Veronica Mars UK release. DVD only. Sigh.

Film Finally:



Here we have a UK release on dvd for Veronica Mars. Instead of bothering with individual season releases, Warners have produced this complete boxed set which also includes the film.  Notice the reassuring BBFC classification symbols.  It's an amazingly reasonable £27.50 at Amazon.  But before I clicked "add to basket" I thought -- I was expecting a blu-ray release.  Also, what if I just want the film?  What then.  Oh, my:



In the age of HD, Veronica Mars is only being granted a dvd release.  Amazon's not showing a UK release for a blu-ray.  There is a US import available (or at least on the database) but its not multi-region.  I've emailed their PR department to see if something's amiss.  Of course if there is indeed a blu-ray, we're still being shafted because we'll have to buy the film twice - with the television series and then as a separate entity if we want it in HD.  As ever the UK fans are getting the sticky end of the stick.

Updated 16/04/2013 I've had a reply from Warners PR:
"Thank you for your email, we do not have any plans to release any of the Veronica Mars content on Blu-ray. It is just being released on DVD.

"Hope that’s helpful."
Sigh. I've replied with the "Why?" question.

“Where God Sat . . . ”

Geography In 1961, LIFE Magazine embarked on an epic photo story which would attempt to encompass the whole of the American North West. Now they've opened up the archive to show us some of the images not originally utilised. They're spectacular and importantly don't deny the existence of humanity which can be a tendency in landscape photography. But the archive's current editor has a few problems with the original headline:
"But the phrase “Where God Sat . . . ” still feels a little weird. Would God, in anyone’s conception of an omnipotent being, really be seated while creating a landscape as vast, dramatic and humbling as the Tetons. Or Mount Rainier. Or the Oregon coast? Wouldn’t a Supreme Being feel compelled, by the very nature of the occasion, to stand while in the process of bringing forth such beauty?"
In other words:

"I'm in a room..."

TV Now that Buzzfeed own the web, they can pretty much post about what they like, and here they like the early 1990s Channel 4 gameshow The Crystal Maze and its many awful contestants. If you think the frustrating horror of the contestants in Pointless's final round who thought Cate Blanchett was Tilda Swinton and offered their answers accordingly was bad, how about:
"After successfully navigating a mirrored maze on his hands and knees, this spectacularly dim contestant touched the crystal’s reflection instead of picking it up. He then patted himself on the back, decided that was all he was supposed to do and retreated, leaving the maze without it. Wow."
Apart from the many animated gifs including the DOG from FTN, the Flextech Television Network which was on Freeview for three years from launch and home to The Crystal Maze reruns on an unending loop and ex-contestants and their relatives turning up in the comments, there's a link to this history of The Crystal Maze in outtakes in which we hear what the people in the gallery thought of the efforts of the contestants:



"Right, send in the three year old child."

The Principia of Natalie Dormer.


The Principia of Natalie Dormer from Chris Floyd on Vimeo.

[via @brokenbottleboy] [Thanks Mic!]

"Basically, I rule."

Theatre The audience at last Thursday night's presentation of A Raisin in the Sun on Broadway starring Denzel "Denzel" Washington and Sophie "Liz 10" Okonedo were in for a surprise:
"A white tent had been erected outside the theatre, and audience members were whisked through metal detectors and wanded. Inside, recordings of Hansberry played on a loop, and the Langston Hughes poem from which the play takes its title was illuminated on a scrim: “What happens to a dream deferred? / Does it dry up / like a raisin in the sun?” By 8:12 P.M., there were eight conspicuously empty seats off the center-right aisle, four in Row D and four in Row E. (I was in Row F, on the other side.) A woman announced over the speaker: “Ladies and gentlemen, out of respect for the actors please take your seats so the show can begin.” The lights went down, and the door to the street swung open. A stream of people, including the President, the First Lady (in black), and Valerie Jarrett, snaked through to the back of the house and then down the aisle. Ignoring the announcer’s pleas, the audience leaped to its feet—this usually happens at the end of the show—and camera flashes twinkled in the darkened theatre. The Obamas shook some hands and took their seats."

Suffragette hits Parliament.

Film Principle photography on Suffragette continues on apace. There's been plenty of pap shots on a certain website but because I'd never link to that website, plus you know stuff, I haven't bothered to mention their many shots of Carey Mulligan in a hat holding a cup of coffee.

 The BBC have covered the film's historic appearance at the Parliament, the first commercial filming at the Palace of Westminster ever. The news piece has an old school Film programme vibe:
The Houses of Parliament are for the first time being used as a set for a commercial film, as shooting for Suffragette takes place.

Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham Carter have been joined by hundreds of extras playing protesters in the forthcoming movie.

Scenes were shot in the central lobby and a committee room, after MPs agreed it was a good way to contribute to the cost of running Parliament.

Tim Muffett reports.
The negotiations for this were presumably fascinating. Did Parliament want to see the script? Would they had done it for a television piece?

Gag Reel? Gag Reel?



Film Trawling through old emails this morning, I found the activation confirmation for my original Screen Select account sent 28/2/2014. As Review 2004 records, the first three discs I received were Chain Reaction, The Gingerbread Man and Fallen Angels: Professional Man with The 400 Blows, Les Enfants Du Paradis and A Bout De Souffle soon afterwards and so it goes. There's not much more to be said about this that you don't already know about how the access to film in general has changed radically in the ten years since and how apart from the MARVEL films because of spoilers and the odd special case here and there because of spectacle (Gravity), I barely go to the cinema any more, but paradoxically feel like I have a much richer filmic experience.

When I do receive a disc through the post, most of the time about the only extra I bother with is the gag reel. Often these unguarded moments tell you more about the filmmaking process than the documentaries designed for that purpose and certainly about the personalities on set and who's giving a performance and whose playing themselves. This example for Clones is typical, especially the exchange between Natalie Portman and Lucas in which she's giggling through her disbelief in what he's forcing her to do in the name of an action sequence which, as has become legendary, was shot in pick-ups because it was felt there was a lack of something, something in that part of the film. No wonder she thought the whole thing was a set up. She seems like she's joking, but there's also one of those significant pauses ...

The Films I've Watched This Year #13



Film If this list looks short, it's because it's been an odd week for one reason of another and I'm writing this a day early and before the evening's entertainment, Drinking Buddies, which I presume I'll talk about next time if it's any good. Film related news this week is that the long awaited update has been made to the Amazon Instant Lovefilm Video stream UK on the Sony BD player to something which ignores the rubbishy onboard software and offers something which is more akin to Netflix of the iPlayer. The picture quality has improved too; it's not as clear as Netflix or even the iPlayer but still a hell of a lot better than the S-VHS quality of the previous incarnation. Missing from this week's list is Creative Process: Norman McLaren, a documentary about the Scottish-Canadian filmmaker which I left about an hour in because it somehow managed to make a fascinating subject boring through a lack of coherence and poor structuring.

Inside Llewyn Davis
Still Crazy
Breath In
We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks
The Call
Warm Bodies

Where to begin. At the top, I suppose, with my film of the week for a change. Inside Llewyn Davis is a bit of an atypical Coen brothers film in that sight unseen I'm not sure you could finger the Coens for it. Perhaps because they're utilising a different cinematographer than usual, Bruno Delbonnel in for Roger Deakins, there's less of a sense of artifice, greater reality, which is odd, because Delbonnel's CV which includes working with Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Tim Burton is all about artifice.  But in capturing the folk scene in 1961 New York, in the gap between Woodie Guthrie and Bob Dylan, there's a very rich sense of place, of everything being lived in, importantly of the film almost having fallen through time having originated in the 1970s in the era of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. Delbonnel's key image, the cover of Bob Dylan's The Freewheelin', sweats through every pour.

The Coens are the kind of directors for whom half of the job is done when selecting the cast.  But this is an occasion when a star emerges and there's Oscar Isaacs suddenly burning, after a string of relatively faceless supporting roles (with the possible exceptions of  in Robin Hood and Sucker Punch) hoofing around with the charm of the young Pacinos, Goulds and Hoffmans, owning the screen, out compelling even John Goodman in the scenes when Goodman should be in ascendancy.  Not only can he sing, but his adeptness in physical comedy has elements of Tati, especially in the cat scenes.  Seriously, this is one of those occasions, like Renner in The Hurt Locker when we're in the presence of a star of the old school and want to see everything else they do.  Presumably Kevin Feige already has him on speed dial to play Steve Strange.  Actually, that would be *amazing*.

But the whole thing is delightful.  There's Justin Timberlake who's also fast become an acting favourite happy to fade into the background as the more successful mirror to Isaac's character's hopelessness.  Carey Mulligan sings!  Notice how she and Michelle Williams are quite neatly both managing to have a career in roles which they must both surely be considered for, though it's true that Mulligan just has the edge at the moment.  Hopefully they can continue and unlike Renee Zellwegger and Joey Lauren Adams they don't end up cancelling each other out.  Plus the music is glorious and it's well worth tracking down the Inside Inside Llewyn Davis documentary for the footage of the pre-recording sessions which look like they were a collaborative hoot (though the music in the film was recorded live).  About the only criticism is that it ends.

Monday night brought a Felicity Jones double bill, Like Crazy then Breathe In both in collaboration with Drake Doremus.  The first, a long distance romance drama co-starring Anton Yelchin is lovely as lovers try to stay connected with the Atlantic ocean and immigration rules standing between them.  Doremus's unpredictable, visually poetic style and editing which seems like its throwing together all of cinema histories techniques fits with the story, in which couple isn't ever sure when and if they'll see each other or if they'll ever properly be together, snatching moments when they can get them.  Like Inside Llewyn Davis it just finishes perhaps unresolved, but it's at a point when the outcome couldn't really be anything else.  It's also a bit of an artifact because it has J-Law a year on from Winter's Bone but just on the cusp of fame as the other women, something which threatens to retrospectively unbalance the thing because like Oscar Isaacs she's so utterly charming.

Everything that's right with Like Crazy is horribly wrong in Breathe In.  The tricks with the mis-en-scene are very, very similar, as is the golden colour pallette and the performances are just as improvisational but in seeking to obviously produce something more mechanically mainstream accessible, Doremus gets lost in the material and as the film heads into the second half its as embarrassingly cliched as a daytime soap opera.  This time Jones plays a visiting exchange student in music teacher Guy Pearce's midlife crisis and troubled household and from the moment he claps eyes on her Chopin rehearsal pieces we know that it's not the only thing he's going to be clapping his eyes on.  From then on, every beat of the ensuing affair is guessable, the logical narrative agency goes bankrupt and if the writer/director's intention is to show the repetitious blandness of these things then he succeeds, even if the film's almost impossible to watch because of it.

The Call has had universally poor reviews and enjoys a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 43% but plenty of those reviews seem to be about offering an opinion on what the film doesn't do, rather what it does, of not fulfilling expectations.  Pre-publicity, trailers and the like, suggest this is a thriller in which Halle Berry's 9/11 call handler will save a girl from abduction from the safety of her desk in the "hive", and although that's the central set piece, because just showing that would be filmed theatre, the whole story is opened out to show the world beyond the desk and so the main criticisms of the piece which also ignores the central psychological through line of Berry's character bare little scrutiny.  I enjoyed this a lot, though I will agree that final half hour probably only really makes sense if you've spent the past week or so watching BBC's Luther.  Especially the ending.  Wow.

I entirely missed the central conceit of Warm Bodies until Nicholas Hoult's zombie R was grunting under Teresa Palmer's human Julie's balcony.  A zomromcom which is unafraid to pay homage to its predecessors, especially Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland, there are also also elements in the dream sequences which feel like the some of the Malick-lite noodling of Like Crazy, though obviously the middle class family there weren't under the threat of the apocalypse (though Alex River Song Kingston would have been more than capable obviously).  Part of me wishes the whole thing had stayed at the same pitch as the plane scene.  When this become an action film it's slightly less compelling though you can understand that like similar efforts it feels like it has various genre imperatives to fulfill.  But the ending is sweet and there's a welcome supporting role for Damsel in Distress's Analeigh Tipton.

"We will all go together when we go..."

Music Tom Lehrer was and still is one of my favourite writer musicians, because of the songs and also because at a definitive point he stopped, he said, I'm done with that. If only more artists in various fields did that. If only when Lily Allen (for example) said after two albums, that's enough, she'd stuck to it.

For no particular reason Buzzfeed's Buzzread long form section now have lengthy profile of Lehrer who also has a healthy approach to answering the author's questions:
“You seem to have devoted so much thought to the questions you ask that you should perhaps just write what you think is the truth, even if it’s just speculation, which — judging by today’s commentators on TV — is the easiest and therefore the most common form of punditry. I neither support nor encourage your efforts, but I shall not try to thwart them,” he wrote. And he was true to his word. He didn’t respond to a second letter, nor to a fact-checking email sent to his AOL email address; his email handle includes a phrase along the line of “living legend.” When we stopped by his Sparks Street house on a cold night in February, a light was on and a Prius was in the driveway, but nobody answered the door and Lehrer wrote that he had left town for California. (One underrated classic: “Hannukah in Santa Monica.”)

The Feeling Listless Soundtrack 1.0:
The Old Apartment.



Written by Ed Robertson & Steven Page
[from: 'WBCN Naked Too', Wicked Disc, 1998]

Music Leeds was much as I left it. If anything it's become even more of a student city, everything seemingly geared towards a particular age group. As anyone who's returned to a place they once lived after years of distance will know it's difficult not to look objectively. Around every corner is a distant memory, even in the most benign of places: the statue which had a traffic cone on it's head during my first week of university which I walked past with Sharon during the first walk back to halls from town; outside The Merrion Centre where I met Rosie that last time; the old library doorway I sat in eating fish and chips when I didn't want to go back to my lodges during my second year; the telephone box I would go to cry in when I was home sick; the museum I first saw Georgina Starr and went to my first private view; the cinema which was the only place which seemed to make sense to me much of the time. There are places which have gone: the second hand bookshop where you had to leave any bags behind the counter while you look around; the coffee shop in the city centre I would go to every Wednesday as treat because I could buy a cheese and ham baguette for 95p; the market stall were I bought the belt I still wear now to keep up my jeans; the Wendy's where I ate a square burger during my first ever movie binge ('Babe', 'Sabrina', 'The American President'); that other place where I fell in love. [Originally posted 30th October 2001]

[Commentary:  The first lazy appropriation of blog material.  The original post is here.  I'd return to Leeds again two years later to visit all my old student houses.  In 2008, that blog post was found online by some people who lived in one of the houses ten years after I did.  In 2009, I sort of visited them again in 2009 thanks to the magic of Google Street View.  Part of my thinks about going back again now, but then I wonder what the point would be twenty years after I was a fresher.  It'll either be exactly the same or different, but it'll be nothing like these memories.  Perhaps if there was someone there for me to visit, talk about these old times which somehow feel still so present in the memory, but university being what it is, we gathered from across the country then returned to our own cities.  There was a moment, a brief moment, when I considered staying in Leeds, I suppose you always do when you're a student and you become embedded, but I suspected I'd spend the duration trying to continue to live the student days or as would have been my case lived them "better".  That was the mistake I made when I did become a student again in 2005 wanting to have the student experience but entirely "failing" again due to living in a completely different city.  Returning to my post-graduate student digs would be easy if I wanted to.  I'm sitting in them typing this.  Nothing has changed.  Much.

The video above has though.  Not being able to find the original track online, this other live version is from ten years later.]

Liverpool Biennial 2014: Press Launch.



Art Here we go again. It’s 1:15pm on the 8th April (2014) as I write having just returned from the press conference announcing the goodies in this year’s Liverpool Biennial (2014) (barring lunch and an interesting time with Inside Inside Llewyn Davis, the making of the Coen Brothers film). We’re embargoed, asked not to report what we’ve seen anywhere until tomorrow morning. Or this morning since you’re reading it now. Blogging is a bit complex under these circumstances. The whole point of blogging is that it’s immediate, post and it’s there but here I am in the past writing something which you’re not reading until right now.

But it’s fair. It makes sense. There’s a similar launch in London tomorrow, or today, at about the time this is posted (phew) for the capital centric journalists which are what stop the Biennial from being a simply a local event into something national or international and the PR department has a tricky balancing act between wanting to tell us locals about what’s occurring, will be occurring, whilst also wanting to make sure the whole thing doesn’t feel stale to whichever correspondent is sent by The Guardian or the BBC. As I said to someone I like to think is a friend today, I do love all of this, the cloak and dagger, the mystery, the feeling of being in the loop on something.

We were asked to gather at the Hope Street Hotel, the rather nice boutique (is it boutique?) inn opposite the Philharmonic Hall on, well Hope Street, obviously, with the explanation that after that we’d be taken to a secret venue. There were some familiar faces in the crowd and breakfast, coffee and croissant, neither of which I availed myself of, the former because I’d already stored up on coffee before leaving home and could just feel the caffeine buzz starting, the latter because of my ongoing, hernia-inspired attempt to become a thin person (which is still going well by the way, though its true the weight loss does slow down after a time).

Not before too long we were led up onto street level, the plot thickening with every step. Where were we going? Not too far hopefully because it was a deceptively chilly morning and sure enough, and this is the first of the headlines which I’m sadly burying in the middle of this paragraph (yet given away with the above illustration) because I have no idea of how to structure text, we were quickly ushered into the Trade Union Centre on Hardman Street, sometimes called the old Blind School and which is to be the main exhibition space for this year’s festival and I think you’ll agree, a magnificent choice.

Everyone wanted to go off and explore immediately but we were quickly led into a large room on the ground floor which had been set up with plasma screen, chairs and tables ready for the press conference. After talking a seat at the front, I thought about the benefits this venue will have. With its central location in comparison to the Cunard Building, it immediately creates a visiting structure for Biennial visitors, who can be introduced the festival here then walk to FACT, down Wood Street to the Blue Coat then on to the Tate and the Open Eye and whatever else is in the public realm in between.

The press conference, then. Sally Tallant the Director of the Biennial offered some statistics about the success of the festival over the years then Mai Abu ElDahab and Anthony Huberman outlined what’s to come. As you read, professional journalists are seeing the light at the end of the embargo and the new Biennial website itself should have gone live so there’s little point in my repeating what’s there, not least because I tried desperately not to pay too much attention myself. There’s always a balance at these things between wanting to have some idea of what we can look forward to and destroying the surprises.

The overall title of this year’s Biennial is “A Needle Walks Into A Haystack” which isn’t quite as snappy as some of the one word designations of previous festivals but has a much clearer direction of intellectual traffic perhaps than last time. As the press booklet explains, “overall the Biennial exhibition reflects on how artists disrupt the realms of habits and habitats, reconfiguring objects, images, representations and activities that constitute their immediate surroundings”. Now arguably that could describe all art, indeed all culture, but it has an atmosphere of specificity which will provide a decent context for the work that visitors will be seeing.

The other big change this year is the timing. The whole show is opening on the 5th July to coincide with the International Festival for Business and during the main tourist season which might bump up visitor numbers. But cleverly, because students and young people are also its mainstay, after the main launch in the Summer, there’s to be a secondary launch in September when there’ll be a performance weekend of some sort as part of the programme and a whole bunch of other stuff will open like Bloomberg New Contemporaries (which is moving into the horse shoe gallery at World Museum Liverpool which seems like a good fit).

Of the festival components that have been announced arguably the most exciting is the exhibition of and about Whistler at the Bluecoat. I genuinely gasped when this was revealed, because it’s such an unexpected joy. There wasn’t much detail as to who will be coming (presumably not his mother) but given the general lack of exhibitions of non-permanent collecton pre-1900 work in Liverpool, the appearance of someone who nevertheless helped creat the context of modern contemporary art at this festival is just, well, it just rocks. Part of the exhibition will apparently recreate his famous Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room, with the birds and the heaps of gold.

Presumably we’ll talk some more about that and the implications the choice of Whistler has in relation to the main Biennial theme when the show opens though its appearance somewhat throws off my plan to focus on just the art of the moving image at this year’s Biennial. After watching lots of Shakespeare in 2012 and Doctor Who in 2013, this year as you will have seen I’ve been stepping up my film watching and contemporary films at that, so I thought it would give my some kind of focus to at least try to watch as much of the film & video art at the festival this year and report back on my findings here.

An example would be Sharon Lockhart, who’s being brought to FACT with back catalogue, new productions and a film programme. Her work (excerpts of which are on her website) blur the line between still life photography, non-narrative documentary and I think slow cinema. Hopefully selected items will be Lunch Break and Goshogaoka, both of which are essentially a oner or string of extended takes scrutinising a single subject and people in space in a similar way to Abbas Kiarostami’s 00s work, Godfrey (Koyaanisqatsi) Reggio or Ron (Baraka) Fricke or indeed the dawn of silent cinema.

After that we were allowed to see some of the venue, now owned by the Hope Street Hotel and due to be renovated by them but who’ve delaying their work for the duration of the Biennial not unlike John Moores University at the old postal sorting office last time. The thought of that venue on the bus ride home made me realised that there wasn’t any talk at the press conference of Cityscapes, the festival within a festival it housed and the undoubted highlight of the 2012 Biennial, in which other cities created their own exhibitions for us.  Not everything has been announced yet so perhaps it is still happening. I hope so.

Never, ever. Ever.

Music The announcement of Kate Bush's live tour caused a bit of a stir on social networks the other week. I decided, since I only have a cd of Hounds of Love and a cassette of The Whole Story in the house and haven't listened to either recently that I'd let other people buy tickets. Oh, did I think again when I read this.

To save you clicking, the All Saints are touring.

Wow. That's well, that's quite something. Where do I buy tickets, are they on in Liverpool?  Yes, they are. At the Echo Arena. There's a nice photo with an Appleton wearing a Women Woman t-shirt and a biography and everything:

"ALL SAINTS Natalie & Nicole Appleton, Melanie Blatt & Shaznay Lewis. Together they became one of the most successful pop groups of the 1990s, with two multi-platinum albums, and record sales in excess of 12 million worldwide. Their debut album, ‘All Saints’ went 5x platinum and produced 3 number-one singles, including the double BRIT award-winning ‘Never Ever’ that ended up selling over 1.2 million copies."

But of course, the rough runs with the smooth and they're amongst a line-up which includes Atomic Kitten, East 17, Big Brovaz, Jenny Berggren from Ace of Base and Let Loose. In other words, they'll probably have time to do Never Never, Lady Marmalade, I Know Where It's At and probably Pure Shores and I'm not sure that's worth £44+booking fees (how much?) and having to sit through all the other acts.

Essentially, the problem here is there's a horse-shoe nebula sized cosmic incident between the audience for the Saints and the rest of the acts.  Atomic Kitten's not even the Jenny Frost line-up.  As the chart website notes of Berggren, "nope, she’s not the moody-looking blonde lead singer, that’s her older sister Linn".  Let Loose.  Mutya Keisha Siobhan would have been ideal.  Perhaps a solo turn from Sporty Spice.  Not this lot.  Sigh.  Next time around then?

Existentially Speaking.

Life We are all this vending machine.

The Phantom Making Of.



Film Originally produced for the dvd release, this making The Phantom Menace is about ten times more entertaining than the film that resulted from all this. Ewan picks out his lightsaber. Ahmed Best and Natalie Portman shooting the breeze in the desert. Steven Spielberg meeting a battle droid. Rick McCallum saying "Greaaatttt."  No one telling George Lucas to just stop and think about what he's doing.

The Films I've Watched This Year #12



Film Anyway, so yes I went to the cinema this week to FACT Liverpool, where Captain America: The Winter Soldier was perfectly screened digitally in 2D (apart from an initial volume problem with the sound) on the main screen (unlike this Cineworld preview of Raid 2 where it looks like everything went wrong). Decent audience too. Mostly silent apart from the odd paper rattle and cap twisting and the couple behind me only chatted once that I noticed when the thing happened and they were presumably discussing the thing, which to be fair I did myself during the credits. As always happens with MARVEL films, there were a couple of audience members who left before the first post credits sequence, some more who stopped when they realised there was more happening and then about three of us who waited through to the end for the throw forward to Cap 3.  About the only grumble was the price, £8, which when you consider that it'll be available to own at roughly that price plus bus fare is pretty steep.

The other news was that after Lovefilm sent me the same disc again, and much as I enjoyed In This World ... I was expecting something else, when I was called back by Amazon, I was served by someone from Lovefilm's original staff who had the ability to tell me now their service ability had changed and was able to talk through three ongoing problems.  Used to be if a title like Beauty & The Beast had been in "high priority" for months they could send it out as a special dispatch.  Not any more.  The advisor was a bit frustrated by this, as well he might, though as I've found out working in call centres when there's been a system changeover, it's often the case that the new system is actually worse than what went before and not always because you're used to working in a different way.

What To Expect When You're Expecting
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The Family
Le Week-End
The Underneath
Only God Forgives
Runner Runner

Bijou week again this week thanks to spending Monday night in the company of a slightly bonkers production of Purcell's King Arthur from the Saltzburg Festival in 2004, which was essentially Monty Python's Flying Opera, including at one stage most of the chorus dressed as penguins.  But every minute of that was more entertaining and original than What To Expect When You're Expecting, in which a bunch of very good performers many of whom we've loved in other productions ask us to hate them.  A film about pregnancy written by women but inevitably directed by a bloke, it's the kind of film in which said pregnancies and so forth are generally presented from the men's perspective and it's about the men's reservations about becoming a father and which horrifically puts the one female character whose pregnancy experience is to the fore throughout most of the film in jeopardy so that her husband has all the narrative agency at the end in a way which makes the Emma Thompson storyline in Love Actually look about as emotionally manipulative as a Robert Bresson film.

When I was writing about hyperlink films for my dissertation in the mid-noughties, and trying to decide if they were a genre or narrative technique, I didn't really have an answer.  Now that these films have followed the usual cycle process and reached the nadir of simply become a way of having romances with dozens of stars (see also Valentine's Day and New Year Eve), I suspect they might have been a genre after all.  Used to be in the likes of Short Cuts, Magnolia or even Crash, the connections were thematically interesting and surprising.  Now they're so loose that a character will turn up at a place at the end they have no business being and justify as such by saying they're another character's "cousin".  The kind of cousin who'll invite themselves to a hospital but wasn't on the guest list for the baby shower.  The poster's especially weird.  Only two of the women in the heavily photoshopped top section actually meet and only one of the blokes in the bottom section is connected to them in any way.

Welcome to the third paragraph.  I don't think I'm giving anything away when I say that Cheryl Cole appears playing herself as a judge on a Dancing With Stars knock-off.  She plays herself badly.  Rebel Wilson is in there too in a secondary role and is forced mangle the few jokes she has through a Texan accent.  Astonishingly one of the credit screenwriters also wrote the novel of Whip It and the screenplay it was based on.  The other wrote the Lohan/Curtis Freaky Friday and the book for the stage version of Legally Blonde.  It feels inconceivable that their hands would be on the godawful golf kart chase sequence or anything in the "I can't believe it's not Richard Curtis" Jennifer Lopez adoption storyline.  But infuriatingly there are some sweet bits.  The chunk about Anna Kendrick's one night stand pregnancy, in other words the least serviced storyline, feels like it could be a whole film and she has some real chemistry with Chase Crawford.  When they're on screen it becomes a different, more rooted production.  Everything else is horrible, horrible.

I've probably said everything I need to about Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but given the clamour for a Black Widow film now, the release of the trailer for Luc Besson's Lucy starring Scarlett Johansson was especially well timed.  The Family is Besson's entirely unheralded piece from a couple of years ago, so much so I didn't know it was a Besson film until I saw his credit.  Arguably the third item in a loose assassin trilogy with Nikita and Leon, The Family looks at their job from the perspective of the prey, in this case Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer and some kids in witness protection in Normandy having sold out their mob family to the feds.  Executive Produced by Martin Scorsese and somewhat spoofing Goodfellas in the same way that The Freshman riffed on The Godfather, it's genuinely funny and a little bit subversive in testing exactly what characters are capable of while maintaining our sympathy.  Perhaps I was being sympathetic after seeing WTEWYE, but the 29% on Rotten Tomatoes is unbelievably harsh.

Only God Forgives is also about family though I didn't enjoy it half as much.  Of course, given that it's a hour and half art piece dedicated to Alejandro Jodorowsky, in which the director Nicolas Winding Refn offers a fairly convention revenge thriller in a series of lushly illustrated tableau and the audience is offered simultaneously a visual technicolour feast and horrific dismemberments perhaps enjoyment in the traditional, visceral sense isn't the point.  For all the five star reviews and whatnot, it's a piece to be admired, I suppose, but it's fair to say that within about half an hour I realised I was bored and an hour in I paused the blu-ray to go the toilet and make a cup of tea readying myself for the final half hour neither of which are normal behaviour.  I was uninvolved, observing rather than participating, none of which can be said for Jodorowsky's work, Refn's previous films or the kinds of art films I usually adore.  It wants to resonate in the same way as something like Last Year at Marianbad, but these films thrive on layering extraordinary images on purposeful obfuscation.

There's none of that here, almost as though having secured financing and these actors, the production team bollocked out on just how much of the typically mainstream audience they wanted to capture.  So on the one hand the film is Sight and Sound coverbait but on the other Empire is happy to carry a few pages and an interview with Kristen Scott Thomas.  She's magnificent by the way, almost unrecognisable behind a wiry figure and long peroxide hair, but with inexpressive saucer like eyes and mask-like face, only bursting with anger when she attempts to understand how her son has managed to develop a moral conscience.  Bangkok has also rarely been this beautifully portrayed, cinematographer Larry Smith's wide angle lense capturing in astonishing detail of the urban landscape.  Perhaps the project would have been better served by being presented as a series of large print colour photographs filling an art gallery, though that obviously would deny us the few wince inducing moments of the local policeman going about his bloody business.

After a longish gap, I'm also back to watching all of Steven Soderbergh's films in order which leads me to The Underneath which was the experience which led to him entering the "wilderness" for a few years.  Going in I knew he hadn't been happy with it, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a something which is of a piece with his other work, with mono-colour filters, experimental editing and time structure and glib dialogue.  The performances are good and if in places it could seem like someone trying to direct Blood Simple in the style of a Soderbergh film, it's certain more emotionally evolved than Only God Forgives which is arguably trying to do something similar.  Wanting to find out exactly what problem Soderbergh has with his work, I inevitably went online and found this interview with Criterion in which he explains where he was during the making of the film and why he then went off and made Schizopolis, but subtly doesn't explain why he was in that place:



Though that is part of a much longer interview for the blu-ray edition so it's possible there's more to it than that. The only other comment I found after a cursory search was:

"Well, ultimately (The Underneath) was kind of a mess. I didn't quite unlock it or figure it out. Some things about it are interesting, but others are...if there's a successful element to The Underneath it was finding a way to use color in the same way that noir films used to use black and white. That was the one part of the movie that worked. Everything else about the movie I can't defend. It was a failed experiment, but a good experiment to attempt. The results of that experiment were necessary in making (Out of Sight). They can't all be gems. It's a process." [Venice Magazine, July 1998]

Perhaps it was the lack of control, of feeling part of a machine. It's probably a coincidence but the film was financed by Gramacy, who also funded Kevin Smith's Mallrats in a similar period and which led that filmmaker to go off and make something cheaper under which they had much more control in Chasing Amy.

But my favourite non-action adventure, shared universe comic book superhero film of the week has been Le Week-End about an elderly couple spending their wedding anniversary in Paris revisiting some their old haunts and generally getting on each other's nerves.  Scripted by Hanif Kureishi and directed by Roger Michell, the elderly couple are played by Jim Broadbent and Lindsey Duncan who give the impression of having been married for decades and about ready for retirement.  As they wander around Paris, you could imagine that this will be Celine and Jesse from that series in a few decades, especially when later the film takes the thematic leap into talking about the generational disappointment that the collective potential of society in the 60s and 70s when everything seem possible became narrowed by short term greed in the 80s, with depth of thought replaced by surface understanding and how that impacts on the connective tissue of a marriage where one of the participants is a failed academic.

The indie spirited flipside of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel it's unafraid to show what really happens when you go on holiday,  like throwing financial caution to the wind and spending an hour trying to gauge the quality of prospective restaurants based on the menus attached to the outside, constant unapologetic referencing of the French New Wave especially Bande √† part and the sudden unheralded arrival of Jeff Goldblum playing Jess Goldblum in that way that only Jeff Goldblum can play as Broadbent's old college friend coincidentally living in Paris with a gorgeous pregnant wife in a way that only a Jeff Goldblum character might.  As Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park wanders through, you do wonder, how is this film managing this?  Jeff Goldblum in this should be about as incongruous as Michael Caine flying a giant bee in Journey 2, yet it works, works, works.  As amazing scene tumbles after amazing scene leading a beguiling climax, I was reminded of just why I love cinema. Again.

10 PRINT "BASIC is 50!"
20 GOTO 10



Technology BBC Basic was about the only language I've ever been able to understand. Sample quote: "The college students would bring their dates to the computer centre..."

Scoring “the sentinel of liberty”.

Film One of the impulses when listening to scores to action blockbusters is to assume there's a certain amount of technical mechanism about them, that a composer simply has to make things very LOUD or very quiet depending on the pacing of the story or editing.

 But as this interview Henry Jackman who worked on Captain America: The Winter Soldier demonstrates there can be a high level of artistry and wrestling with the moral and thematic elements of the characters:
"Exactly, you know, the phrase “the sentinel of liberty,” which sounds cheesy to us because we now live in such a morally complex world. In any modern political scenario it’s almost impossible to figure out who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy. And that’s sort of what the film’s about. It’s a lot easier when you set Captain America in the context of the Second World War, it’s very easy and morally unambiguous to have the Nazis as the bad guys because what Hitler was up to was unquestionably bad and needed to be stopped, whereas the environment that Captain America finds himself in this film is way more nuanced, and that’s one of the reasons he struggles."
That's why it's always such a shame when critics dismiss franchise films out of hand.

The Feeling Listless Soundtrack 1.0:
Theme from Grandstand.



Music [Originally written twelve years ago.] I got a video recorder very late in the game. Our family was never an early adopter - mostly for financial reasons. When we finally did get a video it was a hand-me-down from someone who'd bought a new one. I didn't get a computer until late either. So until my Acorn Electron arrived, if I was looking for entertainment on a Saturday I'd end up watching television. Swap Shop in the morning, followed by Wrestling on ITV at lunchtime (big fan of Big Daddy). I didn't like Dickie Davis moustache so rather than 'World of Sport' I'd be over on BBC 1 watching Grandstand. This was when football was still shown live, and so I was able to follow my team 'Everton' for much of the Eighties. And so for much of the Eighties I'd hear this theme tune.

At the time, popular TV themes would be put out as singles, which would necessitate their lengthening by another minute or so. Many took the 'Doctor Who' approach of repeating much of the tune over again. Some however, passed the time with what sounds like completely unrelated solo in the middle. So we have here something which sounds like a brass band at a Soccer match and then for no apparent reason, Brian May (or someone) appears in the middle to do an extremely seventies guitar solo. I'm surprised someone hasn't already stuck a drum beat behind this and released it into the clubs …

[Commentary: Track two. No idea. The missing story above is that the night we were given the VHS video recorder we travelled out to the Asda in Hunts Cross from Speke to buy a blank video upon which we recorded Starcrossed, the James Spader starring TV movie which was broadcast as part of a sci-fi season on what was then the still relatively fledgling Channel 4. With the novelty of being able to watch a film over and over again whenever we liked, Starcrossed became the film of choice for weeks which means I have half of it imprinted on my brain, especially the scene in the diner where Spader introduces his alien friend to the concept of a greasy spoon. This was before he began on the road to character roles, by the way. Not that any of this has anything to do with Grandstand.]

Paul McGann launches LJMU's Merseyside at War website.

"dim-witted, lazy misogynistic"

Film This rocks. The Daily Dot's Gavia Baker-Whitelaw parses the dim-witted, lazy misogynistic perception of Scarlet Johansson's Black Widow by so-called professional film reviews:
"Honestly, this kind of catsuit-focused review says more about the reviewer than the film itself. Apparently the mere concept of Scarlett Johansson in a tight outfit is so dazzlingly erotic that it bypasses some male reviewers’ conscious minds and causes them to ignore everything she says and does for the rest of the movie. The result is a series of reviews from highly respected film critics who, given the opportunity to describe each Avenger in a single sentence, replace Black Widow’s summary with the announcement, “I AM A HETEROSEXUAL MAN AND SCARLETT JOHANSSON’S BOOBS ARE AWESOME.”
The list of people mentioned in the article is scary: well respected film reviewers whose work I've even quoted in academia. Part of the problem is that half of them don't consider the MARVEL films worthy of serious discussion. As far as they're concerned, because they're light action films and based on a comic book they only really deserve their light comedic touch which inevitably leads to lowest common denominator sewage as described here and oddly those same writers fall over themselves to venerate Johansson's performance in what they consider to be serious films like Her or Under the Skin.

Rebecca Romijn-Stamos's mink throw.

Commerce How to sell furniture to celebrities. Author Peter Mountford describes the months he spent working at an LA furniture in the mid-noughties:
"Bridget Fonda, who had married film composer Danny Elfman and had stopped appearing in movies, shopped there compulsively. I have vivid memories of loading cumbersome decorative pots into the trunk of Elfman’s Maserati. Zach de La Rocha, the former frontman of Rage Against the Machine, apparently had a lot of time on his hands, too, because he drove his cool Mercedes over all the time and drank coffee at the cafe attached to the store by himself. He looked desperately bored and was always alone. Nicole Richie was not alone when she came to the cafe, nor was Kevin Costner. Victoria Beckham wore her sunglasses indoors, throughout lunch. David Schwimmer came a few times, alone, and was precisely as bitter and patronizing as you’d expect him to be. Gary Oldman was completely banal, just a middle-aged man shopping for furniture with his impossibly gorgeous 20-something lady friend."

More on the Dahlberg revelations.

TV After yesterday's discussion of the Dahlberg revelations (still trying to keep you spoiler free), I discovered (via io9) there was a previous occasion when the MARVEL universe crossed over with television. Guiding Light was a US soap opera which was broadcast from 1952 until 2009, preceded by a 15-year broadcast on radio and in 2006 ran a storyline in which one of the characters gained superpowers which continued in the comics themselves albeit for eight pages. Comic Book Resources had a set visit. Inevitably the whole thing now floats around on YouTube.





We Need To Talk About Steve Rogers.

Film Or more accurately I do. I was going to wait until the weekend, but the whole thing is still fresh in my mind's eye. So if you are planning on watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier at any time in your life and frankly why wouldn't you, it's a very strong entry in an epic superhero franchise, then stay away. I'll even put a Scarlett Johannson song, or Scarlett Johansson singing a cover version of a Tom Waits song in between this and the next block of text so your eyes can look away.

Removed: article.

Information This article has been removed because it was launched earlier when I had a strop on. The Guardian's G2 feed is back up. The main film RSS feed seems to carry all of the content. Global All's still broken though.

Revisiting "The West Wing"



TV Saved for later, this Q&A at the Institute of Politics of Harvard University:"The West Wing's Bradley Whitford ("Josh Lyman") joined moderator Lawrence O'Donnell, MSNBC host and former writer and executive producer of The West Wing, for a panel discussion on the making of the popular political drama. They were joined by Janel Maloney ("Donna Moss") via video conference and Richard Schiff ("Toby Ziegler") via telephone."

"Spasm! Spasm! Oh, God, here it comes... lactose intolerance!"

Film This BFI celebration of the Eiffel Tower on the occasion of its 125th birthday misses one of my favourite of its appearances in film, in Lawrence Kasdan's French Kiss in which Meg Ryan during her imperious phase and Kevin Kline with an outrageous French accent chase around Paris for reasons too complicated to describe here as is typical of a caper film.

One of Meg's character strands is that she hates Paris and because of that, the obligatory view, of the Eiffel Tower, eludes her, even though we the audience are constantly seeing it, behind her in street scenes or in reflections.  Like a ghostly presence it stalks her and we know as soon as she sees it, the romance and beauty of the place will finally engulf her.

Sadly, I can't find any relevant clips online so you'll just have to go and watch it. Here's Kevin Kline singing La Mer from the soundtrack instead. Oh for the mid-90s when a film like this would still be green-lit:

Cineramarama.

Film 360 Degrees of Historical Immersion, or how to make a narrative film for a circular screen:
"If the audience can look anywhere, how do we force them to see what we want them to see? Can an audience follow a narrative this way? How do you tell a story visually without a frame? There was a time when I did not know the answers to these questions. That time has passed.

"I recently finished Post Production on a 360 degree film for The Civil War Museum in Kenosha, WI. Produced by BPI and entitled "Seeing the Elephant" (a term Civil War soldiers used to describe the experience of battle) the 11-minute show was created to honor all the men from the Mid-Western states who fought for the North during the Civil War.

"The story follows three men and their experiences in the Union Army - the endless monotony of marching and training and waiting punctuated by the horrors of battle. In "Seeing The Elephant," the 360 degree theater is not simply a novelty; it is another tool to completely immerse the audience in the story and the world. Hopefully, they leave with at least a small idea of what it was like to be in the middle of a Civil War-era battle."
Cinerama gets its other 180 degrees.

Letters from America Lost and Found.

Radio Back in 2012, Paddy O'Connell presenter of BBC Four's Broadcasting House put out an appeal for any listeners who may have missing radio recordings at home which led to a man in Newquay contacting the programme to explain that he had many hundreds of old episodes of Alistair Cooke's Letter To America. Here's the audio of Paddy visiting the man with a list and discovering that many, many of the episodes missing from the archive were sitting in an attic.

Now it turns out, he wasn't the only one and a dairy farmer also had many hours of episodes in his shed which he only unearthed because of an impending government inspection and the need for a clearout, and collectively it's led to 650 lost episodes having been restored to the BBC archive.

They're in the process of being cleaned up and there's a voluminous post about the work here which will be of some interest to those of us who miss the extensive articles the Doctor Who restoration team used to produce about their achievements.  Sony’s Soundforge 10 in case you're wondering.  No sign of Mark Ayres.

The whole lot should be on the BBC website some time this year but highlights have already been posted, yet I think I'm going to wait.  With so much of the past soon to be restored, the marvel will be in hearing the epic sweep of history.  Makes you wonder what else other people have lying around...

Brian Cox meets Brian Cox.



People Actor Brian Cox meets Professor Brian Cox. After having been mistaken for one another for years, even to the point of apparently being invited to events when the other was expected, the two Brian Coxes hadn't previously met. Now here they are bumping into one another live on camera at the Empire Film Awards (on YouTube).

Liverpool Hopkins Waltz.



Music As The High Definitive explains: "On November 7, 1964, Sir Anthony Hopkins composed a waltz in the green room of the Liverpool Playhouse. In the video above, he hears it performed for the first time in public by world-renowned violinist and conductor André Rieu at the Belvedere."

Who's Bossktume?

Film Sometimes Recycled Movie Costumes unearths some real treasures:
"This space suit was first seen in the 1966 episode of Doctor Who, entitled The Tenth Planet on Earl Cameron as Glyn Williams. [...] The exact same costume does, however, appear in the 1980 film Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back on Alan Harris as the Trandoshan bounty hunter Bossk."
You all presumably already knew this, of course. The photographic evidence is undeniable.

The Films I've Watched This Year #11



Film Missing from the bottom of this week's list is the BBC's adaptation of Noel Streatfeild's Ballet Shoes which went out on Boxing Day in 2007 and sits in sort of a grey area because it was theatrically released in the US and even has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 100%. Due to their increased production values thanks to digital cameras which produce images indistinguishable from "film" and increasingly starry casts, single dramas on television are becoming an increasingly grey area when it comes to defining their status as "films" or "tv movies", especially since the old "Screen" and "Film Four" strands dissolved.

So even though I can't put Ballet Shoes below, it has all the elements. The cast is starry, Emma Watson gets an "and" with, well, just look at the imdb page.  People like me will of course straight away notice that we're in Journey's End territory as Marc Warren, Yasmin Paige and Lucy Cohu appear bringing together all three corners of that period in the Doctor Who franchise.   Much of the action occurs in an old house on Earls Court and theatres and the photography, for all its mid-noughties BBC drama aesthetic, really captures the musty period atmosphere.  Well worth tracking down, though I think my off-air copy with all the Christmassy trailers and bumpers (for Torchwood Season Two) is probably the best.

The Shooting Party
Primal Fear
Me and You
Grabbers
Diana
The Missing Picture
House at the End of the Street
1 - Life On The Limit
Peacock
Battle of the Sexes
In a World...

Bit of a raggle taggle week all told but there is something of a thematic through line about the class struggle if you really want to look for it, though its tenuous enough for me to not really bother with here other than to wonder if, as an old film studies lecturer used to joke every film is about Vietnam, every film is about the class struggle too, but I've argued continually that every film is about politics so that just encompasses everything so we don't end up learning anything.  Actually now that I come to think of it, all of these films are about politics even Grabbers if you want to take the line that everything which happens on the island is as a consequence of running law enforcement on a shoestring in rural areas.

The name which presumably sticks out is Diana.  I've seen the Diana film now so that some of you don't have to and honestly, it's not that bad.  Oh no I mean it's bad, but if you try to ignore that it's a true story about real people it's actually a pretty decent romantic tragedy version of Notting Hill covering many of the same themes about an ordinary man attempting to date the most famous woman on the planet, and the most famous woman on the planet trying to have some glimmer of an ordinary life.  Essentially it's at its least interesting when it's trying to recreate the iconic Diana moments or sledgehammering in portentous moments of pretentiousness.

Looking about as much like Diana as, to be fair, Helen Mirren looks like the Queen, Naomi Watts nevertheless manages to convince us, if not as Diana, as royalty at least with a real sense of presence and glamour, aided by direction and photography which continually keeps her at the focus of attention in scenes.  Naveen Andrews also manages to balance the poisoned chalice without spilling it too much and I suspect if like Citizen Kane, this had been about fictionised figures in a different story the reception wouldn't necessarily have been as hostile.  But nevertheless this is about Diana and it's a pity that its many virtues have been obscured by the politics of its existence.

This week's J-Law film was House at the End of the Street, the third wheel in 2012, the year which also brought Silver Linings Playbook and The Hunger Games.  It's the kind of film an actress like her makes between massive franchise projects either as a favour to someone or to remind themselves what it's like to act against real rooms rather than green screens and dayglo sets.  It's an old fashioned genre picture with a few surprises, not least that, friends, Elizabeth Shue is playing parts like Jennifer Lawrence's concerned mother now.  Of course, I also want to see J-Law in a remake of Adventures in Babysitting.  She'd rock.  But she'd rock in anything.

Speaking of which, Ellen Page turns up in the determinedly weird Peacock, as a waitress who does tricks in order to pay for the shitty trailer she shares with her son.  But the focus is Cillian Murphy as a bank clerk who after the death of his mother  has experienced a split personality syndrome in which he begins to share his body with a woman that everyone assumes must be his wife.  The director calls it a psychological horror and it really is as the two personalities fight for supremacy in a story which seems designed for the films studies circuit and a dozen college papers about gender identity comparing and contrasting a very conventional mis-en-scene with the entirely unconventional content.

Shot in 2008 but not theatrically released until 2010 and only now turning up on dvd, my guess is that audiences have had problems suspending their sense of disbelief that despite his extraordinary performance when Murphy is in the female role of Emma, none of the other characters, not one, realise that he's also her husband.  As a big fan of Shakespeare I was less bothered, happy to along with it even when Page meets both of them at opposite ends of the same scene, but it is an occasion when an actor, writers and director take a big risk on something like this and don't quite succeed (see also Lars and the Real Girl).  Starry cast here too; Susan Sarandon play's Murphy's boss's wife.

[spoilers]  Both House at the End of the Street and Peacock are slight companion pieces in that they riff on Psycho and particular Norman's relationship with his mother, with gender identity issues as the fallout after the death of a parent.  The former is especially on the nose with its final shot of the antagonist looking directly into the camera after the big reveal, but Peacock is arguably Psycho with a happy ending as the false female identity simply wants to offer benevolence in general, apart from the approach she takes in dealing with her other self.  Yes, that's pretty hideous.  Actually, let me retract that.  The doctor's speech from Psycho resonates throughout.  Nope, not happy at all. [/spoilers]

Me and You is Bernardo Bertolucci latest, his first since The Dreamers and he's still in thrall to the French New Wave, though it's Truffaut this time rather than Godard.  Effectively resurrecting Antoine Doinel's character from The 400 Blows, making him affluent and trapping him a basement with Penny Lane from Almost Famous (an unfair description probably given that it's based on existing material) it oscillates manically between lyrical and boring and a general gloomy sense of the director having a go at making a film about young people for young people without really knowing much about them.  Which is odd when you consider Stealing Beauty and The Dreamers which are entirely the opposite.

The Missing Picture was an unfortunate way to start the day on Wednesday, but only because of the subject matter, not the film itself which is a passionate, enthralling approach to explaining exactly what it was like living under Pol Pot in Cambodia in a way that hasn't hit me quite as strongly since Simon Groom visited the graves on Blue Peter.  As Shoah demonstrates, the imagination can be a powerful tool when trying to capture the visceral feeling of what real life horror can be like and The Missing Picture is at its most powerful when director Rithy Panh replaces the contemporary footage, however important a discovery that is, with his small carved representational figures and dioramas.

Not that I mean to diminish that archival footage, some of which is extraordinary considering the source and the fact of its existence.  There's a similar sense in the two sport films, both of which have archive footage throughout but used in contrasting ways.  In 1 - Life on the Limit (a title which demands a colon but blokely doesn't have one) its part of a barrage of rapid cutting sometimes showing explosions and fatalities from different angles and not always television coverage.  In Battle of the Sexes, long periods of the match are shown via on court 16mm footage allowing us to enjoy the flow of play, cutting between two different camera angles as the ball passes across the net and into the rackets of the opponents.

 1 - Life on the Limit is fine, as it goes, even if it can't quite decide what it's about.  On the one hand it wants to be a wizzy history of F1 with dozens of interviews with all the major players, but tries to have a central thread about the development of safety in the sport cataloguing the many deaths which have occurred on the track and can never quite resolve itself between the two.  The topics are pointedly interconnected, of course, but unlike Senna or Rush it assumes the viewer is already a fan and its dizzying watching all of the names and faces flash past with barely enough time to notice that Damon Hill's gone grey or appreciate the chronology of events and the structure of the various seasons.

By contrast, Battle of the Sexes, in concentrating on one thing and explaining it's importance as a thing in history is just about perfect.  As well as a sport documentary, it's also a strong documentary about the feminist movement in general with archive footage of Germaine and a long soundbites from Gloria Steinman.  It's impossible not to see contemporary counterparts to the chauvinist Bobby Riggs, though I imagine now he'd probably spend his time sniping on Twitter rather than making a show of himself on television.  What the film doesn't cover is how he came back at the age of 67 and challenged Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver to a doubles match.  They beat him too.

But my film of the week, if I have those, is inevitably In a World..., Lake Bell's romantic comedy about voiceover artists which questions why so few of them do movie trailers.  Featuring plenty of members of the industry most of whom fortunately act too, the real surprise is how Bell utilises that industry as a back drop for a story which is really about sisters and fathers and family.  As with the best films, there's a moment about ten minutes before then end when you realise you don't want it to end because you're enjoying the ideas and characters so much not least Bell who if there's any justice will have a long career making these sorts of things.

Part of me wonders if Bell wouldn't have been just as well to make the idea into a series for HBO or Showtime or Netflix - there would certainly have been enough material of at least six half hours.  It's episodic enough to hint that it might even have begun life as just that.  Which sort of puts us back at the beginning because sometimes the "film" and "tv" boxes aren't clear and material which works well in one could be treated equally well if not better in the other.  When Eva Longoria wanders through playing herself entirely happy to have the piss taken out of her for her rubbish attempt at a cockney accent, you kind of wish you could see other "stars" being given the same treatment on a weekly basis...

Nobody Does It Bextor.

Vinyl Video.



Art Vinyl Video was an installation at FACT Liverpool in 2003. Vinyl Video was created by artists Gebhard Sengmuller, Penny Hoberman and Julia Scher and within the space resembled a boutique record shop. The premise was that in a parallel dimension, the home viewing format of choice was black and shiny and through a technological miracle, analogue moving images could be played from an LP. Miraculously it worked and in this moment between dvd and streaming had a real buzzy element as you took the disc from the shelf, cued it up on the turntable and watched the blurry faces of what resembled a pirated tenth generation copy of The Web of Fear: Episode One or at least something from the dawn of television. Ironically, a few years later, the creators uploaded this advert for their wares to YouTube and it offers a real flavour of what they accomplished.