock, Chris the petslayer and his motorcycle sacrifice, but Kelly Connell is great. Heroes does a good job of showing up faux rock star interest and Chris' funereal efforts are great (I think I'd quite like a funeral like Tooley's). Anthony Edwards is fantastic adition to the cast as the Bubble Man with an allergy to modern life in Blowing Bubbles and his eventual triumphant stroll through Cicily is a great reveal. Nobody wants to be On Your Own, Marilyn's one-sided conversations with the Flying Man are great, Maggie's blossoming romance with the bubble man is lovely and Ed's cinematic dilemma is brilliant. Marilyn's househunting is very funny in The Bad Seed. Cicily celebrates Thanksgiving in style and the scene with Sisyphus is great. Maggie tries to Do The Right Thing and the reactions are surprising, while a former KGB agent and a health inspector arrive in the town. Anne Haney is fantastic as always in Crime And Punishment, and Maurice's job offer to Bernard and Chris' sense of justice are very funny.

Archer's Goon
This fantastic six-part adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones novel is complex and thought-provoking television. Jamie De Courcey, Roger Lloyd Pack, Susan Jameson and Morgan Jones, Jake Wood, Annette Badland, Clive Merrison are all wonderful. The family "farming" aspects of the town is a brilliant and intriguing idea, there are two really great revelations about identity and how many other children's stories can claim to feature a villain that threatens to give someone tetanus?

Jeeves & Wooster
The third series sees Jeeves & Wooster travel to New York and return with their tails between their legs. Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, John Savident, Mac McDonald, Chloe Annett, Mary Wimbush, John Woodnutt, Fiona Gillies, John Turner and Peter Benson are excellent. Highlights include Jeeves' reaction to daily routine of a poet, Jeeves singing falsetto, the battle over Bertie's upper lip, some top quality swaying, Jeeves catching Bertie's glass, Comrade Wooster's attempt at being a member of the proletariat and his wrestling with brown paper.

Stephen Volk's controversial 'live' televised ghosthunting event at "the most haunted house in Britain" expertly walks a tightrope of credulity. The broadcast is 'presented' by Michael Parkinson, Craig Charles, Sarah Greene and Mike Smith, who all do a great job of playing themselves. Gillian Bevan is excellent as parapsychologist Dr. Lyn Pascoe and Pipes is genuinely terrifying. The end result is a fantastic piece of television that gets better with subsequent viewings, which ironically is exactly the opportunity that was denied it. We shall never see its like again.

Knowing Me, Knowing You With Alan Partridge
Somehow Norwich's favourite son gets himself a radio chat show interviewing the likes of precocious child prodigy, professional cockney strumpets and a professional gambler. Highlights include: Alan's conspiracy theory about Sherlock Holmes and "this shadowy Doyle figure", pressing a former hostage for funny anecdotes and Norwich as an attitude.

Pulp: Separations
The third album is another step toward what Pulp would become with the recognisable line-up coming together to create an album with a distinctly disco feel. 'Countdown' and 'My Legendary Girlfriend' are as strong as anything that followed them.
Stand-Out Tracks: 'Love Is Blind'; 'She's Dead'; 'Down By The River'; 'Countdown'; 'My Legendary Girlfriend'; 'Death II'

E: A Man Called (E)
Mark Oliver Everett's debut album as E is not as bleak as later albums, but still features the breadth of sound we would come to expect from Eels, best exemplified here by the likes of 'Symphony For Toy Piano In G Minor' and 'Mockingbird Franklin'.
Stand-Out Tracks: 'Hello Cruel World'; 'Fitting In With The Misfits'; 'Are You And Me Gonna Happen'; 'Looking Out the Window with a Blue Hat On'; 'Nowheresville'; 'Symphony For Toy Piano In G Minor'; 'Mockingbird Franklin'; 'I've Been Kicked Around'; 'E's Tune'; 'You'll Be The Scarecrow'

Small Gods by Terry Pratchett
The thirteenth Discworld novel is a brilliant satire about the gulf between organised religion and actual belief. I cannot recommend this book highly enough and as the most standalone of the standalone Discworld novels it requires absolutely no knowledge of any of the others. It's a great place to start.

Lords And Ladies by Terry Pratchett
Picking up pretty much where Witches Abroad left off, Lords And Ladies sees the return of Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick as the Witches of Lancre take on the Elves. The novel is chock full of references to royal weddings and Shakespeare (in particular A Midsummer Night's Dream), while Shawn Ogg's ever increasing job description is fantastic.

Red Dwarf: The End; Future Echoes; Ace Rimmer: Space Adventurer; Fashion Victims; Mr Flibble's Surprise; Flashback; In Living Memory; The Case Of The Cashed-In Contestant 1 & 2; Red Dwarf USA; Mirror Image
The Red Dwarf comic strip starts with very faithful adaptations of the first two episodes of the TV show, The End and Future Echoes, which illustrate "wetlook knitwear" and Lister's dreams in the former and death's cure, the human being-a-tarium, the navicomp explosion and Rimmer's funeral attire with some lovely flights of fancy. Original strip, Fashion Victims, follows the Cat's living nightmare and has a great twist. The Cat has a Flashback to his time as Duane Dibbley (see above) and the parallel narrative between the Dwarf and the hallucination as the lithium carbonate kicks in is great.
The Red Dwarf Smegazine featured comic strips based on many other elements from the TV show. Ace Rimmer: Space Adventurer is a brilliant blend of story elements from Dimension Jump, Parallel Universe and Future Echoes, with a great ending. The deadpan mismatch between the text and the visuals of Mr Flibble's Surprise is great and really establishes the tone of the Flibble strips to come. Red Dwarf USA is an intriguing if self-congratulary pitch meeting for the American version of the TV show that never was. The Inquisitor returns in Mirror Image which sees the simulant delete the only good version of Ján Ludvík Hoch from reality and leaving his replacement all at sea in another great ending. The first two parts of The Case Of The Cashed-In Contestant set up a great surreal noirish mystery for Jake Bullet to investigate and Carl Flint's art is perfect for the job.

Indiana Jones And The Fate Of Atlantis
Forget Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, this should have been the fourth Indiana Jones film. This point-and-click adventure game has a great plot, great puzzles and feels just like a genuine Indy adventure should while the option to choose either the team, wits or fists path gives you three games for the price of one.

Star Trek: 25th Anniversary
Bizarrely released apparently to coincide with the show's 26th Anniversary and featuring the voices of the original cast. This game does a really great job of capturing the spirit of the original series of Star Trek whilst not compromising either on gameplay or graphics.

I had seen Aliens, but I didn't see the movie of Alien³ (see above) until much much later. My tiny mind boggled at the idea that I could play it on the Sega Master System. This scrolling platform game had brilliant music, a greater sense of realism than your average Master System game and it was astonishingly graphic: the blood, gore, wriggling facehuggers and bald squirming prisoners whose chests burst open were all present and correct, but the zoomed out view and tiny characters somehow makes it even bleaker.

Recommendations welcome.

Next month: 1991


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Next Gen was at its peak then!

loverofwords said...

Northern Exposure--the writing was perfect, as were the characters. I recorded all the episodes when they were in re-run--so many favorites--Ruth Ann trying to learn Italian and as a biker girl, Adam and Eve. Nothing like it here on US TV now.

Maurice Mitchell said...

Great overview of a great year...except for Alien3 :P

Dave said...

Alex, absolutely.

loverofwords, I recommend you give Spaced a try.

Maurice, I think Alien³ gets an unfairly bad wrap. Can I suggest you give the extended cut a go? Or maybe you just didn't like like the game?