Cinema You may remember a few weeks ago I talked about the campaign which is fighting against the proposed closure of the York Odeon. One of the campaigners Tim Addyman (who appears in the photo on this page dressed as an Orc from The Lord of the Rings) dropped off a comment to offer an update:
"Thanks for the mention and support of our campaign to save the Odeon cinema in York. First and foremost its the last remaining city centre mainstream cinema and an important facility for both residents and visitors. Secondly its a unique Odeon building design, with now unique original sign, and retains original art deco features, both on show and hidden under later modernisations. The owners have let it become increasingly shabby over the years but Screen 1 (in the former circle) is still a great place to see a film, with stadium seating for around 800. It is thought a final decision will not be made about its future until June, which is the financial year end for the Odeon company, but we live in hope and will fight on."
Some of Mark's photos of the cinema can be found here. I'm in agreement that its a great example of that design of cinema and there shouldn't be any reason that if the chain were to invest as they have a great number of cinemas across the country it could be a success. Don't forget you can sign the petition here.
Life I time travelled today. Well not really, there wasn't a capsule, I couldn't see history disappear in front of me and I didn't have a girl with me asking what was happening every five minutes, but it felt like I'd time travelled. I was trotting across Sefton Park for some fish and chips. On my walkman I was working my way the the HITS 4 compilation, original cassette release, and once A-HA had faded I was in the grips of Fergal Sharkey's 'You Little Thief' and as I walked across the field I could be in any time. The signifiers, all of the minutia which remind us of the times we live in had dropped away. I could as well be in the 1980s, Thatcher in government, Noel Edmunds still on tv and reading Transformers comic. But then as I stepped through the trees and into Lark Lane I was nearly knocked over by a Fiat Punto and I was back in the naughties.
Life Remember all those months ago when bewildered furniture shop owners turning up on morning television trying to get to grips with the few moments when their place of work was the most popular for a five mile radius and yet somehow managed no sales? Or when a mass of people turned up at a department store in New York to worship a T-Rex? That was flashmobbing, and wierdly its a trend which seems to have disappeared as quickly as it started. A check through the main news sites reveals that nothing has happened since at least Christmas and in some cases earlier than that.

What happened? Boredom possibly. The shock of the new giving way to over subscription? The anonymity of the event ruined because too many people knew what was happening? A prime example would be an event organised for David Blane in his box in which more people turned up to watch the mob happen than to actually take part. The fact that some wanted to turn these events into a source for direct action to be making a point about something they believed in -- a protest -- which wasn't the point at all. So what happened to the people who were too late for the fun, who joined the bandwagon after it was over? Who turned up for the only flashmob to happen in Liverpool?

I saw the afformentioned interview on the tv show RI:SE and later reports on the local news, visited the websites and signed up to the two Yahoo Groups dedicated to Liverpool Flashmobbing. For about a month the message board was filled with traffic from people who were eager to take part. Two issues were abundantly clear. Most members didn't really know what the point was. They kept offering suggestions which indeed involved making a point about something -- like turning up somewhere which is no-smoking and lighting up on purpose (repulsive) or going to a company which had screwed people on some back end car insurance deal and waving your driving license (not subtle and excludes public transport junkies). Watching other successful flashes elsewhere was disheartening as I realised that again I'd be missing something interesting because of madness and apathy.

Then the organisers began to offer vague hints that something was going to happen. Until from nowhere they said that we should be expecting something. And so on the 22/08/2003 at 4:03pm the following email arrived...

You are cordially invited to the historic event that is, Liverpool's
First Flash Mob!

Firstly I want to remind all what Flash Mobbing is all about; it is
about having fun in a harmless unique way. I ask you to uphold all
normal morals and respect the properties we pass on the way.


So please follow the instructions no matter how random they seem and
please enjoy it.

Here are the Key points to Saturdays Flash Mob.

1. At some point Friday evening/Saturday Morning synchronize your
watch by using either the speaking clock or the following web site:

2. Between 11:20-11:40am on the 23rd August and based on the door
number you live at you should locate yourself in one of the following
City Centre Locations. Act casual and don't group up too much

If your house or flat is an odd number go and wait outside the Gap
Store on Whitechapel

If your house or flat is an Even Number go and wait outside the Job
Centre in Williamson Square (opposite the Playhouse)

3. ALL of you must bring a plastic cup the kind you get at kid's
parties or on the side of a water cooler and if you own one a digital
watch. Also please bring some spare change, less than a pound will do!

4. At some point a MOB rep will arrive, you must approach them saying
in your worst Russian Accent 'Have you got the film?' the rep will
then give you the printed instructions. If you are part of the Flash
mob and are asked this by someone you must reply with the phrase 'The
Film is safe' Read the instructions carefully and then keep the
instructions about your person.

5. These final instructions will provide the destination of the MOB
site, and you should arrive at that destination at the time that it
states. Aim to get there on time, if you are early; stall, if you are
late hurry! Although no one will need to rush.

6. The instructions will contain everything you need to know MOST
importantly the time to leave the MOB site by. The dispersal is just
as important to the success of this MOB as is the arrival. Everyone
should leave as quickly and orderly as they can and truly disperse.

7. After the Flash Mob, carry on with your lives as per normal; await
instructions for the next Flash Mob.

8. At all times remember to have fun and respect the places you visit
and pass.

9. If this goes well I promise that the next one will be the first
ever Celebrity Flash Mob.

This was the stuff, cloak and dagger, mystery, suspense and the future promise of point nine. What was with the plastic cup? Some kind of organised begging or something else? Was the spy-type behaviour in point four part of the theme? So many questions ...

Friday night came and in the absence of a digital watch I synchronised my mobile phone clock. On the Saturday I turned up in town far too early and found myself trying not to look suspicious as I waited for the person with the instructions to arrive. I'd watched a bit of The Hunt For Red October to try and perfect the very worst of Russian accents. At just about the right time, someone who looked even more out of sorts than me arrived with a large bag and stood outside the job centre. I watched tall gangly man approach and follow the instructions and then stepped forward myself. I'd once shouted a slogan at a clerk in Burger King for a free Whopper so I knew the form. Sean Connery would have been proud of my performance and I got the instructions of where to go and what to do. As I dashed off towards the venue, somewhere which couldn't have been more appropriate, all kinds of possibilities seemed to be open ...

To be continued.

End of Part One. Next episode: Room To Maneuver
Film A Brief ScreenSelect update. A copy of the film Duets was a bit stodgy. I logged onto the site and let them know last night, and today they've dispatched a whole other film as a replacement without the need to see that one. Very impressive. On the other hand they seem to have issues with actually sending new releases. Instead of Seabiscuit they're quietly sending out all the Gwyneth Paltrow films on my list. Very intrigued to know how they select which film to send next. Perhaps the clerks are bored there and playing with people's heads?
Nature As I stepped out of work at lunchtime a seagull flew in and hovered in front and above and seemed to move backwards to keep in step with my move forward. It hung in the air just looking at me, then it seemed to shake its head and fly off. Have things got so bad that a bird can't even be bother shitting on me?
Blogging in the style of .... I HATE MUSIC

Le Mepris Dir: Jean-Luc Godard

I used to think there wasn't anything more disheartening than the conversation about film in which the person you're talking to says that they don't watch subtitled films because they find the words distracting and they spend most of the time looking at them. 'But what about all the great films your missing' I shout at them 'You're willing to watch any old shit just because its in English?' That's what I used to think until I saw this pseudo-intellectual wankfest, an example of a poster that's better than the movie. The reputation of this film is based on one detail. Bridget Bardot's arse. She spends much of the film naked and we get to see it a hell of a lot. And in technicolour. It's the first thing we see at the start of the thing, along with the rest of her nakedness, and it's there all along against fabulous back drops. Which would be fine and a perfectly good way to spend ninety minutes depending on your mood. It's a pity you're distracted all the time by the plotless, joyless machinations of everyone else involved.

Apart from the fact that the film within a film of Homer's The Odessey looks like a less likely prospect than Jim Belushi in K-9000 at the box office (do we really need to see so many statues in makeup), was it at all necessary to make so many scenes massively long by having the dialogue translated between the French and English characters by someone who is actually there. It's a stylistic choice and it might have worked in France, but for the international market, it means we hear the dialogue in French, read what it says in the subtitles then hear it again in English. For minutes on end. I have no idea what they talked about for this very reason. It's the kind of film in which people make pronouncements and look intense and have issues about the nature of their being and humanity. But for some reason it feels as profound as deciding not to clip your toe nails on a Sunday because it might be bad luck.

Fritz Lang plays himself, its rumoured because he was hard up and need the money. His appearance doesn't feel as prestigious when you know that. And if you wanted to punch leary John Voight in Anaconda for a poor performance under no pressure, just see Jack Palance here making a pass at Bardot. He reminded me a lot of someone I went to school with who used the chat up line 'We'll dance and then I take you into the corner and kiss you.' It worked for him, and for some reason Bardot leaves with leatherface at the end even though they share no language. I've a theory about Palance. At some point in his early forties he woke up one morning looking like he did in City Slickers, up until then he was young as he is here. I've never seen him in some missing link between stage.

Film students will probably notice the similarities with Jean-Luc Godard's good film, Breathless (A Bout De Soufle) in that the middle half hour consists of a couple hanging around an apartment insulting each other and getting in the way. But whereas in that film, Godard was playing about with time and editing and lalalala, here real human emotions go out of the window as Bardot mopes about and her boyfriend sits in a bath in a hat smoking a cigar. I can't imagine how tedious this section was to watch in the cinema, although on tv its like seeing the last half hour Big Brother Live in French without the ability to vote anyone off.

The ending of the film is exactly the kind of thing which gives art house a bad name. Having gone through all this nonsense to do with the boyfriend not being able to get his head around accepting money for doing actual work on the screenplay, Bardot buggers off with Palance one of the world's worst drivers, who manages to get them both killed in a road traffic accident between two lorries. Cut to the boyfriend, fully aware of the deaths but not seeming to care either way. It's the kind of moment which happens in films like this as a way of saying something profound about the fragility of human life. But its actually elitist shite designed to make the viewer feel either thick or in the target audience's case self-satisfied because they think they understand what its all about. Idiots.
News I am aware there are other things happening in the world (I woke up to them this morning and in my groggy state it took me a while to understand the significance). Coincidentally the BBC's On This Day reminds us of another assassination which happened fifteen years ago. The one thing we can draw from both incidents is that this kind of thing really doesn't help.
Film I promised I would get back to on the ScreenSelect dvd rental by post issue and now that my free period has crashed to an end I thought I'd for once keep my word. Over past sixteen days I've seen thirteen films and generally the service has been excellent. Only one of the discs has been skippy but I think that had more to do with the quality of the disc itself (a budget title to begin with). Some anomalies:

(1) Barring a slow post, its impossible to received new discs on a Monday. They don't yet work at the weekend which means that any discs sent back on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday should arrive on the Monday so the quickest replacements can be sent in Tuesday.

(2) I haven't had a premium title like SeaBiscuit yet. The newest release was Le Mepris but that's an oldish film anyway. I suspect I'm doing them a favour by listing lots of international cinema which might not be out as much. Although they're supposed to be working their way down my list it seems mostly random.

(3) Sometimes they'll have received a disc but don't send a new one until the next day or the day after which considering the size of my list, doesn't make any sense -- they can't all be out. But without any indication of how many subscribers they have I don't know that for sure.

But some pluses ...

(1) One of my first discs, The Gingerbread Man was lost in the post. After six days from their dispatch I was able to visit the site and tell them -- and they just sent another disc out straight away.

(2) The selection is massive and I'm yet to find something which I know is in release which isn't there. So there is always the temptation to add new things. They recommend a list of 30-50 titles. Mine is pushing eighty. But they're all films I really want to see so I'm not too upset that the new releases aren't showing up. Like a mini-IMDb you can look at an entire career in DVD which means you can catch up on all the things you've missed. So I'm in the midst of a mini-Gwyneth Paltrow season, Emma last week Duets tomorrow. It's also been a joy to finally see all that French new wave I've been missing all these years. Although it's not all gone to plan (check back tomorrow to see what I mean).

(3) It means that more often than not they're some good post for you amongst the bank statements and bills. And the system is really simple. The disc comes in a mini-caddy sans packaging, and with a bit of tooing and frowing the envelope it comes in becomes the return envelope. Magic.

So as the first ?14.99 drifts off my credit card, for now its all good. We'll if they can keep it up. No more going to the dvd shop and hiring something crap because its the only thing in....
Who OR another post about a forty year old tv show. I knew this would happen. As the new series draws tantalisingly closer I just feel the need to jabber on about it to a boring degree. With this new casting the whole thing seems have moved up a notch with the mainstream media giving it more attention than it's had in years. Chris (as he will be known from now onwards) is a Salford man, so North West Tonight decided to report from his neck of the woods and ask some of the locals what they thought of his casting. Which amounted to a vicar who was supposed to be the show's number one fan (no) who had a Dalek in his rectory who hadn't heard of Chris and just seemed to want to grin a lot. The rest of the report consisted of a couple of voxpops with students one of which decided that Chris wouldn't be good enough because he's not a hippy and someone who didn't appear to know what question she'd been asked. Cut to the studio and Gordon Burns and Diane Oxbury saying that it wasn't really their thing, but Oxbury saying that her boyfriend was an anorak and he thought it was great casting. Quite how a garment of clothing came to that conclusion (or got Oxbury) I'm not sure, but I wholeheartedly agree (the bastard).

Then you look in The Guardian which rather than covering the story in the main paper like everyone else (even though there isn't that much to say) go for the subtle approach with a 'Why I Love William Hartnell' appreciation in their G2 section cunning looking at his pre-Who work in film:
"When he took on Doctor Who, Hartnell had wearied of what he called his "bastard roles". I think he underestimated the subtlety and humanity he brought to his acting. Billy Hartnell, as he liked to be called, character actor supreme, I salute you."
There are a lot of people who've quietly been mourning for a decade coming out of the woodwork as the show has a reason to re-enter the mainstream. Poor old Doctor Who Magazine is actually being scooped by the mainstream media which might be mourned by some but for me is an absolute pleasure. It's coming back ... again ...
Plug! Hire this woman will you!
Museums Virtual tours of The Louvre in Paris. Ironically I can see more using this than I did when I visited. No substitute for the real thing of course ....
That Day A very belated happy Mother's Day to anyone it relates to. My Mum always prefers something she can use which won't run out when she's eaten it so I forwent the chocolates and bought her a Balise candle and cd of The Seekers so go with her red roses. In other news, the communal Sky dish blew off in the wind yesterday afternoon (which must have been impressive to look at) which means that the parents have been reduced to five channels. I passed through before and Mum was stuck watching that documentary about Idi Amin on Channel 4 which reminded us both of the time when I was in my early teens and we were on a family holiday in a tent in Heysham and the only radio station we could get was having a series of documentaries about Albert Pierpoint. We'll find out how good our current landlord really is when we see how long it takes for them to replace the dish.
TV The new TV Cream-up is out and this month they're counting down the fifty movers and shakers in their opinion. For once this is an example of credit where it's due -- take the section about Roly Keating the producer of BBC4:
"However, under Keating the channel has forged ahead mapping out a clear path through that tricky terrain where old fashioned stoical eighties era BBC2 programmes of genuine cultural worth meet dynamic, crowd-pleasing narratives. Witness The National Trust - which, with quotes such as "We've bought three houses and now we've got to buy another one so that Ringo doesn't feel left out" - could have been gold-era Cutting Edge, or any single edition of the sublime Time Shift. Taking on and completing The Falklands Play was pretty damn good in itself, prefacing it with a documentary that included Bill Cotton and Michael Grade explaining why it was actually rather crap is above and beyond."
It didn't know that this man created The Late Show but it makes perfect sense, the edge which infused that programme runs raggety through this channel. And in fact the the reruns of BBC4's programming post Newsnight on BBC2 they've effectively brought a version of that programme back. TVCream-up's currancy is also undimmed with the noting of Mr Ecclestone as the new Doctor. Still on a high after hearing that news. Why do I get the shocking feeling that someone like Bille Piper's going to end up playing the companion?