Sunday, December 27, 2009

2009: The Year's Best Nerdery

Dollhouse Season One Episode 13 and Season Two Episodes 4-10: Dollhouse has had it rough. It was clear from the very first episode that the show was overflowing with ambition, but the first season never quite found its footing. And when FOX pulled season one's series finale "Epitaph One," Whedonites started to wonder if the series would get a real chance to live up to its potential. Fortunately, a second season was ordered, and "Epitaph One" was included in the DVD set of the first season. And this is when fans started to realize what was going on. "Epitaph One" is fantastic, an amazing episode of television that truly captured what Joss Whedon was trying to accomplish with Dollhouse. It was tightly-written, well-acted, and directed with a clear sense of purpose. Yet, this is the episode that FOX chose not to air. This episode and subsequent interviews with Whedon made it clear that instead of filming the ambitious Dollhouse that he had created, studio pressure forced him into a corner wherein he was encouraged to write "engagement of the week" episodes. This is why the first season stumbled and stuttered. It's difficult to approach the amazing questions and ideas that this series lays out before you if every week you're supposed to give the studio an "Echo Robs a Bank" or an "Echo Wears a Slinky Outfit" episode.

Season Two started out a little bit stronger, with Whiskey bringing up a few amazingly complicated questions about identity and the right to live, but it wasn't until the network announced that they wouldn't be picking up Dollhouse for a third season that things began to pick up. FOX agreed to let Whedon finish up the season, but it seems that once the series' fate was determined, they stepped back and let him do whatever the hell he wanted. And this was exactly when the series got REALLY REALLY GOOD. Say what you will about Dollhouse as a whole, but over these past few weeks, it has featured some of the most compelling episodes of television that I have ever seen.

District 9: There's not much more I can even really say about District 9 that hasn't been said far better by film critics. This movie restored my faith in the idea that major summer action blockbusters can also be thoughtful, moving, and well-crafted. Suck it, Michael Bay.

Moon: Duncan Jones' directorial debut was absolutely riveting. It can't be easy to establish your sovereign voice as an artist when your father's David Bowie, but considering Jones was able to make this fantastic film for just $5 million, I'm not too worried about him. His direction is both artistic and economical in a way that recalls Alfred Hitchcock.

Star Trek: Lens flares!

The Guild: Ah, Felicia Day. My shameless girlcrush. The actress (who also starred in the aforementioned Dollhouse "Epitaph One" and Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog) writes, directs, produces and stars in this web series about a guild of online video game chums, whose online interactions eventually spill over into their real lives. Plus, Will Wheaton guest stars. Still not sure if you want to give this series a try? Consider that the episodes are only about six minutes long, so it's not a major commitment. And for a little sample of what you'll be getting, check out The Guild music video "Do You Want To Date My Avatar?" Seriously, Felicia Day is such a nerd's wet dream. I'm fairly certain that if Manfriend and I were to select the celebrity that we could have a tryst with if the opportunity arose, she'd be both of our selections.

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest: Cited by many book critics as Priest's best work to date, Boneshaker is set an alternate 19th century Seattle. The Bone-Shaking Drill Engine has inadvertently unearthed poisonous gas from the core of the Earth that transforms anyone who breathes it into a living corpse. The story follows the emotional journey of a mother and a son as they attempt to re-write history and change the future on humankind. It's an intense read, perfect for quiet winter days spent curled up in bed.

Fringe: Giant grubs bursting out of refugees' mouths. A brewing war between two different dimensions. Pacey from Dawson's Creek comfortably speaking Chinese and Arabic. The world of Fringe is a strange one indeed. And though the ratings have suffered in its second season (mostly due to scheduling), the writing and acting continue to impress. And please, could someone show me how to make my hair do that?

Warehouse 13: Did someone say that they wanted a little more steampunk in their lives? Syfy delivered in spades with this fun-loving series in which Secret Service agents travel the world in search of dangerous supernatural artifacts.

Avatar: Haven't seen it, but the trailer and hype alone earn it a spot on The Year's Best Nerdery.

Sherlock Holmes: Okay, so I haven't seen this yet either. But I stand by my choice.

No comments: