Recent Pop Culture Ingestions:
I just finished reading Douglas Coupland‘s latest novel All Families Are Psychotic. (Hmm. It appears it hasn’t come out in paperback in the US yet. Weird.) I haven’t liked his last couple of books and this one sure didn’t impress me at the start. It just struck me as too wacky and gimmicky, like Dave Barry’s Big Trouble (which I hated). Things just get more and more farcical. Eventually I just gave in and accepted it, and that’s when it got a lot more fun. By the end I was having a good time. It doesn’t have the emotional weight of Microserfs, but it made me laugh a couple of times. I thought the whole “Princess Diana” bit was random, but I did like the resolution of it.

The Buffy Series 4 DVD has been out for ages in the UK, but we still haven’t procured a copy. (The exchange rate makes UK stuff very expensive for us.) It’s out here in Australia, but it’s not in the cool little “book” format. Instead you have to buy two huge boxes, each with several separate DVDs (in separate cases) in them. That, of course, just wouldn’t “go” with the rest of our collection. So we remain in limbo, not sure whether to shell out for the nice version or suck it up and go with the crap one. (Waiting ages for the US version to come out is out of the question.) I’ve been suffering Buffy withdrawal, though, so I caved and rented the first disc of Series 4 and last night we watched the first episode, “The Freshman”. I wasn’t happy. Why is it that Buffy gets totally shit upon in the first episode of every season? Willow was a jerk to her, Giles blew her off, and her Mom was less than sympathetic. I did like Xander’s little “What would Buffy do?” speech, but hello? What happened to character continuity? Xander was an ass all of Season 3. Now suddenly he’s not an ass anymore? And Willow went from nerdy computer girl to sexy trendy Wicca over the course of one summer? I don’t buy it. I’m hoping that the entire episode was constructed to make you feel Buffy’s sense of alienation and discombobulation, because that’s how I felt. Otherwise it sucked and I really hope it gets better soon. (Also, the random phone call bothered me until I read that it was the first Angel crossover event. Great. Now I’ve gotta rent those too.)

After the Buffy disappointment, we watched Wim Wenders’s film Wings of Desire. You may have seen its much crappier and cheesier “remake” City of Angels. Wenders’s version is much better, but it’s also pretty challenging. Not a lot happens. Parts are in monochrome and parts in color. Dialogue is in German, English, and French, so there are a lot of subtitles. There are random appearances by Peter Falk and Nick Cave. To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about it. Ebert makes some good points in his review, and while I can appreciate it artistically, it’s not the kind of thing I really enjoy myself. At any rate, it’s worth seeing just to realize how completely crap the Nicholas Cage/Meg Ryan version is.

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  1. as a dvd collector, i understand your dilemma. i would go with the uk version if you have already started your collection in that format. unfortunately, the uk version tends to get a little bit more censored than the australian ones. i personally quite like the way the region 4 sets look on my shelf (i turn them around so that the spine of the box faces out). now, in regards to the beginning of season 4… they are all at a period where they are starting a new phase of life. i remember when i was entering uni i saw it as a time to radically reinvent myself, remove what i thought were the bad bits of me and start as an entirely new person to the people i would meet in the course of my studies. however, as time went on, i calmed down and renitegrated all these new and old parts and became “normal” again. and that’s what happens this season with our beloved buffy-verse characters (except for riley, can’t stand him). anyway, i have rabbited on enough, but as you can tell this is one of my favourite subjects. ’nuff said, except for “joss whedon is an uber-genius”.

  2. I really liked Wings of Desire and thought it really good how they utilised that U2 song I can’t remember the name of now…

    I’ve never been anywhere near City of Angels as a result.

  3. dude…that’s so weird. i was babysitting for a friend last night who had cable, and that exact same episode was on fox! i was so pumped, cause i hadn’t seen it yet, nor had i had any buffy in aaayyy-ges. i’m starting to really dislike willow, partly because i know the dump-oz-become-a-lesbyterian part is inevitable….and i love oz! my favorite part of the whole episode was when xander suggests he and buffy do some reconnaissance work, and buffy thinks he means “renaissance.” hohoho. ha.

  4. My understanding is that Series 4 of Buffy (that’s the first-year-of-college one, right?) was a very divisive one for Buffy fans: some really liked it, but a lot of people chalk it up as the weakest season yet (though I still think the most recent season–musical ep aside–would get that award from me). Series 5 is brilliant, though, so “suffering” through this one will be worth it for you.

  5. Martin – are you sure you’re thinking of the right movie? I know U2 had a credit on the sequel “Far Away So Close”. Bono also had a lot to do with “Million Dollar Hotel”. But if they had a song in “Wings of Desire”, I missed it! 🙂

    Orangecat – are the DVDs censored? I was under the impression that they were all the same. I know that they edited the TV versions in the UK a lot (like, they cut out some of Xander and Willow draining Cordelia in “The Wish”), but those parts have all been in our discs so far.

    Amy – I don’t wanna ruin it, but she doesn’t really dump him. 🙁

    My problem is just that I’m so used to the high school and the format and everything… and now it’s all different. It’s like when Dawson’s Creek went to college. It’s just too weird.

  6. kris, there was a hot debate running on some dvd boards over whether to get region 2 or region 4, particularly before we started getting buffy in widescreen format, as region 2 dvds had some scenes edited, apparently just little snippets here and there. but we were getting dvds like angel uncensored but in pan and scan. i personally chose uncensored… but we are going to get angel in season 3 widescreen, so, yay! apparently the simpsons season 2 was also censored in region 2… one of the commentaries made a reference to semen stains in a hotel room, so they thought it wasn’t suitable for a dvd that would be popular amongst the young folks…

  7. Huh! Thanks for that. We did notice that the Region 4 Buffy we rented was widescreen but didn’t know that was the norm here. Hmmm. Now I’m thinking we may go with the Australian version after all…

  8. Hmmm, maybe it was just their video had the clips from the film. The U2 song was one from the Rattle and Hum album
    (checks Amazon for album listing) and is “All I Want Is You” Loved that song at the time. Think its connected with the circus girl…or is that just the video. It was a looong time ago when I saw the film.

  9. Season 4 was both the best *and* the worst, when you break it down. The whole concept of the Initiative, and the writers having to rush the story along made it suffer. On the other hand, out of all the seasons it really did have the strongest stand alone episodes. S4 had the strongest comedies too, I’m sure of it.

    Of course, S5 from intervention down were the *best* of the best. And now I feel a Buffy marathon coming on. Pity my hubby 😉

  10. Martin – I think it was just the U2 video. I haven’t seen it, but I did a little Googling and saw mention of a story about a trapeze artist and a midget. Sounds like it was inspired by the movie a bit.

  11. agreed, nicci – the initiative storyline was one of the weakest – but the interactions between the characters were great. and i loved season 5 too, when so many people seemed to bag it! however, it was season 3 for me that never seemed to have one bad episode. bad girl faith made that season rock along…

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