Mark Ayres Live!

Music Having been watching sport, I entirely missed the BBC Radiophonic Workshop's set in Glasgow as part of the BBC at the Quay festival. Luckily it's just been uploaded to the BBC iPlayer for us all to enjoy for the next three weeks. Click here.  That's not all, BBC at the Quay has its own programme page with three other concerts available including Capercaillie.


TV Vicki C-M fronts BBC Four's latest trailer offering acres of nostalgia for her Balderdash & Piffle days. However much I love Only Connect, that she hasn't found another presenter led documentary series to front is a tragedy. Something like a history of the press would be perfect.

No wonder they're called Everyman Cinemas.

Film The Metquarter will soon have a three (four) (for events) screen cinema built in, brought to us by Everyman Cinemas, the operators of the Screen on the Green, the new venue at Selfridges amongst others. New cinema, more cinemas are always good, or tend to always be a good thing and I was right with it (even though it's not showing anything that different to FACT or the Odeon) until the final quote in the Liverpool Confidential article:
Everyman says its mission is to create “a truly unique and memorable cinema experience that exceeds expectations and reaches the highest standards possible in quality, comfort and entertainment … where you can you enjoy a cinematic experience, swap your soft drink for a nice glass of red wine and a slice of freshly made pizza and where the cinema feels almost like a home from home”.
Yes, sorry, but fuck that.  One of the reasons I've stopped going to the cinema as much is because of assholes treating the place as "a home from home".  If I want "a home" I'll stay "at home".  Plus given the cinemas will have capacity of 325 seats, the screens won't be that much bigger than the one I'm watching the athletics on now.  Though I will certainly give it a go and report back, especially if they have an PR freebies....

"to democratise theatre"

Theatre Having been wilfully trying to narrow my interests in the hopes of some sanity, I missed this, as John Wyver suggests, game changing article from Michael Billingham about filmed theatre:
"It's not quite the same as National Theatre Live, where cinemagoers vicariously attend a single performance. Digital's Ghosts, I'm told, was shot over three successive evenings during the show's run at the Trafalgar Studios. But, whatever the process, the result is to democratise theatre. It's not just that the performance can be seen worldwide. The key point is that everyone now has the best seat in the house."
As ever there are some wilfully stupid comments from people who clearly live in London and already have access to this material and can't appreciate what it must be like for those of us everywhere else in the world who wouldn't otherwise. There is of course the extra ring of people who would also like to see blu-ray releases or streaming access to the NT Live material, now that it has been filmed and there are HD copies in the archive, but that's a different battle.

Conventional Twitter List.

TV In the idle moments between the sports in which I'm really interested (in other words the sports which I just have on in the background) (bowls) I've been wickering away at a Doctor Who related twitter list, attempting to create a kind of digital Doctor Who convention. You may find it useful.

Essentially it's everyone connected with the making of the programme, some fandom and the like including spin-off creators and so forth. Now I'm off to watch the Badminton.

Wonder Woman's current representative.

Film Might as well just embed a tweet from the several hundred:

It's heavily, heavily photoshopped but Gal Gadot certainly looks the part and the costume is about as expected. This particular interpretation of DC utilises a more subdued colour scheme (see Man of Steel) and although this is no way how I wished Wonder Woman was appearing on screen for the first time, at least in terms of this photograph it could have been much, much worse.

Apart from Doctor Who which largely enjoys being a single story across two thousand fictional years and fifty actual, all franchise characters are imagined and reimagined, interpreted and reinterpreted and this is Zack Snyder and the film version of DC's version and hopefully (even though on the strength of Man of Steel I'm not positive) the script will serve her well.

The Films I've Watched This Year #27

Film It's the Commonwealth Games. Just completed watching the Australia vs England pool match which with my miniscule understanding of Netball, I thought would see us slaughtered but ended up being a thrilling match that ended with a fumble from Jo Harten, a goal shooter who until that point had managed to get the ball into the net with great accuracy. But I was out of my seat. I was screaming. I was more excited about this netball group match as I was for the whole of the football World Cup, perhaps because I can see the skill, precision and tactics as the ball's passed with such rapidity across the court in a way which simply doesn't seem as athletic, as kinetic when men are kicking a ball around a pitch.  Plus the whole thing is over in an hour or so with useful breaks every fifteen minutes.

The Wolf of Wall Street
20 Feet From Stardom
Violet & Daisy

Her is a difficult film to watch in isolation if you've any idea of its history.  Apart from its similarities to Electric Dreams (of which this is, as I suspected, essentially updated homage with Miles in love with the computer rather than his neighbour) but the fact that Samantha Morton, present throughout shooting was replaced with Scarlett Johansson.  It's to Spike Jonze's fantasy romance and Johansson's credit that I did eventually manage to largely put this to one side, but there were still moments when I thought, how would Morton have played this?  What the Morton line like that Joaquin Phoenix is reacting to here?  What did Morton not do that Johansson is?  Was it simply that Johansson's the bigger name and they were looking for a wider audience, was this a studio decision?

Presumably I'm not the first to say this, but however heartfelt and entertaining 20 Feet From Stardom is, in no sense should it have beaten The Act of Killing to an oscar.  It's oranges and lemons, of course, comparing a premium rate Friday night BBC Four music documentary (where this will surely end up) with a historically rich investigation into the Indonesian genocide, the wrongs done to Darlene Love by Phil Spector barely on the scale to the mass killings by the awful pen portrayed in Oppenheimer's film.  But like Secret Voices of Hollywood, in cultural terms this is still an important story as the people that are the aural scaffold of some of our favourite musical moments are finally amplified.  Plus it managed to make me think warmly about Sting again for the first time in a while, which is quite an achievement.

Violet & Daisy's been unloved, not granted a theatrical release here, just 23% on Rotten Tomatoes but I do think it's rather better than all that, even if I also think A O Scott's NYT review probably gets the measure of it.  Back in the 90s, this is just the sort of low budget, indie piece which appeared on the art house circuit and I'd end up blundering into at The Hyde Park in Leeds for the nine o'clock showing (just £1.50 on a Monday), in which genre characters would play off against each other in limited settings, where the filmmaker isn't trying to say anything especially new or important, especially since he's clearly likes French cinema a lot, but doesn't do anything especially wrong (cf, Living in Oblivion, Denise Calls Up, Mute Witness).

The advertising didn't really help, throwing together all of the otherwise minimal action sequences even though that's not really the genre its aiming for (and couldn't afford to be if it wanted).  There are Tarantino overtones, but to criticise director Geoffrey Fletcher for offering a direct homage to Pulp Fiction almost twenty years after release while venerating Quentin for borrowing extensively from John Woo early in his career simply isn't unfair.  Plus in exploitation terms having Rory Gilmore and pre-Hanna Saoirse Ronan as hitgirls facing off Tony Soprano is bang on.  Orphan Black fans might also like to know this features an early appearance for Tatiana Maslany in which she doesn't have anything  much to do but does it very well.  My film of the week.

He's back and it's a pound!

TV Big Finish has reached its fifteenth anniversary and to celebrate they're providing a series of offers which includes, today, the first seminal series of Eighth Doctor stories, the very stories which turned me into a Doctor Who fan, for a pound each:
"We're making another free story available as a download today - the Eighth Doctor and Charley Pollard tale Living Legend, originally part of a cover-disc on Doctor Who Monthly. We'd like to thank Tom Spilsbury and all at Doctor Who Monthly for their agreement on this.

Also available as downloads for £1 each are the first four Eighth Doctor stories: Storm Warning, The Sword of Orion, The Stones of Venice and Minuet in Hell, and then two of his adventures from later in the range for £5 each on CD or Download - Time Works and Memory Lane."
Links to the plays are available at the Big Finish post and if you're a fan of the new series at least I'd urge you to hand over your four pounds.  I wrote about Storm Warning here last year, but I'd suggest you listen to it first before wallowing in my nostalgia for it.  "TARDIS manual, TARDIS manual, TARDIS manual..."

The Feeling Listless Soundtrack 1.0: Minneapolis #2

[from: 'Eroica: Piano Improvisions', Virgin, 1990]

Music When I was a student (mid-nineties) I knew two things. The first was that by the year 2000 my life would be complete. The second was that club music in all it's forms was the work of the devil to draw the populace away from real music. And I pretty much kept that opinion for the rest of the decade. Then last year something strange happened. I was standing in record shop and the DJ began to play 'GrooveJet' by Spiller featuring Sophie Ellis-Bextor. Here was a record almost designed to talk me around to the Ibiza way of thinking. A dance record with a good lyric and melody of sorts which also had the kind of structure I'd never heard before. I walked to the counter and bought the thing straight away - and listened to it five times as soon as I was home.

My distrust of dance music still exists, much of it seeming too easy for words. There are the exceptions - the crossover music which I now feel myself not only appreciating but going positively radio gaga over. I'm becoming particular impressed by R&B. During my long and delayed train journey home tonight, I was welcome of the company of Mary J Blige and her 1997 album, 'share my world'. I should not like this album. I mean it features R Kelly for god's sake. But here I am, listening to it again whilst I write this. I want to gas on about her vocal range (extraordinary) or the production (as you'd expect, with glimpses of genius) And as I 'groove' along to the track 'round and round' I've come to a startling conclusion, and believe me, this is something of a revelation...there isn't one type of music I don't like....

Actually that may not be true. I'd run a mile from Kenny Rogers, James Galway and in fact most people with beards. And I'll draw the line at boy bands. And Atomic Kitten (mention number three on this weblog - six to go possibly). But when it comes to everything else, I think I can - if not rave - at least understand. There isn't probably anything better at one o'clock in the morning having had many beers than throwing your weight around S Club 7's 'Reach for the Stars'. The rush of a Slipnot concert will be extreme. And quiet stylings of Vangelis lead you into believing that a calmer world is possible. The only boundary in music should be quality... [1st September 2001]

[Commentary: At the point when this was written, the blog was only two months old and many, many years before the invention of Spotify when and the exponential increase in the availability of music increased exponentially. As I've glanced through these old selections and choices, it's been interesting to me just how much my tastes haven't changed. In the main I still do only listen to female voices and soundtrack albums, with classical music and world music falling between the cracks and odd bits of pop music depending on who it is. Even with all of music available that's still where I head off to. Perhaps some folk and jazz here and there, but generally yes, nothing much has changed. I'm listening to the Mary J Blige album as I type, probably for the first time since I wrote the above and well, yes, it's fine and I can necessarily disagree with most of what's above but I'll still end up listening to Adele when I'm writing Doctor Who reviews.

What's missing from the above is that about this time I was commuting to Manchester to the RBS call centre and had decided to expand my cultural outlook by reading Rolling Stone. This was before it still had large pages but way, way past its heyday, featuring the "girls" from American Pie on the cover. I remember finding the newsier items far more interesting than the music in the end, so it was probably ultimately my entry drug into US politics and rabidly following the presidential campaigns. Mainly it was a way of discovering what was happening in US culture when most of it was still inaccessible and not just a click away. Now it's entirely possible to follow the Chris Christie scandal on a minute-by-minute basis or listen to whatever's at no 100 in the Billboard Hot 100 without having to stay up until two in the morning for Casey Kasem and America's Top 10.]


Sport As a fair weather friend of sport, I'm always grasping around for who to support whenever there are athletes or teams which aren't British or English or otherwise reveal my nationalistic tendencies. After many years of study, I've finally decided on the following policy. Essentially, it's supporting the closest land mass.

(1) City. So Liverpool or if it's football Everton. Liverpudlian athletes if there's a group of people from the national team.

(2) County. Merseyside.

(3) Region. North-West for me. Unless it's Manchester United in which case you support whichever team is playing them.

(4) Country. England.

(5) Sovereign Nation - so during these Commonwealth Games, if it's Wales versus someone else, support Wales. Though I'll support Scotland over Wales because of my surname. Such things are very complicated.

(6) Continent. Europe.

(7) Hemisphere. Which is the Western Hemisphere or Northern Hemisphere for me, depending, which makes it ok to support the Americans.

(8) Planet. Just in case.

Which is fine. Except I was cheering Scotland's Hannah Miley earlier against the English swimmer. Also it becomes trickier if both nations are from the same continent at which point the whole thing becomes a nonsense as I choose France over Germany or Japan over China for arbitrary reasons. Sometimes I'll invoke a "commonwealth" rule.  Oh and underdogs.  Always support the underdogs.

Liverpool Biennal 2014:
The Bluecoat.

Art Here’s how I met Whistler’s mother. It’s Paris in 2001 (isn’t it always) and I’m visiting the Musee d’Orsay having entirely forgotten in the heat and having seen about a dozen other paintings of world importance that Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1 is part of its collection too. Having completely destroyed my feet the day before doing the Doctor Who thing on the Eiffel Tower, I needed to rest my pins many times during that museum visit and having entered yet another small, packed room, noticed an empty seat and quickly sat down or as quickly as my feet would allow, sat down. After surreptitiously taking a drink of water, I glanced around and there she was, sitting, literally, on the wall to the side of me mirroring the position of the gallery bench, almost as though we were in audience.

The Musee d’Orsay in Paris is the kind of institution which has such an abundance of paintings of world importance that what would be put in the “average” position in a regional gallery is the sort of thing which would otherwise be given its own room in a regional gallery so here she was on a side wall, only really visible from this seat the visitor’s head cocked to the side. For minutes I sit scrutinising, dodging other tourists as they stand in the tiny space between the bench and the wall or almost in my lap trying to get the decent look which is only really possible from this position on this bench. Eventually my feet begin working again and I totter onward having become rather blasé about the occasion, which is just what happens when you’ve just recently seen about a dozen other paintings of world importance.

All of which makes it deeply unfair of me to say that the best artist I’ve seen so far at this Biennial is James McNeill Whistler because he’s James McNeill Whistler. But James McNeill Whistler is the best artist I’ve seen so far at this Biennial and it’s important to say at the outset that the existence of this exhibition is a blessing. As I have discussed and over-discussed at length elsewhere, Liverpool tends to be overwhelmed with exhibitions of post 1900 art, most often post-WWII art so the chance to see work which was created in the middle of the century before last outside of a permanent collection display, is, yes, a blessing. That in the unusual setting of the Bluecoat, which usually offers the most contemporary of contemporary art and exists due to the curatorial decision of Liverpool Biennial usually considered one of the most contemporary of festival is a brill curiosity.

But Whistler was a contemporary artist himself when the work was originally created and the big theme of the exhibition is justification. One room dedicates itself to the libel trial in which the painter sued the art critic (etc) John Ruskin, who’d taken umbrage at Whistler’s impressionistic artistic style and one painting in particular saying that he “never expected to hear a coxcomb ask two hundred guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public's face.” Nocturne in Black and Gold – The Falling Rocket is daring stuff and you can see that Ruskin, and Punch who also took a dislike to Whistler judging by the many cartoons included in the exhibition unable to cope with the idea that more than one artistic tradition could co-exist, that this cloudy blue surface could have the same emotional depth and poetry as the fine detail of a pre-Raphaelite scene.

Whistler (spoiler) won his trial due to Ruskin not being able to defend himself and so unable to provide the necessary defence, he did at least do art history the favour of putting the artist on the back foot and forcing him to justify his existence or at least the paintings that sustained his existence. In an exchange from the trial, he’s asked by his inquisitor exactly why as per Ruskin, The Falling Rocket, "The labour of two days is that for which you ask two hundred guineas?" to which Whistler replies "No, I ask it for the knowledge I have gained in the work of a lifetime” thereby explaining for that time onward the worth of painting and sculpture which are about thought rather than action or at least in which on balance the ratio tips more towards the former than the latter.

Anyone who visits as many exhibitions as I do will hopefully agree with me that we see a lot of crap art, utter, abject rubbish that not even a well worded explanatory label can morally justify. It’s a hazard of “culture” as defined by the section on The Guardian’s website that there’ll be a largish percentage of dreck, because there has to be, because “culture” thrives on mistakes. But, it could be argued, there might be less of it if artists were forced into a similar position as Whistler, of having to stand behind the work, of being able to not just explain what it means (assuming they can be bothered) but justifying what it’s doing in the world and how they hope it adds to human experience. In other words, why don’t artists (or indeed curators) have to face the same scrutiny and politicians and sports people?

The other theme of the exhibition is reproduction. Set designer Olivia de Monceau has been tasked with recreating Blue and Silver: Screen with Old Battersea Bridge (original at Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow) and a free-standing cross section of one wall of Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room (original at the Freer Gallery of Art at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.). The painting featured in the Biennial booklet, The Gold Scab: Eruption in Frilthy Lucre appears in the form of a digital print on Foamex (because the notion of borrowing the original from the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco with the connected insurance costs would presumably be prohibitive) and Ruta Staseviciute's recreation of Arrangement in Black (The Lady in the Yellow Buskin) (Philadelphia Museum of Art). The display also contains a number of good etchings including the atmospheric Two Doorways from his Venice set, with its mysterious figures in silhouette.

But arguably the best work in the exhibition is one of the smallest and a watercolour, one of the few occasions when the artist himself is directly present. Nocturne in Great and Gold – Piccadilly captures the metropolis at its most impressionistic, vehicles, buildings and people lost in the fog. Like Turner, like the Abstract Expressionists later, it’s a painting which initially appears indistinct but repays our time as the artist’s craft in suggesting details through apparently uncontrolled brush stokes, motioning towards emotional realism through the viewers memory of what it’s actually like to me in that kind of fog. Presumably the street scenes of Atkinson Grimshaw would have been more Ruskin’s sort of thing. But as I think we’ve somewhat forgotten ourselves now, it’s possible for both to co-exist.

Mr Whistler’s Ten O’Clock: 20 February 1885: Public Lecture (recording by Mr P Cock, 2014)

This is a lecture the artist gave at Prince's Hall, Piccadilly on as the title states, 20 February 1885. Here’s a transcript and here’s an essay by Oscar Wilde (who was in attendance) written in response. It’s featured in the exhibition in the form of an audio reading played through speakers in “The Vide” section of the Bluecoat, the concrete area just past the lockers and round the corner from the toilets and notice boards which is more often used for installation art. It’s not a video, of course, but I didn’t want to break format too much so I’m ushering this piece of audio into the project even though I’m not sure what’s primarily of the most importance, its existence as a thing or the content, Whistler’s words. There are also reproductions of those words on a coffee table in the space so I expect that’s the point.

Except I haven’t really had a chance to experience those words. When I arrived at 10:25, the recording hadn’t been turned on. I asked a volunteer about this and after I sat at the table, eventually someone arrived to go behind the scenes and begin the recording. The words played clearly from the wall mounted speakers, “It is with great hesitation and much misgiving that I appear before you, in the character of – The Preacher …” then a lift arrived with a friendly “doors opening”. A staff member walked out. Another lift. More people walking past. The other lift. Clatter. Folded up furniture being moved. Chatter. Mr Whistler’s Ten O’Clock: 20 February 1885: Public Lecture is being played in the second most trafficked area for humanity on the ground floor of the building besides the entrance hall.

Fairly quickly I picked up one of the transcriptions determined to read along and like the video pieces at other venues stick it out to the end. But Whistler is making an argument, essentially reading an essay, and that requires concentration, especially since the language is just slightly more arcane and alien to our ears, and it’s difficult to concentrate when life is happening all around. Of course this isn’t life’s fault. Life has every justification for doing whatever it is that it’s doing. But eventually I gave up not entirely sure what the point was and is in presenting the lecture in this manner. Headphones would limit the audience, but you could argue the audience for this is limited anyway, predicated as it is on a person sitting in a gallery space for half an hour, ad-hoc, listening to a lecture.  Podcast?

Cherbourg Cleaning.

Film For fans of this sort of thing, which is probably all of you, a short piece from Criterion about the restoration of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. The videos features Agnes Varda and all the family, including Mathieu Demy, the French Andrew Collins it seems. Spoiler warning: it gives away the ending.

Robot Ergon.

TV Robot Chicken have done Doctor Who and as is so often the case when they tackle anything outside Star Wars it's about as funny as a hernia (as I know from experience) making all the same mistakes as that stupid Extras thing with David Tennant of not actually referencing anything in particular from the show other than the relatively iconic stuff which wasn't even particularly amusing when Lenny Henry or French & Saunders did them decades ago.  Oh and the obvious sense that they haven't watched the revival at all which makes them look even less relevant.  Plus, Whizz Kid?  Hello?

G! because we DIY!

Music Just watching the Live in Edinburgh Concert on BBC One which is what it is. They have at least had the good grace to invite Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, what remains of The Beautiful South. They sang this:

With its surprisingly familiar sounding chorus which is basically this:

I wonder if it's a direct homage and if so, well, goodie, goodie, yum, yum.

The Films I've Watched This Year #26

Film To break format briefly, this has been a rich old week for film with any of the following being a potential film of the week in previous lists.  That one actually does rise above them reminds me exactly why film is my cultural medium of choice.  Missing from the below list is all the football I watched last weekend, the many episodes of Damages and the first episode of Stig Larsson's Millenium, meaning the first half of the television version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo which as I guessed, oh so long ago, does flow much better structurally than the edited version which turned up on our cinema screens.  I'll still be interested to see if Lisbeth does have more to do in the second half, disappears as she does from the theatrical cut.  But that's for next week, I'm taking this slowly.  Anything else?  There was the FACT visit of course, but I think I've said everything I'm going to say about that.

City of Ember
Army of Darkness
The Dark Knight Rises
The Great Gatsby
Evil Dead
The Invisible Woman

Boyhood is one of the greatest films of all time.  Within six months to a year, articles will appear in film journals.  Within ten years it'll appear relatively high in the Sight and Sound film poll and within twenty it'll be in the top ten.  Along with Gravity, it's a demonstration of how every generation is still capable of producing works as thoughtful and mighty as Citizen Kane, Sunrise, La Règle du jeu or Tokyo Story, that in these moments when it seems that film has plateaued or become stagnant, that there will always be a work can stand amongst the greats.  If you've not seen it yet, go now before it disappears from cinemas so that in years to come when you're talking about it you can say you saw it at an auditorium on release rather than streamed it.  Or indeed go because it also feels like the final celebration of celluloid, the last gasp of a medium which as the filmmakers explain became increasingly difficult to shoot on as the project proceeded.

What will those film essays consider?  Most filmmakers change their style somewhat over time, especially directors as industrious as Linklater so we could ask about the extent to which that impacted on the creative decisions he made during shooting.  Is it possible to see his own creativity develop and change across the film along with his characters or is the resulting work different to how it might have been when he started out?  What about the element of nostalgia or as Linklater has himself identified in interviews the way in which he was shooting a kind of contemporary period piece knowing full well that what was cutting edge technology would seem archaic by the time the film was released.  As he also says, the ambience of society hasn't changed as much in these twelve years as it did between, for example the late 60s and the early 80s, the same period in years as his work on this has.

The film's production began at the same time as this blog.  I think of this blog as an ageing relic sometimes, so what must it have been like for the Linklater to edit this film?  What of the cast, who hadn't seen any of what was shot before it had been put together, not least Ellar Coltrane who was apparently entirely discombobulated by the experience of seeing the six year old version of him acting for the first time.  The film's big achievement, I think, is that it's constantly possible to forget the effort and simply enjoy the result even if sometimes it is possible to guess which other project Ethan Hawke was working on depending on the extent of his facial hair and girth.  There's also the clever Harry Potter element in which he acknowledges the kinship with that other film series which shows young actors growing with their parts.  But the intents have been different, Linklater's level of creative will greater.

Time's short so I'll give the rest the short shift they barely deserve.  City of Ember is Dark City for kids, obviously and just as unseen and unmemorable, despite the presence of Bill Murray as the mayor of a town lost for two hundred years beneath the Earth and Saoirse Ronan on the edge of ascendancy.  The real star is the set, which was the biggest ever at the time of shooting, a massive, completely practical edifice built in Belfast which unlike a CG replacement gives a real epic sense to a piece which would feet perfectly in the Moffat era of Doctor Who.  And yes, that's a compliment.  But The Great Gatsby is just as beautiful because of the way it utilised CG to create impossible shots as the imaginary camera sweeps across the landscape as is The Invisible Woman because like Boyhood it's interested in life's incidentals, like mechanics of going to the toilet in the Dickens household.

Doctor Who began filming this day ten years ago.

Travel ... and my first impulse on hearing this information was to book two days in Cardiff so that I could see the city before it became a tourist attraction, a trip I catalogued in a series of posts on this blog. Example:
"In the event, the only time I brushed past one of the main reasons for going to Cardiff was in a really undernourished coffee shop near the castle. One of the baristas, a tall, loud theatrical man was loudly telling his colleagues and by proxy everyone else in the place that he'd received a call from Cardiff Casting asking if he wanted to do a few days on Doctor Who. Ironically he seemed only to be thinking about it. I would have left my job and home and moved to Cardiff just to walk past in the background. They'd apparently been looking at him because he was a particular height, weight and proportion. I took comfort in the fact that if he took the job he'd more than likely be encased in latex and wouldn't be seen anyway, sweating his way through the three days. I'm not bitter about these things you see."
Yes, right.  In case you're wondering, because for some reason I failed to mention, the film I saw that evening was The Motorcycle Diaries at the Chapter Arts Centre.  There's no way I would have let a detail like that slip through now.

"Manic Pixies, it’s time to put you to rest."

Film Nathan Rabin, the culturalist who coined the term "manic pixie dream girl" has now disowned and apologised for creating the term "manic pixie dream girl". Writing for Salon, he says:
"I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to pop culture: I’m sorry for creating this unstoppable monster. Seven years after I typed that fateful phrase, I’d like to join Kazan and Green in calling for the death of the “Patriarchal Lie” of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. I would welcome its erasure from public discourse. I’d applaud an end to articles about its countless different permutations. Let’s all try to write better, more nuanced and multidimensional female characters: women with rich inner lives and complicated emotions and total autonomy, who might strum ukuleles or dance in the rain even when there are no men around to marvel at their free-spiritedness. But in the meantime, Manic Pixies, it’s time to put you to rest."
I can think of about a dozen films I utterly adore which feature a character like this. Half of those feature Zooey, a couple of Megs, a Natalie or two and some Kirstins. Ok, so actually more than twelve. I appreciate this is problematic especially since I'm also one of the first people to bemoan the lack of autonomous female protagonists (see recent moan about La Grande Bellezza) and how as was noted in the original articles these characters exist simply as motivational plot points but there's also an extent to which some films are fantasy and can and should work on that level, especially if they're only ninety minutes long. I liked Elizabethtown.

The problem is that there's no gender reversed equivalent that I can think of and we're still living through a moment when they're often the only portrayal of young women on screen.  That's the problem.  It's especially galling in films like Cemetary Junction or Love and Other Drugs when the MPDG figure is suddenly given a scene or twos worth of narrative agency in the worst kind of tokenism imaginable and only so that they can either make the big decision as to whether they're going chase after the male protagonist or put them in a position so that the male protagonist has to go find them and learn something about themselves anyway.

As the Norah Ephron scripted Meg Ryan films, Friends with Benefits and Easy A have demonstrated, balance is possible in romantic comedies and there have been other moments when female leads have been in the ascendency, notably in the eighties teen cycle.  Kazan's being slightly disingenuous about Ruby Sparks since at least under my reading its actively criticising the writers who create these characters even if it ultimately bottles it at the very end.  The character she plays therein is a MPDG as a way of demonstrating how disastrous in creative terms the worst excesses of these characters can be.  Which is all to the good, because it's only when you point this stuff out that anyone learns anything, or something.

Liverpool Biennial 2014:
Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT)

Art The first important piece of information you need to know about FACT Liverpool exhibition is that it opens at 11am. The other venues open at 10am. Having checked the Biennial website before today’s visit which said “Weekdays and Sunday 12pm - 6pm”, I was actually on Bold Street and in FACT briefly at five to eleven but then spent the next hour trying to find something to do, which in this case amounted to visiting Forbidden Planet and then wandering down to Marks & Spencers to buy a jar of marmalade when I didn’t need to. I mean I didn’t need to kill time rather than needing marmalade. You should always have a jar of marmalade in the house. But I could have bought it after visiting the exhibition rather than before. During the writing of this piece the website has actually been corrected to give the right opening hours (old version cached here) necessitating the replacement of the sentence which previous appeared here with this one. But remember, 11am.

FACT also demonstrates the “danger” of spreading out your Biennial experience across weeks and assigning a day to each. The venue is highlighting the work of a single artist, Sharon Lockhart, and focuses on just a few pieces across its massive spaces. Within the context of a day spent wandering around the whole Biennial or a number of venues this is presumably less of a problem than if it’s your only destination, where the experience is to be brutally honest a bit sparse. I was in and out in an hour and that included a good fifteen minute chat with one of the volunteers about the implications of one of the works in relation to visitor expectations. The artist is also curating a film series and premiering a new piece later in the year, but the fact remains (sorry) that this is one of Liverpool’s primary art venues and for the next three months it’s displaying something that previously would have more naturally found a home at one of the temporary spaces which are fewer in number this time.

Podworka (Sharon Lockhart, 2009)

The single piece massive gallery one space on the ground floor, Podworka is projected onto a giant, square screen resting on the floor, with a long bench or seat opposite. On that screen we see footage, half an hour of footage, of the same children, more or less, playing in a series of urban locales, car parks, derelict commercial properties, around bus stops and alleyways. We’re in Lodz, the third largest city in Poland (location of the national film school) and witnessing the creativity of children and their ability to find stimulation in the degrading remnants of humanity, of the disintegrating architecture which tends to destroy the hope of adults. Where we see a dangerous pothole full of dirty rain water, a small boy with a bicycle enjoys experimentation shifting the wheels of his vehicle in and out marvelling at how the water leaves patterns on the concrete or noticing how he can see the depth of the pool from how far the wheels have submerged.

The only adult appearis in the car park scene, in the very far distance supervising as the kids ride their bicycles around and round. Towards the end of that vignette, all of the children wander over and they embrace and we assume this must be a parent. But since we’re also sitting on a bench in front of each of these static scenes, are supposed to be experiencing what it’s like to be a parent or at least a supervising figure in these children’s lives? Certainly as two boys fearlessly climb up the side and onto the roof of a graffiti strewn building which looks as though it’s about to collapse at any moment, our natural impulse is firstly of fear and secondly to almost call out to them to be careful. But we’re also behavioural anthropologists guessing the implications of play and how the children interact with one another and if we can easily tell if they’re in long term friendships or simply at a loss that day and enjoying each other’s company however briefly.

As this rather good survey from The Seventh Art blog demonstrates, Lockhart’s approach is to lock off her camera in various locales and capture the results, a kind of long form, in motion version of still photography. But people interested in film will see parallels with slow cinema, notable Michelangelo Frammartino’s Le Quattro Volte with its seemingly endless shots capturing the life of a goat farmer or for the (somewhat) more mainstream option Michael Hanneke’s Cache, in which important plot details are almost in hidden in full view in frame within lengthy mater shots of buildings or the view from a dashboard. There’s also perhaps some kinship with Atom Egoyan’s Calendar, which also plays on the intersection between a locked off moving image having similar properties to a still camera as he let part of his action play out against a backdrop of images of churches in Armenia in preparation to be taken (see here for a review).

But all of those are a fiction and have narrative intent, whereas Lockhart’s is a documentary vision, which is fine, but after the second or third vignettes, I was bored, the point having apparently been made. Because of my decision to watch through all of the film and video work on display at the Biennial, I stuck it out until the end, but most visitors drifted in and out, some watching a couple of vignettes, some barely most of one. If we are supposed to be in the position of supervising these children, perhaps boredom is the intent. Perhaps it’s simply that the vignettes are too long, on average about five minutes. It’s also notable that there’s no shape to Podworka, no credits, so it wasn’t until the first vignette I’d seen reappeared that I’d known I’d seen them all. Which was the first? Are we supposed to know? Or is the first whatever we see first, Lockhart conscious of the display of video and film art in a gallery setting where its usually near impossible not to mooch in at the middle and then after to stay after credits to see how it begins.

I’m also not sure what it’s for, or at least what we’re supposed to gain from it. There’s a certain poignancy in the way that it captures a moment in these child’s lives and evokes our own memory of similar modes of play when we were their age (which is especially true for me growing up in Speke in the 70s & 80s) and you can see why Lockhart has chosen to include  Richard Linklater's Boyhood within the series of film’s she’s presenting at FACT which does something similar across a much longer form. During the making of the piece, the artist one of the teenagers which led to a five year residency in Poland, the results of which appear in the rest of the gallery, but before seeing that, just watching this purely without context I was constantly wondering if I was learning anything particularly new about childhood and a child’s imagination that indeed my own memories don’t otherwise provide. Perhaps the best audience for the work will be these children, all grown up, being reminded of what it was like for them.

Mise en scène dans Quand Harry rencontre Sally...

Film The Vulture has a slide show demonstrating how the use of space on screen, and the physical position of Harry and Sally in When Harry Met Sally changes depending on how close the characters are emotionally:
"It's safe to assume that the main theme of When Harry Met Sally is about whether men and women can be friends, since the characters talk about it a bunch. However, on the 25th anniversary of the film's release, I'd like to offer another reading: When Harry Met Sally, with all of those cute old couple interviews, is a movie about how people come together. Not only is that the story Nora Ephron was telling with the plot, but it's also the one told visually by director Rob Reiner. In every scene involving Harry and Sally, the physical distance between the two in the frame reflects where they are emotionally. And I mean every scene. Here’s a scene-by-scene slideshow of screenshots, GIFs, and videos that explains what I'm getting at and illustrates how Reiner used spacing in the mise-en-scène to tell this love story. You'll never be able to watch When Harry Met Sally the same way again."

The Feeling Listless Soundtrack 1.0:
Your House.

Written by Alanis Morissette & Glen Ballard
[from: 'Jagged Little Pill', Maverick, 1995]

Music  This is my favourite Morissette track. It captures the essence of what she’s been trying to do, with all the props and guitars which usually flood her tracks entirely absent. Unlike everything else it doesn’t have many words syndrome, but like her best songs it’s a list. When she performs it live, it’s always with a minor guitar accompaniment which seems out of place as though someone else has joined her trek through her ex-lover’s new life. Keep it natural [originally written twelve years ago].

[Commentary:  This is still my favourite Morissette track.  It captures he essence was what seemed like she was trying to do before the props and guitars really began to flood her tracks.  Unlike everything it doesn't have many words syndrome, even though considered her recent excesses it is a list.  When she recreated it for the acoustic album, it was with a guitar accompaniment which was out of place and along with the vocals made it sound like a sub-Sarah McLachlan b-side.  Keep it natural.]

Molly Ringwald on her struggle to have a child.

"So when I was six years old I recorded a jazz album..."

Film Hosted at The Guardian, Molly Ringwald's turn at The Moth, the storytelling thingymajigy which is often the source for more stories of This American Life [see here].

Squirrel Girl!

Film Kevin Feige has commented on Edgar Wright leaving Ant-Man and this really does, as I speculated, sound like the Torchwood problem. Key quotes from The Guardian piece:
"We sat round a table and we realised it was not working," he said. "A part of me wishes we could have figured that out in the eight years we were working on it. But better for us and for Edgar that we figure it out then, and not move it through production.

"We said let's do this together and put out a statement. What do we say? 'Creative differences'. I said: 'That's what they always say and no-one ever believes it.' Edgar said: 'But in this case it's true … '"
The more I scrutinise at this, the more it looks like Feige and Wright were desperate for two entirely different film making styles and creative modes to coalesce, so desperate that they recklessly went ahead anyway but ultimately, in the end, shrugs.

Watch this:

Edgar Wright - How to Do Visual Comedy from Tony Zhou on Vimeo.

The idea that Wright could direct a Marvel film and have it do all of the above and retain his directorial vision is ludicrous for all the reasons, however much some of us would love to see it, Woody Allen's never directed a Western or straight science fiction film.  Or Alfred Hitchcock.  His fans would hate the thing because however much he tried he'd end up watering down those things they like about his films because of the needs of the 'verse and that's exactly what was happening as it edged towards production. MARVEL fans would hate it because it couldn't deliver on the things they expect, though it might have done some of the usual box office, it would have been the odd Ant-Man out.

Both sides have been pretty silly about the whole thing, especially MARVEL which is now saddled with this strange project which will still be a half-way house under Peyton Reid.  Is it still a straight up comedy?  Was it ever?  MARVEL could have cancelled this five years ago, but the cache of having Wright on board presumably gave the studio a certain cool and Wright was on a passion project.  The whole thing remains a mess, frankly, and if I was MARVEL I'd cancel the whole thing, or at least fill the production gap with something else (Squirrel Girl!) until they figure out exactly what a proper Ant-Man film should be like in the MARVEL universe.  Starring Amy Acker as The Wasp.

Senses of Gravity.

Film Senses of Cinema considers the sound design in the film Gravity, and how its "realism" was as a result of a series of very conscious choices rooted within the visuals and narrative:
"Techniques which defamiliarize a film’s soundtrack can be effective devices that create a disturbing, unsettling sensation for the audience that “shocks” them in an “immediate” way. The absence of explosion sounds for instance is not shocking merely because it is unconventional, but also because the defamiliarizing effect encourages the audience to focus on the disintegrating debris which in an ordinary film might escape such close attention as it would be in one sense just an embedded part of the overall mise-en-scene. By stripping away the expected explosion sounds Gravity demands more crucial apprehension of its visual details—just as the remote sound of the contact microphone recordings of Stone’s tools in the opening sequence focus the audience’s attention onto the exceptionally photorealistic virtual space environment."

The Doctor meets #leveson.

Education Liverpool John Moores University has updated a short video of their graduation ceremony featuring the university's chancellor, Lord Leveson and Paul McGann who was receiving an honorary degree at an event which took place at the Anglican Cathedral yesterday.

People With Enough Disposable Income To Ignore The Event They Paid For [PWEDITITETPF].

Music The Gothamist has an excellent rant which explains the 50% of the reason why I don't attend concerts any more which isn't about mobile phones:
"At Tuesday night's otherwise exquisite Andrew Bird performance in Central Park, I had to repeatedly ask people around me to please stop talking. Yes, at a performance by Andrew Bird, an indie recording artist known for his soulful whistling. You'd think the uniformly twee audience at an Andrew Bird show would be a reverent, bespectacled vacuum, but it turns out that people of all stripes are willing to wait on a very long line for the privilege of vapidly chatting over achingly sublime music. A young man next to me, who spent the entire concert gabbing with his friend about unrelated bullshit, added to the mix by occasionally CRUNCHING an empty plastic water bottle in time with the music. While continuing to talk. I asked him to stop, and he looked at me with incredulity, as if I was senile old man. Back in my day, we drank water from fountains."
Truth be told I tried attending the classical music portion of the Liverpool International Music Festival last year and ended up walking away for all these reasons. Stood next to the stage I spent my time watching and listening to people with smart phones and giant fucking camera lenses taking pictures of the event, clicking and beeping away during the music and if you were sat in the crowd you couldn't hear the music over the incessant chatter of people talking about they'd done that day, would be doing the next day or eating their way through the fast food being sold on site.  Just because it's a free event doesn't give people the right to be disrespectful, does it?  I really can't afford to pay for a similar experience any more.

Obligatory Doctor Who trailer post.

TV I'll be quick because the #GER #ARG match is still on ("Come on my continental neighbours!"). But three things *

(1) The prominence of Clara.  Now that she's no longer a walking plot point, she'll presumably assume the more standard audience POV position and therefore be better liked by that most fickle of audiences, the audience.

(2) The prominence of Capaldi. I hadn't expected this much footage of him in character this early.

(3) Doctor Who Into Darkness.

(4) "I'm 2000 years old..." It's going to take a while for us to get used to the hundreds of years he spent on Christmas.

(5) Invasion of the Dinosaurs.

(6) Nice new library in the console room. The mini is parked just off camera, presumably.

(7)  Isn't that the same castle from The Almost People and Nightmare in Silver?  Hope it's a better episode than either of those two.

* It's never three things.

Streaming Forgotten Films. Nina!

Film Back in 2007 I spent a month reviewing a series of films which fell out of view within minutes of being released hadn't been seen since, which included the Laura San Giacomo starring minor classic, Nina Takes A Lover, which I wrote about here.

Well goodness. Only ever available on VHS in this country and well deleted on R1 dvd, this morning, Amazon Prime UK added it to their subscription, which is an unexpected pleasing surprise, and as you can see from the above image it's a nice, clean widescreen HD transfer (and thanks to Maft for the tip).

In 2012, I went through the list again to check on availability and this seems like the perfect nudge for me to try again.  Not much has changed.

I'm With Lucy (2002)
Still some availability on dvd, though it looks to have been deleted.  Are some copies from between £.01 to £3.50 depending on where you're looking.  Available on Lovefilm on dvd.

The Most Dangerous Game (1932)
On dvd.  On Amazon, for rental and streaming.

Magic Town (1947)
Meanwhile on dvd to buy and rent.

The Hour of the Pig (1993)
Only available on dvd via an expensive R1 copy under the rubbish title The Advocate.  Otherwise its still only available in the UK on a Curzon Video.  Sometimes turns up on BBC Four in a terrible cropped print.

The Red Violin (1998)
Available amazingly cheaply now on dvd at Amazon.  Reached BD in the US.  Dvd to rent at Lovefilm.

A Thousand Acres (1997)
Budget dvd at Amazon which is rentable at Lovefilm.

Barfly (1987)
Available in multiple versions and formats to buy.

Late Night Shopping (2001)
Available on dvd in various flavours.  Also at Lovefilm.

Loser (2000)
Second hand dvds plentiful.  Streamable at Lovefilm and Netflix but curiously not rentable by post.

All World Cinema (1895 - present)
Link included here for completion sake.  But I'd still recommend all the films listed.

The Core (2003)
Of all the films on this list to be available on region-free BD it had to be this.  Dvd too and in a double bill with Deep Impact which is practically a tragedy remake.  Lovefilm link.  Also added to Netflix today.

11:14 (2003)
Amazon, Lovefilm.

Hostile Hostages (1994)
DVD under its UK title, The Ref.  Lovefilm on shiny disc.

Quinceanera (Echo Park LA) (2006)
Amazon, Lovefilm (streaming and by post)

The Tribe (1996)
Still only available on R1 dvd, and even more expensive now than in 2007 or 2012.

Stealing Beauty (1996)
Amazon, Lovefilm.

Visions of Light (1992)
Some dvd copies still floating around for sale and available at Lovefilm.

View From The Top (2003)
The worst film on the list is still one of the most available.  Amazon, and on Lovefilm by post and streaming (so you can skip directly to the scene I'm writing about).  It's on Netflix now too.

Next (1989)

Life Story (1987)
One of the best films on the list is the least available.  The BBC Education VHS copy doesn't look likely now though there is a low grade copy on YouTube.

Nina Takes A Lover (1994)
Status hasn't changed in five years.  R1 only.

Love and Other Catastrophes (1996)
Status hasn't changed in five years.  VHS only, despite that cast.  I mean look at that cast.  Was available briefly to stream on Lovefilm.  Gone now.

Chacun cherche son chat (1996)
Available on R2 import for £20.

Memento: The Beginning of the End
Is an Easter egg on the special dvd edition of the film.

The Red Siren (2002)

One Night Stand (1984)
Not available.  Not even the VHS version I bought ex-rental in the mid-90s.  There are two clips on YouTube now though.  Here and here.

The Family Stone (2005)
Of course it is.  It's The Family Stone.  Happy Christmas.  Amazon.

Happy Endings (2005)
No, not the sitcom.  It's a Don Roos film.  Was available on R2 for about three seconds so there are copies floating around.  Lovefilm also have it and Amazon Prime has a purchasable SD version. Along with the sitcom.

The Night They Raided Minsky's (1968)
Amazon, Lovefilm.

The Whistleblowe (2010)
Cheap dvd.  Or Netflix.  Or by post.

The Films I've Watched This Year #25

Film We painted the kitchen.

The Great Beauty
How I Live Now
This Means War
Two Lovers

This deeply average week for films was probably the last thing I needed given the situation described above the list.  Since I chose to watch two of them from streaming services it was partially my own fault.  That's especially true of This Means War which I knew was going to be rubbish before watching but having enjoyed McG's previous output, especially Charlie's Angels, held out some hope that it might not be awful.  It's awful.  Mugging, charisma-free unfunny performances from the three leads, Chris Pine and Tom Hardy as two spies chasing one girl Reece Witherspoon, perfunctory action sequences and a conclusion which sets feminism back fifty years.

If however you do find yourself having to choose between this and Little Man as the only two choices other than sitting in silence looking at a wall if you've gone on holiday by mistake, you can take some comfort as you put the dvd on that the cliched wisecracking best friend Trish (yes, it's a character so generic she's called Trish) is played by Chelsea Handler is involved in at least three decent laughs and that you'll also have the "entertainment" of trying to work out what the excised material was because this looks it had a torturous post-production, offering reaction shots clearly meant for something else and the casting of Angela Bassett in a nothing role that must have been larger in some original version.

The Great Beauty was the greater disappointment because of the critical acclaim and the general sense of it being an important film and I tend to quite like important films.  But despite the winning performances, the lustrous visuals and the gorgeous music, I was bored, which considering that in many ways there isn't anything especially boring about it in the traditional sense is probably quite an odd reaction.  Glancing through those reviews in the post-match confusion, I realised that although I understood what Paolo Sorrentino's experiment in Italian decadence was trying to do, I simply didn't care, not least because he isn't adding anything new, simply reiterating the same notions as Rossellini and Fellini but utilising the language of the perfume commercials which appear on television at Christmas.

But part of me knows that my boredom stems from the sheer predictability of seeing an aging male writer going through these creative philosophical motions.  There are some good female roles in there, not least of his editor, but in general they're part of the visual landscape, to be gazed at.  I wonder what a film in this world would be like with a female protagonist, if we'd watched the story of his editor or one of the any number of contessas who feature or indeed if the writer had simply been female.  Instead we're offered another iteration of a particular tradition, in which the narrow potential both in viewer expectation and commercial viability have led to repetition rather than innovation.  Not that you can or should blame The Great Beauty for the entire industry's lack of imagination.  Probably.

The same defeatist, unfair argument could be made against Prisoners, which has Hugh Jackman as a distraught father and Jake Gyllenhaal as the cop searching for his abducted daughter, a thriller which would automatically be a hundred times more interesting if it had been gender reversed.  As it is, it's a two hour wait for confirmation of a twist which is obvious within the first twenty-minutes because, as a friend joked to me on Twitter, "Obvious casting is obvious."  Paul Dano plays the bloke fingered with the abduction and although that's not quite enough for the whole story to reveal itself, anyone who's seen enough of this kind of thing before will be left watching Gyllenhaal wilfully ignoring obvious clues because narrative structure needs him to, leading us to wonder if we're supposed to be ahead of him.

Denis Villeneuve wasn't an obvious choice for directing the material and it's true that a certain point Bryan Singer was attached with Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale in the central roles.  Leonardo Di Caprio was on the project for a while too.  Presumably that iteration was more generic in form.  But Villeneuve steers it more towards statement and austerity, long on psychological investigation, Roger Deakins's moody blue photography suggesting a piece which is more interested in form rather than story.  Perhaps in resting on clues for long enough for us to notice them, he is deliberately tipping his hand so that we're not strictly watching a mystery but a meditation on the inevitability of human behaviour, a subtler version of the game played by Hitch in the second half of Vertigo.

Which leaves How I Live Now as my film of the week.  Essentially the German film Lore with an unknown futuristic antagonist but without the socio-political tension, this has Saoirse Ronan's American teenager wandering the British countryside attempting to avoid "the other" whilst searching for her new boyfriend and protecting her neice.  Just the sort of thing which could be mucked up in the wrong hands, there's an alternative reality version of this somewhere presented as found footage, director Kevin Macdonald keeps much of the focus on Ronan (not all, see below) so that we share her confusion about the threat but continually wants to surprise us with her strength of will, subverting the expectations we have of the character superbly developed in the opening half hour.

If there's a problem it's that MacDonald and I'm guessing his producers, are desperate for the piece not to come across as too artsy, sacrificing some of the subtlety.  At a certain point Macdonald cuts away from an important conversation that Ronan is having with an official in her living room (you'll understand when you see it) to the boyfriend watching from outside the house in order to create some tension and empathy for him, when this really should just be just her story, her conflict.  Plus there's an absolutely godawful concluding voiceover, a poetic philosophical mush, which ploddingly sets out how Ronan's character's feelings and where the world is.  It feels imposed and undercuts a conclusion which would have worked perfectly well with just the existing visuals and music.  Sigh.

The Feeling Listless Soundtrack 1.0:
Minneapolis #1

[from: 'Eroica: Piano Improvisions', Virgin, 1990]

Music  I attended a concert for piano students at a local Christian Church in Liverpool's Chinese community, to give my mate Fani some moral support as she performed. For two hours the ills of the world dissolved for everyone as they sat watching children playing nursery rhymes and masters play traditional chinese instruments. Blinding moment at the start as the priest asked for everyone turn off their mobile phone and everyone went for their pockets and bags. How can we as a people have the ability to communicate but at the same time can't find a way to talk to one another? [Originally posted 14th October 2001]

[Commentary: Well, quite, and at this point it's impossible to go to a public event where someone isn't using their mobile phone to do something during the action.  If this was now, everyone would have their phones out recording the thing, including the priest and as ever there'd be some of us wondering exactly how much of it they're really hearing or seeing or experiencing.]

"Would you like to write a new Doctor Who story?"

Books Marcus Sedgwick has written a short piece for The Guardian about the process of writing The Spear of Destiny, Puffin Doctor Who e-book from last year. Here's how he got the commission:
Four days before Christmas, the phone call went like this:

Editor: Would you like to write a new Doctor Who story?
Me: You had me at "Would you like to write".
Editor: It's a crash schedule.
Me: Scare me.
Editor: You have four days to submit a synopsis.
Me: Ulp.
Editor: And a week to write it.
Me: *strange strangled duck like noise*
Editor: *hangs up*

About five minutes after that, the reality of what I had agreed to dawned on me. For a good few reasons, I was, well, let's say apprehensive.
Under this pressure he arguably wrote the best of the series, entirely in keeping with the Pertwee era, especially in the characterisation of the Doctor and Jo, paying homage to it and also trying something new.

Do they have those rights?

Film Because we all have our own addiction, because I can never have enough film, I'm still receiving shiny discs by post and maintain subscriptions to both Amazon Prime and Netflix. Something which is becoming an increasingly nefarious problem is navigating who has the rights to films from which companies, the reason being that all too often I've received a film by disc only to have it turn up on Netflix a week later (Frances Ha) which, now that I'm only receiving two discs at a time through the mail is a bit of a waste.

In an ideal world I'd simply cancel the dvds (finally!) but thanks to the segmentation of services and the Murdoch exclusivity problem, some films don't appear on other services at all or for at least a couple of years. Plus back catalogue is all over the place. After the Century of Chinese Cinema season, I'm planning to work my way through all of Bergman finally and not all of his work is available to stream. Studio Gibli doesn't appear on either services. Disney is patchy.  Oh and some of the Amazon Prime streams slightly ropey old dvd masters.

With that in mind I'm going to start compiling an ad-hoc list of companies I think have been carved up between Amazon Prime UK and Netflix on the assumption that if a film is from any of these companies I needn't add them to my by-post list. I'm posting the list here for easy access / editing. Just to add: these are the studio names as utilised by the database on "Lovefilm".  Plus, this is for pre-release.  If it's been released and isn't on the relevant streaming service, it's probably been and gone.

I've also noticed the odd StudioCanal thing turning up on Netflix after its first run on Amazon Prime, but I'm sticking with first run here.  Some back catalogue for Lionsgate and Disney turns up on both services simultaneously too.  Plus quite often, once its dropped from one of these services I'm back to shiny disc again.  Also just to confuse things, the same company's films can be split between the two depending on who which theatrical label they used.  E1 Momentum's stuff is at Netflix, just E1 is at Amazon Prime UK.  Blaawhhehh.


Arrow Films (six months)
Artificial Eye (six months)
Brit Doc Films (near simultaneous)
Buena Vista International (not on Lovefilm)
Curzon Film World
Dogwoof Digital
Elevation Sales (not Anchor Bay) (including Chelsea Films)
Fusion Media Sales (four months?)
Independent Films
Kaleidoscope Entertainment (six months?)
Kotch Media (six months)
Lace Group
New Wave (about eighteen months)
Masters of Cinema (new releases)
Metrodome (four months)
Momentum Pictures (six months?)
Paramount Home Entertainment (unclear - three to six months? A year?)
Universal (Vertigo)

Amazon Prime UK

Entertainment One
Lionsgate (Television only?)
Momentum Pictures
Showbox Media Entertainment / CineAsia
Twentieth Century Fox (big delay possibly as long as eighteen months available for about six months)
Universal Pictures (big delay?) (also actually Universal Home Entertainment)
Warner Home Video (big delay?)

Elsewhere (only available by post)

Axiom Films
Entertainment on Film/Video
Revolver Entertainment
Third Window Films
Universal Pictures (The Works)

I'll keep updating this with more information as and when.  You can hardly wait.  It is hard to keep an eye on because the studio name on Lovefilm's database doesn't always reflect the actual studio or has variety of synonyms (Entertainment One, E1 Entertainment, E One Ltd etc).

Plus some of these are under advisement thanks to release windows and the like (checkable by comparing adding dates on the streaming service to the availability date on the rental service).  Warner and Disney take an age to get to the Prime, so it's up to the viewer as to how quickly they need to see Dream House and such.  I'll try to add some accurate data on how quickly after the shiny disc release these as I can.