41: Michelle Terry.

Theatre  During his interview for Playing The Dane, the BBC documentary which sparked this project, Richard Briers when asked what was perhaps most memorable about his performance says, he "was a very fast Hamlet". That's equally applicable to Michelle Terry and indeed much of this 2018 production from Shakespeare's Globe which she also directed. At two and a half hours plus interval, pretty much the whole of the text is covered which on the one hand allows for the inclusion Reynaldo and almost full strength Fortinbras but also less time for moments to breath.

Which looks like this is going to a negative survey of the production, that couldn't be further from the truth.  I loved this production for all of its faults, not least because it seems so unlikely that I've seen it at all.  With operation lockdown having caused so many playhouses to go dark, many of them have taken their work online, streaming old productions for a fee, free or a donation and Shakespeare's Globe is no exception, streaming some old recordings onto YouTube every fortnight for the forseable starting with this Hamlet.  Here it is to watch online for the next twelve days.

The production received mixed reviews at the time which looks to be a function of what Terry was trying to achieve with her first few productions as artistic director.  After a few rocky years under Emma Rice who some loved for her experimental artiface and disruption of the Globe's founding principles, notably spotlights, artificial sound and elaborate staging which others hated for much the same reason, Terry must have felt the pressure to present the work in a diametrically opposite style with a return to the fundamentals of shared light and natural speech projection across a bare stage.

For some that would have been a retrograde step, for others, in other words, me, it is an expression of why the Globe originally existed, to somewhat presents them in a way which would be familiar to audiences four hundred years ago.  The somewhat in that sentence is important.  This is a Hamlet of inclusiveness and gender fluidity, which is still experimental on its own terms and makes simplicity a strength, foregrounding performance and chemistry over concentrating where the actors are standing ready for cues, or at least offering the appearance of such.  

Those aesthetic choices then.  Bare stage.  Costumes which for the most part look like they've been pulled out of the Globe's stores offering a kind of history of the place, with the odd ensemble entirely familiar for those of us who've followed their work over the years, clashing styles and eras in the same scene and across characters.  In the same scene we find an actor in t-shirt and jeans interacting with another wearing what looks like Falstaff's armour from the Dromgoole production of Henry IV with another in a dress from the candlelit Duchess of Malfi.

Which should jar, except perhaps because we're now steeped in post-modernity we somehow accept it just as we do for the most part the casting choices in which the key male parts and Ophelia are all gender flipped.  As with the costuming that looks back into theatre history contrasting today's blindcasting approach with the stringent Elizabethan patriarchy, especially since initially Shubham Saraf wears period corsetry which on occasion seems to work against his performance especially since he's not playing it in an overtly feminine manner.

Female Hamlets usually have to decide whether to attempt to deny their gender or embrace it and although the text retains the original pronouns, Terry brings her entire self to the table in one of the most complex performence I've seen her give so far.  She's a force of nature wringing the full comedy from the text on the one hand and embracing the tragedy of the mission which has been placed on her shoulders by one of the most naturalistic Hamlet Snr's I've seen, a rare occasion when we're able to see how close father and son were.

Which isn't to say Terry isn't above choosing overt ways in which to express the Prince's well being.  For much of the play she's dressed as clown, visually demonstrating how the character is using madness as a mask for hide his true intentions, the face paint smearing, the costume raggedy as it becomes less and less apparent whether this has become a pose or embodiment until in the last movements of the play.  When the "readiness is all" they disappear completely, replaced by a more familiar black coat, embodying the traditional Hamlet silloette.

Such nuance also extends to attitude.  Deaf actor Nadia Nadarajah plays Guildenstern and signs her role with Rosencrantz and in their earlier scenes together Hamlet providing a necessary translation for some parts of the audience.  Hamlet signs his replies, with  "I have of late—but wherefore I know not—lost all my mirth" becoming a magnificent gestural dance as he makes sure his friend heres every word contrasting with the attitudes of Polonius and Claudius with their haphazard and ignorant approaches.

As the veil of suspicion decends on Hamlet's relationship with his friends, so does his tollerance for Guildenstern's disability.  Although they're able to communicate still when Rosencrantz is still in the room, in their short scene together just before the closet scene, when Hamlet is railing at what he sees as a traiterous entity, Guildenstern is persistently signing perhaps unable to understand what the Dane is saying to him.  A small piece of stage business becomes a key moment in our understanding of how Hamlet's psychology is changing.

As ever with filmed Globe productions, the crowd are often as distractingly visible as the actors, a mix of rapture and boredom.  Terry chooses to address "To Be" at a groundling which, as any interaction with the audience often does, leads to some laughter which undercuts the mood and feels like one of the weaker performance choices not least because whilst holding the punters hands, Terry still looks up and address the rest of the crowd robbing it of the intimacy which must surely have been initially intended.

This Hamlet does not wallow in the text's ornamentation.  The pentameter feels all over the place, with a free attitude to punctuation and line reading.  But a more traditional approach often puts too much emphasis on lines which Shakespeare clearly meant to be thrown away as an after thought although a solution isn't found for Polonius's asides during the fishmonger.  At least the actor is able to logically address them to the audience rather than himself or the sky as often happens in shows which pretend that the spectators don't exist.

A multi-faceted production which would no doubt repay repeated viewings, hopefully it'll be made available commercially soon.  If this production is anything to go by, Terry really has brought the Globe back to being the institution I recognise from the Dromgoole days and even (grudgingly he says) before.  For that reason amongst many, I was happy to drop them a donation, a fiver, the groundlings rate, to help them through these challenging times.  I know there are more existential causes right now but this Hamlet was well worth the money.

How I'm dealing with the lockdown.

Life After a fairly grim anxiety-fueled couple of days last week, on Saturday night, oddly after watching the Panorama about Harvey Weinstein because sometimes correlation does not mean causality, I came to a number of rationalities which have helped me get some perspective. That night I posted them on Twitter as one of those thread things, but I thought I'd immortalise them here too.  They're not meant to be seen as a list of hints and tips.  Everyone will have their own way of getting through this.  But I'd like them somewhere I can bookmark easily.

(1) I've been in captivity for two weeks - my parents are in their seventies and so very much at risk and was feeling antsy about not going outside, even to the local post box. But my parents because they're so very much at risk will have to stay in themselves for at least twelve weeks. If they have to do it, then so can I. It's my new project, can I stay at home for twelve weeks? How much longer?

(2) More than any person in human history I'm in a privileged position. I have access to all of known human knowledge, including all of the films, tv, music and books I could ever want to read. I have Prospero's library at my disposal and then some.

(3) Screens. Being sat in front of screens. Except they're also windows and wormholes through which I can view the universe.  How can I complain about that? I can wake up every day and have a new experience by metaphorically stepping through one of those portals.

(4) There's no use worrying about the future when I don't have any control over it other than the necessary paranoia which is keeping me at home. As a wise wizard once said, "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." Having this time with my parents is precious.

(5) It's April 04, 2020 at 10:00PM and Love Actually is still rubbish: http://ift.tt/1Gs7DTh

(6) Stop listening to the daily briefing. Try and limit my exposure to virus coverage on Twitter especially links to human interest stories, for my mental health to stop wallowing in other people's misery and hope to god I won't go there myself (and yes on reflection I know that paraphrases one of the worst lines in one of least thought through lyrics of all time (depending on how you read it or how it's sung) but all I can do is offer a guilty shrug). Essentially stick to the science and focus on a single source like The Guardian's daily live blog.

(7)  That it's ok to avoid certain films right now, especially domestic dramas either contemporary or in the recent past particularly if they feature a death as the motivating incident unless it's in a drama context like noir or action.  I used to have a rule to not watch films which include the words "harrowing portrayal" in the synopsis. I'm now adding "if people look sad on the poster". They'll still be there when this slow apocalypse is over.

Lockdown Links #11.

New on the streaming services.

Hustlers, one of the best films from last year, has been added Amazon Prime.

Season Four of Veronica Mars is now on Starz Play (which I'm incredibly nervous to watch).

Daily Dose of Doctor Who.

Making Doctor Who
"The Lively Arts goes behind the scenes of the UK's biggest sci-fi show." (and extended clip from Whose Doctor Who.)


A message to our readers (from Sight and Sound): we’re here to stay:
"How we’re planning for the Covid-19 quarantine – from special issues to a new email Weekly Film Bulletin."

Amazon Teams With SXSW to Launch a Virtual Fest:
"The films will stream for free on the platform over 10 days, likely in late April."

‘Star Trek: Picard’ Finale Sparks Philosophical Fan Debate — Is Picard Still Picard?
"Article contains SPOILERS for the Star Trek: Picard season one finale."

Lola Álvarez Bravo’s 117th Birthday:
"Today’s Doodle celebrates one of Mexico’s first professional female photographers, Lola Álvarez Bravo, on her 117th birthday. Known for her portraits of public figures, as well as street photography chronicling decades of Mexican life, she is considered one of the country’s pioneers of modernist photography." (Google Images search)

What are the earliest produced films based on comics?
"Searching the Library of Congress for early examples of comic strip adaptations on film!"

The Worm is Back!
"The original NASA insignia is one of the most powerful symbols in the world. A bold, patriotic red chevron wing piercing a blue sphere, representing a planet, with white stars, and an orbiting spacecraft. Today, we know it as “the meatball.” However, with 1970’s technology, it was a difficult icon to reproduce, print, and many people considered it a complicated metaphor in what was considered, then, a modern aerospace era."

Osskah (Short Trips: Snapshots).

Prose Reminiscent of the parliament of birds sequence from The Scarlett Empress, Gary Owen's story describes an encounter between the Time Lord and an avian creature in which they share each other's stories. Told from the bird's point of view, the language is frequently metaphoric, the Doctor described as "specific healer" with the sonic and TARDIS gifted with a whole thesaurus full of synonyms.  The umbrella theme of the anthology was to offer these "snapshots" of what happens when the Doctor enters people's lives and this is very effective in offering a very alien perspective.  Placement: It's unusual in that it implies Eighth has been knocked off course during a mission for the Time Lords who're currently fighting a "storm in heaven" which implies the author is imagining what this incarnation is up to during the Time War.  So just to be on the safe side, even though this was published in 2007 long before Night of the Doctor, I'm putting it in the mix there anyway.

The Thirteenth Book I've Read This Year.

Books Rather like the Arden Shakespeares, The Black Archive has an eclectic author led format. Some include a thorough commentary on the production of the show, teasing out facts which haven't already been uncovered by Andrew Pixley, a Fact or Fiction from the monthly report to the subscribers or the Production Subtitles on the shiny disc. Others, acknowledging that those things exist, choose to spin-off a series of essays inspired by the story, considering its place with the canon of Doctor Who and wider science fiction.

Una McCormack's four essays on The Curse of Fenric cover its part in Thatcher's downfall (ish), compares it to other Who stories set during World War II or consuming its iconography, how its representation of women compares to elsewhere in the franchise and science fiction in general and finally the Doctor's development into a deity of sorts.  Lucidly and accessibly written, there are few assertions in here which I can take issue with and its frequently eye opening, especially on the status of modern companions and other narrative decisions.

Having recently watched Fenric in the context of the recent revelations in the revival of the series, you can see how script editor Andrew Cartmel laid the groundwork even if JNT squashed (on religious grounds), his idea of suggesting the Doctor as a powerful God-like being who existed before the Time Lords.  Retrospectively you can almost imagine that the Seventh Doctor is at least unconsciously aware of his previous life and has an insight which few Doctors before or since have been able to tap into.

The book is also a treasured possession because Una has been kind enough to mention me in the acknowledgements for pointing her towards one of the sources she used, looking completely out of place against the other luminaries such as Ian Briggs (the writer of Fenric), our lord the aforementioned Mr Pixley and various other academics and spin-off writers.  I had no idea until someone pointed it out to me on the social medias and it made what had been quite a grim day much, much brighter.

Lockdown Links #10

New on the streaming services.

Classic indie Big Night, directed by Stanley Tucci, has been added to Netflix. Although perhaps not the best film to watch now that we're all fighting over home delivery slots at supermarkets, if you can stomach it, you'll be introduced to the timpano, a glorious mound of Italian food which you'll probably add to you bucket list for when the apocalypse is over. The Guardian posted a celebration of the film back in 2016.

"Daily" Dose of Doctor Who.

Press Play - a new short story by Pete McTighe:

[A useful advert for Britbox and the iPlayer.]


The Classical Companion Collection:
"In circumstances like these, radio is everyone's friend. So, to help everyone be entertained and diverted – and perhaps teased a bit in the "little grey cells" department – here you'll find links to special collections of music (produced in collaboration with BBC Archive), fun and useful articles and podcasts, and some of Radio 3's best online quizzes."

How the coronavirus hit cinema:
"Like every other part of life, the business of making and showing films has been disrupted in extraordinary ways – and nobody knows what the future will bring."

National Museums Liverpool Virtual tours:
"Have you ever wanted a museum or exhibition all to yourself? Now you can explore at your own pace with our 3D virtual tours. Discover the wonders of our museums, galleries and exhibitions below." [Features the International Slavery Museum and from the World Museum, World Cultures, Dinosaurs and Natural World. -- ed.]

Star Trek’s New Science Advisor Dr. Erin Macdonald On Putting The Sci In Sci-Fi:
"Dr. Erin Macdonald calls herself a “Tattooed Scottish-American N7 Slytherin Rebel from Starfleet.” As an astrophysicist, she worked on the LIGO project that searches the cosmos for gravitational waves. Among her tattoos is a beautiful illustration of the USS Voyager. She regularly hosts science talks at conventions – including the recent Star Trek cruise, which ended just a week or so before the coronavirus shut down the industry – and late last year became Star Trek’s official science consultant, beginning with season 3 of Discovery."

Stuck inside these four walls: Chamber cinema for a plague year:
"We’re in the midst of a wondrous national experiment: What will Americans do without sports? Movies come to fill the void, and websites teem with recommendations for lockdown viewing. Among them are movies about pandemics, about personal relationships, and of course about all those vistas, urban or rural, that we can no longer visit in person."

Some Shakespeare.

The page's the thing – take it from Shakespeare's earliest readers:
"With theatres closed, now is the time to find pleasure in Shakespeare’s texts. His first fans used them for chat-up lines – and read the plays without the baggage of Bardolatry."

Today's Album.

The Twelfth Book I've Read This Year.

Books This thrilling disquisition on how broadcasting during World War II shaped the BBC has really struck a chord as the same organisation, albeit with much more than a single radio station has entered a similar kind of war footing.  Once again it's getting the government's message across to the public whilst providing the necessary scrutiny when necessary, educating, entertaining and informing.  During the war, the BBC proved its worth and once again, just weeks after it seemed like it was due to be wound up, it's confirming its importance again.

Other elements resonate.  The work of the "black ops" teams filling the continental airwaves with radio stations authentic enough to convince the local population that they could sneak in propaganda and untruths are exactly the tactics employed now by fake news sites, combining standard news with the extravagant conspiracy theory.  There's also a thread throughout about how the BBC's independence is forever under threat and how the people they seek to perlustrate are often also the ones with the capacity to defenestration it.  It's a dense read but comes highly recommended.

Digital Voxpops #1

Comment When the soaps come back, should they acknowledge that time has moved on or try to pick up from the second they finished?

Agree on all of this. Although I don't watch the traditional soaps, I am still concerned about how television and film drama in general will look after all of this has happened. Rather like 9/11 and other major events, it's sure to colour what we watch and how it's produced.  The industrial nature of soap production (if you see what I mean) could give an indication of which way this will go, especially since unlike say, Doctor Who, they notionally happen on Earth-1218.

Depending on how they're left, it would seem strange for the soaps to return and not acknowledge something happened especially since it won't happen immediately even after the end of the lockdown. There'll still be a considerable lead time between production and broadcast even assuming that episodes are being written in the mean time with writers and producers meetings happening via Zoom.

But how do you tackle it sensitively?  Having characters die off screen during the hiatus could be seen as insensitive given the number of deaths that have occurred in real life, but to have everyone survive would also break the suspension of disbelief.  It's such a difficult process to navigate.  As Mags suggests, it could be that there'll a good few people looking to see how the The Archers handles it especially as it has the luxury of remaining in production during lockdown.

Lockdown Links #9

Livestreaming Your Art:
"Jason Crouch walks you through some of the potential issues and shining opportunities involved in streaming performances."

Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins reveals why she didn’t want to direct Thor: The Dark World:
"The director shares why she really left the Thor sequel all those years ago."

[Editor's note: To save you the click, it's because she didn't think the script was workable and didn't want to be blamed for the mess which came out the other end which would be doubly difficult because she's a woman and that would be the assumed reason. I watched This Changes Everything about women in Hollywood and as that documentary demonstrates, despite Thor: The Dark World doing huge box office (which everyone forgets) because it was thought to be a critical failure, she wouldn't have been allowed to make another film again.]

Todd Haynes’s Masterpiece “Safe” Is Now a Tale of Two Plagues:
"Todd Haynes’s 1995 masterpiece, “Safe,” begins with the camera crawling at something like the speed limit through a meticulous stretch of twilit upscale suburbia that a credit somewhat redundantly identifies as California’s San Fernando Valley, and much more helpfully as 1987."

Why coronavirus might save the BBC:
"It seems the distant past now, but just a few weeks ago there was very real talk of the end of the BBC. Then the virus hit."

BBC Sounds - an audio treasure trove for everyone in the coming months:
"Now more than ever, we know people want things which make them laugh and smile, tell them what’s going on and help support their health, education and wellbeing."

Coronavirus has exposed the reality of a world without work:
"This pandemic is throwing into stark relief a treacherous fact: we depend on employment, both for survival and a sense of self."

Congratulations, Your Kids Are Now Your Coworkers:
"Tips on how to survive the lockdown with your children and sanity intact—by a veteran of working from home."

DC finally reveals the alternate BATMAN: A DEATH IN THE FAMILY art in which Jason Todd lived A rare peak at true DC Comics history:
"Batman: A Death in the Family, the seminal four-part storyline by Jim Starlin, Jim Aparo, Mike DeCarlo, Adrienne Roy, and John Costanza, saw the end of Jason Todd as the second Robin at the hands of The Joker — and over 5,000 fans who voted in a phone-in poll to kill him off."

How One Arthouse Theater Rebranded as "Digital Drive-In" to Stay Afloat:
"When Coral Gables Art Cinema was forced to close its doors on March 18, co-executive director Brenda Moe decided to take it digital, inviting patrons to "drive in" to flicks on the theater's website instead: “We have to be clever to keep our doors open.""

Lockdown Links #8

New on the streaming services.

The Veronica Mars film has appeared on Amazon's Starz channel ahead of the fourth season turning up there shortly.

BBC Scotland are repeating Your Cheatin' Heart, John Byrne's 1990 follow up to Tutti Frutti starring Tilda Swinton and John Gordon Sinclair which means it's on the iPlayer here, which Tilda would have shot in the midst of her time otherwise working with Derek Jarmon.

Some Shakespeare.

The National Theatre have announced that during the lockdown they're going to run some of their NT Live recordings on YouTube which includes the 2017 production of Twelfth Night starring Tamsin Grieg as Malvolio starting on Thursday 23rd April until the 30th, which sounds like a great way to celebrate Shakespeare's birthday (which Billington gave four stars).


Spine-tingling moment Liverpool erupts in applause for NHS workers battling coronavirus:
"One nurse said "it means the world to me and all my colleagues""

For Drive-In Theaters, an Unexpected Revival:
"A retro tradition get a (temporary) boost from social-distancing edicts.."

Elizabeth Parker - BBC Radiophonic Workshop:
"Elizabeth Parker of the Radiophonic Workshop explains how she created the score for David Attenborough's The Living Planet."

Doctor Who and the Time War (BBC Website).

Prose  Read this first (assuming you haven't already).  Surprise. With everyone in the world embracing the lifestyle I've cultivated over so, so many years, Emily Cook from the parish circular's been organising mass rewatches of well loved Doctor Who stories and given that today is the fifteenth anniversary of the first broadcast of Rose, that's what everyone'll be pressing play on tonight at seven o'clock.  What started as a fun thing for a few fans on Twitter has gone global and prestigious enough that Moffat and now RTD have become involved, on this occasion with the final moments of the Eighth Doctor before he regenerated into Lots of Planets Have A North.

As you will have read from his introduction on the website, this was originally prepared for the 50th anniversary issue of DWM until Cardiff nixed it for obvious reasons and so is "out of continuity" (whatever in the fuck that means post The Timeless Children). But it does resurrect the little moments (ahem) in The End of Time when Rassilon and the gang would refer to the Doctor having the "moment" and my little Byronic heart would sing because it meant the Eighth Doctor had made some kind of an impact on the revived series even if it was only by implication off camera.  Little did we know what was coming and so it appears, neither did Russell T Davies.

Some of the language in here is sheer poetry.  The descriptions of the aftermath of battle are of a piece with the stories set in the Time War which have spun off from the "real" regeneration, Night of the Doctor, especially Natural Regression, the sense of reality turning in on itself like a Hieronymus Bosch painting.  It's also much like Davies's "Meet the Doctor" essay in the 2006 annual with back references to random mythology (Deathsmiths of Goth!) (Squee!) and images which are almost impossible to comprehend.  Few people can write this kind of brilliant, lyrical nonsense.  Yarvelling’s Church indeed.

Of course, this is just the final few pages of an imagined TARGET novelisation of television story which never existed (and would have cost the BBC's entire annual programme budget to finance, The Goodies presumably sodding off to ITV again) so you can't read that much into it.  But considering what a chronological mess the Time War was, perhaps there is a version of the timeline in which Eighth didn't die on Karn, fought in the wars and became the Ninth Doctor at the end, with the events of The Day of the Doctor featuring all four incarnations, the McGann incarnation having to contend with someone who looks like Billie Piper.

Placement: Since it was written by (a) a showrunner and (b) published on the BBC website, it's at least canonical enough to go in the "Almost, but not quite, entirely unlike the Eighth Doctor" section on the placement list.

Lockdown Links #7

Sorry if you missed me last night. As most of you will have experienced, supermarket delivery spots are at a premium and it took all night to find somewhere that would send us even the most basic of groceries. But goddess willing we'll be receiving some cheese, milk and bread tomorrow.

I was able to watch the restlessly edited but still utterly brilliant documentary about the first film director Alice Guy-Blaché, Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché a figure who even Geena Davis apparently didn't know about, so obscure has her legacy become.  Find one of her earliest films above.

New on the streaming services.

Yesterday was of course launch day for Disney+ and one of those rare occasions when a Roku app has been available on launch day. It's a bit buggy, the menus juddering during navigation, but turning off animations and trailers in the settings seemed to fix this for the most part.

It really is an amazing selection of films.  Pretty much all of Disney Animated Pictures and Pixar and Star Wars and the MCU and the X-Men films featuring the original cast (which isn't apparently included in the US selection).  Within twenty minutes of firing up the app and signing in, I was watching new The Clone Wars.

There are some understandable oddities.  The TV edit of Adventures in Babysitting is featured which removes a rape joke and some of the bluer swearing.  Make Mine Music is also missing, with its nudity and bummer of a final segment about whale hunting.

Chalet Girl was uploaded to Amazon Prime yesterday, the stonking skiing film starring Felicity Jones, one of my favourite movies of the past decade.  There's just something remarkable about how it subverts expectations about its characters and sneaks in some class commentary at the margins.

Elsewhere, Mark Hartley, the director of the superb ELECTRIC BOOGALOO - the wild, untold story of Cannon Films has made the film available to watch for free on his Vimeo channel as well has NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD - the wild, untold story of Ozploitation!, about the Australian New Wave of 1970s and '80s low-budget cinema.

Daily Dose of Doctor Who

Bless her heart for doing this. It's also available on the BBC website, in case you want to show it to your kids without introducing them to Twitter.

But that wasn't the only surprise today.  Also on the website is a new short story by Chris Chibnall, which he says is the first of a series of treats which'll be posted there once or twice a week for the duration.  It's rather lovely, very Douglas Adams as so much of Doctor Who often is.


Military Wives Is The Latest Film To Head Online Early:
"With cinemas all but closed down (and those brand new social distancing regulations now in places) more and more movies are heading to our homes. Universal, Warner Bros., Disney and Sony have been proactive in moving films that have recently arrived on the big screen to video on demand and Lionsgate is following them with Military Wives."

Hottest front-room seats: the best theatre and dance to watch online:
"As the coronavirus causes venues to close their doors, an increase of live-streamed theatre is expected. Here are some of the shows online now or coming soon."

An Exceptionally Important Piece of Analysis About Blackadder Goes Forth:
"For a sitcom, Blackadder Goes Forth has inspired a great deal of scholarly debate over the years. In particular, the series’ portrayal of Field Marshal Haig as a callous murderer has become massively controversial. Is this simply devastatingly effective and truthful satire, or a fundamental misrepresentation of history which everyone has taken as fact?"

'You don’t want people judging your decor': hosting TV news at home:
"Presenters aware viewers will be scrutinising their bookshelves and wallpaper as well as their coverage."

Patrick Troughton at 100: A Television Actor:
"Patrick Troughton is perhaps best remembered for a role he played originally for just three years – Doctor Who. However, he had a successful career that lasted over four decades, encompassing radio, TV and film."

BBC entertains the nation in time of need:
"Announcing a range of programmes that will bring the nation together and provide great British entertainment during these difficult times." (folks, they're repeating Party Animals)

Some Shakespeare:

The BBC have also announced plans for their lockdown arts coverage which includes a shed load of theatre on BBC Four including RSC Shakespeare: "six recent titles from the Royal Shakespeare Company: Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing and Othello." If these are the most recent productions, that would include Christopher Eccleston's Macbeth. Mind blown.

Today's Album:

Lockdown Links #6

New on streaming services.

With a heavy heart I paused my Cinema Paradiso subscription last night having decided to stay at home, so the streaming services as well as my own collection are going to be a vital way of keeping me sane over the coming months. Sadly there's nothing especially good that's new on the subscription services today. The iPlayer's added Made in Degenham, Mindhorn and The Lady Vanishes (which was preceded on transmission by this Hitch themed episode of Talking Pictures).

Don't forget that Starz Play on Amazon currently has an offer of 99p a month for three months at the mo.  Ends at the end of the month.

Daily Dose of Doctor Who.


Self-Isolation Culture Special: Free Film, Music, Art, Essays, Books and More:
(Brilliant list from The Double Negative) "Stating the blindingly obvious, this isn’t doing much for anybody’s mental health. In fact, it’s serving to heighten anxiety and, in some cases, hysteria. We know this because we recognise it in ourselves. As such, we thought we’d pull together our favourite online entertainment, stories and stuff with which to occupy our minds, eyes and ears over the coming days, weeks and – who knows? – months."

After the Fire, a Chinatown Museum Sifts Through What Survived:
"Families are celebrating hundreds of boxes of heirlooms that were unloaded from the scorched interior of 70 Mulberry Street."

10 of the world’s best virtual museum and art gallery tours:

"The originals are out of reach for now, but you can still see world-class art – without the queues or ticket prices – with an online tour of these famous museums."

Radio 4 programming to inform, educate and entertain during the coming weeks:
"Radio 4 will broadcast new programming to inform listeners and analyse what is happening in the UK and around the globe, as well as feature highlights from the archive during this unprecedented time."

Some Shakespeare.

Shakespeare or bust:
"Busts of the Bard are big business. This Panorama footage of moulder Daniele Landi and his son is hypnotic - like a Pete and Dud sketch directed by Ingmar Bergman. They discuss the popularity of various ornamental busts of famous figures such as Shakespeare."

Today's Album.

Lockdown Links #5

New on the streaming services:

The BBC have ramped up their film broadcasts which means loads of new additions to the iPlayer, some available for a week, some for a month. In the past couple of days they've added the John Grisham adaptation A Time To Kill, World War II dramas A Town Like Alice and In Which We Serve, Olivier Assayas's spooky Personal Shopper starring Kristen Stewart, Junfeng Boo's exploration of the Singaporean prison system Apprentice and for fans of trying to work out which bits were shot where, Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool.

Daily Dose of Doctor Who:

Some Shakespeare.


'Think about the best-case scenario': how to manage coronavirus anxiety:
"We are not wired to tolerate uncertainty – and these are the most uncertain of times. But while increased anxiety is only natural, we can all adopt strategies to control it."

Netflix Scoops Up Paramount’s ‘The Lovebirds’ After Canceled Theatrical Release:
"Beleaguered by current events, Paramount Pictures' rom-com starring Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani will skip theaters and head straight to streaming."

(The Open Eye Gallery presents their most recent exhibition as an in browser VR experience which allows you to walk through the whole building and see all of the buildings)

Step-by-step guide: How to video call your family:
"If you are self-isolating at home, video-chatting can help you stay in touch with your friends and family."

'Fresh Air' Celebrates Broadway Legend Stephen Sondheim:
"Sondheim, who turns 90 on March 22, composed the music and lyrics for Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, Company and other shows. He spoke about his career in musical theater in this 2010 interview."

Hamlyns Porridge Oats: Scotland's for me:
"Usually, I buy generic own-brand sacks of porridge, but now oats seem to have become a must-have (that presumably people intend to eat dry with their bare hands when the end times come and milk deliveries have long ceased)."

Today's Album:

Lockdown Links #4

Daily Dose of Doctor Who.

Tonight saw a global simultaneous rewatch of The Day of the Doctor and as you can see Steven Moffat wrote a new scene to introduce the festivities:

New on the streaming services.

Bit of a lean day. Amazon Prime has Tucker: The Man and His Dream by friend of the MCU Francis Ford Coppola and MUBI offers Melville's Le Cercle Rouge.  In the should have been a theatrical bracket, Curzon has The Truth and Dogs Don't Wear Pants.

So that they don't leave left out, my retrospective Netflix pic would be Man on a Ledge which is exactly the film you would expect it to be until it isn't.  Has an absolutely barnstorming performance from Elizabeth Banks which reminds us what a multi-faceted artist she is.


How Film Noir Tried to Scare Women out of Working:
"In the period immediately following World War II, the femme fatale embodied a host of male anxieties about gender roles."

Streaming: our guide to Disney+ as it launches in the UK:
"Five months after its introduction in the US, and with serendipitous timing, Disney+ finally reaches the UK next week. But what to watch?"

The Austin Chronicle on Archive.org:
"The Austin Chronicle is an alternative weekly, tabloid-style newspaper published every Thursday in Austin, Texas, United States. The paper is distributed through free news-stands, often at local eateries or coffee houses frequented by its targeted demographic."

Tonight's Album:

Lockdown Links #3

New to the streaming services:

Today the grand experiment begins as Universal puts some of its very recent mid-tier theatrical releases on streaming services at premium prices. Which means its possible to watch Emma, The Hunt and The Invisible Man on Amazon Video right now at the not entirely unreasonable price of £15.99 (when you take into account how many people could be watching at the same time and how much you've saved on travel).

Doing my bit, I ordered The Invisible Man, which is mostly as good as everything says it is, with an extremely tense opening hour and the mood of a 90s psychological thriller for the rest.  Between this and Upgrade, Leigh Whannel is turning into a very interesting mainstream director marrying schlock with some thematic oomph.

From the back catalogue, Amazon Prime also has The Dead Zone, David Cronenberg's 80s sci-fi thriller with Chris-topher Walk-en as a psychic who can predict people's mortality through physical contact which probably offers an extra level of horror right now.  Elsewhere, MUBI has Park Chan-Wook's superb Lady Vengeance and Kanopy has added a ton of new additions to its Criterion Collection which now has 105 titles.

One final note, although the meat world version of the BFI's Flare festival has been cancelled, the BFI are running a version of it on their rental/subscription service with films which would have been at the festival along with LGBT+ films already on the service. That includes the utterly brilliant Anchor and Hope starring Oona Chaplin and Natalia Tena about a couple traverse the highway and byways of their relationship and London on a narrowboat (also available to rent on Amazon).

[I forgot mention Kanopy the other day in my streaming tips round up.  It's a streaming service accessible via most UK university library memberships.  Just visit this page and sign in with your university account.  UK public library membership is patchy but many US libraries are included.]

A Dose of Doctor Who:

The 8-Bit game Doctor Who and the Mines of Terror is available to play online at the archive.org and below if these embeds have worked correctly.  The C64 version first then the Amstrad CPC.  Here's a link to the BBC Micro version.


Elisabeth Moss on ‘Invisible Man’: Turn Off the Lights, Turn Up the Volume:
"The “Handmaid’s Tale” star talks about her hit horror movie, which quickly moved on-demand video amid the coronavirus outbreak."

Ethan Hawke Is Confident a Fourth ‘Before’ Movie Will Blow Up the Series’ Timeline:
""We enjoy working together and being together, but we have to make sure we have something to say," Hawke says about the next Jesse and Celine sequel."

Disney to Release 'Onward' Early on Digital Amid Coronavirus Pandemic (US only for now):
"With theaters now closed in the U.S. and much of the world, Disney will make current release Onward available in the home via digital beginning Friday.
The Pixar movie — voiced by Chris Pratt and Tom Holland — will be available to buy digitally and via Movies Anywhere for $19.99 starting at 5 p.m. PT. It will be made available early on Disney+ on April 3 in the U.S."

'You are a trophy': ex-beauty queens judge Misbehaviour:
"An author, actor and doctor look back on their experiences as beauty contestants. What does the film about the flour-bombing feminist protests at 1970’s Miss World get right, and wrong?"

Here's a Bunch of Free Games to Check Out While You're Isolating This Weekend:
"If you're finding yourself at home a lot recently, then you're not alone. While social isolation is probably the best thing for the nation right now, it's not the best thing for being a little bit bored. Although now might be a good time to make a dent in your backlog, it's also as good a time as any to try out something new - and what better way to do that than with a host of free games?"

Some People:
"Some people feel helpless & anxious."

Today's Album:

Lockdown Links #2

New on the streaming services:

Today's should have been a theatrical is director Kleber Mendonça Filho's all too timely Bacurau, about a titular village whose water supply has been cut off, disappears from satellite maps completely and under threat from an unknown enemy, braces itself for a brutal fight for survival (so basically Asda Smithdown Road right now).  It would have been a MUBI release so they've added it to their catalogue for a month but it's also available for £10 on Curzon Home Cinema.

The Post has turned up on Netflix, the impeccably directed story of the Pentagon Papers starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep [via]. If you want to chronologically double bill and puzzle on how Hanx grew up to look like Jason Robards, All The President's Men is available to rent at all the usual stockists.

The big upload to Amazon Prime UK is the pretty good Patriots Day, Peter Berg's account of the 2013 Boston bombing with Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Monaghan typically under-utilised in her usual role as medical practitioner wife who spends most of the film at the other end a phone call [via].

Today's oddball choice is Wise Girls (also on Amazon Prime UK) about three waitresses who work at a bar whose exclusive clientele are the mob, with Mira Sorvino, Melora Walters and her majesty Queen Maria Carey (note I haven't seen this but as god is my witness I shall) [via].

A Dose of Doctor Who:

Living Legend is a short Big Finish audio adventure featuring the Eighth Doctor and Charley which originally appeared on a Doctor Who Magazine cover CD back in 2003.

Big Finish have made it available for download for free on their website.

The TARDIS team stumbles into one of the saddest alien invasions ever recorded and simply seem to have some fun with it, like Mickey Bricks and the team from Hustle when they've spotted a really easy mark. With just half an hour to play about with there's never really a sense of jeopardy but that really this is about epic bantz and the bantz are indeed epic.

The Links:

Star Trek’s Most Totally Awkward Moments:
"or those not in the know, March 18 is National Awkward Moments Day, a chance to recognize and celebrate those awkward and embarrassing moments we all experience from time to time. In honor of the day, we at TrekMovie thought we’d remind you of some of our favorite awkward moments — as experienced by Star Trek characters, not by us personally."

The things that early adopters of the DVD format had to put up with:
"From widescreen issues to turning the disc over, 9 problems that early adopters of DVD did battle with."

Conservation Stories: Henri Rousseau’s The Sleeping Gypsy:
"Removing a century of treatments reveals the iconic painting anew."

17 Absolutely Heartbreaking Pictures Of Celebrities In Quarantine:
"I'm tearing up."

Film Academy Evaluating "All Aspects" of Coronavirus Impact For Oscars:
"The Academy faces a dilemma over Oscars eligibility as studios push back release dates or opt to debut theatrical films on VOD as cinemas go dark."

The Moviegoer: Our Critic Misses Sitting in the Dark With You:
"On the pleasures, now suspended, of going to the movies, even in the age of streaming."

Culture In Quarantine: bringing arts and culture into the home (BBC):
"In almost every aspect of our lives, the past week has been amongst the most testing in modern history. We are concerned for the health of our communities, and the businesses and services that makes our society so vibrant."

Virtual gallery-going via the BBC:
"... I thought I would explore how galleries and museums in Britain started to collaborate with the BBC, initially on radio and then, as early as November 1936, on television too."

7 Things To Do If You Can’t Leave The House:
"“Quarantine,” “isolation,” “social distancing”—there are a lot of names for the same problem. Millions of people are being forced to alter their schedules and stay indoors due to the spread of COVID 19 (coronavirus). If you’re stuck at home, you may be asking yourself exactly what you’re going to do all day… and the Internet Archive is here to help!"

The Stay At Home Festival:
"It is stating the obvious to say that strange days have got a hell of a lot stranger with many people facing confusion and anxiety during this COVID-19 pandemic. Artists have nowhere to play and audiences have nowhere to go to to be distracted. Venues are having to close, gigs are having to be cancelled and festivals abandoned. And so we, at The Cosmic Shambles Network, proudly present The Stay at Home Festival."

Some Shakespeare:

Shakespeare’s Sonnets: Abridged Beyond the Point of Usefulness:
"A brief introduction to all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets, in which each is reduced to a single couplet of iambic tetrameter. A great way to ruin Shakespeare for a young English major and an excellent passive-aggressive anniversary gift."

Today's Album:

Lockdown Links #1

A Dose of Doctor Who

Author Lance Parkin has made his sublime Eighth Doctor novel, The Dying Days available to download as a .pdf for twenty four hours.
Old readers will know it was the basis for a project during my MA dissertation (holy shit) fifteen years ago.

Today's film recommendation:

Fast Color is still on Netflix.  Gugu Mbatha-Raw as a woman with supernatural powers on the run from the government.  A laid back indie superhero film with that magic quality of being just short enough to leave you wanting more.


University of Liverpool Lunchtime concert series goes online:
"This is where we live stream a range of concert and events, you can find the listings on our Concerts and Events page. Sit back, relax and enjoy the show!"

The Wind in the Willows: The Music is free:
"As theatres are forced to close their doors, we're making The Wind in the Willows the Musical available to stream online for free. The film was recorded live at the London Palladium in 2017. Please note this is currently only available in the UK."

The Digital Concert Hall now free for everyone:
"The Philharmonie Berlin is closed until 19 April to help contain the coronavirus. But the orchestra will continue to play for you – in the Digital Concert Hall. The Berliner Philharmoniker invite you to visit their virtual concert hall free of charge." [via]

Celebrate Our Cinemas: Edgar Wright On The Importance Of Saving The Big Screen Experience:
"As cinemas temporarily close worldwide in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, filmmaker Edgar Wright writes exclusively for Empire about the importance of protecting the big-screen experience, and how we can help save our favourite cinemas."

Around the world from your sofa: British Library to put rare globes online:
"Examples include 1679 pocket globe and 1730 terrestrial globe showing California as an island."

The mystery of the Spectator Index, one of the internet’s biggest news sources:
"On Twitter it's bigger than the Times or Good Morning Britain, but this news source has no reporters, no fact-checkers – and until now, its owner has never been named. Who is behind The Spectator Index?"

Beyond Bargain Hunt: your definitive guide to the wonders of daytime TV:
"What’s the best thing on BBC One? Is there more to Two than interior design? Do the Loose Women really all hate each other? Our veteran TV-watcher has some stay-at-home tips."

Birds of Prey gets an early VOD release on March 24:
"Will Harley get to enjoy an egg sandwich? Soon you'll be able to find out in the comfort of your own home."

Tomorrow's World - Executive Toys:
"Returning to the subject of futuristic offices, in this item James Burke investigates new toys to eradicate boredom from the lives of lonely executives. Despite the presence of motorised drinks holders, balls on springs and many toys that utilise magnets, the view seems to be that life as a high-flying executive won't be all that enjoyable in tomorrow's world."

So you’re stuck at home. Here’s a guide to finding great art while in isolation:
"So you’re stuck at home. There’s a pandemic. What to do?"

Today's album:

Love in the Time of Covid-19.

Life You've probably already seen that post title elsewhere but it's been knocking around my head for a few days like some blogger earwig so I'm using it at the top there just get it out of my system. So here we all are. Everything's closed and most of us are stuck at home.  I've been shifted to home-working which is going to be strange when my weekly shift pattern starts but there'll still be plenty to getting on with.

Anyway, in an attempt to keep myself a little bit busy and try and do something to contribute to keeping us all sane, I've decided to offer something akin to Christmas Links for the duration. Some of it will about about the lockdown and the reasons for the lockdown and the rest will be the usual fair you'd expect from a link blog.  Might not be every day, but I'll try my best and see what happens.  The first post will pop up in an hour or so.  Take care.

Making the Most of the Streaming Services.

Film Now that the country is entering lock down and London is starting to resemble the opening episode of Doctor Who's Invasion of the Dinosaurs, it's becoming mighty clear that we're all going to be clinging to our usual comfortainment which probably includes films. 

Plenty of us are subscribed to one or two streaming services and I've been wondering just how widespread some of the "hacks" I've picked up over the years are.  So I thought I'd put them up here just in case.  Note the following is with the UK in mind but there tend to be versions of these things abroad too.

Here's everything off the top of my head right now.  If there's anything else, expect a series of follow-up posts.

Just Watch

Just Watch is a search engine for streaming services so that you can find out where a film is available and at what price or if it's on a subscription service. 

The site is available worldwide and covers all of the major and some of the minor services including Netflix, Amazon, NowTV, iPlayer (and the other terrestrials), Disney+ and Mubi.  Here's the page for When Harry Met Sally.

But you can also filter by service which means you can get a preview of what's available before signing up.  Here's Disney+.  Here's Shudder.  There are similar services available, but I've found Just Watch to be the most user friendly.

New On ...

Streaming services are tragically bobbins at letting its users know what films have been added to their catalogue each day.  Netflix has added a preview area but that doesn't over everything.

Thanks be to @maft who has worked some magic on various API and produced websites and Twitter feeds which update daily with the whatever has been added to Amazon Prime, Netflix and NowTV.

Here's a link to the Netflix page.

Here is a link to NowTV.

Amazon Prime's a different basin of sea monkeys.  Unlike other services as well as licensed material it also allows some user uploads, so a lot of rubbish is added each day.  Maft has coded around that to get rid of most of the shite, but has created two pages just in case.

The gold should be here.

The junk should be here.

But as you can see, depending on how the material is added to Amazon's database it could end up on either of them.  Of the three, Amazon's is always the more interesting with some really oddball documentaries and archival material.

Finally, you can also look at the various services by year.  The 1993 page on Netflix is incredible.


Vodzilla's coming soon pages offer a preview of what's due to be uploaded the following month on the main services.  Sometimes its a bit threadbare and doesn't cover everything, but it's a useful indicator in case there's something which you have on your dvd-by-post list and would prefer to stream instead.


When it's working, MUBI has a live stream page which runs the films which are currently in their catalogue randomly throughout the day, if you're in the mood to experiment.  There isn't a schedule so you may end up watching something which is half way through though.

If you're staff or student at a university or college, you can also get MUBI for free.

Visit https://mubi.com/filmstudent or https://mubi.com/filmteacher, enter your details and you should get an account with a four or five year expiry date.

Film Films From Reputable Sources

Bookmark those genre pages, guys.  All of these also have apps on most if not all streaming sticks and smart TVs.

BBC iPlayer - this page sorts the items with latest broadcasts first, most of which are available for between a week or month.  Scroll further down and there's a few Sony Pictures films from the turn of the century which have a much longer expiry period, should you want to revisit the AJ Tomb Raiders.

All4 - generally stuff which has been recently broadcast which can include material which hasn't received a UK theatrical release.

My5 - an unmitigated shitshow to be honest with, thanks to tie-up with PlutoTV some full blooded theatrical releases mixed with TV movies and other dross.  Incredibly this currently include's Hal Hartley's Fay Grimm, which is so rare, it's barely seen the outside of the film festival circuit.

Google Play - A bit empty at the moment, but worth keeping an eye on.

BFI Player - a massive collection of archival material from the BFI, far too much to even consider describing here, from silents, shorts to feature films.  Most of it has to be searched but you could keep an eye on the collection pages.  Here's one for musicals.  This Google search provides a haphazard list of the others.

National Film Board of Canada - see above but from the Canadian film industry.  The website has recently updated and is much more user friendly.  Does include plenty of feature films, but some are only available in Canada.

Some Doctor Who novel recommendations.

Books Now that we're all increasingly in lock down waiting to see which way the apocalypse goes, I thought I'd post a few lists of recommendations for things to keep you company. Although some of us introverts have been training all our lives for this, it's not difficult to foresee some of us climbing the walls, so I hope this offers you some comfort. At least you're at home.

Anyway, first up, a list of suggestions for brilliant Doctor Who novels, one per trad incarnation. The should all be available on Kindle to save you going to the shops. Some of them are just a couple of pounds at the moment.

1: The Witch Hunters - Steve Lyons

2: The Wheel of Ice - Stephen Baxter

3: Last of the Gaderene - Mark Gattis

4: The Death Pit - A L Kennedy

5: Sands of Time - Justin Richards
(NB: I haven't read this.  But I haven't read any fifth Doctor MDA or PDAs and this is definitely available)

6: Players - Terrance Dicks

7: The Hollow Men - Keith Topping and Martin Day

8: The Gallifrey Chronicles - Lance Parkin

War: Engines of War - George Mann

9: The Monsters Inside - Steve Cole

10: Prisoner of the Daleks - Trevor Baxendale

11: Touched by an Angel - Jonathan Morris

12: Big Bang Generation - Gary Russell

13: At Childhood’s End - Sophie Aldred

If a few of those are from the Monsters series rerelease, it's because most of the 90s novels aren't available digitally.  But fortunately what has been republished is the crème de la crème.  If only more of this old stuff was still in circulation.