Lots and lots of sequels.



Film A couple of decades ago when Empire was still a relatively new publication, before YouTube, they'd give away free VHS tapes filled with trailers for upcoming movies. Here's the '97 edition being sold on ebay, with Baz's R+J, Michael, The Phantom, Ken's Hamlet, the Ransom remake and Mars Attacks on the cover. Frequently this would be the first time most of us would know half of these films existed, one notable example being The Juror with Alec Baldwin and Demi Moore which looked cheap and deranged and so it was when I eventually saw it a couple of decades later.

I'm reminded of happy times devouring these old tapes on seeing Empire's webpage offering a forward chronology for film releases heading into the end of the decade.  There's a few items that I'd entirely missed like La La Land, a musical starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling and that Edgar Wright has a new film coming too.  Much of the list isn't otherwise unknown, mostly consisting of franchise releases, remakes and sequels.  I'm going to be in my mid-forties by the time this future film narrative plays out.

Plus they've included links to the trailers.  Unlike back then, I'm warier of watching such things because too often they're essentially a synopsis of the film.  The Passengers promo says, way, way too much, I think.  Nevertheless, doesn't the Resident Evil trailer look fabulous? I mean, yes, expectations lowered because it is a Resident Evil film.  But having enjoyed pretty much all the preceding installments, I'm really, really looking forward to finally being able to buy a complete boxed set.

Will & Grace & Hillary.



Politics The cast of Will & Grace re-unite for a pro-Clinton infomercial. As ever it's sporadically funny. But the real marvel is the set which somehow manages to almost recreate something which stopped existing ten years ago. Comparing it to footage of the original series, almost all of the original background furniture returns as well as the brick-a-brack, right down to the framed photo of Grace on the shelf behind the couch and the mirror about the fireplace. Some pieces have moved, which is to be expected after ten years. Real fans will be able to say how canonical this is with the finale of the series, but notice also how easily the cast pick up their characters all these years later entirely as though they never left.

Hope Listed.

Shakespeare The BBC reports the Theatre and the Hope, or rather the surviving sites of those Elizabethan playhouses have been put under listed status and protection:
"Duncan Wilson, chief executive of government heritage agency Historic England, said: "The archaeological remains of the first and last Elizabethan playhouses to be built in London give us fleeting glimpses of a fascinating period in the history of theatre.

"They are where some of the world's greatest stories were first told and it is wonderful that they remain today, bearing witness to our fascinating past.

"Their cultural importance, particularly their connections with Shakespeare and Marlowe, means they deserve protection as part of England's precious historic fabric."
After what I've heard about the changes made to the fabric of the Globe recreation, one might wonder if it not be an idea to give that building similar protections. Meaow.

The Torchwood Problem 2.0

TV Digital Spy is reporting the "air" or rather upload date for Doctor Who spin-off Class and a bit of the mission statement which involves the Doctor appearing in the first episode. Creator Patrick Ness has stressed recently that this isn't a family show that it's directly for BBC Three's key demographic.

Welcome again to the Torchwood problem which is simply that we have a spin-off show for a programme ostensibly made for a family audience, which is designed to welcome in children and whose tone is no way designed to cater for that audience.

Then, Russell T Davies was clever enough to realise that having the Doctor show up in this show for older audiences was a poor idea for just this reason, because of pester power.  I argued that having Captain Jack and Martha Jones in their did much the same thing but nevertheless.

Apparently loads of children have seen Torchwood, presumably helped by the slightly edited early evening repeats during the second year back in 2007.  Yes, 2007.  We're all so, so old.  Torchwood is ten years old this year.  Sorry about that.

Obviously its up to parents to decide what their children can tolerate but I don't think I'd show Torchwood to anyone under the age of at least fifteen and hence the Torchwood Problem.  Gosh this is all a bit Mediawatch UK isn't it?

Class is supposed to be designed for a YA audience which is the age group of The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, a younger demographic than Torchwood was designed for.  But I do think we're still in a bit of a grey area here.

Am I wrong?  Perhaps I am.  I have no children, I'm just thinking notionally about age groups and the kinds of material a figure like the Doctor can appear in.  There's something quite precious about him being a hero for the family.

My Favourite Film of 1927.



Film  If there's a film from the silent era which continues to be an influence on pop culture, it's Metropolis.  I've seen it innumerable times in countless versions, from a very rough edition given away on VHS by Empire Magazine, to the even worse version knocked out originally on dvd by Eureka, to their superb restoration which turned up on a free dvd with The Observer (or what it the Telegraph?) to the even more print which toured the country with the newly recorded soundtrack which I saw at the Cornerhouse in Manchester.

But what of the people who've made it?  I've scoured the internet, well ok, been Googling around and found the following.  Even if you ignore the rest, I'd recommend the first link which is a thorough investigation into Lang's whole career selecting key films, by Noel Murray formerly of The AV Club.  Of the rest, all I can say is that it's interesting just how under represented the performers are in these films at least in terms of none Wikipedia sources.  There are German webpages but even then they don't appear to be too complex.

The sprawling, obsessive career of Fritz Lang (director):
"Film historian David Kalat once proposed rules for a Fritz Lang drinking game: Whenever a Lang film shows an angry mob or a woman in a nightgown, everybody takes a shot. Unlike many of the major auteurs of the first half of the 20th century, Lang didn’t bury his motifs for critics to unearth decades later. He moved the camera and used lighting expressively, and employed overt visual symbolism even after he transitioned from silent films to sound. Over and over, Lang made movies about the madness of crowds, the indelible stain of guilt, the influence of the powerful, and yes, the way people look beneath their clothes—literally and metaphorically."

Eric Pommer aka Erich Pommer (producer):
"Erich Pommer (July 20, 1889 – May 8, 1966) was one of the most influential producers of the silent film era, having been one of the most influential creators behind the German Expressionism movement as the head of production at Ufa from 1924 to 1926. Under his guidance, many of what critics consider the greatest movies ever made were directed, such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler (1922), Die Nibelungen (1924), Mikaël (1924), Der Letzte Mann/The Last Laugh (1924), Variety (1925), Tartuffe (1926), Faust (1926), Metropolis (1927) and The Blue Angel (1930)."

Thea von Harbou (writer):

"In his 1928 book on film directing and screenwriting, Russian filmmaker Vsevolod Pudovkin notes that many literary figures had difficulty adjusting to “the optically expressive form” of film. Thea von Harbou, one of three German screenwriters who Pudovkin singles out, stands alongside Carl Mayer as one of the most influential film figures in Weimar German cinema, which spanned the years 1919 to 1933. Including an excerpt from Harbou’s script for Spione (1928), an espionage adventure film, Pudovkin goes on to praise the novelist Harbou for her ability to work with the film medium. Indeed, it is Harbou’s awareness of the “possibilities of the camera such as shots, framing, editing, [and] intensification through visually striking details” that distinguishes her work. In the scene in question—one of the most visually dynamic in the film—Harbou conveys in words the sense of movement, speed, and sudden discovery surrounding a train wreck. Each shot, each significant gesture, is noted, and in this she exemplifies the way her husband and collaborator Fritz Lang once described the model screenplay: “To the last intertitle everything has to be ready before the cameras roll”."

Alfred Abel (actor):
"The actor Alfred Abel first tested other professional areas like a forest apprenticeship, a not finished gardener apprenticeship and a study for artistic drawing before he decided to become an actor. He made his stage debut in Lucerne/Switzerland in 1904 and in the same year he came to the Deutsche Theater directed by Max Reinhardt in Berlin, the metropolis of theater in Germany."

Brigitte Helm (actor):
"She was the most sought-after actress of the glory days of the German film industry, a tall blond beauty who starred in more than 35 movies and set directors against one another in the competition for her services. Ms. Helm was regarded as such a perfect embodiment of the era's ideal of cool sophistication that when she turned Josef von Sternberg down for the starring role in "Blue Angel," he had to settle for Marlene Dietrich."

Gustav Fröhlich (actor):
"Gustav Fröhlich was born an illegitimate child in Hanover, Germany, and was raised by foster parents. Before becoming an actor, he worked for a short time as an editor of a provincial newspaper and as the author of popular novels. During World War I he also volunteered for duty in occupied Brussels as a press supervisor."

Rudolf Klein-Rogge (actor):
"The screen's original Dr. Mabuse, Klein-Rogge excelled at playing sinister figures in 1920s and 193s German productions, and was a regular of Fritz Lang's Weimar films."

Gottfried Huppertz (original score):
"Gottfried Huppertz was born in Köln, Germany on March 11, 1887. There He studied music in a conservatory, and in 1905 wrote his first composition, a song titled "Rankende Rosen" (Tendrillar Roses), which he dedicated to his childhood friend Rudolf Klein-Rogge. Huppertz, around 1918Gottfried Huppertz in Fritz Lang's Dr. MabuseDuring WWI Huppertz worked as an opera singer and theater actor in Coburg, Freiburg and Breslau, and also wrote some music for the theater. In 1920 Huppertz moved to Berlin and began acting at the Nollendorfplatz Theater, and shortly afterwards met his future wife, Charlotte Lindig. During that period, Huppertz was also recorded singing two songs with other singers as promotion for the operetta "Verliebte Leute," which was released in 1922 on a 78rpm record."

Trolling.



Film Being slightly too old to care at the time, I never did own a troll, the only kind I really encountering as a child being the monstrosity that menaced the three billy goats gruff in a Ladybird book. So the fact of a film based on The Trolls entirely passed me by until this morning when a friend sent me a link to a cover of Lionel Richie's Hello sung by Zooey Deschanel (Spotify).

Like The Lego Movie soundtrack, it's a franchise album which punches well above its weight in talent and material thanks to having Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake as Executive Producers.  Mostly covers of really cool songs, there is some original material including an "I Want" song from Kendrick (Spotify), which has a chorus which sounds like Price Tag and a Millennial Whoop.

Collider has an interview with Justin and Anna about the production process:
"TIMBERLAKE: So, my job for that was just hopefully to put our own spin on it, make it sound unique, and make it sound like it belonged in the scene, much like musical theater, almost. And then, I also wrote four original songs, specifically written for the movie. I’ve never done anything like that, either. Some of the music does sound very ‘70s. Overall, you’ll feel that a lot of the music definitely has a little bit of ‘70s funk to it, so that was definitely an inspiration for “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” as well. You get to see some of the animation and what they’re working on, so you get to see how big a moment is. When you finally get to see where the Bergens live, you hear The Gorillaz. You just want to sonically complement that."
Sadly this film itself looks like a fairly perfunctory quest narrative but you can't have everything.  [Thanks Talia!]

Life Props:
Hillary Clinton Tim Kaine 16 t-shirt.

Politics A friend in the US has been kind enough to send me a Clinton/Kaine 16 campaign t-shirt.  As well as actually wanting to register my support from across the atlantic, it was also prompted by seeing a "Dole/Kemp" t-shirt in a documentary and deciding it might be nice to have a historic or historical item for the future depending on which way the election goes.

You might have noticed me tweet a photograph the first time I wore it.


This was the day I visited the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester and although I wasn't unaware enough that it might attract some attention not to include a spare t-shirt in my backpack.  In museum, and entire family passing by me in the railyard at the back kept their eyes fixed on my chest as I walked towards them. There were also comments. One of the invigilators said that she liked the t-shirt and another older woman who'd stood next to me during a presentation explained that she "admired my fashion statement."  Both were American judging by their accents.

In the days I've worn it since, the attention is always there.  The odd glance as I pass by, people reading my chest.  I've been pointed at from a car a few times.  I assume it's because of the t-shirt.  I hope it isn't something else.  Part of me wonders if I should wait until after the election before wearing it again when it becomes a blue t-shirt with words on.  But I genuinely want Clinton to win and wearing the t-shirt is a tiny way of showing that even if it probably has zero chance of changing the minds of any random US tourists who might notice it on their rounds about the city.

Soup Safari #71: Tomato and Pepper at The Bakery.







Lunch. £3.50. The Bakery, Atkinson Art Gallery and Library, Lord St, Southport PR8 1DB. Phone: 01704 533333. Website.

My Favourite Film of 1928.



Film Unlike some directors, and actors, Martin Scorsese is unafraid to give interviews. The IMDb lists three hundred and fifteen appearances by the man as "self" and that probably barely scratches the surface of how many time his opinion's been sought on a range of film related subjects which doesn't include the occasions when he's publicising his latest picture.  Search for him on YouTube and you could spend the next month just watching him talk about this and that and you'd probably come out the other end having had as decent a film education as those of us who went to college to do the same.

All of which is pre-amble to explain that although I have a snatch of an interview with him in my head, I can't remember where he said it.  My guess is it was either during an episode of Mark Cousins's Scene By Scene series or a South Bank Show from roughly the same time, either publicising the release of Kundun or Casino.  Or both.  In other words, I'm paraphrasing a memory which has been lodged in my braincells for a couple of decade but which had a profound effect on my attitude to film going forward.  Yet I can't remember the details of how it happened.  Was he sitting opposing Bragg or Cousins?  Nope, don't know.

He was talking about directing Sharon Stone in Casino and how she was having difficulty getting to grips with her role as hustler and former prostitute who marries Robert De Nero's Casino manager and how his strategy was to ask her to watch La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc and specifically the famous close up of lead actress Renée Jeanne Falconetti in the moment when Joan recants her testimony, which is one of the great masterpiece of silent acting.  Stone's performance is equally extraordinary in different ways and is one of the reason I prefer Casino to Goodfellas (although it's worth adding that I much prefer Martin's non-gangster pictures in general anyway).

But Scorsese's delivery service was more interesting.  Apparently at around that time he was amassing an archive of films for just this occasion, the main plank of which was on VHS, his methodology being to task his assistants with recording as many films as he could from television.  There wasn't much detail about this, that I could remember, but it was so that, if he did want to screen some segment or a whole film for a cast or crew member to prove his point he could just pull it from the shelf.  Note this was just before the advent of DVD and as is still the case now when there's still plenty of material which isn't purchasable.

Many things struck when I heard this.  Firstly how big an archive he must have.  Having collected lots of television on VHS even at that stage and knowing how much room all of those tapes filled in my room, just how did he have the space to put them all?  What about the cataloguing process?  If he's on set and decides that he wants to show Joe Pesci a scene from a William Wyler directed poverty row drama like Dead End, he's going to want that sharpish is everything simply stored in alphabetical order or was there a card catalogue.  How did he know what had been recorded?  Did the interns send him a weekly report?  Did he send them his picks from the newspaper.

But above all it was "that's so cool" and so began my collecting obsession and for the next twenty years as I set about amassing films.  Lots and lots of films.  Certainly more than I'll ever get around to watching.  If you're a long term reader and I mean really long, you'll have read about this when explaining how they're catalogued in 2009 (and yes, I'm still using chronological by year in which they're set) and when there was a near catastrophic disaster, which I explained in the review for the opening of Liverpool Biennial 2010.

Notice this was before I had home broadband and although Lovefilm existed and I was latterly receiving discs from them, like I said, not everything is available for rental plus purchasing can be very expensive.  But charity shops are charity shops and sales are sales and PVRs exist so it's actually relatively easy to amass a collection especially if you're diligent about it and prepared to the put the hours in.  Which I was and have.  It's possible to become very obsessive about collecting.

How often did watch?  Well ... like I said there's only so many hours available in every human life.  Although for a while I'd check the BFI's monthly listing for suggestions as to watch to watch next, utilising the Lovefilm subscription and the collection to simulate their seasons in my own home, obscurity and availability eventually led to this petering out.  Plus I'd have runs of really quite depressing films.

Plus then we did get broadband.  Which begat Lovefilm Instant, what's now Amazon Prime.  And Netflix.  And NowTV.  And mostly lately MUBI.  Catalogues of streamable films mostly in HD, mostly with better sound and picture quality to dvd.  Although there's some seepage, not everything is available all the tome, poor in some areas, there is still more than enough to keep anyone busy.

So lately I've stopped collecting as much.  Been more specific in what I'm looking for.  What's the point in buying all the blockbusters if they're available at the push of a button, especially if they're only going to be watched once?

Has Scorsese done the same?  Does he simply subscribe to the dozens of streaming services available in the US now, which also includes TCM and HBO?

Mores to the point what's happened to all of his VHS tapes?

Liverpool Biennial 2016:
The Walker Art Gallery.


"There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, where the sea's asleep, and the rivers dream. People made of smoke, and cities made of song. Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice, and somewhere else the tea's getting cold. Come on, Ace, we've got work to do!"
-- The Doctor, "Survival"
Art Here we are then the final destination for my TARDIS in the official Biennial at the Walker, the final venue for so many of these projects.   As ever the main contribution is the John Moores Painting Prize and as ever I spent a lot of time shaking my head, rolling my eyes, sighing and wondering what the judges were thinking.  After the generous selection of portraits and landscapes and illustrative paintings, in 2016, we're back to swathes of abstraction interspersed with dashes of melancholia and nihilism.  Having come to terms with the fact that I'll never be entirely happy with the selections in these biannual exhibitions and least of all with the chosen winner, let's excavate what I didn't find unattractive.

One of the key connections between many of the works is control and attention to detail.  Gemma Cassey's Halves II (Continuum), the painting I chose for the people's vote, has minutely rendered wavy lines in acrylic so close together that it's almost impossible to see how they might be kept separate.  Not just horizontal; by cross hatching them with vertical lines, she'll able to create two tones intersected in the middle.  It's fascinating.  On a much larger scale but with similar restraint is Alex Rennie's Totem, in which splodges of black paint against a salmon coloured background somehow create a three dimensional space filled with columns with perspective, the seemingly haphazard stroke choices being nothing of the kind.

There are some landscapes.  John Stark's Beasts of England II shows pigs being reared in a wet, muddy field offering an apocalyptic farming vision.  The always good Nicholas Middleton is back with Figures in an Arch, a much smaller, simpler work than usual depicting a group of shabbily dressed people and a chest of drawers on the edge of a darkened tunnel looking into the unknown.  Mandy Payne returns too with another of her paintings of a derelict tower block, No Ball Games Here, an austere image of a concrete balcony over looking more concrete balcony albeit painted in pastel colours.  The overall impression you gain from this collection is far from optimistic.  Gathered together it's entirely apocalyptic.  Thank goodness the Doctor will always be there to save us.

Next Destination:
Everywhere.

Liverpool Biennial 2016:
Mr Chilli Restaurant.



Art "They're on the wall there, there, there, at the end there..." The restaurant worker has obviously had the same conversation with a few people who've wandered through the door asking to see the Biennial pieces. Perhaps she also leads them into the back to the photographs next to entrance to the toilets. She's very patient and I'm slightly embarrassed that having decided to complete the Biennial on this particular day, I don't have time to stop for food.

Elena Narbutaite and Eduardo Costa, Sun Kiss Feline, 1982-2016 originated as a performance/cum fashion shoot in the swimming pool area at the Adelphi Hotel. Utilising designs originally proposed by Costa in the early Eighties, Narbutaite hopes to give the impression of an interspecies transformation as the swimsuit bear leopard and tiger cut-out patterns.  As well as the display at Mr Chilli they've appeared in local fashion magazines.

Part of me wonders if the images would have been more effective as a piece of video art rather than as still images outside of magazines, a couple of the shots feel like still frames from a video piece.  Not a documentary about the making of the photos, there are certainly enough of those in the world, but these images moving, providing a better illustration of the transformation which without the accompanying note isn't obvious from the shots themselves.

As with the display at the Masterchef Restaurant the pictures don't seem out of place in the environment, the restaurant already filled with pictures and menus and advertising, which seems to the point of this strand, placing works in an environment where patrons who might not necessarily visit the Biennial can unexpectedly interact with the festival.  What have patrons to the restaurant made of these images?

Next Destination:
The Walker Art Gallery.

Liverpool Biennial 2016:
143 Granby Street.


"Well, if that's what you want. I mean it's a bit soon... I had so many places I had wanted to take you. The Fifteenth Broken Moon of the Medusa Cascade, the Lightning Skies of Cotter Palluni's World, Diamond Coral Reefs of Kataa Flo Ko... Thank you. Thank you, Donna Noble, it's been brilliant. You've... you've saved my life in so many ways. You're... You're just popping home for a visit, that's what you mean."
-- The Doctor, "The Sontaran Stratagem"
Art The time ship takes its final trip to Toxteth for one of the Monuments of the Future, a stained glass window from artist Arseny Zhilyaev illustrating The Last Planet Parade, the supposed final occasion when a particular concentration of planets and stars appear in the nights sky and viewable from a particular position on Earth and only on a single spot in the universe.

Within the space there's a long apparently biographical note, about how Zhilyaev's interest in space developed from childhood, his father seeing Yuri Gagarin on a visit to Manchester and experiencing his first Planet Parade, something he celebrates every 22 January with a fancy dress party.  As with many of the pieces in this Biennial, the fiction is frictional.

As well as the window, there's a display of news clippings, photographs and books connected to the biographical note, just the sort of literature my Dad kept from his childhood and I grew up reading before I could afford to buy franchise novels.  For the purposes of future historians and people who don't have time to visit the exhibition, here's a bibliography:

ANDERSSON, Poul.  1973.  The Rebel Worlds.  Coronet.

CLARKE, Arthur C.  1975.  The Lion of Comarre & Against The Fall of Night.  Corgi.

CLARKE, Arthur C.  1969.  Voices From The Sky.  Mayflower.

GREENHOUGH, Terry.  1979.  The Wandering Worlds.  New English Library.

MOORE, Patrick.  1978.  The Observer's Book of Astronomy.  F Warne Publishers Ltd.

TUCKER, Wilson.  1971.  The Time Masters.  Signet Books.

TURNELL, Reginald.  1975.  The Observer's Book of Manned Spaceflight.   F Warne Publishers Ltd.

VAN VOGT, A.E., 1973.  Children of Tomorrow.  F Warne Publishers Ltd.

Next Destination:
Mr Chilli Restaurant.

Liverpool Biennial 2016:
ABC Cinema.


"Cut! Cut! Who let those bums in here?"
-- Steinberger P. Green, "The Feast of Steven"
Art In a rare move, I'm going to be perfectly honest with you, the main draw for visiting the ABC Cinema was to view the interior of the building rather than the festival.  In the 90s, my film going was a relay between the Odeon on Lime Street, the 051 Cinema on Mount Pleasant and this edifice.  It's here I saw Wayne's World, Heat, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, It's A Wonderful Life on several occasions and many more.

There's the occasion I attended a viewing of the 15 certificate of The Truth About Cats and Dogs in a screening with several families who'd clearly misunderstood the meaning of the title and somehow didn't leave during the phone masterbation scene.  When I complained to the manager, he too had thought that it was one for the kids "judging by the title".  Or Final Analysis where a friend and I spent the whole screening sat behind two older pupils from our school who were necking.

Twenty years later, I was initially slightly disorientated because the entrance is through the fire door onto Lime Street rather than up the main steps which is how it was accessed in 2008 when it was previously used as the Biennial's visitor centre, back when the festival had such things.  I mentioned that visit on this blog (which includes other cinema going anecdotes -- I wonder what Theresa is doing now).

On entry you're handed a torch by a volunteer because there are occasions when the space is plunged into darkness (see below) but otherwise you have a fair amount of freedom walk around the space where the stalls used to be.  Various artworks and installations have sectioned off the space but it's still possible to work out the geography of how the cinema was set out just before it closed in the late 90s.  The Liverpool Echo has plenty of images, even of spaces inaccessible to the public.

The key headline is that since 2008, when all three screens were intact, the two smaller auditoria have been removed so that the space has been returned to how it must have been when the cinema was originally built and it was quite natural for thousands of people to share the big screen experience.  What was the screen one (in my day) is back to being a currently inaccessible balcony and those smaller screens are now clearly where the stalls used to be.

Turning a corner reveals the old foyer, and I stood for a minute remembering where the original ticket office would have been and the refreshment stand.  As far as I can remember, by the time it closed the ABC still hadn't installed any kind of electronic ticketing so the hundreds of people piling in would still have been issued with a relatively primitive slip of the kind which served perfectly well for decades before box offices and refreshment stand were combined in multiplexes.

In a cycle of about fifteen minutes the space is plunged into darkness (hence the torches) and we're invited to sit in on of the collapsable chairs distributed across the front of the stalls to watch a piece of video art projected on a screen atop the stage in a decent approximation of the Picturehouse adverts featuring the music of Daniel Johnson.  For a few brief moments, even its its dereliction, the ABC Cinema on Lime Street returns to its original utility.

Fabien Giraud and Raphaël Siboni’s The Unmanned: 1922 – The Uncomputable, "reflects on Lewis Fry Richardson’s attempt to build a huge weather-forecast factory".  On screen, women represent various elements of their gender stereotypical and biological, from comfort in dark times to pregnancy while a voiceover narrates various apocalyptic situations befalling the planet due to man's poor judgement in relation to how to save us from climate change.

Seeing all this the same week The Futurist just up the road was demolished it was impossible not mourn slightly the loss of these "authentic" cinema experiences albeit that in reality this was mostly about horrible projection and sound, uncomfortable seating and having audience members in even closer proximity with their noise and eating.  But there's something antiseptic and uneventful about multiplexes; you might as well watch most films at home (which is mostly what I do now).

As ever there have been announcements and plans about the future of the space.  Back in 2007 the plan was for a boutique hotel.  Now it's a live music venue and media hub, plans which feel more certain due to the number of stakeholders involved and proper planning applications.  Although part of me wishes it could remain a cinema in the style of those Picturehouse adverts, the dereliction becoming a feature.  True love will find you in the end.

Next Destination:
143 Granby Street

Liverpool Biennial 2016:
George's Dock Ventilation Tower Plaza.


"Water is patient, Adelaide. Water just waits. Wears down the cliff tops, the mountains. The whole of the world. Water always wins."
-- The Doctor, "The Waters of Mars"
Art   For various reasons, I've walked near Betty Woodman's Liverpool Fountain on numerous occasions over the past few months since the Biennial opened but wanting to keep to the spirit of this project as much as possible made a point of either keeping my eyes front and centre or else selecting a completely different route in order to avoid it.  As we've discovered before, the best way to approach contemporary art is with a fresh eye in most situations and so why would I want to spoil myself?

Thankfully, it was well worth the wait.  A monumental sculpture, part of the Ancient Greece episode, it places shapes from sources that include, according to the Biennial literature,  "Greek and Etruscan sculpture, Minoan and Egyptian art, Italian Baroque architecture and the paintings of Bonnard, Picasso and Matisse."  Those influences are absolutely clear in the way the shapes have been fashioned and chosen colours, asymmetrical vases and statues in jarring colours.

The effect feels pleasingly dated, like a commission for the entrance hall of an office building or "modern hotel" from the 70s and 80s, not looking out of place, for example, in the old Senate House at Liverpool University or a Vegas money trap.  This isn't a criticism, one of my happiest days was visiting Le Defense in Paris and seeing work just like this at La Grande Arch and its surround commercial properties.

The shapes are augmented by copper piping pour water into a trough before, which was very welcome on the warm day I visited.  I stood for minutes with my hands cupped underneath letting the water flow into the space before periodically opening my fingers and letting the liquid fall through.  I did consider through it into my face but decided I didn't want to get my t-shirt wet.  Bedraggled has never been a good look.

Next Destination:
ABC Cinema

Liverpool Biennial 2016:
Open Eye Gallery.


"You are here because you want to know the truth about this starship. And I am talking to you because you’re entitled to know. When this presentation has finished, you will have a choice. You may either protest. Or forget. If you choose to protest understand this: if just one percent of the population of this ship do likewise, the program will be discontinued with consequences for you all. If you choose to accept the situation—and we hope that you will—then press the forget button. All the information I’m about to give you will be erased from your memory. You will continue to enjoy the safety and amenities of Starship UK, unburdened by the knowledge of what has been done to save you. Here then, is the truth about Starship UK and the price that has been paid for the safety of the British people. May God have mercy on our souls."
--- Starship UK Video Announcer, "The Beast Below"
Art Despite being from this city and being at just the right age, I have absolutely no memory of the student protest which is the subject of the recording of performance piece and connected video documentation on display at the Open Eye Gallery. In April 1985, I would have been ten years old which judging by the photographs was about the same age as a lot of kids who began marching at St George's Hall and worked their way through through city centre down Dale Street to the Pier Head.  But living out in Speke, my world very much limited to South Liverpool and with my prospects looking in the direction of the Blue Coat School in Wavertree, perhaps it was just something happening elsewhere.

The Liverpool schools march has already been the subject of an exhibition at the Blue Coat in 2011, which was reported on by BBC News at the time.  That was more of a historical affair with many more of the photographs taken by local photographer Dave Sinclair, which are also somewhat the basis for part of this display.  One of the criticisms I have of this display is that these photographs don't have a more prominent position; they could for example have been presented in the upstairs gallery, which at the inception of the Mann Island version of Open Eye was designated as a space dedicated to archival photography, instead of the continuation of installations from artists which are carried over from other venues.

The oddity of watching the group of volunteers recreating the walk stepping along such familiar streets brought to mind Biennials of the past when there was much of a sense of international artists creating work which reacted directly to the city. To be honest I spent much of it trying to work out why a couple of the faces seemed familiar and although I recognised a few people from the Biennial team, there were a couple I can only conclude I've seen at press days or private views around the city.  But I appreciate the artist Koki Tanaka's approach to highlighting the past, and how this was an example of how protest can work, the Thatcher government did slow down and re-evaluate their plans for the YTS scenes which were the subject of the march, only attempting them again later in a different form.

The problem as a visitor is this video is presented on a flat screen at the entrance to the display in a main walk through to the other galleries and back to reception and so as I discovered on the day I visited, it's impossible to watch without having people jostling to get past.  On the day I was there, a college group were being given instructions from a teacher, drowning out the sound of the speeches on the video which provided necessary context at beginning and end of the march.  It's a puzzling curatorial choice to have the key exhibit in such a compromised position especially since there's plenty of space elsewhere in the room, where two other screens containing interviews with people who marched and their children can be seen relatively unhindered.

Listening to them describe the reasons why they attended in 1985 and how they feel the issues they were raising back then are still relevant, I reflected by on the only street protest I've ever attended as as an undergraduate in Leeds in 1993 (I think), joining a crowd of contemporaries marching from Headingley, up Otley Road to the City Campus protesting against the dissemination of the grants, the introduction of loans and tuitions fees.  But even then I felt very uneasy about the affair and said as much to the two journalists from the Leeds Student paper.  What had seemed like a grassroots expression against something which would stop higher education from being accessible to someone from a poor background like me, I quickly noticed had been joined by people holding aloft placards advertising the Socialist Worker and about other unrelated issues.  By the time we reached the city centre and the rally on the Headrow, I peeled away.

Next Destination:
George's Dock Ventilation Shaft.

Soup Safari #71: Creamy Cheddar and Onion at the Warehouse Cafe.







Lunch. £4.50. Warehouse Cafe, Museum of Science and Industry, Liverpool Rd, Manchester M3 4FP. Phone: 0161 832 2244. Website.

My Favourite Film of 1929.



Film After last week's visit to blogging in 2005, let's shift backwards in time slightly further to 2002 and the BBC's The Collective, a cultural review website from a time when the corporation's online offering was experimental and exciting, when the idea was to simply try things out and see if they stuck, bend the remit of what the BBC could and should be doing for the public, but on the main site and not in a walled off garden like often brilliant BBC Taster.

Utilising the same log-in technology as the H2G2 website (a user submission version of the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy), a profile I still retain today to access the iPlayer, The Collective allowed users to submit reviews of all aspects of culture so that it would appear alongside the work of professional reviews and other editorial content.

Rowan Kerek, the editor of the site was kind enough to contribute to Review 2003 and Rowan's answers are still readable here.  I think she's the Rowan who was later mentioned on the Wittertainment show.  I wonder if it was her idea to call the user pages "my space" just before myspace was founded (ask your grandparents).

Having my own blog, I mainly posted over there for the purposes of trying to win the weekly prize being handed out, I think at random, which I managed to win on several occasions.  Prizes included a Turin Brakes t-shirt which I still wear despite never being a fan and a dvd of Man With A Movie Camera, the first time I saw the film.

The BBC hosted version was finally pulled some time in 2014 but as with all of these old projects it lives on as part of the Wayback Machine and here's a link to the final iteration which includes a link to an editors note explaining that the website is about to close in 2008 when the first wave of programme pages were introduced and the philosophy of the website changed.

Here's my old profile which functions surprisingly well considering.  As you can see I copied the about me from this blog but there's plenty of content which didn't originally appear over here which I've now copied over with the correct date stamps which I'm the process of resurrecting and can be read more easily at this tag, or at least what can be salvaged.

Although the editorial offer now looks quite standard, then there wasn't another part of the BBC really covering these topics in this way and it stands very much as a forerunner to the channels Radio One and Six Music would become and an ancestor to the approach that's now enshrined at the BBC Three website, not to mention BBC Arts.

Hello again, LOVEFiLM.

Film Back in March, you'll remember with all your long memories, that I cancelled my Lovefilm account after twelve years and wrote inevitably about this big moment here and here with dates and solemn recording of the final films I received and the implications this has on the future of consumer entertainment. I said:
"The combined catalogues of Lovefilm, Amazon Prime and NowTV amounts to over six thousand items and even taking into account the dross and Disney repetition, that should be more than enough films and television installments to keep me busy especially with their rolling catalogues. Yes, I'll have to wait three to six months or longer after the shiny disc release to see some films, but at this point I barely pay attention to release dates anyway."
All of which is true.  But the intervening six months, the following became apparent:

(1) Those extra three to six months can be interminable if it is a film you'd actually quite like to see and didn't manage to catch at the cinema

(2) It's sometimes even longer because you're also at the whim of when the streaming service decides to upload the film based on metrics and marketing. Items aren't uploaded as soon as the streaming window is closed. Sometimes they'll wait until the end of a month or even the following month. In the case of NowTV, because television is the primary outlet for the films they'll save some of the big ticket items for a national holiday or some other reason why people will be in the house at a weekend.

(3) Six thousand items seems like a lot, but it's not plenty. There are massive gaps, especially in the independent and world cinema areas to a degree I simply hadn't noticed or realised until that was all gone.  I'd glancing longing through Sight and Sound Magazine at everything that would not be there.  Not to mention when a film has been recommended online, in print, broadcast or by a friend but it's not in any of the streaming services or at least without paying extra.

(4)  Adding MUBI didn't help.  MUBI now and then has films which are still at cinemas or will have a rare film like Downhill Racer which hasn't had a UK dvd release but it's useless to anyone who already has a decent dvd collection and/or access to any of the other streaming services.  Their selection this past week has been The Odd Couple, Petty Persuasion, IF..., The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, Munich, Great Expectations and The Parallax View.  All fine films but not quite what I was expected when I signed up for my year's subscription.  I mean it's fine -- if I manage to watch two or three of their films per month -- the stuff which isn't available elsewhere, I'm probably getting my money's worth but it's no substitute for Lovefilm.

(5) I missed the randomness, of having the decision as to which film I'd watch next taken out of my hands. Sometimes this became a reality:



With so much to watch, you really don't know what to watch next.

(6)  There's a huge difference between temporarily being able to access films due to licensing windows and just sort of having nearly of them there, albeit via the postal service.  Despite NewOn existing in the work keeping track of when a film was leaving and managing to watch it in time felt like real work.  Now if it drops off, I can simply add it to my Lovefilm list.

(7)  Of course, I'm also now back to making sure that I don't have items in my Lovefilm list that are currently available to see stream  and seeking out items which are Netflix/Amazon/MUBI exclusives to watch first.  Cameron Crowe's Aloha is on Netflix but hasn't had a UK dvd release.  Alex Gibney's Going Clear is only on Now TV.  But that bit of admin is a small price to pay. (updated: after writing that I decided to add them anyway - I simply can't be fussed with the admin)

This week I've worked through Knights of Cups, Room, Bridge of Spies and The Hateful Eight, finally and can't wait to see what'll be sent from my list next.

listless trekking.



TV Happy 50th anniversary Star Trek!

Typically on a day like this I would have posted something about how Star Trek has influenced me over the years and it's fair to say I'm as liberal as I am after becoming a fan at just the right plastic age.  But thanks to the longevity of this blog, I've already managed to do that. So here's a list of some old posts which already express everything I would otherwise have said at this moment, in this time:

How I became a fan:
"Around that time I also befriended someone at the local library who loaned me the way through her collection of Star Trek novels which included everything from the original James Blish adaptations through the original publications and movie adaptation and thence the pocket books. I read and read and read and somewhere in there became a fan, buying my own novels and lending them back to her. I have a vivid memory of being on a camping holiday reading David Gerrold's The Galactic Whirlpool."

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

Spock's Christian Names:
"To tonight's Pointless Celebrities which has now become the tea time tv fixture on a Saturday night now that we're into a run of new episodes. This was a FA Cup Special so of course had a question board about ears which included the following clue which popped up during dessert ..."

Reviewing Encounter at Farpoint in HD:
"There are perhaps two especially embarrassing home videos of me in circulation (circulation in this case meaning the vaults at the Royal Bank of Scotland and a box in my flat somewhere). The first is of me line dancing to Kylie’s Can’t Get You Out Of My Head at the end of a corporate team building exercise at a conference centre in Southend-On-Sea , a horror I luckily have never had a chance to see."

My first fan fiction starring Seven of Nine, Ezri Dax (and Buffy Summers, Monica Geller, Joey Potter, Angela Chase, Maggie O'Connell, Sam Beckett and Dana Scully):
"EZRI: If the reports of what the crew have been through are at all true, then I’d say that Captain Janeway would not abandon ship and initiate a self-destruct without a very good reason. By the way, how did you deactivate it?"

The Spotify Playlist
"When I was at college, a friend and I wondered what minimalist Star Trek would look like. We decided that nothing very much would happen and it wouldn’t happen over the course of an hour."

A review of nuTrek:
"ridiculously entertaining."

A review of the first issue of IDW's Star Trek comic:
"Turn the cover and we’re straight back into this strange new world, with a first page featuring a Scotty that looks like Simon Pegg, artist Stephen Molnar neatly capturing his essence without being slavish, and his alien helper, and a joke about whether anyone really listens back to Chief Engineer’s logs. From there everything is as you might expect, the story plays out as it did on screen with various changes reflecting the characterisations from the new film, with Kirk and Spock on slightly less chummy terms with Bones and Chekhov in attendance."

A review of the Hamlet in TOS's Conscience of the King:
"Hamlet is played by Marc Grady Adams and his job is largely to look surprised and not upstage the lead guest actor, one Arnold Moss (pictured) who two decades before this episode was recorded appeared as Prospero in The Tempest on Broadway for a hundred shows."

Vulcanised steel:
"I'm flicking through the free Metro newspaper on the bus this morning, turn to page four find this photo in connection with the knife amnesty which is being run throughout the country ..."

Being exercised about the new film series being a reboot:
"Excuse me while I geek out for a moment. Chud are reporting that the new Star Trek film isn't actually a prequel but a re-imagining. Hmm... why? They've no doubt looked at Battlestar Galactica and so forth and decided that in order to make the story relevant for today that they need to toss out forty-odd years of chronology and continuity so that they can write it they way they want to. Plus they've probably seen the hoops Enterprise often went through to try and tie itself in with a future story rooted in the past."

A review of Nemesis:
"It does feel like the television show. Some would see that as a criticism, but it is one of the strengths. In the TV show, most stories had a slow burn. Three acts of investigation and character development leading up to the big scenes at the end – no pointless action sequence here is needed in case your attention is flagging – you’re supposed to be watching the story. The more enjoyable moments happened, not during the action sequences but when characters just sat about and talked."

And finally that time I wrote a fanfic about meeting Lieutenant B’Elanna-Torres:
"The Wellington Boots were not comfortable in bare feet. The top edges cut into the side of his leg. As he took his first step outside, he had to place his hand over his face to shield a sun which was unusually bright this morning, as it shone across the fields of corn which stretched as far as the eye could see. He cursed his choice of footware as they slowed down his walking speed. The figure had already begun to walk towards the farm house. She appeared to be holding forward some kind of instrument, which she waved from side to side. He could hear beeps and shrills from it which became increaingly annoying as she neared. The sun beat directly behind her, so James could only see fragments of her appearance at first. The uniform she wore was almost completely black, as though it were its own shadow. Black apart from a golden strip which covered her shoulders which also reflected the sunlight shielding her face. "