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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

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Ratings are based on a four star system.
One star means that the commercials are more entertaining than the program.
Two stars watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars is good solid entertainment.
Four stars means you never dreamed television could be this good.

Battlestar Galactica is a go. Angel will end with the current season. Enterprise is still up in the air.

The Oscars are almost upon us, and there is at least a chance that a fantasy film will win best picture for the first time in Oscar history. The Return of the King would get my vote, but if I were a betting man I'd bet on Lost in Translation. Oscar does not love fantasy. There is grumbling that it is not fair for all three The Lord of the Rings films to gang up on poor little Sofia Coppola. I enjoyed Lost in Translation, but if it does not win it will be forgotten in ten years. The Lord of the Rings will be remembered, whether it wins or not.

Several of my choices for an Oscar were not even nominated. Finding Nemo deserves to be in the Best Picture category instead of Seabiscuit -- which was not nearly as good as the book. Russell Crowe in Master and Commander was certainly better than Jude Law in Cold Mountain. The best acting of Jude Law's career was in AI. Bill Murray will probably win best actor -- he would get my vote -- but Russell Crowe certainly deserved a nomination. In the category Screenplay (Adaptation), Holes should have been on the list. It has been completely ignored by all of the major awards. As has X2, which is not even mentioned in the technical categories. And while the second and third Matrix movies were a disappointment, their visual effects deserved at least a nomination.

Oscar does not love fantasy.

DVD Reviews

Dark Shadows Dark Shadows, Volume Nine

Not as good as Babylon 5, better than Dr. Who, Dark Shadows captures some of the flavor (and shaky production values) of the old Universal Studios horror movies. Like Universal, Dark Shadows features interlocking story lines involving Dracula (Barnabas), Frankenstein's monster (Adam), and The Wolf Man (Quentin). It also features a complex, interlocking, time travel story line. If you took my earlier recommendation and bought Volume Eight, then you probably already own this volume. If, on the other hand, you've never watched Dark Shadows, I recommend starting with Volume Four, where the story line begins to get really good, and where each succeeding volume is better than the one before.

I do not want to give away too much, but I think a rough outline would be helpful to new viewers:

Victoria Winters, Maggie Evans, Burke Devlin, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, Carolyn Stoddard, Roger Collins, David Collins, Sam Evans, Laura

Jason McGuire, Willie Loomis, Barnabas Collins, in 1795: Josette, Angelique, Ben Stokes, Trask, Peter Bradford

Cassandra, Professor Stokes, Dr. Lang, Jeff Clarke, Adam, Nicholas Blair, Tom Jennings, Eve, Quentin

Chris Jennings, in 1897: Quentin, Magda, Sandor, Trask, Laura, Count Petofi

The Leviathan People, Jeb Hawks, Sky Rumford, Parallel Time, The Future, in 1840: Gerard, Trask

Parallel Past

Great entertainment has memorable characters.

Alice in Wonderland, The Masterpiece Edition Alice in Wonderland, The Masterpiece Edition
Americans are the richest, most powerful, hardest working, most generous, and worst educated people among developed nations. We Americans are not considered sophisticated enough to watch one of the great films of all time, Walt Disney's The Song of the South. It is assumed that, because of our lack of education, we will take this gentle hymn to tolerance and turn it into something ugly and racist. And so The Song of the South is available everywhere in the world except the USA.

The Song of the South has three great animated segments: Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, The Tar Baby, and The Laughing Place. Now, snuck in under the PC radar, we can watch the first of these segments on the new Masterpiece Edition of Alice in Wonderland. It is not advertised anywhere on the package. Go to Disk 2, then to One Hour in Wonderland, and in an enjoyable presentation of Disney's first TV show, expanded with color footage replacing the original black and white, you'll find it.

While you're there, there is some delightful acting by Hans Conried, and on The Fred Waring Show there are scenes with Kathryn Beaumont and Sterling Holloway. Naturally, names of the performers do not appear on the package, since Michael Eisner and the other Disney suits insists on maintaining the fiction that great entertainment is created by corporations, not people. That attitude cost them Pixar.

As for Disney's Alice -- it's not bad. After the first animated feature ever, Snow White, Disney's feature animation traces a steadily declining arc from Pinocchio to The Sword in the Stone, after which Walt dies, animation goes all to hell, and doesn't recover until The Little Mermaid. Part of the problem is the songs, which begins with the classic "When You Wish Upon a Star" and ends with the wretched "Higitus Figitus". Alice is about midway along that declining arc. The original material created by the Disney artists is better than what finally made it to the screen. The stills on the DVD give some idea of how great Alice in Wonderland could have been if Disney had not felt the need to tame it, render it bland and therefore acceptable as entertainment for the little children that we Americans, in the late 1940s, were well on our way to becoming.

Copyright © 2004 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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