The Feeling Listless Soundtrack 1.0: Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen).

Written by Mary Schmich
[from the single: 'Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)', EMI, 2000]

Five pieces of music which make me cry:

(1) ‘The Leaving of Liverpool’ – The Spinners
(2) ‘Moonlight Sonata’
(3) ‘Abide with me’
(4) ‘Dignity’ – Deacon Blue
(5) ‘The Sunscreen Song’


Five more pieces of music which make me cry.

(6) 'The JCB Song' - Nizpoli
(7) 'This is Heaven To Me' - Madeline Peyroux
(8) 'Closing of the Year' - Wendy and Lisa
(9) 'Claire De Lune'
(10) 'Into The West' - Annie Lennox]

Free Shakira.

Music Musical artists having their music given away free has a range of implications, so it was with a deep breath and heavy sigh when I was notified because I'm on her publicity mailing list that Shakira's new album is being given away free to people who download her iphone app.

But I still quite like Shakira (having been there since just on the cusp of Laundry Surface) but had entirely forgotten to buy the album. Now a mobile phone company has paid for a copy for me. Which is fine.

You can have a free copy too if you download the app and follow the instructions. They do ask you to fork over your email address and mobile number so I suppose it also depends on how squeemish you are about that sort of thing.

The track Empire has the lyric"And stars make love to the universe ..." if that helps.  Rihanna's on one of the other tracks too.

"Where's Earth-1?"

TV While I continue to ponder what I'll be doing after Doctor Who on Saturday night, here's what's happening in some other mythology trying to tie-down the rules of how their universe works as though that's a good thing and won't end up handcuffing or more accurately straight-jacketing creatives and fans for the next few decades. Some notes:

(1) The best thing about the video is the presenter's t-shirt. That is a very cool t-shirt.

(2) Where's Earth-1? Is that the pre-52 Earth? Why's it not on the map? Or is the whole Flashpoint thing supposed have changed the whole of the multiverse?

(3) In this context, presumably "Earth" means "Universe"? In which case what about Krypton?

(4) So Hades is also the phantom zone and it exists outside of normal space. Does that mean all of the various Kryptons in all of these universes send their criminals there? Can these criminals meet each other and interact? Isn't there some duplication? What about the good people sent their by the Justice League of super-villains?

(5) I like all of the maneuvering in trying to crowbar in all of the monotheistic and polytheistic religions, though its notable that its essentially "heaven" and "miscellaneous land".

(6) I do like the classical philosophical vibe.

(7) How does this fit in with the Omniverse?

(8) Haven't DC readers suffered enough?

"an utterly beautiful expression of human achievement"

Dance Find above the opening ceremony for the current Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing which I watched this afternoon, and, frankly, it's awesome. Empty theatrics in comparison the London 2012 achievements, but still an utterly beautiful expression of human achievement. The first hour is essentially the admin, flag parade and speeches and you can skip that if you like, but shift to minute 1:08 and prepare to gape. If the dance version of Andrew Graham Dixon's Art of China doesn't do it for you, the chunk after that really should.  Wow.  Oh and watch on a big screen if you can, yes definitely.

Confidential Extra.

TV You will have read about this everywhere else already but in an unexpected or not unexpected move, the BBC, or more specifically the iPlayer which has quickly turned itself into a new television channel via the back door (and the line leading BT Wholesales junction box) have announced they're resurrecting Doctor Who Confidential Cutdowns, sorry Doctor Who Extra:
"The BBC has today announced Doctor Who Extra - a brand new series, exclusively on BBC iPlayer. Doctor Who Extra is much more than a ‘making of’ show as we follow Peter Capaldi every step of the way throughout the creation of his first season as the Doctor. Over the course of 12 programmes we trace the highs and lows of Doctor Who’s most ambitious run of episodes yet, getting the inside take on series 8 from the people who made it."
Or the "lows" as far as we can tell you now because let's face it you'll have to wait another twenty years when everyone's left the programme and the extra features on the super enhanced version of the show on whatever medium its delivered on for the real dirt about fallings out and actors being grumpy on set (but not too much because we've all still got to meet each other in Big Finish's green room) (in the unlikely event they have the license for nuWho by then).

Of course the real question now is whether I'll watch this before I write each review, assuming I am going to review the next series.  I still haven't decided.  Sometimes I quite enjoyed myself post episode knocking together an opinion.  But sometimes it was a real trial and part of me wants to be simply be able to watch them to watch them, rather than having the need for an opinion knocking around at the back of my mind right the way through.

"everything is just about Doctor Who"

Books More proof, as if you needed it, that everything is just about Doctor Who. Not having read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, I didn't have any idea that there was a character called Jamie. On the occasion of the tv adaptation beginning transmission and Fraser Hines being cast, Doctor Who News has highlighted this post on the author's website about what inspired her to write the series:
"I rarely watch TV, but at the time I was in the habit of viewing weekly PBS reruns of Doctor Who (a British science-fiction serial), because it gave me just enough time to do my nails. So, while pondering the setting for my hypothetical historical novel, I happened to see one very old episode of Doctor Who featuring a "companion" of the Doctor's-a young Scottish lad named Jamie MacCrimmon, whom the Doctor had picked up in 1745. This character wore a kilt, which I thought rather fetching, and demonstrated-in this particular episode-a form of pigheaded male gallantry that I've always found endearing: the strong urge on the part of a man to protect a woman, even though he may realize that she's plainly capable of looking after herself.

"I was sitting in church the next day, thinking idly about this particular show (no, oddly enough, I don't remember what the sermon was about that day), when I said suddenly to myself, Well, heck. You want to write a book, you need a historical period, and it doesn't matter where or when. The important thing is just to start, somewhere. Okay. Fine. Scotland, eighteenth century."
The character's full name is Jamie Fraser, but she says he didn't know what the actor's name was until ages after she named him because the episode's credits were missing.  Now, that is weird.  Three sleeps.

"and Steven Moffat"

TV In an surprising move, the BBC's official Doctor Who site has released this complete episode guide to the new series. Previously fragmentary lists have appeared in Radio Times, and it might well me that something similar will be published tomorrow which is why this is up tonight so that people who don't want to fork out their £1.60 don't feel like there's content out there they won't be privy to (even though it's being copied and pasted elsewhere as we speak) (seriously, it's already up on the Wikipedia). Either way, it makes for intriguing reading.

For one thing it means that none of these titles offer spoilers of the magnitude of "Bad Wolf" or "The Wedding of River Song" a couple of notoriously omitted titles of the past. Part of me wished I'd not seen any of them but boy if a couple don't make me giggle. I'll not actually say which ones just in case you want to keep entirely spoiler free.

I think I'm safe highlighting that three of the episodes directed by women which is all to the good. I would have been even happier if some of them were actually written by women, for goodness sake, but it seems Helen Raynor remains unique, at least in nuWho terms, in that regard.

The other headline of sorts is the number of writing credits Steven Moffat has.  In previous seasons he's written about five or six episodes himself - and if you count Deep Breath as two (which most people seem to be on the strength of its duration) then this year it's five.

But he also has a number of co-writing credits, on Phil Ford, Gareth Roberts and Steven Thompson's episodes.

As anyone who's read The Writer's Tale will know, Russell T Davies extensively rewrote other writers, even Mark Gatiss.  Some of them come across as near page one rejigs, knocked out at 3pm amid emails to Ben Cook.  But only rarely did he take a credit for himself; in my memory its only the 2009 specials were that was the case.

So what's the jig here.  Did he present an outline which they completed or did he redo their material and take a credit because its as much is voice as theirs?  What was the division of labour here?  It doesn't matter that much, especially if the episodes turn out ok, and we don't know who really wrote what in the last few years anyway, it's just interesting to see Moffat's name as well as theirs and with authors who have previously worked on the show, not with newbies.

Five sleeps, everyone, five sleeps, then deep breath and ...

Amnesty Local.

Politics The one occasion I gave in to a chugger was outside the old Blockbuster Video on Allerton Road. It was a rainy day, I was in a fresh, romantic mood and she was working on behalf of Amnesty International and needed to do the bare minimum to convince me to hand over my debit card details. I'm not sure what good my £5 does each month but I always like to keep an eye on what Amnesty is doing.

Now they're in Ferguson, Missouri. The situation in Ferguson, Missouri is now such that Amnesty International observers have moved in. From Buzzfeed:
"Jasmine Heiss, a senior campaigner with Amnesty who is a part of the team in Ferguson, said the use of the “cross-functional team” — which she said included community trainers, researchers, and human rights observers — was “unprecedented” within the United States for the group."

Rumour Has It.

Music As well as watching the extraordinary performance of the Team GB athletics people at the European championships this afternoon, I was having one my regular clear-outs of Twitter people, the followed, because having reached the two thousand limit I can't really justify keeping an eye on anyone who's only tweeted a couple of dozen times or once a month.

Manageflitter was a pretty decent aid in this, with its many sorting option helping to ferret out feeds that I'd followed after having met a person at a thing five years ago but who hadn't tweeted since or who'd been part of someone ongoing news story the context of which I'd forgotten.  Managed to lose a good hundred and fifty, though I with I could just follow more than two thousand people.  That would be easier.

In the midst of all this I was reminded I was following Adele (official), whom it ranks as "inactive" and "quiet" but who in a rare moment tweeted the following news which I'd entirely missed and has been widely interpreted as the singer suggesting a new album is imminent:

Doctor Who's back on Saturday and as you might know I usually review whilst listening to Adele's first two albums. Lately, I've been straying and had the Haim album on in the background because my familiarity with 19 & 21 and meant they'd lost their creative potency.  But there's only one of that and the utility of the Adele albums is that I know that I can usually write a whole review within their duration and if I'm still writing in the middle of Someone Like You, I've gone on too long.  25 could be just the thing.

The Films I've Watched This Year #30

Film Heavily abbreviated list this week (and a bit back catalogue at that) because I've been catching up on Veronica Mars, The Honorable Woman (which is storming towards a pretty marvellous conclusion), Extant (which frustrates beyond measure) and the European Athletics Championship which is a potent enough drop of methadone after coming down from the Commonwealth Games. The clear highlight's been the mascot, Cooly, far more visible on screen than usual, and the commentators reaction to his existence. Their befuddlement at his or her sheer energy and athletics skills clearly has them wondering just who is behind the mask, though after this monumental bit of hurdling the other day, they probably know full well.

It Rains On Our Love
Bright Young Things
John Dies At The End
The 6th Day

Some people don't like Bright Young Things.  The machinations of "society" people are an acquired taste.  Bbut I think Stephen Fry works hard to magnify the satire in Waugh's book (not that I've read Vile Bodies) but also to make the characters sympathetic enough that we understand that there was just as much human wreckage at the top of the society as to the bottom, especially at this nexus point in history between the two wars when many such families lost everything.  I was interested to hear on the commentary that Waugh set his book in the future ending it in a world war.  So many other narratives seem to suggest it wasn't inevitable, that we had seen the war to end all wars.

The other reason to watch, especially if you're of a certain disposition, is that it's simply easier to list the people who haven't been in Doctor Who.  Tennant's in there of course and Fenella Woolgar plays a character called Agatha for goodness sake.  At a certain point in this rewatch I joked that Mark Gatiss would probably wander through, not suspecting for a minute that he'd actually turn up about ten minutes later.  It was the screen debut Stephen Campbell Moore and he's remarkable and if we had a proper film industry would have gone on to bright young things himself.  Unfortunately for him Toby Stephens exists in the world and probably snaffled what could have been some his perfect roles.

John Dies At The End is fine, but you can see that something as mega as Guardians is just at the edges if only the filmmakers had been working with a massive budget rather than the coppers which led to whole sequences being played out against green screen and cgi settings less convincing than early period Wing Commander or Red Alert cut scenes.  Bits of it are fabulous, and there are dozens of interesting ideas and some funny jokes not least in relation to Paul Giamatti but there's an incoherence which doesn't quite work in its favour.  Comic films are always less funny when the action is undermotivated or the storyline poorly explained which is odd in this case when you consider how much of it is narrated.

The 6th Day was genuinely simply a round to it; for a while Columbia/TriStar dvds (I think) had the same advertising booklet within and this was about the only film on it I hadn't seen.  It's about what I expected, Arnold thrown into a sci-fi concept (cf, Total Recall) and dealing with the consequences.  Apart from the way it dancing around the fringes of "Religion good!  Science bad!" without quite committing to either, is how back in 2000, there was no concept of a future with tablet computers (despite the preponderance of PADD on Star Trek: The Next Generation) and their lack is strange, especially in the remote control helicopter sequences which seem bizarrely antiquated now.

Jennifer Lawrence's Cinematic Crush.

"I met Bill Murray once and I was like can't even can't get started, I can't talk to you."

The Feeling Listless Soundtrack 1.0:
My So-Called Life.

Composed by W.G. Snuffy Walden
[from: 'My So-Called Life: Original Soundtrack', 1995]

Music  There is something gut wrenching about the cancellation of a favourite television show, especially a drama. Over the period of broadcast the viewer invests a certain emotional interest in the lives of the characters. So when these characters are left in the middle of story arcs or plotlines we are denied something which he rightly expect in real life. Closure. One show in particular was a particular pain.

For some reason I keep coming back to ‘My So-Called Life’. Every year I get the shows out and watch them again. Every year I see new things. I understand more. I'm twenty-eight now. What's going on?

When you're a teenager, and you have those problems, and you know your friends will make fun of you if you tell them, you look to film, music and TV for answers. Living in England, honest to goodness teen shows are pretty thin on the ground. There's 'Byker Grove', 'Grange Hill' and hints of 'HollyOaks' and that's about it. The trouble is that none of them quite has the audacity or time slot to cut to the heart of what its actually like to be a teenager. Most of the time you have to look to US shows like 'Dawson's Creek' or 'Buffy: The Vampire Slayer'. But standing above them all was 'My So-Called Life' a television programme that answered all of our questions. When the show was transmitted on our Channel 4 in 1995 it was stupidly popular.

No one had seen anything like this. Suddenly you knew what to do about that older boy or girl you fancy. Or if you have feelings for the girl next door. Or if you weren't sure about your sexuality. Or if someone loved you but you couldn't return their feelings. Or if you got handcuffed to a bed. Your heart was broken by it week after week, but you came back for more because you knew it was doing you good. A free hour of therapy.

Even if you didn't want to admit it, you were one of them. You were Rayanne Graffe, afraid of the world and overcompensating. Sharon Cherski, searching for your own identity beneath the expectations of others. You were Ricki Vasquez unsure who you were but quietly finding an equilibrium. You were Jordan Catalano torn between your friends and something else. You were Brian Krakow, the romantic with so many high expectations of people. You were Danielle Chase, always being kicked out of different rooms. You were Patty Chase fighting to keep your family together. You were Graham Chase fighting to keep yourself together. And you were always Angela, your world falling apart around you, every choice being wrong, every moment a battle, but somehow slowly working it all out.

Then, after nineteen episodes, it was gone. Replaced, I believe, by a rerun of 'Matlock'. The show should never have been cancelled. It wasn't fair goddam it. And not on that cliffhanger. But perhaps it had the right end. The perfect ending. The only ending this show could have had. Making a choice then watching in pain the road not travelled. So like life. So-called Life.

This year we would have had its sixth season. All of the contracts would have been up for renewal. The teenagers would have been twenty something. Characters would have gone, new characters brought in. The writing teams change. But it would not have been the same show.

The show I keep coming back to.

[Commentary:  One of my many, many obituaries this was originally posted to the IMDb on 27 October 2000 where it sat on the front pages for many, many months.  Since the series wasn't released on dvd for at least another two years, the above was written from memory and multiple viewings of the final episode, the only episode I managed to record on original broadcast because I happened to be home from college that week (I think).  We've probably talked enough about this in the blog's history, though there's always something new, like discovering this track by The Ataris which probably sums up how most of us feel about Claire Danes, even now.]

Liverpool Biennial 2014:
John Moores Painting Prize 2014:
The Exhibition.

Art Having studious attempted to ignore seeing much of the exhibition at the press event, today I had the opportunity to see the John Moores Painting Prize exhibition in full and my overall impression is that it’s the best show in some years. In recent times there’s been an overall lack of balance between the abstract and figurative, the former overtaking the latter by quite some margin which hasn’t always been to it’s favour. In 2014, there’s a startling number of people on the walls, walking, working, living, sleeping and although there are works in which the absence of us is the point, often it’s the results of their interference with the landscape which is.

Admittedly the most eye-catching imagine in the largest room is an expression of the very worst of humanity. Reuben Murray’s Sister Is That You? shows us a young woman’s swollen, beaten face, her eye covered haphazardly with bloodied bandages hiding goodness knows what painful horrors beneath. The title indicates that her treatment has been so severe her sibling doesn’t even recognise her. But it’s the scale which creates a confrontation with the viewer, this face at the height of an average person, always in our peripheral vision as we walk around the rest of the room, and no matter what else we might see here, it’s this face we’ll remember.

On the opposite wall, in People 69104, Frank Pudney reduces his people to the size ants and renders them across his canvas like point on a map, in various shades so that collectively, looking at the entire composition, they resemble a topographical map, or is it a cloudy alpine mountain side, or even the detail of a pencil drawing of human anatomy? There’s no accompanying notes, but we have to expect that there are 69,104 tiny people here or close to, a staggering painting achievement in and of itself? What is that statistic? The population of the country? Is this the map of that country? There are other examples at his website.

But these are the extremes. Between we find Robin Dixon’s abstract teenagers beneath Estuary Bridge. We find the naked form of Frank As Androcles, Robert Fawcett’s photorealistic investigation of the mature form. We find Nicholas Middleton’s Black Bloc, in which hooded figures, scarves across their faces prepare for a fight. The void behind them accentuates the deliberate blankness of their identities, “black bloc” being the choice of clothing which makes it near impossible for authorities to prosecute them or is supposed to. Anarchism ironically utilises conformity for its own ends.

There’s also a void in the painting I chose for the people’s vote, Charlotte Hopkins Hall’s A Private Space. A women in a purple checked blouse is side on to us, her face obscured by shoulder length straight blonde hair. Like the anarchists she’s lost her identity but on this occasion we’re not sure why. Is the blouse a uniform, is this some shop worker on her break trying to find some space to herself, the void her attempt to block out the outside world or some far simpler reason? What’s striking is the fine detail of the painting, each individual strand of hair distinct from the others, the squares of her clothing. But not photo-realistic. We’re always aware it’s a painting.

Which isn’t to say it’s my favourite painting. My favourite painting is Juliette Losq’s Vinculum, but that’s already a prizewinner so I decided to send my love elsewhere. The internet tells me that a Vinculum is an overline horizontal line used in mathematical notation, but it’s the English translation which is most resonant in this context, "bond", "fetter", "chain", or "tie". As we look up at this massive watercolour, were looking down some precarious stairs into an overgrown garden covered in weeds and ivy, graffiti and bin bags, perhaps a shared garden at the back of ancient office spaces or shared housing. What of the barred windows?

As with many of the paintings in the exhibition it’s the massive scale which draws the viewer in, as well as the detail, and the mystery. But it’s also the perspective, the sense of looking up and down at the same time, the three-dimensionality. Judging by her website its typical of Losq’s work, to emphasis those spaces created by us but almost relinquished to nature. Her installation work often combines similar images together with furniture-like sculptural pieces almost to remind us that man or woman still retains some control over space, that we can never quite abandon it. Which now I come to think about it could be a theme which underscores most of the paintings here.

The Films I've Watched This Year #29

Film Non-film viewing activity this week largely involved the BBC's superb coverage of the World War I commemorations on Monday, coverage which struck just the right balance between covering an event and providing enough contextual information about why that event exists.  The voice of Eddie Butler for the lights out service late in the evening was an especially good choice, with his deep, resonant, authoritative sound so reminiscent of Robert Hudson or even Dimbleby snr.  About the only criticism I might have is of the moments when the technology failed and we were left looking at a red or green screen, something I haven't seen before in a BBC live broadcast event to quite that extent.  But these things happen.  It was probably the weather.

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
The Guardians of the Galaxy
Labor Day
American Hustle
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Under The Skin
Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari
Adventures in Babysitting

Busy week and I almost don't want to spoil it by writing about it.  Das Cabinet Des Dr Caligari was covered yesterday.  Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is as exciting as all of these DC animations offering the kind of entertainment that you'd hope the live action film will but know for definite that it won't because for one thing it would require television's the Flash to exist in the big screen universe but the powers have deemed they're not connected so that's that.  Labor Day's a morally suspect, dull as dishwater misstep whose foley artists can't even distinguish the difference between a ripe and unripened peach (the latter do not crunch).  I think you know how much I love The Guardians of the Galaxy already and I can't understand anyone who would look at that thing and say they were bored.  Because, well, bored?  Really?

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit's an efficient, entertaining thriller which doesn't have much to do with any of the previous installments about an analyst called Jack Ryan but proves once again that Chris Pine is at the spearhead of what can be best described as a new vanguard of film stars, even if the production and distribution model as it exists now won't let them "open" films in quite the same way as the old guard.  Of course, if you know Liverpool at all, one of the major action sequences falls apart as you notice the adversaries driving through the Mersey Tunnel, past our town hall, up and down James Street and Victoria Street and crash in front of Mann Island and the Three Graces.  But it's probably fitting that it should return here.  The first shot in The Hunt for Red October is of St George's Hall.

Much as I enjoyed American Hustle, I did, very much, it has a confusion of styles not many of which have much to do with David O Russell, as throughout I had this nagging sensation of seeing someone evoking other directors while submerging his own cinematic interests.  So there's a bit of Scorsese, bit of Woody, bit of Pakula, Soderbergh's in its DNA too along with 70s Pollack.  Perhaps his point is to as well as pay homage to the clothes and music of the time, the filmmaking style too, which is fine, but it can have a similar effect to the Liverpool location shooting of pulling the viewer out of the story.  There's also the nagging sensation of having seen this story before, until you realise that if you were to take the nationality from the title and set it in London in the 00s, you largely have.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a disappointment and I'm actually pleased that I decided to watch the Netflix stream when it became available rather than await the extended cut at the end of the year.  Kristen Thompson has a typically in-depth examination of what went wrong in the added material and the extent to which it ruins the integrity of The Lord of the Rings by retooling various story points and character points so that if you watch the whole lot together its full of pointless repetitions but the main point I'd like to add is just how rote the whole thing feels, the work of a filmmaker trying to make the best of a contractual obligation.  All the middle earth elements are there, glances to the future, the characters and peoples exist but its empty, rather like the disastrous third season of Star Trek under new producer Fred Freiberger.

Having deliberately avoided reading The Hobbit all these years in anticipation of watching a film adaptation without "it's not as good as" syndrome, I didn't know that the material with the elves didn't exist, but it seems that in laying on extra jeopardy, Jackson's fallen into the trap of many blockbuster filmmakers of replacing spectacle for heart and character, or at least forgetting how to integrate the two.  The best moments, the best moments in these Hobbit films are the character scenes, when these peoples simply talk, laugh, fight and fall in love.  In The Lord of the Rings films, Jackson realised that the very fact of us not having seen these characters on screen before, seeing an elf and a dwarf negotiating was as interesting as any action sequence, creating consequence when the battle scenes finally did occur.

But the most damaging is the lack of focus in relation to who the protagonists are.  In The Lord of the Rings, each of the different strands had a very clear point of view character, be it Frodo, Aragorn or Gandalf.  The first Hobbit retained this clarity by making it the story of Bilbo's acceptance.  As a consequence of some of the uneven structural elements of Smaug, it tries to be more of an ensemble piece when in reality it should still be about Bilbos adventure, but he becomes a background character for stretches as Thorin is given leading man status until he isn't because the story demands Bilbo takes key actions.  It's odd.  Perhaps it'll be make better sense when the whole trilogy is viewed as an eight hour binge but as an individual film The Desolation of Smaug doesn't work.  Sigh.

What stops the film entirely being as I'd imagine a Lord of the Rings film being is Jackson had been replaced with Brett Ratner, is his casting eye and immersive production design.  Never mind Cumberbatch, the real find here is Evangeline Lilly who carries the stateliness of the elf remarkably, that hierarchy of physical presence which isn't just to do with relative height in relation to other races.  Like Blanchett, there's a moment when she gives a look of recognition to Kili which seems to bounce of the screen into our own stomachs as they flip over in awe.  Her next film after these three is Ant-Man, but I think we can add her to the list of actress who should have played Wonder Woman.  Let's hope she's able to find the right projects to propel her forward.

I'd also be interested to know how the transfer of the film was given to Netflix, in what form.  Famously shot in 56 fps but released in the majority of cinemas in the usual 24 fps, through Netflix on my television, parts of it, particularly when they were on sets looked extremely odd, yes, televisual.  The sequences in the forest and amongst the wood elfs in particular looked like sets, which of course they are, but in a much clearer 1970s Doctor Who way, planet Hell from Star Trek.  My guess is that the frame rate of the stream is keying into the format of the original footage somehow, but not having seen it at the cinema, I don't know that it didn't look like this here as well.  That was another distraction.  Shooting digitally is all well and good but something has gone desperately wrong when the resulting image is this inferior to film in places.

Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari.

Film  Coming soon to a cinema near you is a brand new, as distributor Eureka suggests definitive restoration of director Robert Weine’s German expressionist classic, Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari and I’ve been lucky to be sent a preview disc ahead of the London press screening because I’m somewhat out of the area. In Sight and Sound’s 2012 poll this seminal silent came 235th amongst critics, 322nd with directors which is surprising considering the near century long influence it's had on the cinema which came after with obviously horror and film noir most clear in its debt thanks to its dramatic lighting and sinister overtones.

Away from its film studies canonicity, now that it’s back in cinemas, can it be simply viewed as popular entertainment? The set-up is entirely unlike anything in contemporary mainstream film. In a small German town, carnival entertainer and hypnotist Dr. Caligari introduces his audience to a somnambulist and apparently clairvoyant Cesare who sets about predicting the future of audience members. At least it seems like clairvoyance until Caligari sends his cohort out into the world to carry out his bidding. Cue mystery, murder, mayhem and lashings of psychological horror as the towns inhabitants seek to find the truth of this unusual force.

The extent to which this scares you rather depends how much you can buy into the artifice. The sets, deliberately jagged and abstract are the stuff of a Munch painting and the actors frequently have to shift their weight in unusual ways in order to fit through rhombus like doors. The performances are expressive but that works with the general mood of excess. Perhaps the best entry point for modern audiences is the new soundtrack composed by John Zorn, which partly utilises the Karl Schuke organ at the Berliner Philharmonie and mixes classical, jazz and other genres to thoughtfully enunciate the emotional undercurrent of events.

My first experience of Caligari was at the Liverpool Biennial 2006 when I was invigilating at Afoundation in Greenland Street building, in the furnace section of what’s now Camp and Furnace, or the big room with the long tables and caravans. Goshka Macuga’s Sleep of Ulro installation included a giant wooden architectural construct directly influenced by the sets in the film, particularly in the studio bound moments when Caligari is apparently being chased across the landscape. At The Furnace, visitors could run up such a space then find themselves trapped in a dead end, much like the structures on screen (images here).

Accompanying the screener was an explanation of the how the restoration came about the gist of which is in the video I’ve included above. Even on this timecoded single layer dvd-r I can see clarity the new image has, the care which as been taken in sourcing the best materials to create as lucid an image as possible. To some extent it’s almost too unblemished. Scuzzier prints have ancient quality to them which in the case of silent horrors always enhanced the atmosphere. But it would be churlish of me to suggest that this isn’t an improvement of some rep copy which has done the rounds and it might just mean the film will survive for another hundred years.

Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari is released theatrically in he UK & Eire on the 29th August.

The Feeling Listless Soundtrack 1.0:
Eric's Ghost.

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

Music Looking over the compilation I’m not sure now what I was trying to achieve. I think I was hoping to complement the tone of the weblog, include some of my favourite music and also offer a few surprises. I think I’ve done that. The trouble with compilations is that they can imply that this is my musical taste, and look over the track listing I’m not sure that’s what’s here. ‘The Heights’ track is on the edge, as is ‘The Flying Pickets’, curiosities more than anything else. Ironically, ‘Extremis’ may well also have been a mistake. But it could have been a lot worse. I nearly did include the aforementioned Richard E. Grant dance record. And a ‘This is the World Trade Centre’ track I’m particularly fond of. But this was originally put together in May this year and I’ve discovered a bunch of new music since then so I’m thinking about a sequel featuring just instrumental music. Which would be an odd way of expressing a medium built so much on words [originally written twelve years ago].

[Commentary:  Yes, well, if you say so.  The choice of the Lisa Coleman tracks will probably require some explanation.  They make better sense in the mix tape where they're interrupted by the Morissette and McEvoy acapella tracks.  They originally appeared on one of this five inch cds in the box with the above album as a bonus.  I'm yet to find an interview which bothers to mention this, so instead, here's Richard Keys patronising both Wendy and Lisa on the TV-AM couch in 1989.  Opening gambit: "Are you sisters?"  Minor kerfuffle: "His surname is Nelson, well, I never knew that."]

The Circle Line of Life.

Music If the Circle was in NYC, but I couldn't think of a better punning post title. The second best thing about the video is the general shrug of the commuters, the general collective sigh of "not this again" as they keep their eyes firmly fixed on their phones which at no point are even raised to record the hub bub. The commenters at Gothamist are pretty much in agreement that this kind of marketing is just intrusive but if the cast of The Lion King turned up on Merseyrail, I'd be thrilled. Not that there'd be much time for them to get the song out before they'd be halfway to Southport.

Liverpool Biennial 2014:
St. Andrew's Gardens.

Art Ridiculous. Ridiculous, ridiculous, ridiculous. This is ridiculous. How ridiculous? I’ve just spent an hour this afternoon sat on couch in front of a plasma screen in the housing office at The Bullring, sorry, St Andrews Gardens watching a stupifyingly boring art discussion programme from Belgium in the late eighties and when I had finished, after I’d been to the onsite toilet and photographed a copy of the accompanying explanation in the booklet sat on the coffee table in the space, said my goodbyes to the very kind invigilator who’d begun the screening over again especially for me right from start, all I could think was why? Why had I done this?

Apart from the existential realisation, not in a good way, that I’m currently in the place in my life when I can spend an hour on a Friday afternoon sat on couch in front of a plasma screen in the housing office at The Bullring, sorry, St Andrews Gardens watching a stupifyingly boring art discussion programme from Belgium in the late eighties, I have few answers. As the final venue on my tour of the official Biennial exhibitions, the A Needle Walks Into A Haystack cluster, it’s at best anti-climactic. But as I discovered at the last Biennial when I did the venues in numerical order based the figures selected for the map in the official booklet, they’re not meant to be done in numerical order based the figures selected for the map in the official booklet. It just sort of happened that way this time around.

The idea of bringing a curated collection of work by Belgian television director Jef Cornelis isn’t unsound. At least as a student of television history, there’s something potentially enthralling for me about seeing any television from the continent, especially arts television, because it’s something which hasn't been broadcast much in this country. When histories are written and documentaries are made about the history of art television, it’s always from a British perspective and we simply don’t get to see or hear about the Beligian or French or Spanish equivalents of Kenneth Clarke, Melvyn Bragg, Alan Yentob, Caroline Wright or Humphrey Burton.

As the Biennial booklet and website indicates, when Jef Cornelis worked at VRT (the Dutch-language Belgian public broadcasting corporation), he made over 200 films and here we have the ability to dip in and see this voice and see how a different culture reflected back on itself through its own programming. Like a one man Arena, across the decades, which oddly mirror the period "classic" Doctor Who was on the air, not that this is important but is on my mind for some reason, he covered a similar range of topics across many disciplines and titles which stand out from the list of works here in the booklet, including “Things that aren’t mentioned: Alice in Wonderland”, James Lee Byars: The World Question Centre” and “Landscape with Churches”.

Yet despite all of that, my own intellectual justification for why this is relevant, as I walked away from the display, I still asked myself, what is the point? Partly it’s the delivery. There’s no particularly connectivity between the Bullring and Jef Cornelis’s work other than perhaps the deliberate incongruousness of it, in which case to choose this venue in which we’re asked to concentrate on a television recording while the housing office quite rightly goes about its daily, noisy business, is, like I said, ridiculous and doesn’t do the work any favours. If this hadn’t indeed been necessarily subtitled I wouldn’t have had a chance in hell of following any of, let alone the miniscule amount I did latch on to.

On top of that, I’d also ask how we as an audience are supposed to interact with it. If I was following the rules of my own project which was to watch all of the video art on display the Biennial I’d be spending the best part of the next two months at the Bullring working my way through this stuff. I will not. Apart from the fact that we’re in the grey area of whether this is art or commentary on art or both, I can’t imagine the Biennial's curators expects us to either. It's worth asking how much of it they've seen themselves given that the show's been curated by Koen Brams, the director of the Jan van Eyck Academy instead. So how much of this do they expect us to see? Across the hour I was there, I saw three other visitors, a couple and someone on their own and they each stayed for about five to ten minutes, not much of which was spent sat on the sofa or accompanying armchairs watching the programme.

What did they make of it? What did it do for them? You can’t legislate for the reactions of every audience member or visitor but I wonder how many of them have also sat and watched a whole programme, or sat in the back room and watched one of the other documentaries and do they realistically have the time? I’d be genuinely interested to know if anyone reading this has either (through through usual channels please). If all the visitors are doing is wandering through, glancing briefly at a snippet of a seventy-five minute fashion documentary (or whatever), reading the information boards then heading off to another venue, it’s worth asking exactly what the point was in specially subtitling all this material in the first place. What’s it all for?

Container 3: Heine’s Paper Crane (Jef Cornelis, 1989)

The work is being displayed through a weekly screening selection on that main screen and through headphoned screens in a room at the back so it really depends on when you visit as to what you’ll see. This week it’s the turn of the third episode in the producer’s ten part philosophy discussion programme which began broadcasting fortnightly in early May of that year as a way of giving the a voice to the intellectuals of Flanders, who he thought at that point had no particular tradition in that regard. Two regular moderators and two guests hashed around a topic and in this third episode the participants read and discuss the relationship intellectuals have to history as a construct through letters by the likes of Goethe, Marx and Schopenhauer.

Which sounds pretty run of the mill and the sort of thing which might turn up on Radio 4. It’s not that much different to In Our Time. It killed Cornelis’s career. As the accompanying notes describe, “the Flemish press could not find a single good thing to say about Container” and the reason it only lasted ten episodes was because the VRT ended it. It’s not hard to see why. Ridiculously (there’s that word again) the Container of the title is an actual container, designed and built especially for the programme by Belgian architect Stephane Beel. Throughout there are cutaways to outside of the container with these four intellectuals sat around the table inside which entirely tip the viewer out of whatever point is currently being made.

It’s just the kind of experiment that Channel 4 might have carried out in its early days when they were allowing anyone to make programmes and which would later show up being sneered at by Mark Lawson on the A-Z of TV Hell or parodied by Adam & Joe. It’s After Dark filmed on the set of Network 7. And boring, so, so boring. The problem is that unlike In Our Time or After Dark, there’s no attempt to bring the viewer up to speed. Like turning up in the middle of an Oxbridge seminar, we’re expected to know who all these figures are and why their centuries old words are interesting. I would say I managed to follow about ten percent of it (see below), but the rest, what I could concentrate on amid the bustle of the office, was a fog.

The bit I did latch on to at about the twenty minute mark (I could keep an eye on the duration thanks to the massive screen showing BBC News on the wall nearby) concerning the notion of history not existing or rather what we think of as history actually being something cobbled together by academics and politicians, the winners, through the prism of their concerns and interests. This reminded me of the coverage of the World War One commemoration on Monday which included packages about the contribution the then British Empire made to the war, and how the native peoples of the areas of the world participated and died defending the very people who’d conquered them.

Having written this stinging criticism, again I ask myself what it’s for, what’s the point? Container 3: Heine’s Paper Crane won’t in any way be representative of Cornelis’s work and can’t be if he managed to previously carve out a thirty year career at the station it was produced at, like assuming all of The West Wing is like Disaster Relief. If I’d visiting a week earlier or later the previous four paragraphs would have been entirely different. Is Biennial therefore asking me to watch a range of his programmes in order to gain some knowledge of the kind of work he does? Is this art appreciation or screen theory?  If the piece had been displayed in a white cube rather than what's otherwise a student common room would I be asking the question in the same way?

The Biennial text suggests he was attempting to work against the grain of what television expects which does make him as much an artist as programme maker but within the limits of being a Biennial visitor, what’s the goal? Not for the first time this Biennial, I’m perplexed by the curatorial choices. On the basis of Container alone, with its artifice, I can see his artistic intervention (in a similar way to the Suzanne Lacey piece from two years ago) but by putting it in an exhibition does it become a piece of art and did Cornelis want it ever to be judged in these terms or was his primary focus simply on making this discussion programme visually interesting in a similar way to Roland Rivron when he decided to present a chat show while floating in the Thames?

Liverpool Biennial 2014:
Tate Liverpool.

Art Either I’ve been taking on too much caffeine again or this Liverpool Biennial is finally starting to get to me. There’s no other way I can explain my Room 237 moment while visiting the Claude Parent installation in the Wolfson Gallery at Tate Liverpool. Room 237 is an increasingly notorious documentary regarding the conspiracy theories surrounding Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, that more than a pretty good horror film, it’s at the nexus of socio-economic intellectual mush, which includes such things as the director subtly revealing that the footage of the moon landings was all created on sound stages with himself in charge. Like a fever dream, these theorists drag together disparate elements like Danny’s t-shirt, the shape of shadows and the colour of the carpet to reveal a truth which just simply isn’t there.

Clause Parent’s installation is a multi-level architectural construct which like much of his work, attempts to disrupt our expectations of a given environment, in this case filling the white cube space with ramps and balconies and splitting the levels turning the Wolfson into a kind of mini-Guggenheim. The works housed in La colline de l’art are supposed to extemporise and complement the space it seems, full of abstract shapes and circles on canvases against three-dimensional curves. In some respects it reminds of the fears expressed by artists in an open letter to the Guggenheim when it opened that visitors wouldn’t be able to experience their works in the best environment because they’d effectively be standing on a slope. As it turned out the gradient there wasn’t as exaggerated as they were expecting. It is here in places.

Now, join me in Room 237. After spending some time in the space, engaging with some pieces, reviling others, I walked up the ramp at the very centre of the space which leads up to the main balcony. At the top of this ramp is Paul Nash’s Voyages to the Moon, an abstract pieces which as apparently the result of him sitting in a restaurant and noticing a glitterball refracted the moonlight across the space. We see what looks like the moon gradually rising through the space and up into the sky. At the other end of the balcony is a Roy Lichtenstein piece, Moonscape, a gorgeous image which utilises plastic to provide the gradients in colour in the deep blue sky, like cosmic currents. Thinking about the both pieces, it occurred to me that in moving up the ramp onto the balcony, I’d essentially watched Nash’s moon rise in Lichenstein’s sky.

At which point I began to think about the other pieces I’d seen and the recurrences of moon and space symbols in them. Paul Delvaux’s Sleeping Venus has a crescent moon in the sky. Naum Gabo’s two pieces Model for ‘Construction in space, suspended’ and Model for ‘Monument to the Astronauts’ have it in the title. Francis Picabia’s The Fig-Leaf has a moon shaped ball on it with a person on top – moon landing? The video piece Trisha Brown WATER MOTOR has a slow motion section in which the dance looks for all the world like its happening in low gravity. Looped Network Suspended in Pictorial Space by Gillian Wise resembles a rocket scaffold. I was sure that the other pieces would reveal some connection but I just hadn’t seen it yet. I was enthralled. I'd found some hidden message right there.

Yes, well, ok. I did what you need to do in these situations and asked an invigilator and of course it was the first time he’d heard of it. This was not, as I suspected some hidden joke by Claude Parent. He hadn’t selected the art, just designed the space. The art had been selected by Biennial curators Mai Abu ElDahab and Anthony Huberman and although its possible these connections were intended, it seems unlikely. In the main Tate collection display which investigates mundane domestic objects in art, we’re told in no uncertain terms that this is what its doing. If this whole moon connection was more than a coincidence it would certainly be mentioned in the accompanying text. It is not. The accompanying text is all about how the art complements and contradicts the space. Welcome to Room 237.

Trisha Brown WATER MOTOR (Babette Mangoite, 1978)
Felix Gets Broadcast (Mark Leckey, 2007)
Instructions No 1 / Instrukcije br. 1 (Sanje Ivekovic, 1976)
The Coat (Karen Cytter, 2010)

Since this is a Tate collection display, most the pieces are already heavily documented. Babette Mangoite has written at length about the making of Trisha Brown WATER MOTOR on her website and the Tate has its own critical appreciation which is the basis for the text which appears with the work in the gallery space. Both of these rather blow the wind out my sales and I can’t be bettered so you might as well go and read those. To offer a quick description, it depicts legendary postmodernist American choreographer and dancer Tricia Brown performing her WATER MOTOR piece in black and white in single takes firstly at normal speed then slow motion taking full advantage of her obvious abilities to compulsive effect. It’s projected at Tate and is arguably the most eye-catching piece in the space.

In her text, Mangoite says her one regret is that she didn’t record synchronous sound because as she says, even though the dance occurred without music its impossible to convey that without recording the silence, which of course wouldn’t be silence because microphones would have picked up the sound of the camera, Brown’s breaths and shifting footwork and ambient noise. For my part I probably violated the artist’s wishes by listening to my own music during the two or three occasions I watched the piece, various tracks (some Kevin Shields, Eliza Doolittle) all of which eerily synched up. Seeing it instead with the ambient noise of the gallery space was also counterproductive, the mix of children screaming, random chatter and feet banging on the woodeness of Parent’s sculpture working against the magnetism of Brown’s athleticism.

Having just spent the past week and a half with the Commonwealth Games, whose visual language, especially in the gymnastics, includes the slow motion replay, it didn’t occur to me that the recording of the second dance wasn’t simply the first duplicated and slowed down. But it isn’t. This was recorded in 1976 when such technology was still magnificently unreliable. Mangoite filmed the piece three times, twice at normal speed, the third in slow motion then selected the best takes. In the third take, did Brown especially emphasise certain moves for the purposes of extemporising on the underwater feel of the whole dance? Perhaps. Not sure. But it’s a starting, emotional piece of choreography which repays multiple viewings even if we can only imagine what it sounded like.

We Need To Talk About Peter Quill.

Film If you've seen MARVEL's Guardians of the Galaxy already you'll know that it ranks with Inception, Gravity and Boyhood as one of the greatest film exploits of all time, one of those epoch changing moments in cinema which can do nothing but inspire awe. Much of this has to do with both the film itself which is as spectacular a space adventure as we could hope it might be based on the trailers, but also the effect it potentially has on the film business and the nature of the blockbuster. If MARVEL's Captain America: The First Avenger was innovative in how it extemporised the narrative synergy between film and television, MARVEL's Guardians of the Galaxy has the potential to change everything.

Such hyperbole probably need some explanation and in short order, here it is.  MARVEL is the shit.

Guardians made over $90m in its opening weekend in the US.  It's beaten by Transformers: Age of Extinction so far in annual totals but its the second biggest opening of the year and looks to have a huge second weekend.  But, whisper it, this was never a sure thing.  Transformers was a sure thing because even people who hate what Bay's done to the characters will have gone and it has a wide popular appeal with children.  Plus its the fourth installment in a franchise which has been massive despite the variable quality of the product.  Transformers was a sure thing.  Transformers was always going to be a massive opening.  People will go and see Transformers.

Guardians was not like this.  The trailers were excellent as was the poster marketing.  Arguably it had the best marketing campaign since all of the films listed above.  But it was never a sure thing.  Even up to a few weeks ago I was seeing online commentary, professional and amateur which talked about it being a risk.  No one was sure.  This Forbes article tries to have it both ways.  Nothing about the film made sense in relation to what people know about the film business.  Only one of the main characters is human, and two of the others are a digitally animated talking racoon and a tree.  The trailers betrayed a certain offbeat humour more akin to the cultiness of Firefly/Serenity, which have only really found an audience amongst the kind of people who like that kind of this.

Essentially it's asking the audience to accept the stuff they like about PiXAR films in a "real world" setting, in the middle of space, amongst giant alien empires filled with masses of preprepared mythology.  Star Wars and Lord of the Rings accepted, these are not the sort of things popular audiences like.  John Carter (of Mars) is a prime example of this kind of film, and although it's not quite as good as Guardians, it's still better than Transbloodyformers.  The storylines aren't dissimilar either in some respects and toally they're not that different either.  But a nervy ad campaign meant people didn't come even though that was also made by Disney.  If people didn't come to that why would they to this?

People came.  Boy did people come.  Look at them on the Twitters talking about this being the new Star Wars, even suggesting JJ's wasting his time because whatever he's doing can't be as good as this (which would make the Star Wars studio pretty nervous if it wasn't for the fact that it's the same studio).  It helps that the film itself is akin to the new Star Wars capturing quite a bit of the same humour and wonder of the original trilogy which the prequels sumerilly failed to offer.  It's funny, poignant, has some jaw-dropping visual moments and more importantly you forget the racoon and tree are being animated only now and then marvelling at just how accurate Rocket's fir is.

And in coming, they disproved the expectations of what we'll call the mass audience are tolerant of. The humour in this is offbeat and like I said the trailers told the audience that it was offbeat.  But they came and they came some more and social media suggested their friends come too.  Right up until I went yesterday, people I wouldn't imagine in a hundred years would see Guardians signalled their intention to go and afterwards tweeted how awesome it was in some way or other.  Having seen it myself I still can't quite believe this has happened.  This is a cult film.  It has all the elements of a cult film.  It's practically a remake of Space Truckers.  Yet there we are.  Over $90m opening weekend.

Now the previous MARVEL films will have something to do with this, what with MARVEL being a PIXAR like brand now.  But Captain America and Guardians are such different films you can't imagine there would be much crossover.  Tonally, Guardians is effectively a Troma film (as it would be given the career origins of the director) on a massive budget.  It's the kind of film which you'd find unheralded at Blockbuster in the mid-90s with c-list actors including Stephen Dorff directed by an auteur whose next film is The Incredible Ice Cream Suit but which more than lives up to your low expectations and which you know must have looked even better in widescreen before the studio panned and scanned the thing on the cheap.  Actually, no, that is Space Truckers.  $90m.

Amazing.  Game changing.

It's game changing for a number of reasons.

Not too long ago one of the blogs I read joked when seeing the plans DC has for their characters in cinema that MARVEL should just make a Squirrel Girl film to rub their faces in it, which was became even funnier when it emerged that MARVEL had copyrighted the character meaning that she's likely to turn up in film or on television in some capacity.  But the point is whereas before Guardians no one would think it possible that a character whose main power is the control of squirrels, who has cameoed in a Fantastic Four cartoon as a visual joke to demonstrate how low down the pecking order their recruitment process for a team replacement had sunk now looks like a sure bet.

Even Ant-Man looks like it could be a sure thing at this point even though in no way should they even be making it.  But Guardians gives them the flexibility to and make it another massive release.  Apparently yet more screenwriters are taking a pass at it, which is what happens when you have to replace your director.  If anything even at this point Ant-Man looks like about as appetising as the failed Gen 13 pilot with Alicia Witt but even turned out to be pretty good.  All Ant-Man needs to be now is pretty good and it'll open huge or at least huge enough for the whole thing not to have seemed like the massive waste of time it currently looks like.  Edgar Wright might even agree to direct the sequel, though probably not.

Right now, Disney's MARVEL could pluck any of the characters they have the rights to and turn it into a film and people will go.  They're still being cautious and they have every right to be.  They're not greenlighting projects left right and centre even though Black Widow has to be on the cards now, especially when you add in Lucy's opening weekend.  The trailer for Lucy ran before Guardians at FACT yesterday and as much as I enjoyed it and can't wait to see it, there's not one moment when I didn't wish it was a trailer for Black Widow.  Never mind Squirrel Girl, MARVEL at this point could probably make a Captain Barracuda film work and he's a pirate.  Obviously.

As a sidebar, Kevin Feige is still prevaricating on the point, but Guardians's screenwriter says on Twitter that she worked on a treatment in 2010/2011 for a film, the kind of statement someone only makes on the Twitters if they've been given the go ahead from someone to make that kind of statement even if she says that its not in active development, like a governmental leak designed to sound out some new policy.  At 80 odd retweets and fifty-five favourites its not exactly gone viral, but the news sites picked up on it, and you can imagine someone at MARVEL development is watching the reaction.  My guess is they're waiting for Captain America to have its threequel before offering Black Widow up as a replacement.

Sorry, second indulgence, but that's my theory about what MARVEL's doing here.  They're not thinking about the market in terms of characters but tones.  Now that Iron Man 3's shuffled through they're launching Ant-Man another film about a technoscientist.  Black Widow or even Hawkeye won't be launched until Cap is done because it would be strange to have another SHIELD agent based film series on the go.  I'm not sure what will happen after Thor, although you could argue the Doctor Strange film carries on the fantasy/horror element.  Guardians truly is offering a different genre to all of them.  But don't be surprised if in ten years when that's done, and after Fantastic Four tanks and they reintegrate the rights that we'll get Silver Surfer.

Anyway, they're sticking to two or three films a year which is a shame but probably all they can usefully produce without the quality dipping.  When the MCU was originally announced I remember one thought being that there would be a series of prestige films based on the bigger characters then smaller budget projects for the c-listers.  Arguably these smaller budget projects have migrated to television.  But think on that.  Agent Carter and the Daredevil series exist in the same universe as Guardians and Thor, which they do in the comics of course, but this is unprecedented in film and television.  But I've already covered that at some length elsewhere, so let's not do that again.

Because audiences turned up for Guardians, it means that studio expectations, notably at MARVEL but also elsewhere should widen, hopefully widen, and they'll take more risks with the kind of films they'll produce and the projects which look slightly offbeat may well get greenlit now [see this io9 piece].  My hope has been that MARVEL in particular will range out into other genres but set in the MARVEL universe and there's been some of that on television in the Netflix deal but I'd love to see a cop drama or rom com set in the MCU for the big screen.  I expect the question they'd ask is exactly why they would but if nothing else Guardians proves that a MARVEL film doesn't have to have superheroes in it in the traditional sense, even aliens, to be successful.

But what does that mean for the other studios?  Given their idiotic decision to not fall in with MARVEL and attempt to construct their own cinematic universes around the characters they have (though I still wonder if Disney and Sony attempted a proper deal over Spider-man which fell through) Guardians will either have a positive effect on them or it won't.  It depends on the percentage of the audience who went because it was the next installment of the films set in the MCU or simply with the MARVEL logo on the front.  That I simply don't know.

The other game change is in how DC reacts.  Up until this point they've been pottering along knowing that MARVEL's doing well but straight on with their plans.  But Guardians has to have given them pause not least because of comments like this found on Youtube under a copy of the trailer for Guardians:

Yes, exactly.  Superman and Batman are top draw characters which is why DC are so desperate to make films about them even though there have already been plenty of films about them and now MARVEL have come along and turned the equivalent of their Legion of Superheroes into a film and made it one of the most successful films of all time.  This shouldn't happen.  If DC are pinning their hopes on the same-olds it certainly wasn't even on their radar.  After writing that sentence, now I would be more excited to see a Legion of Superheroes film that Batman again even starring Ben Affleck.

But no one is excited about Superman v Batman that I can see.  Despite the release of the various images at Comic Con and the teaser footage with the glowy eyes and some ensuing excitement, I simply don't see the same level of excitement about that film than for pretty much every MCU release.  Everyone has something to say about everything, but people are already talking about Guardians 2 and what might happen in Guardians 2 in ways which I simply don't see with SvB or whatever it's called this week amongst the non-geeks, or should I say the people who would identify as geeks in the old usage.  That's a problem for DC and its unsolvable.

The other problem DC has is that its only making one film for release in 2016 [correction: actually two see below].  MARVEL will have at least four or five films out in the meantime not including the other version of MARVEL from the other studios.  Which will either mean that audiences are sick of superheroes anyway by 2016 and will simply shrug in the face of Kal-El and Bruce or the intervening films are so awesome they'll still shrug and wonder why they should care.  As Man of Steel shows, they will make money, but purely from a business perspective, taking into account the television series, in film terms they're sitting on a whole universe full of characters and still doing nothing with them.  HAHAHAHAHAHA.

Updated 07/08/2014  No sooner had I posted this and gone to bed had it been announced that DC have effectively blinked and moved Batman v Superman from its original release day of the 25th March 2016 opposite the third Captain America film to late March.  Deadline also reports they've offered up release dates for a raft of projects through 2020, none of which have titles yet but which exists to show that they aren't sitting on these characters and they do have some ideas.

Neither Variety or Deadline make the connection but I find it inconceivable that this announcement which has come under a week after the release of Guardians has nothing to do with Guardians.  The release dates will already have been decided but the fact of their announcement has to be connected, doesn't it?  Either way, in just ten years we've come to the point were DC actively believe a Captain America threequel would beat a film starring Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman at the box office.  MARVEL is the shit.

Losing Voice.

Music PopJustice has a column about the BBC's Saturday night pop talent content The Voice which notes that the first single from the winner of the last series, Leah McFall, went in at the high fifties in the pop charts despite being a pretty good pop song with the participation of William, sorry, Will.I.Am.

It notes that if a talent contest about singing can't produce successful singers, that it's a broken format. Of course it is but I think PopJustice misses the truth of it.

It's not that Radio One won't support the singers produced by the show, it's that it can't.

As previous winner Bo Bruce has identified, the BBC's own restrictions about cross promotion mean that Radio One can't A-playlist songs and heavily play them across the networks.  If they tried, the Trust would have an aneurysm which would lead to the press printing endless articles about them stepping outside of their remit.

But as PJ notes the given artist is also screwed because the commercial stations won't touch her either, presumably because they hate the BBC despite the fact that most of the artists they play were discovered by the BBC (who can play whatever other music they want) and also because they're part of the Syco promotion machine.

Now, I haven't watched one of these musical talent shows since Fame Academy which ultimate experienced similar problems, but for The Voice to exist as a thing going forward, which is somewhat important for some of us since it's somewhat wrapped up in the Saturday night Doctor Who whirlwind.

The BBC's restrictions are going to change any time soon.  They essentially exist so that Syco and the likem can't cry foul about a publicly funded body restricting them commercially.

Perhaps the prize needs to change.  A slot on Eurovision is problematic since as we've seen before it has the ability to destroy careers or at the very least not help them much and becoming the singer on a charity record brings other baggage.

Well, hum.  Let me have a think.

Prozac Nation at 20.

Books Elizabeth Wurtzel's Prozac Nation turns twenty this year. For The Daily Beast, Nicolaus Mills offers this appreciation, which notes that those passages which some saw as its weakness were actually its strength:
"Anyone going through Prozac Nation can certainly find plenty of callow moments when Wurtzel does whine. Wurtzel’s mother gets mugged in New York, and Wurtzel is reluctant to leave Cambridge to be by her bedside. Wurtzel’s boyfriend goes home during Christmas vacation to be with his mother and sister, and Wurtzel, trying to avoid another breakdown, resents the attention he gives his family.

"But what reviewers who seize upon these moments as proof of Wurtzel’s fundamental callowness ignore is that in Prozac Nation she makes a point of deliberately parading her worst side. Her aim is to show her readers that her depression did not just make her unhappy. It often made her unfeeling and incapable of empathy."
Here's what happened when I read the book in 2003. I've since met someone who read that review and took it literally.

"another multi-sport event put t' bed"

Sport There we go again, another multi-sport event put t' bed. When the London Olympics completed I wrote this lengthy obituary, something which I don't propose to do for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. My sentiments aren't that different.  My favourite wins are still those in which the athlete was surprised by their success, which notably happened in the race events as they pushed on ahead of the Australians and Jamaicans.  My enmity towards Gary Linekar as a presentational force remains undiminished.  As exciting nights of competition drew to a close in the pool or on the track, he was always there at the end to suck the atmosphere from the screen like the televisual equivalent of the DJ playing St Elmos Fire at my 18th birthday party (which to be fair I did select) clearing the dance floor.

Once again I woke up this morning not really knowing what to do with myself, not having a whole day's worth of sport to navigate, chasing vicarious achievement for the home nations.  The BBC Sport app on my iPad whose schedule has been invaluable for the past week and a half has already updated, replacing much of the Games coverage with a live blog of the football transfer window day.  Mostly I've been watching the World War I commemoration services which have been a sobering contrast, though thanks to the iPlayer I do plan to catch up on a couple of events I missed even though I know the result, Laura Trott's gold in the cycling points notably and the rhythmic gymnastics.  That's my other main "takeaway" from these Games, a new appreciation for gymnastics.

Social media's been strange during the Games.  During the Olympics, the Olympics was the subject.  But the majority of the people I follow have generally got on with their lives, barely mentioned these Games even when the same athletes they were so very excited about last time were competing.  Even on Bolt nights.  I didn't see much outright hostility, other than during the closing ceremony which was as messy as closing ceremonies tend to be and, rightly, over the number of Commonwealth countries which have deplorable anti-LGBT laws often in places where equality has been fought for a won for other reasons.  I still tweeted away, especially during our unsuccessful netball campaign but even more than usual it was like texting into a vacuum.  The interaction which made the Olympics generally wasn't there.

So yes, another multi-sport event put to bed.  Doctor Who's back in a couple of weeks with all the chaos and mayhem inherent in that, already beginning to swirl thanks to the leaks, the cinema release of the first episode, the usual hullabaloo.  As always I make my usual promise to myself to try to follow some of these sports between Games but I don't know.  Will I choose whatever's being shown on the red button (where so many of these sports end up) rather than watch a film?  We'll see.  I would like to revisit Glasgow now in the wake of the games.  The couple of hours I spent there on a coach trip a decade ago clearly wasn't long enough.  I think I'll leave it until some of the buzz has died down though.  Except if it's anything like Manchester, that could take quite some time...

The Films I've Watched This Year #28

Film Idling the other evening between Commonwealth Games events I typed "opening ceremony" into Youtube. As well as discovering the Olympics channels archives whole matches and sessions from the London games after clicking on full coverage of the Danny Boyle spectacular, I found a wealth of similar events from across the world both on their own associative channels and the less official. I expect if you're the kind of person I am, you could become quite addicted to discovering the introductory evening of the Asian Games in Doha in 2006 or Barcelona 1992.

Presumably this was a valuable resource for Boyle and co and for David Zolkwer, the creative director of the Glasgow 2014 ceremony (who's primary decision must have been "How early do with deploy Barrowman?").  Having seen enough of them live, there's clearly going to be a genre-like aspect to them, similar themes and ideas which appear in all of them beyond the necessary.  Many is the history of the nation we've seen inscribed through modern dance, the legendary rock singer making a cameo appearance.  Boyle and Zolkwer included these elements but with a twist.  Wonder what we'll get tomorrow night.

Running with Scissors

As Charlie "Ultraculture" Lyne's otherwise exemplary review of the dvd in today's Guardian demonstrates, like Bee Season, The Juror and August Rush before it, Noah is one of those films which if you're tasked with describing it to a friend who hasn't had the pleasure makes you sound completely mad.  I've tried.  I got as far as "there are these angels which have been banished to Earth and become Rock Lords" before I realised that I was beginning to disbelieve exactly what I'd seen, even though I had in fact seen it.  But unlike those three spectaculars, but like Darren Aronofsky's equally bonkers The Fountain, it's a film I want to see again.

Partly it's because for all its run time and epic scale, it's a fairly simplistic story that looks backwards to the biblical epics of old.  Man is tasked by his God to build what must be a dimensionally transcendental boat in order to save all of nature from flood which is about the wash the smear of the humanity from the Earth,  The smear doesn't like the idea and wants in, but the flood comes before they can do much about it.  Then Noah's handed a series of choices which challenge his faith in the Father, his family and a few other fs and if you paid attention in RE at school you know the rest.

The photography is remarkable.  Pulling everything from renaissance paintings to Ralph Bakshi animations to indeed the London 2012 opening ceremony there are moments of both transcendental beauty and horror.  Next time I see a Andrew Graham Dixon figure who may even be Andrew Graham Dixon remarking on how cinematic a Hieronymus Bosch painting is, I'll be able to nod sagely because now I've seen it filmed.  Probably a bit spoilery but the shot of the last vestiges of humanity clinging to a rock are imprinted now.  I don't think I've seen anything quite so beautiful and hopeless in film before.

What's also gratifying is the how the film bothers to take a view on God within the narrative.  All too often biblical epics in an attempt to provide inclusivity prevaricate on the existence of a creator, often undermining the narrative.  Noah's quite clear on this.  Within this setting God exists.  It's source material says so, and so the film does too.  This frees Aronofsky up to explore the nature of faith and see above.  When the various miracles happen, when the flood comes, there's no doubt as to the cause.  Given the amount of religion there is in the film, I'm astonished as to why anyone with faith could object.

Where Aronofsky cleverly leaves some ambiguity is as to when or where this is happening.  There are sequences which could imply that what we're seeing is happening in the far future or some alternative reality or the kind of realm of legends inhabited by Camelot, Star Wars, Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. He also embraces the theological theory that physics and natural selection could be the tools with which God created the heavens and the earth, that the seven days are as much about poetry and storytelling as the literal truth of the kind which leads to "museums" about creationism.  Perhaps that's why.

I began blogging because I did.

About I began blogging because I did. I've written lengthy rationalisations all over the place but in the end they come down to because it seemed like a good idea at the time and no one else in Liverpool seemed to be doing it (though as I found out a couple of years later there were a couple) (Imperial Doughnut).

Partly it provided some structure to the day having something to do at bedtime. I was only able to get online for about three hours after 9pm at night due to a family agreement that we'd get the internet so long as I didn't dial-up during the prime time for phone calls and BT surftime was limited to evenings and weekends anyway.

I've now been doing it for a third of my life. It's at the stage where ending it is very tempting but self defeating. I'm still getting plenty of opportunities because of the blog, and it provides a purpose when purpose is otherwise lacking. I wish I hadn't felt quite so isolated right at the beginning, when I was apparently part of a scene and didn't properly know.

Fennel tea please.


Bit Touching?

Music Looks like MKS are recording again, whatever that means. Through the magic of Twitter and Keisha retweeting things we have this:

This Instagram featuring music which sounds new though its vintage isn't clear and ...

Can we get together properly this time? Please?

The Feeling Listless Soundtrack 1.0:
Stray Thoughts.

Written by Eleanor McEvoy
[from: 'Eleanor McEvoy', Geffen, 1997]

Music I lost my mobile phone on the train to work this morning. I’d moved it into my fleece pocket in case it rang so that I could hear it and as I alighted at the station I felt into my pocket for my season ticket and realised the phone wasn’t there. I dashed back onto the train to where I was sitting and it wasn’t on the seat and the lady who was sitting there wasn’t too forthcoming as she read the newspaper I’d left on the table. I was distraught. It felt like I’d lost a part of my life – as though there was a gap in my mind somehow.

On the platform I ran to the stationmaster. No one had handed it in. Then it occurred to me – I knew the number. He drew out his phone and I dialed the number. I listened. It rang. And rang. Then my own voice spoke, my answering service like a plea in the darkness ‘Hi! It’s Stuart. You know what to do…’

Where was it? Who had it?

I headed into work, stopping off at a telephone kiosk on the way to call the number again. It rang again, but less than last time. I met a former manager. We chatted on the walk up to work. I managed to keep the conversation going but all I could think about was the phone.

In work I took the nearest phone and called the number again. By this time, my hands were shaking. Someone answered.

‘Hello?’ I said. ‘I think I lost this phone, and you’ve picked it up.’

‘Actually,’ said the voice, ‘I’m the guard on the train – your phone was handed in by an elderly couple.’ I remembered them, sitting opposite me, his cloth cap, her bright yellow coat. I’ll never say anything bad about pensioners again.

The guard sent the phone back to Lime Street on the next train and I picked it up tonight, offering the somewhat appropriate password, ‘Thomas The Tank Engine’. When it was back in my hands, I kissed it lightly. I’ll never lose my phone again.

Something I neglected to mention. This is the day that everyone decided to call my mobile phone. Which was sitting in the lost property office at Lime Street Station. So everyone who called, from my Mum and Dad, to my friend and his friend spoke to the old gentleman in the lost property office, bewildering all of them with his gruff voice and tales of my lost phone. Apparently when my Mum called later on to find out when they close (yes, that’s right) he sounded as though he was about to throw it under the rails if anyone rang again…. Incidentally my ringer is ‘Enola Gay’ by OMD – I hope he’s never been in a war …. [Originally posted 28th December 2001].

[Commentary: I think at this point I was just plucking out any old posts to go with the tracks, unless the above is suppose to constitute "stray thoughts". Certainly actually having Enola Gay as the track here would seem to be more apt. This is the first Spotify embed. Sorry. The version on Youtube is awful. The version on the original mix cd was the b-side to McEvoy's Apologise single and acapella. Imagine this without the bagpipes, essentially.

The anecdote is entirely true and as a result I still have the telephone number of a public telephone box on Oxford Road in Manchester stored on my sim card.  I'd call it now and then for fun at night to see if anyone answered and now and then someone did.  I always remember the glee of answering a ringing call box and the people who answered always seemed amazed and delighted.  Haven't tried it in a while.  Such things have lost their novelty.]