Monthly cultural round up: August

This month’s culture quota was added to by a week at home with a dodgy neck, which included a trip to the Dendy Premium as a place where I could be reclined for two hours while the cleaner came. It is a hard life sometime.

Movies

The Ghost Writer I knew very a little about the film going in, but it was the film which was on at Dendy Premium at the most convenient time, so I went and saw it. Having Ewan McGregor and Olivia Williams (who I completely love as Adelle DeWitt)  in it certainly gave it a good start, and it must be said that I do love a good suspense thriller. Not quite Hitchcock, but entertaining enough and beautifully filmed. it did have that vague sense of confusion and unease which we like to see in a good thriller, if ultimately it wasn’t quite as thrilling as it could be. Disposable entertainment, but enjoyable.

Books

Interface Neal Stephenson and Frederick George This was a reread, and it was entertaining to read it as the Australian election was going on. Even though it was written quite some years ago, many of the ideas are still very current, and, during this election, the whole question of the entirely focus-grouped campaign was very relevant. The book handled the transition between humour and politics and drama well, and is quite a compelling read. Didn’t suffer from a re-read.

Imperial Bedrooms Brett Easton Ellis This took me very little time to read and I enjoyed it the way one “enjoys” Brett Easton Ellis. Suffused with paranoia and nihilism, it was a sketch of a person with no moral centre, and selfishness to the core. Reading it felt like slipping back into a very familiar yet totally alien world. Understanding it is enhanced by having read his other books, not for actual events, but for the emotional tone.

Television

Dead Set This was absolutely wonderful television, clever, funny, scary, dramatic, well acted and well scripted. We watched the entire series in one sitting and then watch a bunch of the extras on the DVD, something we rarely do. The characterisations were great, and I thought it was interesting that in the end it was the women who were the strongest and most decisive characters. A must see for zombie fans, and for anyone who enjoys excellent television and can cope with a bit of gore.

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Incommunicado

Losing contact with the outside world is a well worn trope of horror and thriller films and television. The isolated farm house, the non operating phone, these things were a staple – until mobile phones and wireless connections made it much less likely that a killer could cut off communications. In these kinds of films the horror came from the inability to provide information to the outside world, to seek help.

Watching Dead Set and Jericho, which are different in many ways, made me think about this notion of being incommunicado. In both these series, shortly after disasters (of very different natures) strike, communications become difficult, limited and pretty much impossible. In Jericho in particular, there is a strong focus on this lack of communication, with people gathered in vain around television sets and mobile phones.

What is clear in both these series though is that the desire for communication is not about being able to communicate out into the world, it is about getting communications in. The characters really aren’t trying to call for help (except perhaps in the very earliest stages of Dead Set), they are instead trying to find out what else is happening in the world.

In our world of constant connectivity, of always knowing that we can find out what is happening all over the world with a few key strokes, where loved ones are rarely further than a mobile phone call away, a sudden absence of connection is terrifying. Information is secreted away, used like a weapon at times in Jericho and every badly translated snippet of French news is seen as a lifeline in Dead Set. When characters should accept that there is no news and hole up from potential danger, instead they go out into the uncertain world risking their lives and long term safety for news and information.

Can we survive without being connected? Does the constant information flow really  make our lives better? How would we react if a solar storm takes out communications world wide? Would it be necessity that would send us out seeking information – or just curiosity? It seems impossible to remember a world without constant status updates, but it was only 23 years ago that I went to France for 3 months as an exchange student and my only contact with home was through written letters. But now it seems impossible to imagine world disasters without blow by blow television coverage – which may be why the size and scope and scale of the Pakistan floods did not actually sink in for most of us for a week or two. The tree really didn’t fall in the forest if there wasn’t television coverage.

Personally, when the sun spots hit, I recommend finding somewhere safe and keeping curiosity under control…well, for as long as possible.

100 sci fi women #48: Kelly

Australian readers of this may not have seen this fabulous zombie tv series from the UK, but I totally recommend it to all. And the best thing, I think the female characters come out the best….

Kelly  Dead Set

When we first meet Kelly she is a lowly production assistant, getting coffees and nicorettes and getting shouted at by the producer. She has romantic conflict, but doesn’t unnecessarily agonise over it. When the zombies attack, however, she comes into her own. She thinks quickly, acts decisively, and doesn’t flinch at sticking scissors through a head, or caving in someone’s head with a fire extinguisher. She knows when action is required, and when compassion is appropriate. She doesn’t condone violence for its own sake, but doesn’t stint at using it either. Thoughtful, tough and determined, she is not without feelings, and knows where her heart lies. In her sensible jeans and converses, she is attractive but practical, a contrast to most of those who surround her. Kelly is exactly the kind of woman you want to have around when the zombie apocalypse strikes.

In the head. You gotta get them in the head.