Art Suw Charman visits Olafur Eliasson's Weather Project in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern:
"Stare for long enough and you get the distinct feeling that you are in actual fact lying on the ceiling, looking down on a gallery of tourists below. You watch them move: groups coming in and reacting as you did only moments ago; people standing with their arms folded, unimpressed; one small oasis of pink t-shirtedness wending his way though the crowds, standing out like an albino. You're floating, above the thin clouds, unconnected to your body."
Jealous? Me?
TV The fifth season of Angel to be the last. Very sad news (proportions accepted). Still five seasons isn't a bad run. But judging by the reactions, no one seems to be inclined to try and take the show to another network ala UPN. Will Joss be interested in creating another show within the Buffy universe (possible titles Spike!, Willow Patterns or Faith in the Future which may well have been used) or head off to pastures new?
Radio It's been recorded. A lengthy interview with Dirk Maggs, the producer of the Tertiary Phase of The HitchHiker's Guide To The Galaxy opens the lid on what we can expect the news series to sound like:
"It's kind of like an update. Peter Jones actually begins our first episode, and there's a rerun gag that HHGG is being updated. You suddenly have Bill Franklyn break in and there's a tennis effect back and forth as they tell the story so far. Then it settles down to be Bill for the rest of the series. Douglas liked what I was doing on the radio, and always said he wanted HHGG to sound like a rock album in terms of being very richly mixed and produced in layers. I think here as you get into the first episode you realise it's got more layers, because that's the style Douglas wanted it to move in and that fits in with what I do."
Elsewhere, Maggs suggests that he might try and get Sandra Dickenson to play the alternative Trilliam in their version of Mostly Harmless. That should be interesting...
That Day It's amazing how a shower can wash away so many layers of badness. My fever broke last night and now I've just got the sniffles. The significance of the day hasn't escaped me I'm just sort of numb to it. I've decided that as well as staying in on purpose tonight and being boring I'm going to watch a film which can accurately capture how I'm feeling about the day. Tonights viewing therefore will be Apocalypse Now Redux. "Siagon. Shit...."
Classics Some web pages have a habit of invoking waves of nostalgia. I remember when I was first exposed to the web at University, one of the first webpages I looked at was David Hasselhoff is the AntiChrist, and it's still funny now. Although now I come to think about it, didn't it used to be about the late Bill Bixby?
Books Rough Guide to the Universe feels like the book Douglas Adams was actually thinking about when he was lying in that field in France. It even describes itself as "a practical resource for anyone who has ever looked in awe at the stars on a cloudless night." Yes but can it tell you how to get a decent signal from a sub-ether radio?
Life So I've got another cold, and this one's particularly biting. For some reason it feels routine. I know I'm not going to be too hungry for anything complicated, I'm going to feel tired no matter how much sleep I get and I won't end up wanting to blog, disappointing my two readers. Normal service will resume when the thoughts in my head can be communicated properly by my fingers.
Wars At the risk of turning this blog into Empire magazine, we find that the first of what is sure to be many DVD releases of Star Wars is coming in September in much the same format as the Indiana Jones trilogy last year. These will be the 1997 special editions not the originals and there isn't any word as to whether they'll feature fixed up CGI (a less phony Jabba in the meet Han scene) or if Greedo will still be shooting first. I suspect the next release'll be around in 2007 ...
Film And just to prove that it's not actually romantic comedies I'm a phobic of (just poor editing) I just swore loudly when I found out that one of my all time favourites Before Sunrise has developed a sequel, Before Sunset which has opened at the Berlin Film Festival. I love it when a film appears from nowhere and suddenly gets you very excited. Here is a spoiler filled review and a short interview.
Film When Love Actually appeared on Film 2003, Jonathan Ross refused to review it. After some clips of the film and an interview with writer/director Richard Curtis he said something about it being about Christmas and that being a good thing as though sticking Christmas into any film automatically makes it exempt from the reviewing process, which is lucky for Santa Claus versus The Martians. Which is a snide remark, because it's the kind of film which divides those of us who just go the pictures to have a good time and not think about what they're watching and those of us who go, have a good time but also have a niggling suspicion that what they've just seen just simply wasn't as good as it could be.

And it's all in the editing. It's a dogs dinner. In the opening twenty minutes a mass of stories are introduced, many characters are met and in some cases they disappear for half an hour and in one case forty minutes. In pacing terms its fatal, because on too many other occasions a story is cut away from just as they're becoming interesting and others are not given time to breath. The reason for some of this is before final cut whole plotlines were excised. One featured Anne Dinnerladies Reid and Frances Rising Damp de la Tour as lovers. Another contained David The Deal Morrissey. Obviously because of the nature of film with the interlocking relationships the reduction of these scenes meant that the linking shots and scenes also had to be taken out, so moments which fall flat here could have meant some other thing in the longer cut. Unlike every other reviewer what I'm actually saying is this could have been a better film if Curtis had been bold and kept everything in. For all we know some of the plotlines which aren't quite resolved were in this longer cut.

Which is a shame because I absolutely want to say that I absolutely loved this film. The perfect feel good Christmas movie to be enjoyed for years to come. I laughed all the way through and in the end I left the cinema grinning from ear to ear. Some of the performances are utterly sweet and the stories being told totally charming. But the overall impression is of something missing, words not said, like a conversation in a club were the actual point you're trying to make is lost over the din of the music. Although there are many scenes in which magic does happen, they're individual joys. But because there are essentially four or five romantic comedies edited together which all have to climax we have to sit through as many endings all of which work, all of which are impressive (in their own way) but lessen each other's impact to a degree.

But the question is, will the general audience care, or is it just cine-litates and film reviewers who note these things and get irritated and therefore is that a reason to give the film the average reviews its been getting. Does it matter? Well, I think it does. We're talking about the craft of film making and its perpetuation. There was enough talent on either side of the camera from the film's inception to note these inconcistencies so that when the thing is looked at by people who care about how it's made they won't be wondering what they missed or is missing. After all there no longer seems to be an issue with how long a film can be, so long as its good...
Film During the 1980s, there was always trepidation surrounding the release of board games and especially computer games based upon popular films of the time - who can forget the classic that was Back to the Future. Almost as a kind of revenge, film-makers during the nineties have taken extremely popular games and turned them into unwatchable nonsense. Dungeons and Dragons was one of the most long awaited adaptations, and perhaps because of the length of its gestation period, the finished film could never live up to some of the fans expectations. It's a pity though that it fails to live up to any expectations.

Rather than keeping with the ready made plot contained in the classic D&D cartoon series, the film makers have attempted to create a status quo akin to a group of friends playing the game. Indeed, the dialogue at times mimics the creativity of a bunch of game players during a post-pub dungeon hop. For the first half hour of the film, it almost becomes expected that the scene would dissolve into a group of people in home made costumes gathered around a table (a feeling which returns at the film's coda). Instead, sense of disbelief is stretched to its limit as a series of characters without pasts are dragged through the hero's journey, the wind whistling through the pages of Joseph Campbell 'The Hero with a Thousand Faces' as it sits on the table next the writer's keyboard.

It's a brave move to assume that the audience understands the rules of fantasy as a genre - but despite first glances, it can be as sophisticated or simple as the writer wishes. Here, too much understanding is expected of the viewer. The importance of the staffs is never full explained and neither is how they control the dragons. The important fact (dramatically) that a mage cannot use magic unless she has something to work with is ignored somewhere as well, so for much of the film we wonder why our friends keep getting captured. The Arthurian abilities of Ridley also seem far fetched. Yes, we know he's special, but could you show us how? These are small things, but as they niggle away at us whilst we watch they draw us out of the story.

Perhaps the most likable parts of the film are in the scenes were the actors are not running around and shouting at each other. Justin Whalin shows the charisma of a young Dennis Quaid; Marlon Wayans is more likable here than in Scary Movie although he could do with trying to be himself and not Eddie Murphy; Zoe McLellan is startling touching as the love interest and could do well in a none genre piece. Richard O'Brien must have been laughed himself stupid at getting to play being keeper of maze again in a fight to the death edition of The Crystal Maze. And Tom. Dear Tom Baker - who despite his elfin ears managed to produce on the few truly human performances. is said some of the actors don't do quite as well - Thora Birch looks embarrassed to be their in role probably filmed before American Beauty; Jeremy Irons decides that if you can't see the set, its best shout a lot and grimace; Kristen Wilson looks disappointed that she didn't get to be Storm in X-Men, but her role seems to have been curtailed to simple pronouncements.

But what of the special effects? In order to bring a world to life there has to be some consistency in the magic brought to bear in creating that world. Unfortunately, there is a feeling that a number of different SFX houses were at work, and they all thought they were working on different films. The magic effects are superb, as good as anything seem in The Matrix and its friends. But its in the imagery of the place, the castles, the landscapes, the dragons, that things become unstuck. Anyone whose played the old PC classic Myst will be familiar with the standard of rendering. Its almost as though a game was in preparation and the graphics were used here. In a feature film this isn't enough. Dragonheart proved the sophistication which can be achieved in the imagining of mythic creatures, but the effects here fall short of expectation. We should believe in the world, not sit and marvel at how sophisticated the rendering is - for that I'll go see Toy Story or Shrek.

So overall, a very disappointing experience like many adaptations. Too simplistic for fans, too irrelevant to the average punter, New Line may have made a mistake releasing the film as a curtain raiser to Lord of the Rings. It's a bit like Lucasfilm offering up Battlefield Earth. If your average cinema goer thinks that this is the best fantasy has to offer, you can imagine the rest of that series going direct to video.

[I thought I'd post this old review in hindsight. Luckily the average punter didn't think that Lord of the Rings would be anything like this and Peter Jackson wasn't too pissed that his own studio tried to take the wind out of this sales. Looking back it might have been more interesting if they'd done a straight adaptation of the cartoon series...]
Technology Magic wheels banned from the magic kingdom:
"Disney World doesn't allow visitors, even those with disabilities like Exum, to use the self-balancing transportation machines. The policy has angered some Segway owners with disabilities and surprised others since the Disney parks have a reputation for accommodating the disabled. They say even some Disney employees use Segways, which are becoming increasingly popular with people who otherwise would have to use wheelchairs."
I hadn't thought of this niche for the wheeled warrior and I certainly didn't think there would be an issue about their use in a theme park. After all, they are allowing visitors to see more of the park which is good thing.
Life For some reason I'm feeling snoozier than usual. I actually think the grind of the winter is getting to me, as though some snug hibernation is needed that my bed simply isn't capable of. I keep thinking about when I was at school, and how on a couple of occasions my mum would only realise I was ill when she'd already rushed my uniform on and I was about to step out of the door. Within minutes I'd be snuggly back under the covers with a cup of tea. This morning as I stepped through the front door I thought about doing this again for old times sake.
TV Freeview? Not any more... [Incidentally, normal service will resume once I've on the other side of the six hours that are Angels in America.]
Books The central idea of Ben Thompson's book Sunshine on Putty: The Golden Age of Comedy from Vic Reeves to The Office is that a period between the early nineties through to the low 00s was a new age in which comedy clambered through a renaissance which spoke of it's age more than any other media, and that we never had it so good. Initially, its difficult to disagree -- there was a hell of a lot good comedy in that period which is open for appraisal and re-appraisal. The problem is that Thompson tells a very judgemental story which makes the book very difficult to read in places.

The problem is that in choosing Vic Reeves as a gallows to hang this narrative about humour from Thomspon immediately alienates anyone who doesn't consider Reeve's comedy to be all that epoch making. Time and again in the book the writer makes grandiose claims about how everything in the nineties is a theoretic reaction to something Reeves has done, even in chapters which frankly have nothing to do with him. It its barmiest a sketch from The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer At Home with Slade is suggested to be a template for The Osbournes as though the producers had seen that rather cultish show and thought 'We should do that for real one day which someone like Ozzy Osbourne. That Vic Reeves is a genius!' While other shows merit only a line here and there, even Reeves' Saturday night gameshow Families At War merits a whole chapter. If you're a fan of Jim you'll probably love it. Everyone else is likely to wonder what the fuss was about.

Amongst all of this hero worship there are some very good individual chapters. The sections regarding the internal politics surround Armando Ianucci productions including The Day Today are well consider and enlightening. We learn for example that the contributions Stewart Lee and Richard Herring made to the radio version of that show On The Hour were edited out of the CD release because the pair and refused the deal he had offered them to take part in the TV version. We learn that pair might also have been responsible for the creation of Steve Coogan's alter ego Alan Partridge having written the first sketch all those years ago. The chapters considering Harry Hill and The League of Gentleman have also made me want to go and have a look at their work again.

But time and again irritations creep in which disrupt the flow of the book. Essentially anything Thompson doesn't like is given short shrift or ignored altogether. So The Book Group becomes a snide remark in a section about Black Books; People like Us gets a paragraph in the centre of the chapter about The Office and although they began in the late eighties neither Have I Got News For You or Red Dwarf are deemed important enough even though it spourned a hundred other comedy panel games as showcases for most of the comedians listed elsewhere (he seems to have forgotten that Reeves' Shooting Stars was seen at the time as a surreal twist on this existing format). And god forbid if your name is David Baddiel or you're one of his friends. Although the writer gives due reverence to the In Pieces tour for Baddiel and Newman 1, for all we can tell Baddiel is the antichrist of comedy just because he's written a few novels and appeared on judging panels.

There is also an extraordinary number of footnotes (272) which with careful rewriting could have been incorporated into the main body of the text; as they stand they the pages cluttered and difficlt to read as the eyes has to constantly jump back and forth from the main text. In many cases the information provided here might have coloured the text more directly and made the book overal easier to read.

There are also niggling factual errors; apparently in 2002 I'm Alan Partridge had its third season (so what happened to season two?); Grace Under Fire went out on BBC Two not Channel 4; he confuses Gotcha Oscars and Ntv from Noel's House Party; he says the American version of One Foot In The Grave never happened -- it was renamed Cosby, ran for four seasons and was featured in a BBC One documentary late last year. Nitpickery? Perhaps, but in a book which stakes a claim as being so well researched it makes the reader wonder the accuracy of other chapters which include information which isn't quite so knowable.

Which is a shame, because as I said in places it's a very enjoyable read, and certainly worth looking at for anyone with an interest in this area of comedy. But I'm sure that a great and more expansive book is still to be written which will encompass everyone's tastes from the era and not just those of the writer.


1. I'm doing this to show how irritating those footnotes are. If Thompson had been watching the video of In Pieces he might have noticed when Baddiel name checks a pre(fame) Richard Herring who's turned up late for the gig.