Saturday, April 30, 2005

Here I am, brain the size of a planet...

C-SPAN will indeed be broadcasting the program I mentioned yesterday, in which the 3 British party leaders are questioned by a studio audience, Sunday 6 & 9 PM, PST. Its 1 1/2 hours.

Putin, not satisfied with having taken back into state control most tv & radio, now plans to register mobile phones and control the internet, giving the KGB access to records of which sites people view.

Speaking of unstoppable behemoths capturing medium after medium, I saw the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie today. Although the credits insisted it was adopted from Douglas Adams’s book, for me the definitive H2G2 will always be the original radio series, which I first heard in 1980 (the next sequel of which will begin to be available on within a couple of days after it airs on the radio May 3rd. Remember, each episode is online for a week and then disappears forever.)

My review of the movie: mostly harmless. It has more plot and less digression than I’d have liked, but less damage was done in accommodating it to the Procrustean bed of the film format than I expected. A lot of the best material was in the narrative by the Book, and a lot of that is lost. Marvin never complains about having a terrible pain in all the diodes down his left side. Some of the comedic timing is off. And here’s my last caveat: while the sets, the visual effects and puppets are very good (even Marvin the Paranoid Android, who looked so different from how I visualized him, but somehow it worked) the sound effects aren’t much of anything. I wouldn’t even have noticed, except that those in the BBC radio series, more than 25 years ago, were so good. As for casting, Martin Freeman as Arthur and Stephen Fry as the Book were inspired choices and so, surprisingly was Mos Def, who is evidently a musician of the sort the kids like (shows how with-it I am, when I saw the name I thought Albanian, not American rapper). On a second or third viewing, it might be wise to focus on his performance. Of all the actors, he seems to have thought the most about his acting choices (Bill Nighy just did Bill Nighy), about how to portray an alien posing not very well as human, as shown by his choice of a name, “Ford Prefect,” which he thought would be “nicely inconspicuous.” Sam Rockwell, perhaps inevitably, portrays Zaphod Beeblebrox, the fugitive Galactic President, as a parody of George W. Bush, and why not? Anyway, I liked the movie more than I expected to, and you all have my permission to see it, but if you’ve just read the books and never heard the original series (and the less said about the 1980s tv series the better), do yourself a favor and buy the CDs. Update: OK, I’ll admit I had a nefarious plan to get you all to buy those admittedly pricey CDs (12 episodes, 6 hours) through my Amazon link — if 20 of you did, the commission would give me enough money to replace my old, scratchy cassette tapes — but Amazon doesn’t seem to have them in stock. Way to fail to cash in on the movie, BBC!

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