Friday, 21 December 2012

Armageddon It: The End Of The World Top 5

Well folks, here we still are - not sitting on the charred remains of planet Earth and, as yet, unconquered by the Martians.  No black hole has suddenly opened up and swallowed us and David Hasslehoff has yet to come knocking on my door and trying to sell me any of his CDs (now that really would be the end of the world)

Of course today is not over yet and Godzilla could yet leap out of the oceans and devour us all, but it's probably worth mentioning that nowhere in surviving Mayan writings is there any mention of an apocalypse on 21st December 2012 and there is some belief that their infamous wheel calendar could be many years out

Nor is this the first time that the exact date of the end of the world will have been and gone (assuming it does) without major destruction caused by a passing banjo player - and so to celebrate the impending end of everything (hope you kept the receipts for those Christmas presents guys) I'm bringing you my Top 5 Things About The End Of The World

As usual the list doesn't add up to 5 - and I'm sorry to Def Leppard who's song may have made it to the title of this piece, but doesn't make it to the list.

#1: The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy (H2G2), by Douglas Adams

As most of you will know by now I am a big fan of the late, great Adams - who struggled with writers block for most of his adult life and only completed seven novels

The famous story that Adams told about the creation of H2G2 was that he woke up drunk in a field in Innsbruck with the idea and then promptly forgot about it again until he was working at the BBC some years later.

The story follows the adventures of everyman Arthur Dent who wakes one particularly bad Thursday to find his house about to be demolished, his best friend to unexpectedly turn out to be an alien, his home planet about to be destroyed to make way for a bypass and, most ominously, to suddenly have to critique some particularly bad poetry

Starting as a radio play, then a series of five books, a TV series and finally a so-so movie and a so-so sixth book by Eoin Colfer the jokes in the Guide might have dated a bit now but Adams's use of language remains his strength in a series of books which were famously delivered long after the sound of the deadline whizzing past had faded into the distance.

#2: The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells

And for this version I'm also counting the famous Orson Wells radio play that caused Americans to run into the streets in panic and the actually quite good Tom Cruise vehicle.

Herbert George Wells is often regarded as the father of Science Fiction, but he was certainly not the only writer who chose other planets and aliens as his central theme.  What he did with his ending (which i won't state here) looks a bit tired and obvious and slightly trite today - but in its time was an amazing piece of thinking.  His original novel remains worth a read even today

#3: Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War Of The Worlds

Possibly the ultimate concept album, keeping very close to both the original novel and, strangely, the Tom Cruise movie (which despite the move to America contains most of the major plot points of the original) the sheer scale of this project is breathtaking.

True Wayne takes a few liberties with the stand-out track Forever Autumn, which really has only a tangential connection to the plot of the book, but the performances by Richard Burton (narrator), Phil Lynox (Preacher) and David Essex (Artilleryman) are all very enjoyable.

Since its original release Wayne has toured with various people taking on the roles and has, more recently, released a new version with Liam Neeson and Gary Barlow - which may well be worth a listen.

#4: The Final Countdown, Europe

Last night when we were both lying awake I explained this post to Herself and she immediately named this song - which was a moment of sheer genius.  Check it out on youtube, it still rocks - and if you're not shouting along with the chorus then you're either a) at work or b) ill

#5: Waiting For The Big One, Peter Gabriel

I have to apologize for this one, as only die hard Gabriel fans will know this rather obscure song from his first solo album, which takes place in a bar as the world comes to an end outside.  It's a very bluesy start with an increasingly orchestrated end and remains one of my favourite of his songs

#6: Plan 9 From Outerspace

There have been lots of films about the end of the world, and lots of films that have made you wish for it - so I've picked what has famously become known as the worst film of all time (unless you include Santa Claus Versus The Martians)

Directed by the infamous Edward D Wood Jr (see Tim Burton's entertaining biopic Ed Wood) who conned a church out of lots of money to make the movie, by telling them he would use the proceeds from the movie to film the bible, it tells the story of aliens who, having presumably exhausted plans 1-8, try Plan 9 (the raising of the dead) to scare humans into behaving better.

There are many things to enjoy about a film that is so bad that it somehow comes out as being good: like the terrible continuity and changes of lighting, labored script, cheap effects - but the stand out moment has to be for poor Bela Lugosi - who in his later years became a friend of Wood and agreed to shoot some films with him.  Lugosi had actually died before Plan 9 started rolling and Wood used old footage of him in his garden - which he interspersed with shots of his dentist (yes, his dentist) holding a cape in front of his face

#7: It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine), REM

One of the things that was wrong with U2's last album "No Line On The Horizon" was that there were far too many songs on it with scatter-gun lyrics, IE lyrics that are compressed and falling over themselves to get out.  This can be effective on a stand-alone song, but when you get to the third or fourth one on the album get a bit tiresome

REM were an odd group, either very good or very bad with little inbetween, but Michael Stipe's lyrics for this, which are almost a stream of consciousness, are great fun to try and sing along to and remains one of those songs that you can't help but feel cheerful when singing along with

#8: Donnie Darko

How to describe this film?  A young boy wakes in the night to be warned of the end of the world by a horrific human/rabbit called Frank.  Narrowly escaping his own death he is drawn into a world of destruction, time-travel, explorations of fate versus choice and, ultimately, the end of the world

There are great performances throughout, not only in Jake Gyllenhall as the troubled lead, but in Drew Barrymore as the teacher trying to encourage the kids to think and perhaps most impressive of all Patrick Swayze as the motivational speaker.  Not a film to watch to make you cheerful - but definately one to make you think


Titus said...

Good list, apart from the Peter Gabriel which I utterly don't know. My favourites Europe and Donnie Darko.

I am tempted to add 'In the year, 2525' as a class meditation on the world's end, the film 'Twelve Monkeys' and that brilliant one with Mel Gibson and Jake Gyllenhall (again!) when the aliens come ('Swing away, Merrill, swing away'). Can't remember the name though.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Titus - as i say, nobody is likely to know the Peter Gabriel one

Twelve Monkeys is a great film - by any chance are you talking about Signs at the end there?

The Bug said...

Ooh they used to show a film strip series (remember those?) in my 4th grade class that used that song at the beginning of each episode. It was about technological changes. We loved it.

Mike & I have listened to the Jeff Wayne musical before - it was pretty awesome.

Titus said...

Yes! Signs! The tinfoil helmets!

Michael Burrows said...

Apocalyptica is an interesting part of our culture. Ties right in to our cave-person survival instincts and our greed for living.

Glad we are all still here!

pohanginapete said...

"nobody is likely to know the Peter Gabriel one" — I guess that must make me nobody, then ;^) "Here comes the flood" on the same album could be interpreted in the same vein, too.

Agree with Titus about "In the year 2525" and "Twelve Monkeys".

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

bug - yes indeed it is awesome

Titus - Signs was M Night Thingumywatsit as well. I think it was the last of his films that i saw

Michael - me too

Pete - i knew there was a reason I liked you! Here Comes The Flood is another fantastic song - Gabriel does a fantastic stripped-down live version

As to Twelve Monkeys I'm a big fan of Terry Gilliam films (up until Fear And Loathing...) and Twelve Monkeys is one of his best

Peter Goulding said...

When punk came along in late 76, I sold all my old LPs to buy the new stuff. The only LP I kept was Ziggy Stardust. The first track Five Years would be a worthy addition to your list, wondering how people would react when the news broke.