Big Brother There's something just a bit wrong about the new housemate isn't there. Anyone out there think that she isn't a plant or something else. Digital Spy are already on the case. The general concensous seems to be that they have seen her before, that she's too confident and that she's either been on Gladiators, Soapstars or Heartbeat. Sky has the 'cast' photo and that doesn't seem to work either. She's wrong in the same way that the Willow in the bootleg Buffy pilot is wrong. If Jon was in there he would have worked it out by now. Interesting.
Science News in Australia. The days are getting longer. I love that Mr Cauchi actually had to research and write this article.
TV I was startled to see Laura Innes name as director on a recent episode of e.r., partly because she's an actor on the show, but on reflection because she's a woman. Watching as much US tv over the years that I have I tend to take note of the credits and it's always rankled with me that we don't see that many non-male names listed as directing. I remember Gates McFadden directed a poor episode of the The Next Generation once, but since then nothing. Someone has noticed:
The study, which examined the hiring practices of the top 40 TV series airing on the Big Four broadcast networks in the 2002-03 season, revealed that for a third consecutive year, Caucasian male directors helmed more than 80% of the episodes of top comedy and drama series airing on ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC.

"Once again, the producers and networks have failed to fulfill their contractual good-faith obligation to hire more women and minority directors," DGA president Martha Coolidge said. "We are prepared to use all available resources at our disposal to change this unacceptable situation and are exploring all options to ensure that the good-faith effort to increase diversity in hiring practices called for under the (DGA) basic agreement is demonstrated through action, not words."
The statisitcs listed in the article are stunning example of how the white male still holds sway throughout the world, that somehow they're more creative. I hope the situation is more balanced in the UK, but I've a feeling it probably isn't.
Film It's that time again. Episode III will apparently be called An Empire Divided, which tonally's very similar to A New Hope, but apparently came via a casting sheet to Ain't It Cool News. I'm assuming working title if anything.
Life Weblogs are a menace. I'm reading about people in other countries out doing amazing things in the evening, and here I am in a city where the options feel a bit limited. Is it so wrong that I'd actually want to see people somewhere which doesn't have a bar and pumps? Is it so wrong that I would like to do is go to a coffee shop after work and spend a few hours reading and getting caffeinated in nice surrounds. But it's as though no one wants to drink coffee after 6 o'clock as everywhere closes. Is it indeed so wrong that I might want to visit a museum in the evening for example, somewhere I can just stroll in, unplanned and be cultural. If these things are possible elsewhere, why not here?
The Internet For some reason this feels very good. The Polynesian island of Niue has given free Wi-Fi access to all of its citizens. The chances of this happening in the UK are very slim (they'll charge for anything over here) but it's good to know that just a little part of the world is connected.
Theatre Very long term readers (both of you) will remember all the bad reviews I used to post. But when I started writing them myself, it sort of became a bit redundant. But every now and then I like to offer something I've picked up, and this joy from the local paper tonight is too good not to break copywrite law for:
"WHEN there are more empty seats in the theatre after the interval than there were before, you know something is going horribly wrong. When a steady stream of people get up to leave during the second half and those left begin to heckle you really have a problem. One woman sitting two rows in front of me at last night's 99 Heyworth Street noisily got up to leave with over an hour left to go, pointedly telling her husband to hurry up. Another woman complaining to staff in the foyer afterwards said the evening had been. "The most painful three hours of my life."

To be honest, I have to agree. John and Tony Bryan's musical, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, centres on twins Elizabeth and Sheila and their unruly Irish family growing up in post-war Liverpool. Sheila, played by Maureen Ann Bryan, is the homely one while Liz (Paula Bell) struggles to break out of the family' pickling business and move up in the world. For no particular reason, John Bryan reveals the key plot turn (Sheila's death from TB) in the opening five minutes. Each member of the family is introduced to us at Sheila's funeral by the priest telling an altar boy how she died, then three hours of tedium ensue. Sheila meets Lawrie in the Grafton and they fall in love - but not so deeply she feels able to share her illness with him.. Hardly surprising, as played by Steve Swindelli, the man was more wooden than the stage he was Oil.

He barely managed a facial reaction to the news of Sheila's death. But while Swindelli can hit a note, he was incapable of expressing any voca! emotion in his big (but bizarre) love song with Sheila called A Big Ship on The Mersey (no, I'm not kidding). Many long scenes, some blatantly written just to fit in another song, have no dramatic purpose. .The main problem, however, was the technical production. The microphones ranged from not working at all, to making a swishing noise every time somebody moved, to deafening you with loud squeaks. It spoilt all the big songs and left the audience struggling to hear or with their fingers in their ears. One heckler shouted: "We can't hear you", raising uncomfortable laughter during Sheila's supposedly tear-jerking death scene. And, despite very limited prop and backdrop demands, each scene change lasted an agonisingly long time. Refunds were being demanded."
Oh the humanity ...
Film The Announcement was like a life raft filled with jewels in the endless brown sea that is BBC Three. Written and staring Morweena Banks (who made her name on that formerly luckless channel Five), this was The Big Chill directed by Robert Altman thru the Dogme 95 aesthetic. A group of life long friends gather in a spacious house in Hammersmith for a party only to be told that two of their number, Banks and Toby Stephens (in a more sedate mode that he demonstrated in the latest Bond film) have secretly been married. As the bombshell sinks in the implications on the lives of the other couples and singles in attendance begin to unravel over the twelve hours we are with them.

The cast was filled with recognizable faces featuring amongst others Fay Ripley, Todd Hollander, Gordon Kennedy, David Baddiel and Mark Addy. As with Altman they’re cast for their familiarity. None are really playing characters too far from what we usually see them in, but this allows Banks script to hit the round running. But the real joy is chemistry. In the opening scene as all of the character crowd around the table in the tiny kitchen, drinking and smoking, there is a chemistry and familiarity which is missing too many times in other dramas.

But most impressively within the few minutes we have with these characters it’s very easy to care for them. Partly this has much to do with direction from Troy Miller (who’s current release is Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd – what are you doing mate?) and the raw camera work of Scott Marshall which dumped the viewer in he middle of everything. But cleverly every relationship type features and the viewer finds someone in there to sympathise with. And unlike some British relationship films it isn’t afraid to make them look like utter wankers some very bad things are said throughout, but they’re only taken seriously within the context of the conversations – they don’t become major plot points. There are a couple of slightly unbelievable moments (Baddiel can act! Todd Hollander not playing camp! That décor!) there were some excellent bits and pieces the even things out. Especially nice to see a mature handing of lesbianism for a change without any hint of witchcraft).

The line between television drama and film is blurred even more here. Although the piece was previewed as tv, the titles, the credits and the fact that it won 'Best International Feature' at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival in September 2002 advises that it’s the latter and meant for theatrical release. There isn’t anything particular cinematic here though – it resembles in some respects the tidy suburbia of Hearts and Bones, the BBC’s Cold Feet rival of a few years ago. But the fact that it uses high end Digital Video (for the time – this was made in 2001) places it safely in the vanguard of being somewhere in between.

This is quality drama, intelligent, witty and interesting, but hardly sold at all, easily missable and lost on a digital channel (see also The Falklands War and Copenhagen). It’s another unfortunate example of the BBC tossing something magical into the pit of despair.
Art Spent my lunch hour today in the company of Tate Liverpool and more particularly the Janet Cardiff installation Forty Part Motet. It’s described in the programme …
“Forty Part Motet 2001 is based on a choral work by the sixteenth century composer Thomas Tallis. Cardiff has replaced each singer with an audio speaker and the audience passes through the work, listening to different voices and harmonies as they progress. The intimate relationship between the disembodied voices and the viewer creates a highly charged emotional atmosphere that is experienced in a very public way.”
In reality this is Dolby Digital 40.0, and has the effect of standing in the centre of a group of singers as they perform. The difference here being that you can approach and singer/speaker and hear a single voice and how it fits within the complicated harmonies of the whole. It’s an example of what I feel is the best kind of art – it’s about the interaction between the viewer and the piece itself. While I’m sure the selection of equipment and speakers were important, in this case the object lacks form – it’s the sound and how it’s presented and how the listener perceives it. But equally it couldn’t be ‘displayed’ anywhere other than in the sometimes sterile environment of an art gallery because then it would be encroached upon by other forces. Here it had a quite dignity and was magnificent.
Was going to be posted on 25th June 2003 but I gave it to Metafilter first instead ...
Life Blogger is down for the ‘improvements’ tonight so I’m doing a Salam Pax and blogging in Word. Hopefully I won’t have to email someone in New York to get my voice heard. Currently existing through my least favourite part of the year, the hot period. I’m not a sunny personality, I’m more than a bit temperate. And I can exist in some pretty cold temperatures without a coat, but today as I tried to drag my bones about town, sol beating down on me I felt like I was going to melt away and seep through the cracks in the pavement. Bring back the rain.
Was going to be posted on 25th June 2003 but instead ...
That Day Happy Birthday Caro.
Life Actually I was talking to Caro via ICQ the other night and as usual had a revelation amongst the text. Apropos of various things she asked me what my ideal woman would be. I said:
”someone with a personality. not a sheep, someone who speaks her mind. unpredictable but rational. willing to go out on a limb, be spontaneous, but responsible. someone interested in the world, who like me wants to discover the possibilites and how everything works. someone funny without being purile, spritual without banging on about religion all the time. who doesn't mind making an idiot of themselves if the outcome is pure.“
I noticed that I had not actually gone for the usual male reflex of given a visual description. Everything in there is about personality. I suppose I was thinking about people I’d met or fallen for in the past and listing the qualities they share. But none of them were visually the same. For me it seems that it’s about a state of being rather anything else, which means I have to get to know a person a bit before I start thinking about them, which really does explain a lot. Who needs psychologists when you’ve got good friends online?
Music I recommended Siobhan Donaghy’s new single Overrated last week, and it’s out today and if you were a fan of Sugababes Mark One this is a good place to go. I’m put my foot in again, because as is vogue there are two versions and the second lacks a photo on the cover and instead carries the following writing in autumnal colours on a black background:
”this is the second cd format for the Siobhan donaghy single ‘overrated’. It’s got 3 tracks on it which are (1) overrated radio edit (2) thus far and also (3) the overrated video.”
It makes a real change for a record company to be trying something new with the format other than sticking a similar photo on both, or the same one in different colours. The downside is that unless it appears with the first version it could look at little bit anonymous and uninviting, so we’ll see.

TV I was going to write a lengthy review of State of Play which finished last night, then I read Libby Brooks words in the paper this morning and she said everything I wanted to so I didn't see the point:
"Aside from the perfect plotting and effortless performances, State of Play succeeded in delivering that most hard-won of televisual feats - conveying a humanity that wraps itself around the viewer and reveals something greater than the sum of its parts. The confrontation between Cal and Anne, as the realisation of Stephen's duplicity dawned, was extraordinary. The mess of sexual entanglement, the vain hope that loving someone will be enough, was exposed in all its ugly and banal reality. It is so seldom that you watch a piece of television that moves you deeply and doesn't leave you feeling manipulated. Truthful, humane and unashamedly political, State of Play told us something important about our own lives and loves, and about the country we live in."
Roll on series two and the DVD release. Watching 24 afterwards felt like a very empty experience...
Big Brother Busy weekend. At first I thought the eviction of Jon was either a tragedy, a fix, or both. Now as I watch him appearing on RI:SE and Big Brother’s Little Brother, I realized that might not be such a bad thing. Even a studio setting hasn’t dimmed his lights and while Federico, his fellow evictee and current partner in crime has gone strangely quite Jon is striding through it all with great aplomb. Just on RI:SE this morning, he managed to fit in a sniffing of Kate Lawler’s legs and the classic “I hate all tabloid newspapers. The writers are utterly stupid. They offered me £3000 for my life story, it’s worth more than that.” On BBLB tonight he said some amusingly insulting things about most of the house mates (“Gos has no personality” “Will you be seeing him again?” O’Leary asked, “Well I’m going to his restaurant.” etc) and instantly get the measure of new housemate Gae who he noted had already taken charge.

And what about the new housemate? What about that whole thing? When The Sun broke the story a few days ago, no one believed it, coming from a tabloid. And when Nush was left behind by Cameron when he had to choose who wouldn’t get the reward and didn’t get whisked away on Saturday night, it looked like it was all an other of those stories (similar to the one about Anouska or Nasty Nick entering the house). Then the Big Brother Africa pre-empted the other night and posted the story on their website the other night, it looked like it was genuinely happening, and it’s utterly surreal. I love that rather than winning a task, Cameron only got to go because he was the one who could be bothered to get off his arse and go the diary room when called. Although the theories abounded as to why he wasn’t there, the rest of the housemates got on with their little lives. I suspect if Jon had been there, he would have turned detective or gone and sat in the Diary room until some told him what had happened to the Scotsman.

Gae is the perfect choice, tall and manly, it took Steph about ten seconds to forget Cameron and dangle her arms around him. Tania (unsurprisingly) was more annoyed that she didn’t get to go to South Africa than interested in the new man. The big surprise was Gos who suddenly turned into Mr. Communication. But I want to know what’s been happening to Cameron. That odd photo on BBLB hardly covers it. But E4 are running Big Brother Africa from tomorrow night so we’ll see. I was slightly concerned that he decided to take his bible with him. I’m sure The Guardian will be running a column shortly which compares him to colonialist missionary.
Film Having not actually seen any blaxploitation films (yet) I came to the Shaft remake cold. I have a general idea of the style of the film making and to be honest this feels like a halfway job – an attempt to bring the genre into the late nineties but within a Hollywood sensibility, with more that hint of Elmore Leonard. It isn’t something I could imagine watching more than once, but it’s entertaining enough. But I’m of the school of thought that if you want to give your film any quality at all you need to have Samuel L Jackson in there, and as is the case in this film, having him swearing and shooting people gratuitously.

I’m at a loss to explain the plot, but let’s have a go. I think it’s about a rich white racist killing a rich black man and trying to get away with it. It’s very difficult to tell because it’s lost in middle of scene after scene of the most insane posturing. Shaft walks into a room, a café for example, threatens a few people, shouts a lot, shoots them if he needs to and leaves. Realistically this is the Harry Potter of the genre, taking a couple of hours to tell a story which could be resolved satisfactorily in twenty minutes. But there are a lot of quite funny scene, some good action sequences and is just about OK if you don’t want to think too much. There will twelve year old who’ll think this is the best film they’ve ever seen. Well this and 8 Mile.
Film I’ve written before about my utter bemusement at the inability of the sparky Monica Potter to progress her career. A seriously underrated actress, given the right material she can be every bit sparky and charismatic as Sandra Bullock. She’s handicapped somewhat by looking like a blonde Julia Roberts, so I suppose for a casting director to choose her could look like they couldn’t get the pretty woman. I really enjoy her work and it would be nice to see her in something of greater substance some time soon (although I fear her finest hour will still be Martha, Meet Frank, Daniel and Lawrence as I’m With Lucy looks to be skipping a British release altogether despite the presence of John Hannah).

Part of her problem is appearing clunkers like Along Came A Spider in which she plays the partner of Morgan Freeman as he investigates the kidnapping of a young girl. The story and particularly the ending is utter hogwash, making no sense in relation to the rest of the film and offering no kind of satisfying conclusion to the story. Freeman’s character is a photocopy of the man he played in Seven, an injured old soul looking for redemption. That the film is at all watchable is mostly down to his presence as he utters every word with such a great sense of importance and humour it’s impossible not to believe him. But Potter is stuck in a role which is at time fragmentary and difficult to pin down. As the film progresses it’s obvious she’s trying her best, but like an actor in 24 she’s having to play each moment as it comes, and as becomes clear isn’t given a good enough script to cover all of the angles she’s asked to. But at least it’s better than Patch Bloody Adams.