Not Review 2007: Films

Film Once again this year my cinema going was random at best. As I said last year, my approach to film releases has stopped being – chronological. There have been very few films which I’ve dragged myself to the picture house to see and more often than not I’ve completely missed something. So I’d be shocked if any of the Branagh trilogy (man had three films out this year) or Two Days In Paris wouldn’t have been on this list had they actually been on in Liverpool for long enough for me to realise. Anyway, apologies in advance for the mainstreaminess of the films, and I’ve really got my work but out next year catching up on everything. Not that I’ve caught up with 2006 yet. And in case you're wondering I've included films which were released in the UK in 2007 based on this official listing.

300
Sometimes all that's needed to make a great film is Gerard Butler and pals implacably facing down demon hoards with nothing but some swords and a bit of shouting. Underneath all of that though, the film takes a very interesting theological perspective on the art of war and actually gives the ravishing Lena Headey some cogent political intrigue. Plus Xerxes!

Hallam Foe
Sometimes quirky is good, and Hallam Foe is oh so very quirky. Demonstrated to me for the first time that Jamie Bell does have the chops for an extended acting career and Sophia Myles confirmed that she’s entirely wasted currently working in an Angel knock-off for US television. It’s also one of the best looking films of the year, the night time scenes of Edinburgh by cinematographer almost worth seeing the film for on their own [full review].

A Prairie Home Companion
Perfect footnote to Robert Altman’s career with a massive improvisational cast, supernatural element and the overall sense of the end of an era – it’s almost as though he knew it would his last film. Musically it’s perfect too, weaving the same magic as Nashville in making country and western listenable [full review].

Blade Runner: The Final Cut
I’m sure there’s a rule against including rereleases in these things, but it’s not often your served with your favourite film, something you’ve seen dozens of times, in way which makes it totally new again. This cleaning and re-editing doesn’t put a foot wrong and actually deepens the experience, as well as underscoring what’s been lost as Hollywood’s shifted inexorably towards digital imagery [partial review].

Bobby
Emilio Estevez’s fictionalisation of the assassination of RFK was largely ignored or shouted at by critics even though it features some of the best performances of the year. Yes, it slackens narratively somewhat in the middle – as most of these Grand Hotel-style films tend to, but given that the writer/director actually references that earlier work right at the beginning, it’s almost as though he intended it to.

Enchanted
Very late entry, but I couldn’t not mention this really sweet and charming piece of work that I’m still thinking about days later wishing that the dvd was already available (legally). Loony Tunes: Back In Action was on television earlier and that’s a salient and humourless demonstration of how not to do this stuff (even though it features a Dalek voiced by Roy Skelton) [full review].

Hot Fuzz
Watched this again yesterday and although I still don’t think it’s as good as Shaun of the Dead, it was still the best British comedy of the year, constantly inventive and hilarious always repaying repeated viewings. I love that Somerfield agreed to let their supermarket with the film be managed by an utter murdering bastard (albeit one played by Timothy Dalton) – I can’t think of many other brands that would be that open minded.

Notes on a Scandal
The trailer for this turned out to be total disappointment. As usual we found clips from the film with jangly piano music underneath. When what it really needed was names in block capitals and exclamation marks filling the screen one after another DENCH! BLANCHETT! ONLY ONE WILL SURVIVE! Followed by a clip of sour faced old Judi and naïve Cate wrestling with one another outside the house. Yeah, that would have been nifty.

Ocean’s Thirteen
Well I thought it was good. Again the reviewers jealously described the cast as smug or detestable whilst simultaneously ignoring Soderbergh’s experimental approach to narrative, imagery and editing. Both this and Twelve are ripe for reassessment in the future and I look forward to the fall out. Roll on Fourteen frankly. I mean how can you not love a film when one of the characters has The Human League’s Don’t You Want Me as a ringtone? [full review]

Orchestra Seats
Whilst I wait for Cécile De France to accept my friend request on Facebook, I can at least watch her brightening up a small corner of Paris. This is the kind of romantic drama which the French seem to do so effortlessly but always end up feeling a little forced over here (see Born Romantic etc.). Now that I’ve been through the Proms education plan, it’d be nice to revisit it this with half the possibility I’ll understand the musical references [review].

Paris Je T’aime
Clearly I can’t get enough of films about Paris and here were a couple of dozen of them. Why should it be unsurprising that most of the contributing directors managed to produce some of the their best work in years given the tiny and focused running time? Apparently the plan was to make this even more of a hyperlink-lite work, with the various characters interacting more closely – I suspect that would have spoilt it though – this film is about showing a collection of unconnected visions of one city [review].

Sicko

I was watching Bowling for Columbine the other day, and in between bothering Moses, Moore offers some suggestions as to why the US has the highest number of gun related deaths and already he was comparing the health system of his own country with Canada and its almost as though you can see him test out a few ideas for this later film. These films are not isolated collections of anger but a sustained attack [full review].

Sunshine
If ever there was a film that deserved to be made in IMAX. Some hated the ending because it seemed to throw out the more thoughtful elements of the film out in favour of a good old fight to the death, but throughout this straddles the sub-genres and although it’s clearly at its most comfortable when exploring the Sol imagery it wouldn’t nearly be as watchable were it not for the crew [full review].

The Bourne Ultimatum
Magnificent, majestic and obviously the best action film of the year. Die Hard 4.0 was good fun, but it simply lacked the emotional character beats and understanding of how they can drive a plot forward, that contrivances are not always the only option. I’m still reeling from the realisation that the first two thirds of the thing happen in the closing moments of Supremecy. It takes a really gutsy bunch of filmmakers to try something like that and pull it off [review].

The Last King of Scotland
Forrest Whitaker seems to live two lives. In one he’s the director of fairly anodyne chick flicks like Hope Floats, Waiting To Exhale and First Daughter – he might even help his landlady out with her garbage. In the other he plays, crooks and charlatans and African dictators demonstrating what a job of acting his turn as Idi Amin actually was. It’s one of those rare occasions when a man looking through a television screen actually makes you take a step back because you think he might kill you.

Water
Taking two whole years to be released in this country, this Oscar-nominated film which you’ve probably never seen looked at how we really do need to balance how religious and cultural ideas effect human freedom. Why should the life of a seven year old be mapped out because a fated husband she’s never met dies? A truly courageous and surprising piece of film making that deserves to be seen by everyone [old review].

"As films became longer, American filmmakers were starting to organize their plots around characters with firm goals." -- David Bordwell

Film Happy birthday, classical cinema! It's now a hundred years since the first films which featured all of the editing and narrative techniques we recognise today were first used. David & Kirsten explain all.

Review 2007: Home



Me on Liverpool

In 2007, Liverpool celebrated its 800th birthday and for the first time, in the shape of the book, Liverpool: From The Air its citizens had a chance to see it from above, warts and all. Based, as most things these days seem to be on a website, webbaviation.co.uk this is ‘simply’ pages and pages of aerial photographs of the city and the surrounding area with short explanations and factoids describing each of the different landmarks. Those of us who live in tower blocks might live with this impression of the city from the sky, but even we get to see parts of the city we could only dream of.

What makes the endeavour special is that it captures the city in one of its moments of transition. Many of the pages feature parts of the city in the grip of building work, shifting from one pattern to another. The shot of the Paradise or Liverpool One Project shows a whole new neighbourhood in construction and there’s also a fascinating image of Beetham Tower, one of the new buildings on the skyline nearing completion and its these sights which will prove most revealing in years to come, just as the faded images of an unfinished Liverpool Cathedral are now.

But there’s also the chance to see familiar streets from another angle, how the structure of the place, usually so abstract from street experience fits together. Clearly such things are also possible online through Google Earth yet there is something arresting about being able to move the eye down Ranleigh Street, up shadowing Church Street then the newly constructed parts of Hanover Street in seconds and through a relief angle that favour aesthetics rather than information. At Google, buildings often simply become rooftops; here you can recognise what those buildings actually are.

Particularly interesting are the images of places less accessible to the public, such as the docks and estuary. Liverpool it transpires is still an important harbour carrying most of the bulk cargos heading from the UK to North America and there are shots of the containers being shifted too and from the portside and of ships thundering up and down the Mersey. Sporting venues are also served well, with both Aintree racecourse and the Royal Liverpool Golf Course in Hoylake somehow somehow fitted into a single frame. Some might wonder though why Anfield is favoured with two photographs and Goodson Park only one – that said, the picture of Everton’s ground is far larger, so that’s ok then.

Essentially you come away with the impression that Liverpool is an architectural patchwork with neo-classical, Edwardian, Victorian and Modernist styles glancing at each other across streets. It can be rather single minded if it wants to be though; the suburban space between the two football grounds is filled with uniform housing broken hear and there were local development as led to the demolition of terraces in favour of the twisty semi-detached, in fictional terms Bread’s Kelsall Street replaced by Brookside Close.

About the only potential disappointment is that my own home isn’t there, despite being on the edge of Sefton Park; the park is included except we’ve been cut from the very edge of the composition. That’s more than made up in being able to see the likes of Lime Street Station, the place that’s delivered me home on so many occasions from the sky. The roof has a slight curve. Why haven’t I ever noticed that before?

Click here to find out more about this review of 2007, read previous posts and learn about contributing yourself. There's still plenty of time.

"Is that the only word you know? "No?" " -- Giselle, 'Enchanted'



Film On the face of it, Enchanted really shouldn’t be very good. The blasting of characters from a fantasy realm into the movie version of reality isn’t a new idea, last attempted properly by the underrated Last Action Hero and on top of that the characters making the trip are from the fairy tale Disney film filled with princesses, talking animals and songs of the type which has fallen out of favour of late, only continuing a semblance of existence through Shrek’s increasingly anodyne parody. But its actually (PIXAR accepted) their best film in years, an ironic dollop of entertainment that should have kids returning to their copies of Beauty & The Beast, Cinderella and Snow White.

One of the problems with the Shrek films is that in the midst of their caricature, only rarely do they betray a love of their subject. Plus they’re laced with timestamped pop culture references which were dropping out of date even when the first film was released. Enchanted has none of that – with the exception of a couple of mobile phone gags there’s nothing here that, like the Disney films of yore, shouldn’t play ten or twenty years from now. In the kingdom of Andalasia, Giselle (Amy Adams) literally falls into the arms of Prince Edward (James Marsden) and within moments they’re engaged to be married, but fearing her crown is in jeopardy his wicked step-mother (Susan Sarandon) banishes her to our reality. Here, she meets Patrick Dempsey’s New York divorce lawyer who through his own relationship problems is the embodiment of the fact that unlike in her home, people don’t live happily ever after. As she stumbles with him about the city, Edward follows through the portal searching for her, closely trailed by his untrustworthy servant Nathaniel (Timothy Spall) – oh and Giselle’s best friend Pip, a chipmunk.

Frankly, the film’s worth seeing for Adams alone; in a career defining moment she commitedly mimics an animated character, not once betraying a moment of irony as she runs about bringing some sunshine into the dark lives of those around her. It’s a tricky balance to pull off, since it could have spilled over into parody, but not once does she seem to be winking at the audience. But the film isn’t afraid to make fun of the fact that some of the givens of the animated kingdom don’t work in quite the same way in New York, such as when she calls upon the local animal kingdom to help her clean an apartment and the local vermin come calling. She's helped clearly by Billy (totally forgiven for Premonition) Kelly's script which doesn't force the character to embrace reality and whilst the story could have dipped into far darker territory with the character being committed for being a bit of a loon, everything's kept on a child-friendly keel as the people she meets simply accept that she's just not from around their part of the world and enjoys a different belief system in which everyone could and should be happy and in love.

This commitment to plausibly making flesh the animated characters is carried over to each of them with James Marsden in particular finally given the comic role he was born for, the best chisel jawed beef cake innocent since Brendan Fraser pulled on a pair of trunks for George of the Jungle. Spall too is predictably good, only now and then showing signs of taking his cues from panto instead of Walt but they’re forgivable lapses given the various disguises he’s asked to act through. Sarandan is largely called upon to mimic the queen from Snow White, her old hag make-up looking surprisingly like Jimmy Saville. Patrick Dempsey’s performance hasn’t been universally loved because he comes across as a bit dull – well yes, but anyone would opposite Adams’s unalloyed joy. He’s the real world, a literal straight man, all broken and divorced and jaded and as Giselle brings her fairytale magic into his life, he certainly lightens up, as usually happens in these screwball dynamics and there’s no denying he has some of the funnier moments.

The film is a technical marvel. Sadly, because Disney has jettisoned its cell animation department, the opening scenes set in Andalasia weren’t animated in house, but the company James Baxter Animation, capture the mood of the original animation perfectly taking visual cues from 2D animation history with Thumper-style bunny rabbits and a horse that seems to have galloped in from Hercules. The leap from animation to live action doesn’t jar though, because director and Disney veteran Kevin Lima has been careful to make the rest of the film an aural and visual feast. When Giselle first appears in New York, the mono audio of her realm is replaced with surround sound, the noise of the city assaulting our ears from all sides. Bed-decked in her massive wedding dress she has to traverse the city, carried aloft by the crowds in the vistas.

That's all punctuated by some really wonderful songs by Alan Menken & Stephen Schwartz entirely in the groove of their previous work on everything from Aladdin to Pocahontas, and again they’re entirely affectionate and in the case of a number that spills out across New York City probably transcends the originals because of the audacity of the accompanying non-animated images. Is it a musical? It depends upon your definition; like the characters in Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You, they’re certainly aware of bursting into song and one of the pivotal scenes revolves situation when that doesn’t happen. As with much of anything else in the film, it’s something which will be argued over by film critics in the field for years to come.

Some have argued the story is a bit predictable to which you can only say – of course it is. As theorist Vladmir Propp discovered, fairy tales only have a certain number of different elements; above all, despite the shifting locale, this is supposed to be an old fashioned Disney fantasy all of which follow a deliberate pattern and actually arguably here, without giving too much away, the roles are subverted anyway, giving young girls a role model in Giselle which their older sisters once found in the likes of Xena and Buffy. This might well be the first non-PIXAR kids film in ages which adults will also want to watch over and over as it takes us back to the more innocent type of storytelling we remember when we were young, bereft of the cynicism which has been quietly strangling the fun out it all.

Voyage of the Damned.



TV The original cancellation of Doctor Who dovetailed nicely with the period when I first started to like the girls and the girl I tended to like was Kylie Minogue. She seemed perfectly attainable despite such impediments as apparently living Australia (or the UK it was very confusing), being nothing like her character in Neighbours (at least as far as I could tell from a rather stilted interview she gave on Get Fresh) and being a much older woman (all of six years). But I bought the all the records, filled scrap books with articles and lyrics from Smash Hits, covered my wall with posters and kissed her calendar every night before I went to bed. It was a level of dedication which some religions would consider unhinged and yet there I was praying at the alter of Locomotion (see this post at my own blog for further devotional tales).

Of course, the teenage heart is a fickle thing and when it decided that Better The Devil You Know wasn’t a great single and that Lost In Your Eyes sounded purer, it was down with the Kylie posters and up with the Debbie Gibson ones. But you never forget your first love so it there was no more curious experience watching the two merge into one another last night. Post Charlene, Kylie’s not really had a respected acting career (my heart died a little when I sat through Street Fighter – oh yes I’ve seen everything) but she was really good in this, totally holding her own within the ensemble and particularly against Mr Tennant, not afraid to make fun of her height by standing on a box to kiss him. These one-off companions are difficult because they have to mark themselves out in a very short space of time and make us care and I do think she did that, imbuing Astrid with a likeable wonder but also making her sacrifice entirely plausible.

Plus it’s Kylie dressed as a waitress. What’s not to like?

Elsewhere, writer Russell T Davies was playing the genre game, tossing the Doctor into a disaster movie to see what that would be like. Apparently he’s always wanted to do this since The Poseidon Adventure was the only VHS he had to hand as a kid. Oddly enough, it’s not the first time the franchise has attempted something like this. Fans with long memories might remember that Christopher Bulis’s Vanderdeken's Children, an Eighth Doctor novel, had many of the same figures you’d expect in an Irwin Allen spectacular eventually scuppered by a far too complex plot. It’s not an impossible fit though; Doctor Who stories tend to develop through set pieces and that’s exactly what you find in something like The Towering Inferno and indeed that’s exactly what you got in Voyage of the Damned as the Doctor led a band of familiars from one end of the ship to the other, with the monetary scam and villain an added appendage to explain the disaster.

These were good set pieces, the bit in the corridor, the bit in the stairwell, the bit on the strut. If anything the template was used too well; disaster films are about death; so is Doctor Who apparently but did this really have to be so unremittingly grizzly? Here’s something being served up as pre-watershed family entertainment on Christmas Day which featured mass murder and suicide. I shuddered as I wrote that since it’s clearly what Mediawatch UK were thinking too as they scribbled down all of their criticisms in crayon but I can’t lie and say I didn’t cringe a little bit as the Doctor amongst other things failed to save Astrid and provide a happy send off. Perhaps we should be excited that the show is still willing to bounce off the curve letting the hateful character lives, but the last thing we need at this point is to lose the family audience because parents think the show is too scary, too raw, too ugly, particularly on the holiest of holies.

That said, The Poseidon Adventure is a PG these days.

But as I said in the introduction still managed to raise a chuckle and not just during the closing moments. As well as Mr Copper’s bizarre verbal mincing of Christmas traditions (which when you consider what we actually do aren’t that odd – apart from the boxing) there was the discovery that the residents of old London town had taken the logical step of deserting the place around the festive period based on previous experience. It’s not the first time they’ve done this – remember Invasion of the Dinosaurs – but in a way it’s a shame that the episode couldn’t have been expanded to explore that idea instead; it felt thrown away here but perhaps that’s the big new arc story which will be looked at in the new series, Cribbins included. And wasn’t he marvellous – weren’t all of the guest cast? Some will say that Geoffrey Palmer was wasted but it needed and actor like that for you to believe that Captain would be capable of what he did, just as it needs George Costigan to turn up at the end and be plausibly villainous.

It was certainly one of the best designed episodes of the new series. Some money was clearly spent on the interiors and although the geography of the ship wasn't too clearly defined the strut area may well have been one of the best sets of the series, recalling the propeller room from The End of the World. The exterior shots of the Titanic itself are majestic too although I had a soft spot in particular for the shots of the TARDIS hurtling towards the Earth. It really does make a change to see the Earth from a non-North American point of viewing, seeing Europe and UK floating below us. There’s no denying that the design of the Hosts must have been inspired by some other robots of death – particularly the hair – and it’ll be very surprising if they don’t inspire some merchandise partner to create tree decorations for next Christmas.

I really liked Voyage of the Damned. It wasn't perfect, but as a Christmas Day post everything slice of action adventure with a dash of heart it was fine and in the end I laughed like a drain because sheer audacity of it all. I mean really what else could you do at the sight of the Titanic dodging the roof of Buckingham Palace with her Madge, in her rollers, thanking the Doctor for saving the world one more time, with Nicholas Witchell reporting on events. Sure it’s pretty camp and arch and typical of many of the things that some despise nu-Who for, but it’s also hilarious and doing everything which you never thought you’d ever see in a television programme, least of all the one you were brought up on. If it didn't quite make up for some of the darkness which had gone before, at least it prepared some viewers for the shitstorm that was about to hit them in the episode of Eastenders that followed.

If it wasn’t quite as affecting as either of the other two specials it's because it didn’t feel like part of the fabric of the series. The Christmas Invasion was clearly all about the regeneration and The Runaway Bride dealing with the loss of Rose. Even though he’d only just dropped off Martha, this felt like a very separate story, rather like an example of spin-off fiction in that you didn’t really need to know about anything else which had happened in the series to enjoy it. Certainly that was the case for the first two or three decades but it threatened here to make the piece inessential. Despite all the murder and mayhem there wasn’t anything as gut busting as the moment when the Prime Minister ordered the destruction of the Sycorax ship or the Doctor watched as the Queen’s children drowned at least not with the sense that it’d have consequences.

But then again, for all we know this could have been the most important episode of the lot, especially as it proved that actually even though he is the Doctor he can't do everything. Roll on the fourth series – “What d’you mean miss? Do I look single?” etc.

"A sequel. That's it. We'll bring it out on March 25, and we'll call it... Christmas 2! " -- BZ, 'Santa Claus: The Movie'

Film I'm going to miss Nathan Rabin's My Year of Flops posts. It's the end of the year and he's not flagging. Here's the opening paragraph of his Santa Claus: The Movie review and I think it's his best yet:
"There’s nothing lonelier than being a Jew on Christmas. When someone says “Merry Christmas” all I hear is “Fuck you, Jew.” When someone says “Happy Holidays” what they really mean is “Fuck you, Jew.” When they say “Happy Chanakoonah” that’s ultimately just another way of saying “Fuck you, Jew.” When someone at work says “Hey, Nathan, can I borrow your Juno screener?” All I hear is “Fuck you, Jew”. Man, I really need to go back on my meds. Fucking seasonal depression."
Now if you'll excuse me, my record is stuck.

"Love, love is a verb, love is a doing word, fearless on my breath." -- Massive Attack, 'Teardrops'

That Day If anyone is reading this today, 'Appy Chrismass. This year I was greeted by a turntable under the tree which means I can revisit my old record collection, which isn't exactly Championship Vinyl size but still has a few 'oohs and aah's and I didn't know I had thats. Look, it's ELO!

The strangest moment of the morning was watching my expectant mother waiting for my approval as I unrapped the Newton Faulkner album.
'Right. Yes. Thanks.' I said.
'Well I saw it advertised.' Mum said, clearly wondering why I wasn't more excited.
'Um. Yes.'
'What's wrong?'
'Well, I've never heard of him.'
And I haven't. The name hasn't passed through either of my ears or rested on either of my braincells. Is Newton Faulkner someone who everyone has heard of? Have I totally missed a very large ship, perhaps three of them? I suspect it's another knock on effect from The Proms, when I totally, like, missed, like, everything, like, like. It's quite a good album actually although I'm not sure about his version of Teardrops, probably because I'm so used to the masterful Massive Attack version. Please put me out of my misery.

Anyway, have a great rest of the day and I'll speak to you soon.

"Not even a mouse..." -- Anonymous, 'A Visit from St. Nicholas'

Life I love that even in the mid-end of the noughties, BBC Two can still think its plausable to have have a Ken Dodd inspired theme night with an ITV manufactured 'Evening With ...' whose main pleasure is still to see how celebrity culture has changed. Not much apparently. Hello, it's late Christmas Eve and I'm hiding away because there are people asleep in the lounge and since anything I do would include talking I've decided to let them nap. Long day tomorrow.

I actually went shopping in town earlier, proper shopping including the purchase of a turkey and everything. Actually it was just a crown but I still feel like I've done the christmas thing. The longest queue was in our currently tiny HMV (Hot Fuzz & extended King Kong by the way) not Tesco though which shows that people's priorities are not at all out of joint - though to be fair, the food store has more tills. I only managed to stress out once this year -- over carrot and swede and finding thereof. Again, priorities.

Is that the time? Hour and ten minutes to go ...

Review 2007: The Year The Turner Came To Town



Ian Jackson on Liverpool

Of course, Liverpool is a fantastically cultural city all the time, we don't need Governments or EU commissions to tell us we are allowed to be a Capital of Culture for one year then revert to normal. But having this award has meant that we have even more organisations and people wanting to be a part of the action even before 2008 starts. So the Liverpool Biennial have had more money to spend on great public artworks such as Antony Gormley's Another Place and Richard Wilson's Turning the Place Over.

We even had the Royal Variety Performance held at the Liverpool Empire, so the poor Queen and Mr Queen had to travel up to Lime St. to endure, I mean enjoy, the best of variety entertainment. The really big thing though was the first non-London Turner Prize for art which this year was held at Tate Liverpool. This was seen as a major coup for the city but in hindsight maybe the hype was a bit overdone. The Tate couldn't quite bring itself to totally deny Londoners their annual ration of Turner artists so they had a massive retrospective of past winners at Tate Britain.

When the shortlist was announced in May the cameras were there but only so all the journalists and art critics could watch the announcement live without bothering to travel up north. It was a bit embarrassing to be honest as the judges had to wait for a member of staff to write down the questions being phoned in from London and then read them out. Then the shortlist itself and the works the artists were nominated for sounded all a bit serious, political and safe. Yes, all good artists and good works but nothing that was likely to make people all over the nation think 'Oh yes, must travel to Liverpool to catch that show'

Then the exhibition opened in October and again many people were underwhelmed and unexcited. It was almost as if even the artists thought 'Well, its only Liverpool and Wallinger is going to win anyway so I'll just do something quick' Mark Wallinger's own entry for this exhibition was his Sleeper video. So I imagined him sitting at home thinking 'Well its only Liverpool and I'm bound to win anyway for my State Britain piece, so, lets see, I could just post off this video I shot in 2004 for the 05 Venice Biennale. Yep. Job done.’ I'm joking of course, I know the artists wouldn't think that way but the show did have that sort of feel about it.

The national press did post the required reportage but with little enthusiasm and national TV, even programs such as Newsnight review and the Culture Show who are often scraping the bottom of the barrel to find a cultural event of interest to talk about, steadfastly ignored Liverpool. The evening of the awards came in December and as expected Wallinger won. Channel 4 reported the event live. In some years past the Turner merited an hour or half hour long program. This year it was going to be the 5 minutes following the end of Channel 4 News, then it was to be the last 5 minutes of the news then it was going to be in the middle.

So, of course, we all had to watch the whole news program just to see the very brief announcement (at 19.45). There was also a report about the prize at 19.30 which included a brief shot of me and my wife, Minako. We were not invited to the awards as we are not celeb enough but this shot was taken at the press viewing in October. Ok, having said all that, it was actually a good exhibition. I'm glad it was here and I'm glad I saw it (several times). Maybe its more of a problem with the Turner Prize itself, many think its had its day, time to come up with something new.

Fortunately the good people at Tate Liverpool have been here long enough to realise that you have to add a bit of fun and flair if its happening in this city and so they planted a big black Taxi cab alongside the show with a video screen in the back showing filmed interviews of recent passengers talking about art. Many people thought this was the best thing, it should have won the prize.

Ian Jackson runs Art In Liverpool.

Click here to find out more about this review of 2007, read previous posts and learn about contributing yourself.

"peace among those whom he favours" -- the new angel of the lord

Literature These years, I always make a point watching the Candlelit carols edition of Songs of Praise. The changing of words in the hymns (which I've heard someone horridly call 'contemporising' on occasion) is a given these days. But between the carols, there were Bible readings telling the story of the nativity, which this year were read by Julia McKenzie and the late Anton Rogers in the gorgeous Hereford Cathedral. For years, my impression is that the words have been from the King James edition Bible, so beautiful and poetic and infused with awe. Here's perhaps the most famous section, it's from Luke 2:8-16 ...
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
In fact, even at a young age if I didn't remember anything directly from the Bible other than the Lord's Prayer, I remembered those words: "on earth peace, good will toward men" If nothing else, it inspired one of my favourite ever cartoons, MGM's Peace On Earth as brilliant a demonstration of why war is stupid as you're likely to see.

Not on Songs of Praise tonight though. Tonight instead I was introduced to the Holy Bible, New Standard Revised Version. Here's that same passage as it appears in the version read out in Hereford Cathedral:
"In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.
Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:
to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.
This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!'
So region instead of country. News instead of tidings. You can't say Christ -- it's the Messiah. Swaddling clothes become 'bands of cloth'.

The project was no doubt to make the Bible accessible to new generations (more of that contemporising). Arguably there shouldn't be anything wrong with that since the King James itself was translated from Greek and used so that the masses -- at least those who could read -- would have access to the word of God (I'm simplifying -- the Wikipedia inevitably has greater detail). Except in this case were not talking about going from one language to another -- it's the same language. It's just that some of the words are more archaic. It reminds me of the modernisations of Shakespeare in which the verse is translated into prose, absolutely losing the poetry. That's what's happening here -- you're going from one piece of writing which is inspiring and uplifting even to a questioner like me to something which, yes, does the job, tells the story, but lacks a sense of history.

You're into the territory of turning "on earth peace, good will toward men" into " and on earth peace among those whom he favours!" The intention here seems to be strangely PC (considering this work was done in the mid-20th century) and changing 'men' which is too gender specific for some probably into 'those he favours' which is supposed to mean everyone but in context actually sounds like God is only offering peace to those he likes, offering a whole raft of loose interpretations I'll leave in your capable hands. Why is the use of the word 'man' to encompass everyone still a polariser? Aren't actresses called actors these days?

Unsurprisingly, the Revised Standard Version also has a wiki which supplies this great quote:
"The intention was not only to create a clearer version of the Bible for the English-speaking church, but also to "preserve all that is best in the English Bible as it has been known and used through the centuries" and "to put the message of the Bible in simple, enduring words that are worthy to stand in the great Tyndale-King James tradition."
Which must have looked really good on the sales brochure.

The fact that I was and am annoyed by this continues to underline that I haven't completely let go of my connection to religion just yet. And it could of course just be that I'm a stuck in the mud traditionalist who likes to hear the expected words in the right order and if I'd been brought up on the RSV, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference. It's just very disappointing that a text which has served us so well on the BBC for all of these years is being phased out in favour of something which seems to have been written to sound similar yet simpler because collectively, even the middle of the last century, we'd become less clever in our use and understanding of language than we used to be.

"I’d also love to do a DEEP SPACE NINE novel..."

TV Pantechnicon has a really rather fabulous and revealing two-part interview with script editor Gary Russell which begins with his acting career (bless) and continues almost right up to date at Cardiff (if he's got the IDW gig yet, it only shows in that he says that he wants to write a graphic novel). Great stuff about Big Finish and particularly his feelings about Tom Baker's treatment thereof. I didn't know those three scripts were originally written for him.

[Part One, Part Two]

The first part can be read in the .pdf version of the fanzine at around page 21. The rest is in html.

"I missed the train." -- Matthew Rudd

Travel Matt has a few problems using our shambolic transport system: "A car journey from my home to the railway station takes approximately 15 minutes, depending on the regulation factors like weather, time of day etc. So, the Natural Blonde agreed to drive me from the village (we haven't had localised services to the vast terrain of small towns and villages east of Hull since Dr Beeching decided in 1964 that they were no longer necessary) to the station. [...] We set off on a 15 minute journey with half an hour to spare. [...] We got stuck behind a succession of 25mph transporters carrying those mobile offices, which take up two lanes by just enough of a margin to prevent you from overtaking. [...] I missed the train."

"It gave me palpitations and my palms were actually sweating..." -- Keris Stainton

TV Well of course I've secretly been watching Strictly -- it's been difficult to get away from wedged into the schedules at weekend teatimes. Part-dance contest, part soap opera, part panto, the contest has largely been worth watching to see pop-culture 'icons' in entirely unlikely situations (well one situation -- Willie Thorne dancing, Stephanie Beacham dancing, don't get done get Dom dancing, everyone basically dancing) their emotions laid bare -- it's unsurprising how false or arrogant someone can come across as being when being interviewed about the foxtrot and talking about their 'journey' (Taxi or train? Or did they send a car?). I was more impressed with the celebs who took the judge's comments on board and promised to do better than the miscreants who argued and told them they didn't know what they were talking about. Yeah, and whose the expert?

Quite rightly Alesha won which made a liar out of those who reduced the viewership to a bunch of mindless cretins who'd simply vote for Matt because they fancy him (some of whom were judges apparently). She's been consistently good from the first show, always displaying an ability a cut above the likes of Di Angelo whose frequently forgotten his steps in the middle of a routine (actually to an extent, by her own admission, she'd get flummoxed herself now and then, but because she seemed relaxed and gave off the vibe of being in control, this didn't seem as apparent -- the more nervous contestants were laid bare on the dance floor because their problems were magnified). Either way it underlines just what Charlie Brooker says in the Christmas Screen Wipe -- that people who vote in uk reality tv shows are a far more liberal bunch than most people give them credit for, in this case voting as winner someone whose black and a woman and clearly has talent.

Keris has the full story at TV Scoop. Where there really that many dances? Is it really only another nine months to the next one?

"The implications of this rumour are clear." -- Suw Charman

Journalism Suw writes about a quite bizarre controversy in which a reviewer on a games website appeared to have been fired for giving a bed review for something which for which a company had bought loads of ad space for. I love the poetry of this sentence which is the best digital substitute I've seen yet for 'not worth the paper its printed on':
"The implications of this rumour are clear: If CNET is bowing to pressure from advertisers to ensure that their own games are favourable reviewed, then CNET's games coverage becomes not worth the electricity that lights its pixels."
One of the great pleasures in some print magazines is seeing a one-star review of a film accompanied on the opposite page by an advert for that same movie almost as though the distributor are saying 'Yeah -- but look -- it's Martin Lawrence in drag --- again! It's gonna be - hi-lar-eus!' But really -- can anything which takes massive amounts advertising from the industry its writing about be truly independent?

"He took a photo of the two ‘rubbish’ trees and asked which one I preferred." -- Gia

Christmas Luckily, since A Charlie Brown Christmas isn't on in the UK this year, Gia's found a copy and explains neatly about how it's effected those of us who saw it as a child.

Since we are now in the time of the Christmas Radio Times, here again are my tv recommendations for the festive season.