Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Oh James Why. :(

You know, I was actually feeling pretty good today... and then I found this:
"Callis goes bald for FlashForward". Sniff!! (There's no picture, so I can't say how bad it is.)

You know, I have been fearing this since that Galactica Quorum interview! We so should have made that petition that he not touch scissors for a year (Artemis_Neith's idea).

At least he knows we love it:

"I know my fans love the hair," says the hirsute actor. "But don't worry, girls - it grows back!"
"You know, I always wanted to know what it feels like to be bald," Callis says.
So how did it feel? "Cold."
Callis promises that the hair will be back by his Eureka role. "They pretty much insisted on it," he laughs.

Damn! I knew Dominic Monaghan was bald on the show, but James?

And I was so excited about this role! Oh well... at least we knew in beforehand so it won't be a big shock when we see him.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Random Thoughts o' the Week

I'm always dubious to call anything "weekly", because I probably won't end up writing every week and it looks silly. But let's just say these are random thoughts of this week, regardless if the thoughts ever come back or if they rush out into the darkness never to return.

Small personal update: I'm a bit more depressed lately, but having my meds adjusted and getting more therapy, so hopefully I'll have more energy for this blog and the LJ rewatch community soon. I feel like my writing is sub-par for now, but maybe that's just the depression talking. I'll be reporting on the news as soon as I see them, either way. If I sound lacklustre, it's because of my brain chemistry, not because I've lost interest in James.

A reader asked about James' glasses. I have no idea, but there's a thread at the Unofficial Website on the topic. Apparently it would be a Ray Ban model that someone identified. Read more here. It's interesting that his glasses fascinate people. Maybe also try having his hairdo (the long one)? Chicks dig that.

Still no con bookings for this year. Shooting Eureka in Vancouver, James is probably just too busy and not where the cons are. But who knows, maybe he'll be joining something on a shorter notice? I'll keep you posted. Looks like I won't be able to go to any con this year, judging by my finances, but it's always nice to hear about other people's experiences. Honestly, it is. I'm not envious AT ALL that you people get to talk to James and hug him and all that. (Grr.)

FlashForward: turns out we're only two weeks behind the US, and Revelation Zero, part 1 aired yesterday. Whoa! I'm going to see James soon, no doubt! I'm very excited about that - except that the pace of the show is still sssslllllooooowwww. I enjoy the premise and am still excited James will be on this show, but jesus. It may be an ABC thing, because I think the same is true of Lost. I didn't watch it when it first aired, partially because it's so painfully slow. Now, on DVD, I'm hooked on it, but only if I fast forward a lot of the scenes. There are characters I really care about, and characters I don't care about at all, and all of their back stories are expanded, so it's slow going. I have a feeling I'll love FF on DVD, but for now, we only have the slow-paced episodes. I just hope James will have some killer dialogue and great scenes that won't feel like watching paint dry. (Well, at least watching him and his subtle expressions is still interesting, no matter what's in the scene.)

Poll-wise, people seem pretty unanimous that they will watch James' episodes only, if a show he appears on is not something they'd otherwise watch. In fact, 100 % voted for that. I must admit I did peek at Eureka season one, but felt no need to watch the entire show, because it's apparently more of a sitcom type thing, not really a story with a plot you must follow. So I'm one of the "just watch his episodes" fans. You don't have to be a fan of the show to enjoy James' episodes. I hope.

I was looking through the archives, and looks like I have an anniversary coming up - one year of obsessing over James+donuts! I expected it to go away but, um, it hasn't really. It's been a juicy year. Mmmmm, donut gut. (L)!

A softer side of James. All cuddly and sweet. Plus: Tricia. I'm not sure which one turns me on more. *drool*

Speaking of James' physique - some people apparently felt uncomfortable with the James' body poll, so I've removed it. Let me know if I sound annoyingly objectifying or disrespectful or whatever. I probably wouldn't enjoy a poll asking ppl if they prefer me muscular, chubby or skinny, and maybe James wouldn't feel very good about it either. Sorry, James. It wasn't a serious thing for me. I love you just as you are (and also chubbier).

It's becoming harder and harder to google anything James-related, because there is a shocking amount of spam. I don't get it. Is it because people are googling James so much right now? Or because some spambots are creating spam based on your search? "James Callis shirtless" amuses me, but the day it turns up "james callis donut porn james callis donut eating contest james callis donut gut james dunkin donuts" type stuff, I will freak out. And can I just, once again, frown upon the "james callis alexander siddig" crap. People, they look nothing alike. Nothing at all. I do not see the resemblance, and I've spent a fair amount of time staring at James Callis pictures. I have nothing against Mr Siddig, but every time his face turns up in a James search, I get a bit annoyed with him. I wonder if Siddig fans feel the same way about James, coming to think of it.

That's about it for now. More James news hopefully soon.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Stills and Synopsis of "Re-Uniting the Rubins"!

We have some more info on the Rubins film at last! It's set to premiere at Cannes film festival this year, so hopefully that means a UK premiere soon also.

In the meantime, here's a link with a synopsis and stills.

Danny 33 (James Callis, “Battlestar Galactica”, “Bridget Jones”) is a divorced “capitalist-loving/survival-of-the-fittest/ control-freak-with-a-rod-up-where-the-sun-don’t shine” high-flying city exec with no time for his seven year old son

Wow, that sounds really different from his other roles! Also different from the other characters - he has a rabbi sibling, an eco-warrior sibling and a Buddhist sibling. It sounds like a lot of fun.

You can tell in the stills that James plays an uptight character -his eyes and mouth in all of these pictures signal irritation or impatience. Danny might not be a very likeable guy, but I'm curious to see how he constructs the personality this time.

Thanks to M for finding the link!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Comic Timing Essential

M found this intriguing casting call for FlashForward, episode 17:

[GABRIEL MCDOW] Late 40s, Male, Race Neutral. Odd, quirky, a bit socially awkward. Highly intelligent, he seeks out a stranger who he’s convinced can help him and won’t take no for an answer. Comic timing essential...GUEST STAR. RECURRING

That sounds like a great role. A bit older than James - I thought he didn't want to play late 40's? - but right up his ally: intelligent, comic timing, quirky, and somewhat mysterious. Great! I'm really looking forward to this.
(does "race neutral" mean he can be any race, or that he must be white? It doesn't specify if he's American or British or whatever - one character is specified as "Latin, no accent". I didn't know they were that particular.)

A couple of amusing points in the casting call:

[DOUCHEY GUY] 30s, open to all ethnicities. Drives a Cadlilac Escalade with thumping bass. Lost in his own world, he talks on a cell phone, his own self-importance distracting him from some major action happening right in front of him...CO-STAR

It's a pretty detailed description, yet he doesn't even have a name! "Douchey guy"! Hee.

[RUBY] 17, drama student, histrionic, a real diva. Attractive in an off-beat, artsy way. Girlfriend of a band member...One line

A name, all that detail and... one line? It reminds me of that sketch in Goodness Gracious Me where the Indian woman goes for an audition, the casting director gives her all this jazz about who her character is, including "can you try a Scottish accent?" and then she auditions with "arrrrghhhhh" and that's her only line.

I suppose James has auditioned for things like "Douchey guy" in the past. Now he's doing the recurring co-star roles. It's kind of touching to see his career move upward like this - I know, I've only been around for a short time, but still. I'm proud of him and glad I joined at a time when he's doing so many roles. Maybe in a few years' time, he'll have his own show?

Eureka Stars on James' Role

Television Without Pity has interviewed Eureka stars Colin Ferguson and Salli Richardson-Whitfield. Interview here, and of course they are asked about James.

So what does James Callis bring to the show?
Colin Ferguson: [Mock-derisively.] Nothing. He's never brought anything to everything he's done. [Both laugh.]
Salli Richardson-Whitfield: Sexiness and trouble.
Richardson-Whitfield: He's not only a wonderful actor, he's actually sexy and interesting.
Ferguson: And from the table reads, he's funny, which you don't get to see on Galactica.
Richardson-Whitfield: He's very funny. But not as funny as you.

:) :) *beams*

I'm glad Richardson-Whitfield finds James sexy, because she needs to play his love interest. This will probably give them great chemistry. Plus it's always nice to have someone who appreciates James' charm. *happy fangirl sigh*

But um - you don't get to see him funny on BSG? I thought he was plenty funny there. Whatever, Ferguson.

Apparently James' character will make some of the things shift in the show, and it's going to reverse, or something. Hmmm. I'm beginning to wonder if I should actually down... buy... the third season of Eureka so I'd better get it. Well, we'll see. It doesn't premiere in the US until July, so there's still plenty of time to catch up.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Callis-English Dictionary, Part 1

There is a rare and demanding language that we, as James Callis fans, must learn to decipher. I like to call it simply "Callis". After watching so many interviews and transcribing some of them, I consider myself something of a connoisseur of this language. Being the humble, noble person I am, I've decided to give the world the gift of a Callis-English dictionary. Let's start with some simple phrases.

"That is a good question."
"That is a question."

"That is a GREAT question."
"I'm not sure I understood your question."

"There's this thing in Shakespeare..."
"I digress, but did you know I got an education in literature? Shakespeare Shakespeare Shakespeare!"

"I haven't seen the film yet..."
"I saw it and oh god, what was I thinking?!"

"Our WONDERFUL director..."
"..who is probably reading this. I wouldn't want to burn any bridges."

"The Audi ad was so much fun."

"It's definitely more for teenagers than BSG."
"It's vastly inferior to BSG."

"It's shot in Vancouver, which is great. I love Vancouver."
"It is my only reason for taking the job."

"on some level"/"on a very big level"/"on every level"/whatever with "level"
This is a specific, often repeated feature of the Callis language, and it seems to serve as an equivalent for the "Intrusive Dash" used in written Callis. In other words, rather than strictly mean something, it serves as a divider between words and clauses.

I'll make fun of myself too, just to be fair. So here are a few Denis-English translations for those who want to decipher MY challenging and beautiful language, which I am the foremost expert on. Ahem.

"James is brilliant in this film."
"James is in this film."

"He looks GREAT!"
"He looks fatter, which is great."

"I came upon this old James project..."
"I broke every copyright law in the world to get it."

"I came upon this on a random google search.."
"I spent five frakking hours searching for more donut quotes and all I found was this. Frak!"

"I respectfully disagree."
"You don't see the genius of James and therefore you are an idiot."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fan Guide to: FlashForward

I know some fans are planning to watch only the James-relevant episodes of FlashForward. However, that might get confusing, so here's a little guide to things you MUST know about the show to get what the frak is going on.

Edit: If you want to see a somewhat more detailed article, read here. However, I must warn you that there is a woeful lack of CAPS compared to mine...

The Most Essential Stuff

-There was a big BLACKOUT during which EVERY PERSON in the world LOST CONSCIOUSNESS. They all had a "FLASHFORWARD" which means they saw a flash of their own future.

-Everyone saw the same moment of the same day, and the visions match. (For example, if you saw yourself with someone, that person also saw you.) Nobody knows WHY this happened, and whether people can CHANGE their future or if it's set in stone.

-The FBI starts to INVESTIGATE the issue. The investigation is very painstaking, slow, and frustrating. Also for the viewers.

-The main characters are FBI investigator MARK and his wife OLIVIA. Mark is in charge of "Mosaic", the investigation of the blackouts. Olivia is a doctor. James' character will meet her first, so pay attention. Olivia looks like this.

-James' character is called GABRIEL MCDOW and he has had MULTIPLE FLASHFORWARDS, which is unheard of.

-Two people were AWAKE during the flashbacks, but nobody knows who they are. There's blurry video footage of one of them, known as SUSPECT ZERO.

-In her flashforward, Olivia saw herself in love with another man, the amusingly-named LLOYD SIMCOE. They hadn't met before the blackouts. Lloyd is British. He has an autistic son Olivia has been treating. He also believes he is somehow RESPONSIBLE for the blackouts, but this has not yet been explained. Olivia wants to save her marriage and not fall for Lloyd, but it's not going very well.

-Mark's flashforward had him investigating the case, and the clues from the vision keep showing up in the present. Also, he was talking on the phone with Lloyd, saying there will be ANOTHER BLACKOUT. Dun dun dun!

-Mark doesn't care about THE RULES and that's why he is SUSPENDED from the FBI. (He's also BROODING and ANGSTY, so what else is NEW?)

-There are lots of DRAMATIC CLOSE UPS and CLIFFHANGERS at the ends of episodes.

More Details Which May or May Not Matter for James' Character

-Mark, a recovering alcoholic, saw himself DRINKING in his vision. Oh yeah, and he was about to be killed, but the drinking has been more of an issue.

-Mark's AA sponsor AARON saw his dead soldier daughter alive in the flashforward. Then the daughter TRACEY showed up at his house, asking for protection. She's being chased by some organization. Aaron is also in DANGER.

-Lloyd has a buddy called SIMON who comes from England to be sarcastic and threaten him. Simon doesn't like the fact that Lloyd told people about their experiment. Simon is a doctor.

-Mark's work partner AGENT NOH didn't have a flashforward. He later found out he will be KILLED soon, and is trying to figure out the murder. Then they find out Mark is the one who's going to KILL him. Uh oh.

-Mark and Olivia have a daughter called CHARLIE. Her flashforward was "no more good days", but this hasn't been explained. Charlie recognized DYLAN, Lloyd's son, when she saw her at the hospital. Dylan, the autistic boy, is so far NOT PSYCHIC or anything.

-There is also a lesbian agent called JANIS who saw herself PREGNANT in the flashforward and an intern called BRYCE who has stage 4 CANCER and was going to kill himself, but decided to live because he saw a mysterious Asian woman in his vision. (Logically enough, Janis is looking into SPERM DONORS adn Bryce took a trip to ASIA.)

I think that's about the most important stuff. I'll edit with any new details, so people can KEEP UP. (Sorry about the CAPS but once you start talking like THIS, it's very hard to STOP.)

Monday, March 15, 2010

James Callis Joins Eureka!

Right after the FlashForward news - James joins another show, SyFy's Eureka!'
News link here.

Callis will appear during the show’s upcoming fourth-season as Dr. Grant, a former resident of the town whose return is a cause for alarm. His character will have a romantic interest in Allison Blake (Salli Richardson-Whitfield), which causes friction with Sherriff Jack Carter (Colin Ferguson).

Um. I'm ... actually not all that excited. *blush* I don't like Eureka, I only watched one episode and wasn't overly excited. But I think I'll get back to it and give it a chance now. I may not have a chance to get into it enough by the time he's on it, but I'll watch it later on DVD.

What I do feel excited over is that James is getting big roles now, not just one-episode guest stints. He "joins the cast", in both FF and Eureka. It's news that he joins a show. It's all over the entertainment sites. I feel he's really arrived. And I'm proud.

ETA: There's also an article at Airlock Alpha.

There might be some confusion with fans over how Callis can do both "FlashForward" and "Eureka." However, according to reports, Callis only had a short-term recurring role in the ABC series when it returns this week, and his production work on that season has already ended.

Yes, we may wonder, and I'm just a bit confused about the FF role now. How big can the role be if they're still shooting it and yet he's already moved on to Vancouver? Of course, since FF might not make it to the second season, it's not like he can count on that show to put his kids through college. Even if FF does go to season two, there's time to do Eureka in between. Hmmm.

I'm not against him doing Eureka, even if I'm not a huge fan of the show. It could be quirky and fun. However, I hope his role on FF is as cool as they've touted.

Friday, March 12, 2010

James On FlashForward: Update!

Oo, exciting! Sonya Walger, who plays Olivia on FlashForward, tells us a little about James' role in this link.

There's this man who's had multiple flashforwards. So he becomes a big part of unlocking what's happened, both in global terms and in terms of Olivia.

Ee, so exciting! I'm so glad they will have scenes together, because I love Sonya Walger.

In fact, it sounds like it could be one of the most important characters yet, so he will probably have scenes with all of the main cast. This could go anywhere at this point - hero? Villain? Mysterious stranger of unidentified role?

Something more here - they're obviously being very tight-lipped, but his character's name is Gabriel McDow. His scenes are being filmed now.

ETA: Crave Online reports that Gabriel is a "quirky scientist" who comes to Olivia for help.

We know the sort of psychological damage that comes from having just one flash-forward, what kind of problems - mental and otherwise - might emerge when you've had several.

That's really interesting. It also sounds like it might be a fun character, depending on what kind of "quirky". It doesn't sound like anything at all like a typical villain character. Great!

How could someone have multiple flash forwards? I'm really intrigued now.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Random Googlebits, Part Dis

Is it dix...? Heh heh, dix! OK, it must be dis. Either way, ten. I'll stop with the French numbers after this, if only because I can't count very far in French.

Of interest: There's a new project on James' imdb bio. It's not FlashForward. It's "The Scholarship - details only on imdb pro." I'm very curious about this. Anybody here have imdb pro? *M reports that this movie has something to do with Nick Cohen. Interesting. It's apparently not a James co-write/co-produce thing this time, though.

This site seems to have some protection issues but the cache version works. It's an appreciation thread from 2008 and there's some meeting James stuff when you scroll down.

As someone who dislikes his character, I was thinking that I probably won't like him, but James was awesome to talk to. He was friendly and funny.

I mentioned that we were from, etc and he was interested in it...but the idiot that I am, me and my gf were kind of caught in the moment of "talking to a famous person" that we forgot to write it down for him. He was like "I'd like to check that out, I told him what it was, the site in general, and that he's got his own appreciation thread.
James said he enjoys lurking on BSG forums, etc reading what the fans have to say.

...James, are you reading this? :D I'm not super-surprised, because he reads the Unofficial site and recognized Matt and Nat of GalactiCast, but it's nice to know he reads fan sites. It's amusing to think of him lurking in forums. While I'd love for him to post more online (say in his own personal blog), I think it's wise of him to lurk and not start defending Baltar in online conversations. That would be messy.

Hilariously, someone said he was like Baltar, and someone else asked for a clarification:

Some of the mannerisms are like him. I asked him how it was to work with Lucy Lawless and Tricia and he said that they were totally in love with him. That's what I thought was like Baltar. But he was very nice and great to talk to.

LOL! That's called being facetious. And it's not like Baltar at all. Baltar would have said that and meant it. It's amusing that some people apparently can't tell when James does this.

Triniroslin found some promotional pictures of The Hub. Drool! I know he's supposed to be injured and all, but he had a little tummy. What can I do but gush? Also, The Hub is probably my favorite Baltar/Laura episode evah and contains some stellar performances from both James and Mary Mc. Plus it has Lucy. So James+Mary+Lucy plus a bunch of people touching his belly. I mean, is this episode designed to please me or what?

In a similar vein, there's also this full image of a distraught Gaius on the destroyed Earth. And a few other pictures from the shooting. OK, this is old stuff, but it's still nice to see it.

A very cool video of BSG vs. Beastie Boys song Sabotage. The link also contains a very cool mention of James:

No lie... James Callis sang part of Sabotage to me at Megacon last year, when he saw that I was wearing a shirt from that video. :P
Awesome! Maybe he likes that song? (*goes and listens to Sabotage several times just because James knows it*) (seriously speaking, it's not my favorite music style but the video is really cool, what with the monikers and great sync of BSG scenes.)

Christina Schild, who played Playa Palacios on BSG, recounts working with James on the bathroom stall scene:

Oh, it was so much fun to work with him. I remember walking back into the bathroom stall -- when he goes in and I follow him in -- I remember we had to try and keep ourselves from giggling, because we were squished into that bathroom stall. Waiting for the director to yell cut. We had a really fun time.

Hee! Actually, it's too bad she wasn't really seen after that. It might have been fun. Or not. Um, we didn't really get a very good idea of who Playa was.

Some 2008 Starfury stuff.

James Callis is absolutely stunning, and I didn't expect him to be so down-to-earth and thoughtful towards the fans. He really made an effort to write a different dedication on every autograph.
Tahmoh, I don't know, he is nice and intelligent and everything, but he doesn't have that special presence on stage that captivates you, especially if you compare him to James Callis. James starts talking and you can not NOT listen to him.
James - Seemed laid back and funny. Also commented on the pronounciatino of my name...

Awww. People often seem touched at how much effort James makes, and it does a fan's heart good. And - he was interested in someone's name again? It really does seem like he loves names. (L)!!!

Another cute fan meeting:

- HUNG OUT WITH JAMES CALLIS (BALTAR!) AND TAHMOH PENIKETT (HELO!) AT THE MARRIOTT BAR!!! Both the dudes were really cool, and James told us to watch what happens in the second part of season 4 - he said it's pretty heavy. He also told Anna she was very beautiful and that she should find him when she's dressed as Six, lol!

Hee! I bet he enjoys hanging out with the girls dressed as Six. ;) (I'm not jealous of Anna. At all.) (Not AT ALL.) (Hmph.)

A lovely discussion of the Bear McCreary concert (2008).

Me: Um. This will be a bit spooky but I have in my possession a large picture of your head.
James Callis: Ah. Well. That's all right.
Me: Uh. My roommate gave it to me. It's been hanging awkwardly in my room since, advertising your show. But um. Please don't think I'm creepy. I'm not trying to be creepy. Honest!
Gaius Baltar: o_o

LOL!!! Yeah, I imagine being pretty much that awkward if I ever meet him. "I write a blog about you. It's all about you. I think about you a lot. But I'm not creepy, I swear!"

Seriously though, there is nothing creepy about having his poster on your wall. But I have a feeling that if the fan gets incredibly defensive about it, it might begin to seem creepy. There's really no point in constant "I'm not a stalker, seriously" apologies, but I realize I make those on here all the time. I should probably stop. If James thinks I'm a stalker, there's nothing I can do to convince him otherwise, but really why would he? (He wouldn't, right? Right?)

On the other hand, there's this:

Grace Park, who plays a collective of Cylon characters (Sharon/Boomer/Athena), said she recently got "a box big enough to fit a golden retriever in" that was packed with intricately assembled scrapbooks. "This fan had clearly spent hours and hours putting this together, and every page was about me, all the places where my name has popped up in a story or on the Internet. This story will be in the next one, I'm sure of it. It's very nice, but it's also a little . . . much."
Note to self: don't send James scrapbooks. Ahem, not that I have scrapbooks. Seriously though, even I think that's a little much. Assembling a blog for fans to find the links, okay. But sending a scrapbook to a star..? Hmmm. Reminds me of the fan who gave Tahmoh Penikett a casket of fake money at a con, "for all his services". That was a WTF moment for most other fans. But that's not on James, so I digress. Also in that article: Ron D Moore apparently very much enjoyed the black-screen ending of The Sopranos. I did too, but I'm kind of glad they didn't do quite that with BSG.

OK, back to James. A cute little encounter story:
I met James Callis (Dr. Baltar from the new Battlestar Galactica) @ the same con. He saw my friends and I in Red Sox gear and mentioned he had attended his first baseball game a few weeks ago. He said "I had no idea what the hell was going on, but I kept drinking and booing Barry Bonds".

Hee! :D That's hilarious! It's especially funny because of baseball commentator Jim Callis, who I suppose is also named James Callis, but never goes by that. I wonder if James is a fan of soccer like most British men seem to be - or if he's just not that into sports? I know Aaron Douglas talks about sports a lot. I was going to add him on twitter, but he seemed to talk about nothing but ice hockey. Nothing personal, Aaron.

This was also the second story where James found a discussion topic just by looking at someone's shirt. It's a nice way of breaking the ice and giving the fan a story to tell. Plus it gives us more trinkets about James' personality, which is always welcome.

San Diego Comic Con 2008: A pic where James "chats with Eureka creator Jaime Paglia". He looks kind of nervous, like it's a fan meeting for him. So cute!

Random stuff that comes up in these searches

I won't link to this because it's obvious spam, but once again, this type of thing amuses and baffles me.

James Callis, best Naruto complete series dvd box set known as Gaius Baltar on Battlestar Galactica dvd box set, has been cast in a recurring mad men dvd box set role on FlashForward, has confirmed.
You know, I just don't see how adding "naruto complete series dvd box set" OR "mad men dvd box set" into the text accomplishes... well, really, anything. Does it sell something? Does it put a virus in your computer if you open it? Is it designed to get as many hits as possible through any means? There's a LOT of this stuff on Google blogsearch now. Maybe I search for James too much and spammers have realized it's a common search term.

Another constant result in Google searches is Game of Thrones, which HBO has apparently greenlit. Pretty much everyone thinks James should play "Littlefinger". I don't know anything about Game of Thrones, so I don't really have an opinion. However, I'm not sure how anxious I am to see him play "little" anything - not that he isn't adorably little, but if the character is specifically meant to be short or British or scifi/fantasy or villainous or whatever, I worry that it's just typecasting. Lots of people online haven't seen James as anything but Baltar. Most every week, there are tweets like "Hey! Gaius Baltar is on Bridget Jones' Diary!" Yes, James had a life and career before Gaius. It's odd how everyone is thinking this stuff at the same time.

Gaius Baltar was great and probably his best role so far, but I worry that people will only want to see him as another version of Gaius Baltar from now on. He's so much more than that. But if you've never seen Going Wrong, or Sex and Chips, or even Beginner's Luck, you wouldn't know. I hope he's going to get roles that exhibit different sides of him as an actor.

I know James is careful about typecasting, so if Littlefinger is anything like Gaius Baltar, I suspect he's going to disappoint a bunch of fans and just not do it. Like he did with Dr Who. (Although I don't know if they actually offered Dr Who to him.)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Like Icebergs and the Titanic - A Review of Beginner's Luck

Deniselle's note: I've recently been in contact with Robyn E. Kenealy, who wrote a very impressive Baltar fanfic that she will make into a blog sometime soon. She's a great writer and thinker, so I was curious what she'd think about Beginner's Luck. She enjoyed the film much more than I did, and seemed to "get" it more than I could. Since I loved reading her thoughts, I asked her to write an actual review for my blog. Here it is.

Like icebergs and the Titanic

A review of Beginner’s Luck

by Robyn E. Kenealy

I forget where I read this – probably it was in one of those Sci-Fi magazines that geeks like me always have at our houses – but anyway, someone had interviewed James Callisi about the way he as an actor had handled the “one year later” transition at the end of Battlestar Galactica’s second season. If I knew where I’d read it, I’d look up the exact words for you, but as it is you’ll have to rely on my summary. In broad strokes, it went like this: “Gotta be a curveball, huh?” the interviewer (kinda) asked him “so did you think up a back-story for what you’d been doing in that year?” Callis’ answer was (more or less) a British version of “hells no.” “I don’t do that kind of thing,” he (sorta) continued. “I just start in the moment.”

I was reminded of this interview while thinking about Beginner’s Luck, a 2001 feature written and directed by Callis and his actor pal Nick Cohen. Characters in this film floated onto the screen, and then they floated past me into the profoundly jittery ether at the edges of the film’s diagesis, and this reminded me. It was a film in which nobody had much history, nobody had much suggestion of a future, and most characters had very little present. Few characters even have surnames. In short, it was a film in which every character started and ended, more or less, “in the moment.”

This reads like a criticism, but actually, when I saw this film recently, I liked it a lot more than I had expected to, and mostly because of this. I tend to be squiffy about films made by people who are famous for something other than filmmaking at the best of times, and Teh Internets had made it sound like the kind of heartwarming light-headedness I would have changed the channel to avoid.ii Not to mention the fact that at first glance it had all the earmarks of a film that, as a friend of mine who was there when I started watching it put it, was “made by a couple of rich kids who think they’re edgy.” I’ll also freely admit that when I began watching I had to battle a bit with the constant montage,iii the inability of the camera to settle on a shot for more than an instant, and the directorial team’s failure to understand that film is a visual medium EVEN WHEN THE SCREEN IS NOT FULL OF AN ACTOR’S FACE. But then, somehow, after a while, somewhere after I accepted that it was made by actors and therefore was going to be relentlessly devoted to actors whether or not I wanted it to, I started to get what Beginner’s Luck was about. Actually, that’s not strictly accurate. What I mean to say is that I started to get what I was going to enjoy about it. But anyway, what it was about (inside the terms of aboutness that I have qualified) was that. Starting in the moment. Leaving such back-story as could be thought to exist somewhere very much else.

This question of back-story is one that’s of interest to me. I’m big on it, of course, being as I’m a dork who reads psychoanalytics for fun, but also, as a writer, I’m incredibly pedantic about how back-story gets done. Personally, I tend to infer it from my own narratives rather than create it in advance. It’s like… you feel around for the character, and then you let them tell you, and then you can start to figure out the back-story for them the way you would about someone you’d just met (am I the only person who does this? When I meet a new person, I like to spend a couple of hours afterwards trying to figure out everything that happened in their childhood. This behavior is, of course, a direct result of everything that happened in MY childhood) and then maybe you use it. Maybe. Maybe it’s just something you know, and that informs your construction of that character. Do you get what I mean? I’m interested in character composition in general, and it was at this point of recognition, the point that I noticed that character development in Beginner’s Luck was unusual, that I got interested. Character development in this film reads like a series of floating icebergs. We get a feature length fiesta of 10% tips. The remaining 90%, all that stuff under the surface? It’s not for you, gentle viewer. Dive under that water at your peril, because Cohen and Callis are not going to guide you. Either because they’re terrible filmmakers, or because they are, as I secretly suspect, deliberately trying to impede you.

Perhaps with good reason. To recap, for those of you who are newcomers to this blog, Beginner’s Luck is full of people you probably don’t want to know that much about. It is the story of career loser/douche-bag Mark Feinman (played by Callis) and his attempt to command a performance of The Tempest. Unlike Prospero, he does not win at command.iv Over the course of the film, it becomes increasingly apparent that everybody, and everything, is going to fail. And not fail in a hijinks way. No, it’s all going to fail in a very horrible you-WISH-it-was-hijinks way. There will be no awesome performance of The Tempest. There will be no lasting romance. Mark’s dad, even though he loves his son, is not going to be proud of him. The troupe’s lives will not be transformed into tales of arty magic. The nervous underachiever will not develop confidence and a sense of self-worth. There will be no restitution for the large amounts of money and time the theatre troupe have invested. Beginner’s Luck could easily have been re-titled A Series of Unfortunate Events without too much trouble. It is a mess in more ways than one.

The thing is, though, as messes go, it seems a rather personal one. Of course, the struggling-actor content, and the way the Cohen/Callis team talk about the film in their making of doco begs this kind of reading, but even without that, Beginner’s Luck, I think, feels an awful lot like something I’d tend to identify as a “self burn” (where “burn” is a personal humiliation that happens in a public space. Like the way they say it in That ‘70’s Show.) And if it is a self-burn, it is also the kind of thing that TV theorist Barry Langford would describe as “painful comedy.” A lot of British narrative art is like that. Painful, even when there are laughs. You know, like the Steve Coogan oeuvre or Peep Show or The Office. Sometimes when I watch shows like that I have to cover my face with my blanket (we don’t have central heating in New Zealand) because I know how it will play out and I just can’t stand to watch.

For me, some of this is self-recognition; but increasingly, as I get older and crankier and less willing to accommodate the wishes of others, it is societal recognition. Always it is about the knowledge that the social contract, especially in relation to the ironclad, unchallengeable structure of British class, prohibits any of us from acting entirely honestly. “Proper” social interactions, according to some British narratives, are floating queasily atop a sea of things that we are trying not to admit. I recall writing about Peep Show for school in 2009 and writing particularly about that, about the panopticon of the class based British gaze (and with some familiarity, as I did once live there.) According to Langford, The Best of British is frequently about failure, and specifically about failure that is aided by an attempt to hide the self. At its best it makes this obvious, and problematizes it. Sometimes this experience makes for really horrible viewing.

Beginner’s Luck seems to specialize in this particularly British kind of horrible viewing. In fact, the formal difficulties I had while watching it, the absolute inability of the film to settle itself visually, eventually came to reflect Mark's state of being, and hence the tone of the film (for me.) Especially as all the other characters, especially Jason (Sascha Grunpeter), start to mentally break down or at least become “looser” the further they were drawn in. And it feels so especially horrible because of the vague, simmering impression that Callis/Cohen are nailing themselves, over and over again. Beginner’s Luckbrutalizes the dreams and attitudes of white, upper middle-class, self-involved art boys, with Mark as its central effigy. Talentless but self-important, reflexively sexist and airheaded about women, because being an “artist” gives him that kind of right, unaware that difficult things take work, unthinkingly supported by privilege. The film is not kind to him. It doesn’t want me to understand or empathize. Mark Fienman, if not Cohen/Callis, IS a rich kid, who is tenuously and desperately holding on to the fact that he thinks he’s edgy.

This is made more apparent by the introduction of the character Jason, a poor kid who has a family job. Jason is psychologically and socially destroyed by his involvement with Mark’s faux edginess, selling his mother’s jewelry, sacrificing the health of his cat, attempting to cut off his hand when it all goes wrong. I’ve got no real idea what happens to Jason, or anyone else after the narrative’s close. Mark, meanwhile, despite his ineptitude, ends up wheeler-dealing in Hollywood, in what the producers naively describe as a hopeful ending. Hopeful for Mark, maybe. If we’re going to assume that living out the rest of his life without having to face or change any of his self-isolating behavior is a hopeful thing. Or that success on financial terms can be considered in and of itself hopeful, regardless of the quality of the thing produced. I don’t, personally. And in fact, I’m reminded of a great quote from Alex Cox, the director ofRepo Man: “if you’re a fascist in Hollywood, you work with great regularity.”

Perhaps I’m reading too much into Beginner’s Luck to regard it as such a deliberate chronicle of self-loathing – or description of the kinds of self-loathing and uselessness conferred by societal entrapment - but it is a reading I enjoy. Also, I found this impression particularly striking in relation to the treatment of Julie Delpy’s character, Anya. This is because Anya is almost a parody of Celine, the character Delpy plays in Linklater’s 1995 effort Before Sunrise. I don’t know about you, but I really, really hate Before Sunrise, so this gave me a great deal of pleasure.

But I should explain - I know I’m a bitter curmudgeon. I know I’m a horrible feminist spoilsport, but I just hate it. I can’t stand the way the beautiful Celine floats into Ethan Hawke’s Jesse’s life and provides him with culture. A lot of people I know like, or have liked Before Sunrise at some point in their lives, and I hear their reasons, because there are very good reasons to like it, but to me it’s just another one of those frakking films in which perfect women indulge irritating men (and the philosophy in it isn’t very good. It’s lame philosophy, and there aren’t any proper politics. And so there.) I feel reference to this in Beginner’s Luck. Anya arrives by train, with no last name, no country of origin, and no apparent motive for her interest in the Vagabond company orThe Tempest. Mark fetishises her the way Before Sunrise fetishises Celine, much to everyone else’s confusion and dismay. He is awestruck by her beauty, her ethereal calm, and creeps on her in a way that is probably best described as “Baltar-eque” (only lamer. Dr. Baltar, the character Callis plays inBattlestar Galctica, is, at the very least, suave, if in a deeply fragile way.) Anya eventually rewards him for his trouble by rejecting him, and telling him “you’re horrible,” because he is. I am able to read, in my very particular way, a reference to the filmmakers themselves, as standing in for every arty type who loved Before Sunrise and dreamed of just such a magical European encounter with a woman far wiser and better and almost not even human. Anya all but destroys the magic of Celine by telling Mark the truth about that. When he makes his final play, after giving her an uncomfortably long hug that she visibly dislikes, she tells him “you don’t know me” and leaves. It’s fair. He doesn’t. He knows only what he wanted her to be.

But the thing is, I don’t know her either. Nor do I especially care to, since she isn’t very likeable. This is, for me, the crux of the Beginner’s Luck matter. There is no character development in the film. None. But there are characters. It’s just that they don’t develop. It’s as if, to use the word development as a handy metaphor, we simply see the photographs but aren’t allowed in the darkroom. These brief punctures – Mark’s childish relationship with his father (that speedy peck on the cheek? Fascinating.), the fly-by visit to Jason’s place of work, Charlotte’s resolute manner during her production ankle-ing phonecall, the fact the Hettie is a lesbian, and has possibly just figured this out– suggest that whoever these people are, almost all of their lives happen somewhere else, somewhere off screen. It is unbelievably alienating. I don’t know anyone in this movie, and because of this I am not permitted to like them or feel any sympathy for them, no matter how many girl-on-girl kisses or self-harm boozefests I get to be party to. So I’m left with two options: a flat, unpleasant viewing experience like watching a car-crash on the news (or engaging with Andy Warhol’s Disaster series? Food for academic thought?) or profoundly uncomfortable self-recognition. My own experience sat somewhere between the two.

Great. No, seriously. Great. Yes, the general yuckiness of the film (as well as something I am able to read as a pointed subversion of an ending which is supposed to be hopeful) is something I have since tended to present as a selling point of Beginner’s Luck when I’m talking about it at parties. Partly this is because I’m a big fan of things that make me feel uncomfortable and unpleasant - Tennessee Williams, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, the novels of Junchiro Tanazaki, British comedies in the manner I have mentioned, and so forth. Not to mention that one of the coolest moments in my life was when I got to play a bit part in Alexander Greenhough and Elric Kane’s 2004 feature Murmurs. The Aro Valley Digital movement, of which Murmurs is somewhat representative, and from which my comics and writing take a great deal of influence, tends to deal relentlessly in the uncomfortable and unpleasant, and partly because it is about that tenuous position of social privilege that exists but is not felt by the person who has it. Especially, directors Greenhough, Kane, Campbell Walker, Colin Hodson, Andy Chappell, like to make you feel, as my husband Dick Whyte (co-writer and actor on some features, and experimental film-maker himself) put it during a lecture at Victoria University of Wellington’s film department, as if “the problem is me.” (This translates, when you’re the audience, to remembering all the ways that the problem is you.)

In short, I am inclined to enjoy films that won’t let me relax, that block me from escaping, that remind me that I am, regrettably, stuck in a shitty cinema in a shitty world in which things are harder than they look and in which people fail, except where they are wealthy and loathsome, in which case they tend to rise to the top and make awful movies (the film that Mark is attempting to promote at the film’s close is called Escape from Doom Island.) And that part of the reason it happens this way is because of who I am and what I’m thinking about, and the fact that I won’t admit it. It’s bleak, yes, and, as the producers correctly point out, somewhat inaccurate in the case of the people who made the film. I suppose, if I were their writing coach, I would probably tell them to start making films that hinted at the broader social causes of such bleakness, because I’m the fun police and that’s what I tell everybody (the personal is the political, I’m afraid. Sorry.) However, in this case, I appreciate the fact that Cohen/Callis have opened a door for me to observe the manner in which the problem is them. I’m comfortable with this. Or rather, I’m UNcomfortable with this, and I like that. Beginner’s Luck has its flaws (and also, given the filmmakers I know, it’s funny to hear people talking, as everybody did in the making-of, about $40,000 and upwards as a budget of “literally no money.” Tell it to Colin Hodson, who made Shifter for one hundred and ten dollars) but my pleasure in its displeasure (as it were) sustained my involvement. Hell, it was like a sudden, unpredictable shipwreck from which I couldn’t look away.

I’ll never know for sure how much of that was meant, though. Like Roland Barthes, who I believe had a brief cameo earlier on this blog in reference to this same film, I know I can’t pin the authors down, as much I crave to. I can’t get a clear reading on them. Or on Beginner’s Luck, really. But of course, this is because I don’t have any characters to work with. All I have is a series of floating moments and an enticing sense of impending social doom.


Author’s note:

I haven’t continued Deniselle’s discussion about fat acceptance or gender in relation to Beginner’s Luck. I’d intended to, but in the end I agree with her analysis. At best, the film is explicit about the issues it references, at worst it’s ignorant of them.


iThe person to whom this blog is fully, unapologetically devoted.

ii Don’t get me wrong, I like heartwarming – one of my fave films EVAR is Legally Blonde, for example. It’s just that British ensemble cast heartwarming has never done it for me.

iii The one bonus of this being the fact that I got to sing the South Park montage song all the way through the film – “show a lot of things happening at once, remind everyone of what’s going on…”, “you need a montage! Even Rocky had a montaaaage!”

iv Incidentally, I’m not even going to try to do the reading of how Beginner’s Luck is like The Tempest. I’ve only read the Wikipedia entry on the play, and I don’t know enough about Shakespeare to write about that in a way that sounds accurate or cool. But you could, I reckon. Discuss.

About the author: Robyn E. Kenealy is a wannabe academic who writes Battlestar Galactica fan fiction and comics about dead celebrities from the nineteen sixties. In her spare time, she enjoys chain smoking and just generally being redder than a sunset in Cuba.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Pondering on FlashForward

So we got the news of James joining ABC's Flash Forward about a week ago. No comments from James yet, nor any news about his role, but I'll keep you posted. I just wanted to write a bit more about this, because this has been all over the net, and I realize there are many sites that wrote a longer post than I did. So to keep up with my good track record of wordiness, I'm going to discuss my reactions a bit more.

One reason I got so excited about this is that I watch this show. I'm familiar with its characters, and when James appears, I'll know what the ramifications of his character are. FF is a show with story arcs, not one-off episodes, so it'll be interesting to see how his character develops and what his arc is like. The only problem is, of course, that FF has had some trouble getting started and may in fact be cancelled before season two.

I'm both amused and happy about the number of people saying "Damn, now I have to start watching FlashForward". It bodes negatively on the show, but very well on James. It's like he has arrived - people not only know who he is, but will watch a show for him. Even a show they'd already abandoned. That's amazing. I do hope he helps FF get back on its feet, because it's a show I very much want to like, and not just because of him. I love the premise to bits, and my main disappointment has been that the show progresses too slowly, and I have a hard time identifying with the characters. Maybe because there are too many characters to really build them up in such a short time.

Another reason all of this is so cool is that... Shall I confess to this? Hmm. I never know when I cross the line and completely make a fool of myself with the fangirl stuff, but here goes: I've often thought of how cool it would be, if there was a real blackout... if my flash forward included James. Because that would mean that he'd also see me in his. Like, I flashforward to six months from now, and I'm meeting him at a con. And he'll know who I am now, what I look like, and what I think of him, because of the flash forward. Since flash forwards are so memorable, he'd always remember me. *gush* *blush*

I'm not sure what that says about me (maybe that I'm way too focused on having contact with James?), but after fantasizing about this, him being on the show is almost surreal to me. It's like someone asked me what shows I want to see James in, and my wish will come true.

In case someone up there is listening, just for future reference: I wanna see James on In Treatment. And The Office. And True Blood. (provided that I like it, haven't seen it yet) And anything by Charlie Kaufman or David Lynch. Please??
Edit: And Mad Men! How could I forget about Mad Men? He'd be so good for that one.