My General Election 2015 Prediction.

Politics Here we go then:

Let's see shall we. The whole fixed term parliament thing makes this extremely messy. A month to go ...


Music Daphne & Celeste are back then and is customary there are the relevant reintroduction interviews with interested media parties. Firstly PopJustice where they talk about what happened just after the band split up, or rather stopped singing some of the most disturbing pop lyrics ever written:
"What did you do when you knew the band was over?
Karen: Well we both went home. Celeste was in New Jersey at the time and I was in New York. What was interesting was that Daphne & Celeste were never released in the US, so we had these two lives. At home we just had regular lives. When we first got back we both got back into acting and doing what we were doing before we were in the pop band.
Celeste: It was weird. It was like we’d auditioned for this gig, and we’d booked it. And it was kind of like we just, for better or worse, just went on to the next gig. We just continued.
Karen: We did go back a couple of times – like we did a show at G-A-Y once. And what I loved was that whenever that would happen we’d just perform the same three songs.
And The Guardian where they recall the Reading Festival 2000:
"They might have put a brave face on things, but being a target for mass booing and urine-filled missiles must have been a bruising experience. “Honestly?” says Cruz. “Our biggest fear at the time was that we would get on the stage and no one would come. We thought everyone would protest and go off and see bands they actually liked.”

"DiConcetto found the whole thing surreal: “Backstage, Slipknot and Rage Against the Machine were coming up to us and telling us how hardcore we were – how they wouldn’t have stayed out there. It was definitely the best thing we did, our crowning achievement.”
As both interviews stress, D&C were years ahead of their time and also strangely timeless. If they were to be released now they'd be megahits especially after the controversy generated by the lyrics. The new song takes a few listens to really makes sense and the promo certainly helps to explain intent. Like those earlier songs it doesn't really sound like anything in release now, not that I'm an expert, but again I don't know what the appetite is for it.  But I do like the cover.

With Charley Pollard: Series Two.

There's no way to really launch into this other than to say, I've seen Paul McGann.  In person.  I noticed his voice first which is why I turned my head and saw him, sitting in a cafe with another person.  I gave him a glance then carried on walking, as is always the case with my idols.  Of course what I really wanted to do was approach him and say,
but it's not really my thing.  They're just people in the end and probably tire of being stopped as they go about their business by some random jerk with a TARDIS complex.  But yes, the first Doctor I've seen in real life is the Eight and this makes me extremely happy.  Plus it was on the eve of nuWho's tenth birthday.  For goodness sake.

It's impossible to really say exactly which parts of the wilderness years directly influenced the revival but this second season must be pretty high in the miasma of material given that three of its authors would then be most of the non-RTD writers on the first series and oddly in the same order as their material appeared here.  I'll touch on some of the more direct echoes below, but it's worth also noticing (because I ran out of space in that paragraph) that the motives of the Daleks are roughly the same here as they are in Journey's End.  But there's also the sense of the various stories tying in with one another in way which don't really pay off until later, with the final two stories almost acting like a two-part season finale, with many of the mysteries of the series tied up in the first installment before heading off into a thematically connected second part.  As with the comics and novels, the Eighth Doctor is serialised.

Invaders from Mars

Of course one of the results of the new series was that when some writers transitioned from the spin-off material into the television series and with the exception of the odd story of an annual didn't return.  Invaders from Mars is an example of the kind of multi-layered, fun material Mark Gatiss couldn't produce later in quite the same way, though it's worth noting that it's a tribute to the audio medium in much the same way that The Unquiet Dead demonstrated a love of fiction and The Idiot's Lantern commemorated television.  Hilariously starry cast, with Simon Pegg and Jessica (Stevenson) Hynes in key roles before they'd also appear on the television series making this one of the audios I'd often point to when selling them to friends, "It's got the actors from Spaced" in it.  Visit here for my anecdote about meeting Simon at the launch of his Orson Welles book at FACT.

The Chimes of Midnight

There's no doubt The Chimes of Midnight remains a stone-cold classic (though oddly only as I write this sentence do I notice the resonance of the title in relation to the story which came before it).  If Doctor Who Magazine's periodic votes were inclusive enough to feature spin-off material, there's no doubt this would be in the top ten.  Apart from the amazing twists and hilarious jokes, it's a muscular, surprisingly avant-guard scripting from Rob Shearman, that glances towards the theatre of the absurd, making it one of the franchises more literary entries.  But on this listen it's also more obvious to see its potential influences on The Doctor's Wife in relation to its antagonist.  Lennox Greaves's performance as the house sounds disconcertingly like Michael Sheen.  That Shearman hasn't returned to the television series since Dalek is a great loss.  Imagine him writing for Capaldi.  Imagine that.

Seasons of Fear

Meanwhile, Seasons of Fear is the entire Moffat era in microcosm even to the point of having the Doctor shout "geronimo" as he leaps from the TARDIS into certain doom.  The storyline prefigures The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang with its destruction of all of time and space by an external force and the Doctor having to bounce around trying to find a way of changing things back by breaking the rules of time.  But there's also the random appearance of a thing which is caused by another thing which happens in a future story that seems like a continuity error or just a red herring and the reveals at the end which again are part of a tapestry of storylines which will come to a head in the series finale.  Paul Cornell and Caroline Symcox's dialogue really crackles, with Paul and India's performances up to the challenge coming as close as the plays have some so far to the kind of romping screwball relationship of 4th and Romana in Season 17.

Embrace the Darkness

Nick Briggs's Embrace the Darkness has had an odd life subsequent to its release.  I remember some of the reviews being a bit sniffy especially because of the conclusion which offers the relatively rare option of there being no real danger and the Doctor actually being the reason everything could potentially go to shit.  But there are some immensely spooky elements of body horror and some reveals which could only work on audio.  Much is always said about how Doctor Who's primarily a television format, but its real genius is that it can bend itself to other media just as successfully.  I remember first listening to this late at night in actual darkness because I sensed the content would lend itself to that and though large speakers so that I really felt like was in the space with the characters almost eaves dropping on what was happening.  If ever theres a story which would lend itself to being presented as an art installation or an "experience" it's this.


Solitaire was, perhaps purposefully given the title, the solitary entry for the Eighth Doctor in Big Finish's Companion Chronicle series and true to form when it comes to these sorts of intrusions breaks their usual semi-audiobook format with a full blooded two handed audio drama pitting Charley against the Celestial Toymaker with India holding her own against the onslaught of David Bailey's full on, classic Doctor Who foe performance, never subtle, always mesmerising (if you see what I mean given that this is audio).  The first script from John "Only Connect" Dorney is suitably creepy and as with many of stories season two utilises the medium to provide a few twists in this case because the characters are ignorant of parts of their surroundings because Charley's the one with amnesia for a change.  Two other points of interest: the puppet on the cover is real, David Bailey hadn't actually seen The Celestial Toymaker at time of recording ....

Living Legend

Originally mounted to the cover of the 40th anniversary issue of Doctor Who Magazine (or there abouts) but now available to download free, Living Legend is their stalwart comics writer Scott Grey's only Eighth Doctor audio and as the cover suggests transposes the manic fun of the strip onto the audio Eighth and Charley.  The TARDIS team stumbles into one of the saddest alien invasions ever recorded and simply seem to have some fun with it, like Mickey Bricks and the team from Hustle when they've spotted a really easy mark.  With just half an hour to play about with there's never really a sense of jeopardy but that really this is about epic bantz and the bantz are indeed epic.  India's on particularly storming mood as Charley pretends to be a Time Lady and the Doctor's superior, her usual haughtiness turned up to infinity when faced with the stupidity of the alien.  Not a bad place to start if you've never heard an Eighth Doctor audio before.  Plus football!

The Time of the Daleks

Of all the audios, I've never been quite able to decide just how much I like The Time of the Daleks perhaps because in having so much to do it does seem to quite be able to focus on one thing.  It's the first time the audio Eighth meets the pepperpots, but it's also the final installment in a cross range narrative begun in the Fifth Doctor story The Mutant Phase and on top of that it's the first time the franchise has really attempted Doctor Who does Shakespeare.  Usually reliable Justin Richards's notion of having the Daleks reading mashed up piece of the canon is a sound one, the creepiness of unusual phrases filtered through a ring modulator ala Evil of the Daleks later reappearing in Victory of the Daleks, but there's almost too much going, the narrative never quite managing to fix on one thing to the point that Charley in particular doesn't have an awful lot do than be dragged along by events.


Finally, the Doctor tells a companion he loves them.  People always seem to reference Doomsday in relation to this, even the BBC's own Twitter feed's been at it, but 10th never did say the words to Rose.  Eighth does.  True it'  in a friendship sense, but to hear the Doctor say those words and to have Charley repeat them back to him is magnetic and emotional in one of the most intense scenes ever, the Doctor pointing a gun directly at her (and no let's not).  When I heard this the first time, walking along Great Charlotte Street (no really) in town towards the bus home in 2002, I cried.  Of everything in this series which points to nuWho, Alan Barnes's Neverland predicts the approach to the season finale, the intricate string of events which could lead to the destruction of the universe which is ultimately really about the mortality of the Doctor or his companions.  The cliffhanger still has the power to shock.  Thank god, I don't have to wait eighteen months for the resolution this time...

Tree Tables.

Design A company in Derbyshire is growing furniture, bending and crafting trees so that they become tables and chairs:
“When you look at it from a manufacturing point of view and from a design point of view, it actually makes total sense. Why would you grow trees, chop them down with all the faff? Why don’t you just grow the shape you want and it is eminently scalable? You can make thousands of these in the same way as you can make 10, but each one is unique,” said Munro.

The idea for the method came when he was working as a gardener in California and making furniture from washed-up driftwood on the side. He recalled how a bonsai tree his mother had when he was a child outgrew itself to resemble a throne. “Why do we need to bring all of these things together – chop the trees down, make them small, stick them back together again. We can just start from growing the tree from the beginning.”
Tremendous amount of faff for something which most of us won't be able to afford. But the resulting pieces should be ravishing. Find above the inevitable TEDx talk from the Gavin Munro, the founder.

Walk Away. Again. Again.

Music As well as the Joy Division video, my archival brain also recalls the Rannvá Káradóttir & Marianna Mørkøre art piece Magma images of which can be seen here and a short trailer that appeared in Liverpool at the Biennial in 2010. The artists later used some of the elements themselves in a pop video.

"The Turn of the Earth..."

TV Here we are then. Ten years since both of the Doctor's hearts were revived for television. Radio Times has fifteen pages of messages from the production team and actors from across the years and many of us will no doubt watch Rose again later in celebration (me from an off-air) (it's not right if there's no Norton).

Back then, in the pre-YouTube days when most of us in the UK were still on dial-up, we weren't always sure when such things as trailers would appear and where we'd have to be so that we wouldn't miss them so for a few days early in March an entirely unrelated promo caught us out.

Supervolcano was a two part documentary about a supervolcano and the trailer (which I haven't been able to track down) began with big CGI special effects and the Earth and led to about three seconds of excitement before, oh, no it's not Who. Not yet.

BBC Worldwide have uploaded both episodes of the actual documentary to their YouTube channel.

They must have thought there was some mileage in it because a year later the BBC produced the not terrible Krakatoa: The Last Days starring Olivia Williams and Rupert Penry-Jones though since it was during the season 2 broadcast, no one was mistaken that it might be more Who.

The actual trailer turned out to be a specially shot, fourth wall breaking introductions to the series which underscored that this was going to be like nothing on British television at that point.

Who wouldn't want to travel in this TARDIS?

Now I'm going back to listening to McGann's second audio season.

Soup Safari #18: Lentil at Uncle Sam's Bistro & Restaurant.

Dinner. £3.50. Uncle Sam's Bistro & Restaurant, 94 Bold Street, Liverpool, Merseyside L1 4HY. Phone:0151 709 2111. Website.

Best Animated Character Within a Live Action Context.

Film I'll make this brief because there really isn't much to the idea. In recent years there's been much annoyance that the likes of Andy Serkis and Andy Serkis haven't been nominated for acting awards despite their motion captured performance being an important part of the process in creating a computer generated character like Gollum or Kong. Extraordinary pieces of magic like Paddington (which I saw last night and led to this brainwave) lumped into the general special effects categories when the work on them is clearly of a different order to throwing a car at a motorway or what have you.

Last night it occurred to me that what could happen is that the characters themselves are nominated. In other words, the Oscar would go to Gollum or Paddington or Groot as the result of a collaboration and the collaborators who worked on the character as a group would win the award, the voice/actors, designers and animators with the name of the character as the representative element of the achievement (the members of that group decided upon by the production as part of the nomination process perhaps with the director/producers deciding which element they're most proud of).

To separate it from straight animated characters, it would be called something like "Best Animated Character Within a Live Action Context" or something snappier. So that different achievements can be represented, you'd also perhaps only allow one character per film, which would make things tricky for Guardians of the Galaxy.  Also you'd have to limit it to characters who're predominantly CG.  Stuff like cartoon Legolas wouldn't count.

All of this would reduce the discussions about how much of an actor's performance is enhanced by animators, how much of it is truly just about creating a fully computer generated make-up or simply copying a performance.  As to who would actually get the award?  A raffle?  Or would it go to the animation studio?  Dunno.  Actually this still means Andy Serkis wouldn't end up with an award doesn't it?  Oh hum.

Art of the Title inevitably covers 22 Jump Street.

Film Clearly the funniest part of 22 Jump Street are closing titles in which we're given a preview of upcoming previews heading off into infinity along with all the logical diminishing returns. Here, in an absolutely massive post, creative directors, producers and the directors discuss the concepts and production:
"When did you begin to think about the end title sequence for the film?

Phil Lord: We had always planned to do something. Originally we ended the movie with Jonah and Channing walking away from Cube saying, “We are never ever going to do this again,” and then we were going to cut to future Jump Street movies with other actors."
The film is now available on Netflix UK and I really do recommend it. There's a clever sense of irony about the whole thing, a you know that we know that you know that we know that ...

My Favourite Film of 2002.

Film Much as I love Kissing Jessica Stein, and I love Kissing Jessica Stein, across time I have begun to wonder how its viewed in the LGBT community. After Ellen gave it a retro-review in 2008 and the four participants seemed in general ok with it with a few reservations.

Dana Chivvis on Serial.

Audio Chivvis is one of the producers of the podcast and was interviewed by Miranda Sawyer in The Observer:
"You were obsessive about trying to find the truth. And yet during the series a former detective told Sarah that, in some cases, detectives just want to build a case, not find the truth. Did you find that shocking?
We were completely shocked, this concept of “bad evidence” shocked the pants off us. That detectives might not go and learn some truth in case it didn’t support their theory of the case. I get why, but as a journalist you’re like – No it’s not that I want to find facts to support my theory, I just need to find the facts that tell me what happened."
Related: Adnan Syed's lawyers file first document to challenge murder conviction.

Talks Collection:
David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson.

Film  David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson are two of the most important film theorists of the past few decades and there are few people who've studied movies in an academic context who either haven't read their work and also can't say that work wasn't the reason why they managed to pass their course.  If it hadn't been for either of them I certainly wouldn't have been able to write my MA dissertation due to their lucid, clear and thoughtful explanations of narrative and genre and of all the books which I read during that year, it's their Film Art: An Introduction which I've kept referring back to.  They continue to write about film at their blog, which just yesterday posted about the origins of the very thing my dissertation was about.

TED minus x equals ...

People Steven Levy writes for Medium about attending this year's TED. For fans like me, it's almost like a film festival review, previewing upcoming attractions on their YouTube channel:
"Sitting through them makes your brain feel like a mushy piñata, whacked by one mind-blowing idea after another. Did you know that babies use sophisticated data analysis to guide the way they use squeeze toys? Meet the Frank Gehry of the rain forest, who creates the bamboo edifices in Bali. Believe it or not, when adulterers say to their betrayed spouses It’s not about you, they’re telling the truth. Oh, and here’s a guy who landed a spaceship on an asteroid."
The Monica Lewinsky talk has just been posted:

I can't paint.

Art Tomorrow morning Cass Arts opens a Liverpool outpost on School Lane near The Bluecoat in Liverpool. Full details here. It's in the newly vacated old Cath Kidston shop.

As part of the PR process, they were nice enough to send me some art supplies for me to try out the sort of thing they'll be selling.

Suitably prodded I decided to have another go.  I say another go because it's during art at school it became abundantly clear I can't paint, I don't have any artistic DNA in my genome.  Much of my GCSE was spent copying out Disney characters and drawing terrible renditions of chimney boxes and my single (non General Studies) A-Level, which happens to be in Art, was gained due to a sympathetic teacher who allowed me to create collages for two years.  Needless to say, nothing has changed.

Still. I did watch this instructional video on YouTube where a man paints a tree and had some idea about light and shading but in the end, as you can see I still did the collage, except in paint.  Is it the sky?  Is it the sea?  Is it a bit of both?  Who can tell?  I don't have the patience now to learn how to do this effectively or indeed the time.  So for all my readiness to criticise the art of others, it's always with a sympathetic eye.  At least they can do this.

Soup Safari #17:
Rosemary and Chestnut at East Avenue Bakehouse.

Lunch. £4.25. East Avenue Bakehouse. 112 Bold Street, Liverpool, Merseyside L1 4HY. Phone:0151 708 621. Website.

The Underwater Menace DVD. Now available to pre-order?

TV File this under "unlikely Amazon purchases":

A friend on Twitter noticed this pre-order page for the looong delayed release of Doctor Who's The Underwater Menace, the only surviving episodes of Doctor Who still awaiting release (that we know of). So of course I put a pre-order in even though I don't really expect it to be posted to me by the 7th April and not at that price, which is back to the funny numbers for single stories of the original VHS releases (£39.99 for Revenge of the Cybermen? Yes, please!). Here are the problems:

(1) Kasterborous has a statement from the BBC which says its been removed from the schedule.

(2) The BBFC website doesn't list a recent classification. The episode three assessments are from over a decade ago when it appeared in the Lost in Time boxed set and before that The Ice Warrior cardboard box.

(3) Gallifrey Base is very ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

(4) It's not available at the BBC Shop.

So it's probably a database error.  But nothing the world could stop me from pre-ordering.  Just in case.

My Favourite film of 2004.

Film Irrespective of Richard Linklater's achievements, Before Sunset is a reminder of how films have forced a dedication in me which I should probably usefully apply to other things. Glancing through the review posted when the film was released, I'm reminded that because the film didn't turn up straight away at FACT in Liverpool, I travelled out to the Cornerhouse in Manchester after work, nearly an hour by train there back again (this was when I was at Liverpool Direct storing up the money to go to university, or not depending on whether my application was accepted) (oddly enough moving to Paris was plan-B and at this point I'm not sure that wouldn't have been the better option) (but I digress).  This wasn't an unusual trip.  Years before I'd done the same with a friend for a screening of Singing in the Rain (and Hamlet even earlier) and would later kill myself to get to a screening of the first episode of Torchwood (not literally clearly though given what happened with the rest of that series it might have been preferable too).

With Netflix and rentals-by-post and the price of tickets, would I do this again now?  Probably.  I saw the sequel, Before Midnight, in the same screen at the same cinema in the same seat nine years later at the end of a day spent shopping in Manchester though it's fair to say I probably went to city on that week, on that day because Before Midnight was playing.  That would also describe my approach to Cedric Klapisch's Chinese Puzzle.  What Netflix lacks and by-post only just manage to retain are the sense of anticipation and the ritualistic aspect of going to the cinema, of buying a ticket, hoping your favourite seat is free and if you're me going to the toilet three time before the film starts because I've drunk too much coffee again.  Oh and reading the cinema's brochure advertising upcoming attractions which in the case of the Cornerhouse is often films which I know I won't be watching for another six months while I wait for them to turn up on dvd or streaming (creating a different kind of anticipation).

But much of the trip has to do with the Cornerhouse itself.  As you'll read in the coming weeks, the Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds was for a time my cavern of dreams.  After that the 051 in Liverpool.  Then FACT.  But the Cornerhouse is the Cornerhouse.  It's my favourite cinema.  For me, it is cinema.  Partly it's because living in a different city I can't take it for granted so it'll always be special.  Partly it's because in earlier years with its cushioned fabricy blue seats, basement screens of various sizes and box office across the street from its largest venue it didn't seem like any cinema I'd ever visited.  The smell.  Plus back in the day before the internet, those brochures always seemed filled with films which I'd never heard and would never see.  Even now, the Cornerhouse is the place I go when I want to see films which are important or feel like they're going to be important to me.  The idea of getting on a train just to see a film at the Cornerhouse has never seemed ludicrous because they experience of seeing a film there will be unlike seeing a film anywhere else.

Soon it'll be gone of course, replaced by a much larger, and to be fair, probably better designed venue up the road.  Presumptuously called "Home" it'll be interesting to see if it retains the mystique.  There'll be more screens, so a greater selection of films (one of the joys of the Cornerhouse was the limited selection at odd screening times which meant that sometimes I'd stumble upon a film I wasn't expecting because it's all that happened to be on when I happened to be in Manchester).  Plus a theatre.  Plus a cafe.  Plus the gallery space.  It sounds like it could still be like no other cinema, bar FACT or the BFI, I've ever visited.  But it'll also be nothing like the Cornerhouse because initially it'll be without the memories which can only be gained by visiting a building repeatedly.  That place may well be called "Home" but the Cornerhouse at the moment has a better claim to the description.  The last film I saw there, quite deliberately, was Chinese Puzzle but if it had been another installment in the life of Celine and Jesse that would have been just right too.

Talks Collection:
Dr Hannah Fry.

People  This week BBC Four broadcast Climate Change by Numbers in which three mathematicians - Dr Hannah Fry, Prof Norman Fenton and Prof David Spiegelhalter utilised a set of numbers each to explain why climate change should be the most pressing issue on the planet Earth we should all be dealing with and why we should believe the 97% of climate scientists who believe it to be due to human activity.  The whole thing is available to watch here for the next two weeks, assuming it isn't repeated in which case it'll be a bit longer.

As her biography page at UCL explains, Dr. Fry, "is a lecturer in the mathematics of cities at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA). She was trained as a mathematician with a first degree in mathematics and theoretical physics, followed by a PhD in fluid dynamics. After a brief period working in aerodynamics, she returned to UCL to take up a post-doctoral position researching a relatively new area of science - social and economic complex systems. This led to her appointment as a lecturer in the field in October 2012."

Here she is herself with a richer explanation of her interests from a German science conference's channel:

Which is fascinating and for the past few years she's appeared at a range of conferences and courses demonstrating this approach to data and I've gathered as many of these talks as I can find. There's some repetition in places, but she's excellent at finding new ways of presenting similar data for different ends.

Port Hyperlink.

Film When I wrote my MA Film Studies dissertation about "hyperlink" films, as you might expect I had to watch a lot of them and although the process was mostly about analysing them looking for commonalities, pretty soon I did realise that some of them were better than others. Which is why I can just about agree with Nicholas Barber in today's G2 about how some films which would have worked perfectly well as portmantau films found themselves mixed and matched in unuseful ways:
"... prefer a good honest portmanteau. It’s less tricksy than a hyperlink film. Every section has to stand or fall on its own merits, as well as complement the whole. If one segment doesn’t entertain, it risks being cut out: the other segments will survive without it. Sub-Altman hyperlink films, on the other hand, can use their constant back-and-forthing to disguise the weakness of the individual strands. You don’t get such shilly-shallying from Dr Terror’s House of Horrors, where every gruesome story packs a punch and has a twist to remember. Great title, too."
But as I researched my dissertation, one of the questions I had to deal with in relation to considering if this was a genre and what its tropes might be was what the "pleasures" might be for the audience, the repeated element that people look for. In hyperlink films this is the moment when you realise how the people are connected, that two characters you've been following are actually (sorry) siblings or married or co-workers or whatever something which often doesn't happen until deep into the film causing you to re-evaluate what you've seen before.  Todd Solondz is a master of this - Happiness being the primary example.  Oddly, he doesn't pention Paris J'Taime which brilliantly is a portmantau film, until it isn't.


Film Kristin Thompson's written a rather brilliant (and detailed!) comparative study of Boyhood and the Harry Potter film series:
"Of all the series mentioned above, “Harry Potter” is most pertinent to Boyhood. Their production periods overlapped considerably, and their directors faced similar major challenges. This despite the disparity in their finances. “Harry Potter” had a huge budget supplied by Warner Bros., ranging from the lowest at $100 million for Chamber of Secrets to the highest at $250 million for Half-Blood Prince. (These are the budgets as publicly acknowledged, taken from Box-Office Mojo, which has no figures for the last two films.) Boyhood had a lean budget of $200 thousand for each of the twelve years and totaling about $4 million with postproduction and other expenses added in. Still, as we shall see, the challenges really had nothing to do with the budgets."
Previously. I love the nugget that the the IFC Center in New York ran all eight Potter films in a row as a homage to Boyhood. Kristin makes a convincing case for the two to be somehow inextricably linked, and the appearance of the Potter books in Boyhood suggests it is something Linklater was clearly conscious of.

Liverpool Bus Hack.

Liverpool Life Lately for various reasons this past couple of years I've been getting the bus home from the Liverpool One bus station, the 80, the 80s, the 75,the 75a, the 76 and during rush hour such services, despite me only living at Sefton Park, because of rush hour and the process of getting through the traffic in the city, and collecting passengers at the various stops can take up to fifty minutes if I get on at 4pm.

Except this month and next, from the beginning of March to the end of April, due to gas maintenance work on Hanover Street, these buses are not at Liverpool One. They're picking up and dropping off at Great Charlotte Street. Coming into town this means I've been getting off at the old Lewis's building and walking down Raneleigh Street into Hanover Street and onwards to my destination, which I've quite enjoyed, especially being able to pass through WH Smiths at Central (underground) Station on the way.

Coming home, being an entirely lazy human and wanting to avoid the crush of Great Charlotte Street in rush hour and all the "hey, there's a queue here" moans which come with that bus stop, I decided to throw out convention and catch a 27 bus, the Sheil Road circular to close to home and walk from there instead. I assumed this would cock up the whole routine, making the process of coming home even more taxing.

Um, no. It's not worked out that way. In fact, I can't imagine why I didn't think of this before.

Catching the 27 cuts out the whole of the city centre. Travelling towards Parliament Street thence to Park Road to Princes Avenue takes about ten minutes, twenty minutes shorter than it takes to get through the city street on the edge of being engulfed by rush hour traffic. Then, being as I said inherently lazy and with a Day Rider or Saveway-type ticket, I've jumped off the 27 and onto a 75 which has taken me to my usual bus stop near home.

A home I've now getting to a full half hour less than I have for the past two years on those days. Like I said, I can't imagine getting a different bus from there now.

Some notes:

-- This can only work with these buses. Even when they return, this will not save you from the murder of the 86 or 86a. Unless you get the 27 to Princes Avenue swap to a 80 or 75 then swap again on Smithdown Road at the stop near the post office. This seems like it could be unnecessarily complicated, but I guess there are probably enough 86s on the roads that the wait times will still be shorter than the mess of getting out of the city centre on a busy day.

-- This happened on Monday:

On Tuesday I missed the 27 (though they run about every five minutes) and this queue, which looks like a daily occurrence seems actually to have been for the X1, the Runcorn express bus which goes up the Dock Road to Aigburth Road and seems to be the way that people who'd usually get the 82 skip the city centre themselves. Quite how the gentleman expected me to know this, I'm not sure.

My Favourite Film of 2005.

Film The other key film during my film studies days was Don Roos's Happy Endings which was the reason I ended up writing a dissertation about hyperlink cinema. The original subject was metafiction in Woody Allen's films, notably Annie Hall, Deconstructing Harry and one other which I could never quite decide on, but after reading around on the topic I realised that very little had been written about the topic in film terms at that time which meant I'd spend most of my time reading literary criticism and I didn't want to do that. Luckily I happened to be reading Jason Kottke's blog one afternoon and noticed him writing about hyperlink cinema and the article's he linked to became the backbone of what I'd spend the rest of that summer writing and led to the ability to say that I actually wrote about Richard Curtis's Love Actually for my dissertation.  Actually.  The guts of what I wrote about that film is here and I had planned to write something just as long about why Happy Endings isn't rubbish, but having reviewed the chapter it turns out I wrote a lot more about what Curtis did than either Altman (in Short Cuts) or Roos presumably because there was a lot more to say about it but also because I sensed, I think, that Happy Endings isn't really a hyperlink film, but an ensemble piece more akin to Hannah and her Sisters or Parenthood with its familial connections and the like. Expect spoilers.


The narrative in Happy Endings is closer to the more straightforward structure presented in most ensemble films with just three stories running in parallel. Don Roos identifies his work as a comedy ‘but obviously gets deeper’ (Johnson, 2005) and is not tied to a familiar generic story pattern. Quart confers hyperlink cinema status on the film because of the complexity with which those stories are told: ‘Roos takes the baggy plotting of the Altman picaresque into web territory: in Happy Endings playing games with time and personal history are a given’ (Quart, 2005: 48). Roos’s motivation for using the form was similar to both Altman and Curtis: ‘There’s not one story line that has to deliver everything […] because you have several stories, the audience can be freshened up. They can feel different things as they go from story to story’ (Johnson, 2005). The film opens with Mamie running into the path of a car, flashing back to the moment when she and Charley conceived their son and the aftermath, then forwards again to the scene when Mamie meets Javier for what appears to be a regular meeting. From here the film unfolds fairly conventionally, with three forms of disruption occurring in the set-up – Nicky blackmails Mamie into helping him make a film so that he can get the information about her son, Charley begins to suspect that Max might be his partner Gil’s son and Otis introduced Jude to his life, his house and his father. The connections between the characters are obvious from then on because Roos was wary of trying the force the connections: ‘I don’t like it when they all kind of connect co-incidentally at the end. Like Crash (2005) they all connect to something and I prefer it when its casual’ (Roos el al., 2005).

Narrative density is increased however because of the employment of non-diegetic captions that interrupt the mise-en-scène, presenting information regarding the characters and story outside of exposition within dialogue. The first instance is after the Mamie’s shocking motor accident to explain to the audience that ‘She’s not dead. No one dies in this movie, not on-screen. It’s a comedy, sort of.’ These effectively introduce an extra level of subtext into each scene, with details that the spectator would not otherwise have been aware of, impacting upon their relationship to the action, potentially increasing their level of suture because the concentration of information being presented is greater than the standard shot/reverse shot. In his opening scene Nicky is introduced to the audience before Mamie enters the café, and the caption explains that ‘Nicky is 25, oldest of three kids. He has a gun which he is realizing he left in the car. He has to pee’, de-threatening the character and changing the tone of the ensuing scene outside of the diegetic space (one wonders for his example if some of Nicky’s desperation is as a result of body functional needs). The implications and meaning of these captions change on subsequent viewings – it is later revealed that Nicky is the adopted older brother of the boy that Mamie could not abort. Note that these captions only ever complement the action and never intrude on scenes presenting important verbal or visual narration – usually action will pause (as occurs with Nicky’s introduction) or be of a humdrum nature (Mamie’s arrival at the salon) – so that the attention of the audience is still directed in a linear fashion.

The captions eventually restructure the climax, because once the narrative reaches its apparent conclusion, Roos explains the fates of the characters, sometimes years or decades after the timeframe of the film. Unlike the ‘where are now section’ of National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) or Friday Night Lights (2004), as Victor Morton identifies there are ‘enough changes in fortune (i.e. drama) to make a whole new movie. Compressed into three minutes. And then with a coda of its own’ (Morton, 2005). It could be inferred that this is partially the result of the editing process, since as with Love Actually the first assembly was three hours long and so the director needed to ‘cut a lot of scenes when it was done’ (Lee, 2005). Like Curtis but unlike Altman, Roos appears locked into a need to complete the narrative structure identified by Todorov, even if it means increasing the plot duration exponentially. The closing montage sequence includes a flash forwards ten years to show Mamie and Charlie meeting their son possibly completing both of their story arcs but in other cases the captions present exposition that reaches even further than that - it is explained that Otis ‘watches Ted and Charley’s dogs sometimes and never plays the drums again. But in 20 years he’s happier than anyone else here. But that’s another story.’ Indeed, this whole section also allows new key character relationships to be created and their ‘happy endings’ sometimes occur because of these chance or synchronous meetings, running counter to the normal expectations of hyperlink cinema that such incidents will motivate the central action.


By producing Happy Endings as an ‘independent’ film, Roos is able to make two of these characters gay without their stories being about their sexuality: ‘It’s a rare studio movie that you can talk about the things I want to talk about. You can have gay characters in a studio movie, but it has to be about them being gay, or else they’re the sidekick. […] You can’t really talk about the love life of a gay man, like I did in The Opposite of Sex (1998)’ (Cavagna, 2005). Despite Alyssa Quart’s insistence that the characters exist without hierarchy (Quart, 2005: 51) each of the three stories has a main protagonist. These are clearly Mamie and Charley; and although Roos thinks of the third as being Jude’s tale -- ‘The girl meets the boy, she changes her mind, she attaches herself to the father, she blackmails the boy to keep silent, she finds out in the meantime she’s fallen in love with the father, she’s exposed, she has to give him up’ (Cavagna, 2005) – the narrative and mise-en-scene suggest this is Otis. Jude’s appearance creates the disruption in his life and it is only when he has left that the equilibrium returns; in the scene after the band rehearsal Otis’s nervy reactions appear in relative close-up as he leans against the counter and the reverse shot is over his shoulder and the spectator enjoys his long shot point of view as Jude riffles through the kitchen looking for food, with the camera in a later seduction scene angled in such a way that Otis’s reactions are prioritised over hers. In the main, Jude appears antagonist to Otis’s protagonist.


See what I mean? Apart from odd lines noting how the architecture in the houses between the characters reflects their class and how Roos has a better idea of representing diversity in his film, although it's still with a secondary character.  The key element which gave Quart and others the impression that they were watching something akin to Short Cuts must be the on-screen captions but the rest of it simply isn't akin to Crash or indeed Love Actually in how the stories are told.  But it is still a remarkable film, because of those captions, because of the performances notably from Maggie Gyllenhaal whose character, a singer, contributes to one of my favourite film soundtracks.  It's on this blog's old Forgotten Films list and although I haven't seen it recently images are stuck in my head.  Images like:


Cavagna, Carlo. 2005. Interview: Don Roos. In. AboutFilm. Available at: Accessed: 17th July 2006.

Johnson, Tonisha. 2005. Happy Endings: An Interview with Director Don Roos, Jesse Bradford and Jason Ritter. In. Black Film. Available at: Accessed: 17th July 2006.

Lee, Michael J. 2005. Don Roos. In. Radio Free Entertainment. Available at: Accessed: 17th July 2006.

Morton, Victor. 2005. Tone Deaf: 'Happy Endings' Can't Get It Right. In. Available at: Accessed: 17th July 2006.

Quart, Alyssa. 2005. Networked. In. Film Comment. 41:4.

The Origins of Auteur Theory.

Film A short introduction from Filmmaker IQ. Worth looking at this piece on Bayhem and The Wes Anderson Collection for a discussion of this within a contemporary context.

"CSN without the Y"

Music On the occasion of the loss of filmmaker Albert Maysles, Diffuser looks at his work on concert films and more widely how there's a huge difference between a standard recording of a set and what's achieved when someone with a sense of narrative and wider context is involved. There are some interesting nuggets throughout, like this on Woodstock:
"Michael Wadleigh’s Woodstock documentary makes similar historical omissions for various reasons. Turning three days of peace, love and music into three hours of cinema mandates that some artists simply aren’t going to make the final cut. Additionally, technical issues seriously affected footage of some bands, and in a couple of cases artists didn’t want anything to do with the film.

"Neil Young stands as the most famous of the latter group. Crosby, Stills and Nash’s acoustic set remains a highlight of the movie, but their electric set with their fourth member is lost to the ages because Young refused to play with Wadleigh’s camera crew on stage, feeling that they were too invasive. As a result, the Woodstock mythology remains cemented as a wonderful night for CSN without the Y."
The BBC's Glasto coverage ever expands but even then some bands find themselves omitted because the BBC doesn't happen to be covering a given stage. Or as with Young, the band decides they don't want to available on iPlayer for the following month.

The Doors in New York City.

Photography From npr, the kind of story which doesn't work on the radio:
"Between November 1975 and September 1976, a man named Roy Colmer decided to photograph New York City's doors. Not all of New York City's doors. No doors in particular. And in no real particular order. But his aptly named Doors, NYC project amounted to more than 3,000 photos, which now live with the New York Public Library.

"If you're like me and want to obsessively look at every single one, the best way to do that is here. But then, I did that so you don't have to. Firstly, note the door on the bottom left. For every dozen-ish nondescript doors, you'll find a little treat — like a poster of a cat ..."
My favourite? The one which says boldly, "CLOGS OF COURSE" because of course, clogs.

What made me a feminist?

Life Why do I think the way I do?

This isn't the first time I've wondered this and since it's International Women's Day, I thought I'd attempt to trace through my memory to try and work out why I think the way I do about, well everything.

Have I always thought this way?

Quite honestly I don't know.

The only reason I'm asking is because there seem to be so many people who for some reason don't and I feel sorry for them and don't unlike them think they're entitled to have that opinion, not in 2015.

I do have some memories.

My first two best friends were girls, I think because their Mums were my Mum's best friends. I have photos of a birthday party at about the age of five, the three of us sitting around the birthday cake.

At primary school, I remember the story books and later on text books featuring the usual gender roles. Men went out to work. Mothers were housewives.

All my real friends were girls. I have vivid memories of sunny break times sitting in grass and making daisy chains when all the rest of the boys played football. I had friends who were boys but it wasn't same. I didn't like football.

That hasn't really changed. I find women much easier to talk to than men.  I still don't like football.

Except when I began secondary school, it was an all boys school and just as puberty hit, I lost the ability to talk to girls. I'd get nervous. Odd. All my friends were male for years.

Then girls arrived in the sixth form and they were utterly brilliant and thought so even though I couldn't speak to most of them.

There was also the moment at university at a hall formal, which was at a hotel, stuck on a toilet overhearing two blokes at the urinals outside referring to potential conquests as "the blonde one" and "the ginger" and wincing and wishing to god I'd never be anything like them.

I was also bullied a lot at school which has led to a dim view of any kind of oppression.  Gender, race, anything.

Is any of this really relevant? I don't know. Probably not.

But what I'm trying to say is that I can't remember the moment when I became a feminist or at least thought women should have the same rights as men. There's no one thing which made me "get it".

I've just always thought so and can't understand why anyone wouldn't.

Is this unusual? I don't know that either.

People just have the experiences they have I suppose. I was reading Woman Woman comics at an early age. Watched a lot of Star Trek: The Next Generation as a teenager and I expect a lot of my liberalism can be traced back to that. Reading Shakespeare's Measure for Measure and Chaucer and being shocked at the treatment of women in those by societies of the past. Listening to a lot of female singer songwriters dealing with their experiences through lyrics. Tending to identify with female protagonists in films more than men.  Reading The Guardian's Woman pages.

See what I mean?  It's all a bit woolly.

If anything it's become even more focused this past few years, thanks to social media, reading feminist writing, watching my way through this and the general sense of injustice but knowing full well I'm not the right gender to really understand what it's like to live within a patriarchal society, or as I've taken to calling it "the fucking patriarchy".

I have no answer.  So I'll just be pleased that I can see it and hope that someday everyone will.