Reversed Polarity


Doctor Who conventions are kind of a rare thing around here. I’d been to a couple Who Party Toronto events, including the one a couple weeks ago, but they’re fairly small affairs. When I heard that the people who put on Polaris (see 2008 (2) (3) for comparison) were putting on a Doctor Who convention for the 50th anniversary, I jumped on it.

Well, okay, I waffled for a little bit, but Ellen convinced me I had to go, so I got myself all signed up and decided to go.

I’m not sure what I was expecting. Perhaps something like what I’d heard Gallifrey One is like, though inevitably on a smaller scale. In the end, I had to modify my expectations a bit.

I suppose I should back up a bit. I’ve been finding myself in a not-so-perky-and-energetic mood the last few months. And it’s been a long time since I’ve gone off to a convention alone. When I did, as much as I enjoyed aspects on the con I participated in, I found the overall experience to be pretty depressing. Because I’m not a life-of-the-party, put-myself-out-there, small-talk-and-cocktails kind of guy. I don’t particularly relish meeting celebrities and I don’t really know what to do with my fellow fans unless I’ve already got some sort of personal connection with them. I do, however, like hanging out with friends at these things and discussing and deciding what to do, where to go for lunch and things like that. That’s super-fun. But I didn’t have that here.

So in setting myself up for going to Reversed Polarity, I probably should’ve tried harder to rope some friends into going with me.

But that’s probably why my reaction to the thing seems to be one of disappointment. I mean, intellectually, I know it shouldn’t be. It was a whole weekend of Doctor Who stuff! How cool is that?! But I (somewhat inevitably in retrospect) found myself feeling left out and like I wasn’t fitting in. Which is totally my own fault, really.

After I was able to moderate my expectations, I was able to have a good time in a vaguely detached, doing-my-own-thing kind of way. The panels helped.

Leading up to the con, the programming people announced that there were several “panels in peril.” They included the (one and only) Big Finish panel and the New Adventures panel. There was no way I could let those die! So I signed up. On a whim, I put myself down for panels dedicated to the 6th and 7th Doctors as well.

Being on those panels was pretty much the best thing about the con for me. I love talking about this stuff. And I was able to play off other knowledgeable people as well. They were great. I’ve done the Doctor Who panel at Con-G before, and that was fun, but these were far more likely to have a few hard-core Doctor Who fans around I could nerd out at. Glorious!

Ellen showed up for the main guest talks. She was really excited to see Dick Mills, one of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop engineers, creator of many iconic Doctor Who sound effects and co-“realizer” of the Doctor Who theme. We also appreciated his stories about orgasm guns and rushing off to see a lady about her tits. He’s a lot of fun, really.

Oh, and I should probably mention Peter Davison too. And Graeme Harper and Dan Starkey. I got my Caves of Androzani DVD signed by Peter and Graeme, and got Dick to sign Ellen’s Doctor Who sound effects CD.

Ellen had to leave after the guest talks, though, as the air in that hotel isn’t at all good for her.

I’m going to call the event on the whole a success, even if my mood at the time detracted from it. I’m very, very grateful to the people who put it on and a little sad they didn’t announce a follow-up event for next year. Because it’s the sort of thing that often improves as it matures, and I would’ve liked to see that.

Review: Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue

Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue (The Bern Saga, #1)Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue by Hugh Howey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fast-paced, fun adventure which is made better if you don’t think about it too hard.

The things Molly and Cole get up to are literally incredible and it’s an outright miracle they survived half of them. The prose-style can be a bit breathless and overbearing at times, with chapter cliffhangers amounting to “Or was it???” and “Little did they know they had it all wrong!” I think I would’ve enjoyed a few more chances to catch my breath between impossibly deadly disasters.

I was looking for a fun space adventure, and this book is that, especially if I can keep myself from rolling my eyes long enough to enjoy it.

I might be tempted to recommend it to younger readers who might be more forgiving, but one thing that might temper my recommendation is that Molly and Cole kill an awful lot of people and there don’t seem to be many consequences to that. Maybe it’ll catch up to them in later books, but it’s rather disconcerting and out of character for most YA I’ve read.

Of course it ends on a horrible cliff-hanger. I think I might give the next one a try at some point, but I need a break from this first.

View all my reviews

The 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who

An afternoon with Philip Hinchcliffe

We’re just about a month away from Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary (November 23rd, or “Doctor Who Day,” as I have it in my calendar every year). I’m pretty excited.

This weekend I went to Toronto for Who Party Toronto’s ‘A Day with Philip Hinchcliffe’. It was the first time I’d been to one of their smaller events (I’d been to their larger one-day Who Party conventions a couple times. This was small, intimate and a lot of fun. I ended up buying the special edition of Robots of Death for Mr Hinchcliffe to sign, since I only had the original region 2 DVD (which was the one of the first DVDs they released back in 1998 or something). I’ve got a lot of respect for Philip Hinchcliffe’s era of Doctor Who (essentially Tom Baker’s first 3 years). And had to get in a question about the line he’s producing for Big Finish, coming out next year starring Tom Baker and Louise Jameson as Leela, because that’s just awesome.

In a couple week’s I’ll be back in Toronto for Reversed Polarity, a weekend-long convention by the people who did Polaris and Toronto Trek. I always loved Toronto Trek. I went to Toronto Trek III.

Funny story: when I went to Toronto Trek III, I went to the Doctor Who news panel, hosted by DWIN and asked whether the Valeyard would be coming back. Because I thought the whole idea of an evil version of the 12th or 13th Doctor was an awesome idea. I now note that we will have reached the 12th (or possibly 13th) Doctor. Hm…

Anyway, I’ve got a hotel room for Reversed Polarity and everything. And I’ve signed up to do a bunch of panels. Ellen will be joining me on Saturday, but I’m not sure I know anyone else who’s going. But I’ll find out, I guess. I’m looking forward to it. You can probably expect a con report, even though I’ve been bad at doing those lately.

For the actual anniversary itself, I hear they are probably going to be showing the 50th anniversary special in theatres in Canada. I suspect that means Toronto. I was thinking about throwing a party, but as I don’t have cable, I’d have to wait to be able to watch it by other means. Right now my plan is to wait and see what’s showing where.

TIFF 2013

And now, capsule reviews from my day at the Toronto International Film Festival:

A Touch of Sin

The intent of the movie seems to be to take tropes from wuxia films and apply them to the conflicts and problems facing modern-day China: corruption, crime, marital infidelity, directionless youth. A Touch of Sin is an anthology movie: four stories about four people from four Chinese provinces. So you get these stories about four problematic lives with extra added violence.

It didn’t do much for me. It probably would have helped if I had more context about the broad cultural understanding and symbolism around those cultural conflicts. And it didn’t help that it had all the ponderous pacing of a typical East Asian art house film. It wasn’t bad. Just kind of dull.

And oddly inconsistent. I could never get a handle on the structure of it. It’s four separate stories and there’s (nearly) no characters carrying over between them. Sometimes two characters share a scene (like at the end of one character’s story, that character gets off a bus, but the shot lingers on another character we’ve never seen before, then clumsily switching to a new scene featuring them). Other times there’s just an abrupt scene change to new characters. It just left me with the impression that the director didn’t know what he was doing.

The violent bits added a bit of comical levity to the whole thing, which made it a bit more watchable. Hard to say if comical levity was what he was going for, though.

The Wind Rises

Pretty much the reason I picked this day to go to Toronto. I love Hayao Miyazaki. He hasn’t made a movie I haven’t liked. He’s even made a few I’ve profoundly and deeply loved.

This was a movie I liked.

And I liked it quite a bit, despite its flaws.

It’s the story of Jiro Horikoshi, the guy who created the World War II Japanese Zero fighter plane. So it was always going to be a bit problematic. Miyazaki straddles his usual lines of “war is bad” and “airplanes are awesome!” while going to some pains to acknowledge the contradiction in this case. He tries to link Jiro to other famous aeronautical engineers, Giovanni Battista Caproni and Hugo Junkers, who are also depicted as being not entirely onside with their fascist governments (that’s a bit of a real-life understatement for Junkers). Caproni comes to Jiro in dreams (those scenes reminded me a little bit of The Cat Returns), which is a bit odd, but I was happy enough to go along with it.

Speaking of, Jiro’s sister Kayo quite a bit reminded me of Mei in My Neighbour Totoro, even when she’s like in her twenties and a medical intern or something. Still, she’s pretty good at stealing her scenes.

Aside from airplanes, the film centres on the romance between Jiro and Satomi, a girl he helps during an earthquake, and whom he chances to meet again while on a retreat. The whole thing hit me kinda hard, because, you know… resonance. It’s very touching, even if the stoic nature of Japanese romance is a bit brow-furrowing in spots.

The ending is a bit abrupt, but given that this is based on real life, I’m not sure there is a tidy wrapping-up point. You never get to see Jiro actually designing the plane he’s famous for. It ends on a dream with Caproni, skipping over the messy entirety of the war. Which is probably for the best, but it makes it feel less well-constructed than you’d expect from a Miyazaki movie.

Overall, it’s lovely, and it’s Miyazaki and you should see it. It’s a good film, just not a great one. And to give Miyazaki credit, the balance he’s trying to pull off is really hard. It’s not his usual thing, plot- and tone-wise, and I don’t know if he’s entirely successful, but you can tell it’s something he’s passionate about. So I’ll give it to him.

Quick side note: the foley art and sound design is really cool once you figure out what they’re doing.

Also: Jiro is voiced by Hideaki Anno. You know, the Evangelion guy. Weird. He’s pretty good, though.

Asphalt Watches

I hate to break it to you, but you will probably never get to see this movie.

It’s a full-length Canadian animated film by and about a couple guys on a hitchhiking road-trip across the country, starting in BC.

And one gets the feeling various substances were involved in its creation.

I’m not going to say it’s good or anything, because that would be a lie, but bits of it were actually enjoyable. I was a bit worried because the start of the movie is way weird and makes almost no sense, with talking puddles of oil and songs about boiled hotdogs, but it does settle down a bit and you can tell they actually get better at the whole animating and storytelling thing as the movie goes on. Characters start to have character and bits of it are funny.

So good on ’em.

I just wish they’d gotten to Ontario in the movie. The movie ends somewhere in Saskatchewan, probably because they hit their two-hour runtime and decided it was as good a place as any to stop. But I was sad I didn’t get to see any places I’ve actually been.


I love Midnight Madness.

R100 is the story of a mild-mannered salaryman with a penchant for violent S&M play. He sighs up for an S&M service where scantily clad women will show up unannounced and beat him mercilessly for his enjoyment. But things get a little out of hand, as one might expect.

It’s also a film within a film, and the title refers to the Japanese rating the film’s supposed 100-year-old director thinks it should have. Because this shit messed up, yo.

It’s weird. And fun. The film’s actual director, Hitoshi Matsumoto (or “Matchan”) is a very strange man. This is his (I think) 3rd movie I’ve seen at TIFF, and each one is weirdly twisted. This one is no different. Just when you think it might get kind of horrible, it totally stops taking itself seriously and you just enjoy the whole ludicrous ride.

Side note: how many weird-movie-directing middle-aged comedy dudes have screaming fangirls? I wouldn’t have thought any, but apparently there’s at least one.