TV Off The Telly this month offers a pair of interviews, with "Bernie the Bolt", Alan Bailey and Dudley Sutton, Tinker from Lovejoy who offers his assessment of when the show went bad:
"No I think they were spoiling it. I think they were doing what Ian McShane wanted more and more and letting him take all the decisions. His character had to get all the girls, his character had to answer the questions and I know Phyllis Logan got fed up saying "you were right Lovejoy". We got fed up with it. We wouldn't do anything except bloody well say "you were right, Lovejoy," and I remember one time they went to Venice and left us behind and when they came back we were leaning over the fucking mantelpiece saying "you were right Lovejoy".
My Dad just kept saying the books were better after every episode of that show. For years. After a while it became a very convincing argument.
Meme Wave Magazine publishes its 10 Best Internet Fads and ranks Star Wars Kid top. All Your Base was robbed surely?
Film Grumpy old Empire Magazine have posted their review of the new Harry Potter film and given it measily three stars. Some of their views are fascinatingly at odds with what I wrote and saw on screen for that matter:
"Not that Cuarón has it all his own way. The young cast is still rather limited to good line-readings ... they are not bad, exactly, but they are being asked to shoulder an increasingly heavy burden and the tantalising glimpses of the excellent Thewlis and Oldman amply demonstrate that expositional dialogue need not be entirely bereft of character."
A fabulously unfair assessment of the performances of the young actors, expecially by comparing them to the older contingent. They hold their own and do much of the work for the audience in engaging us in the story. There is also some criticism of the screenplay for not having a three act structure. Well excuse the adaptor for not banging a Syd Field book against his forehead every night. Rules are meant to be broken, and in addition its the kind of story which lends itself better to an episodic structure (see also The Lord of the Rings trilogy).
Blog! Hey Caro, welcome back! We'll catch up some time OK?

Scene Unseen:
Election: A Life Mistake

Film One of my dvd watching habits is to pause the film during moments when a newspaper or magazine passes by to see how good the prop department were -- or rather to see if the copy on the page follows the plot, basically says nothing or is something which has been thrown in on the day of shooting because they were rushed for time. Every so often creativity really abounds and you find out something which adds imeasurably to the story. Then there are times like these, when the film makers are really having fun.

Alexander Payne, the director of Election, a sort of high school political comedy, says on his audio commentary that he hates it when there are films which have dummy instead of real stories, so he sat down and wrote everything in print in the film. During his description he invites us to pause and read gus work and so in crystal clarity we find out the details of the aftermath of what happened between Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) and Tracy Flick (Reece Witherspoon). But there in the middle, surely as a joke is the following...
"If you've paused the film in order to read this entire article, your time could be better spent renting "Citizen Ruth" from your local video store.

Do you know how hard and unthankful a task it is to write thise fake few stories for newspaper movie props? I've got better things to do."
I'm sure you have. And I'm surprised this kind of thing doesn't happen more often. Its all very well for companies to shell out for product placement in films (which seems to be more subtle than it used to be but I'm sure its still there) but why don't film makers put in more subliminal advertising for their other work (and I'm not just talking about George Lucas putting THX on anything that moves). Seems like a perfectly reasonable way to talk up the films people have been less exposed to. If anyone's noticed anything like this happening in Payne's next movie, About Schmidt, let me know.
TV Speaking of which. What a depressing half hour of television the Big Brother UK eviction show was tonight. After the French movie sensibilities of the nine o'clock show (with the ten minute homage to the beginning of Betty Blue) watching the show implode as the housemate who seemed to have been bereft of the psychological profiling so important in previous years was dragged out. With all the swearing and sings Kitten possibly thought she was offering a Sex Pistols on Reg Grundy moment. Actually it was more like a kids party when the mother of the birthday boy turns up pissed from the pub and chins the clown.

This year, the show has nowhere else to go. The behaviour of the contestants has reduced them to little more than cyphers, their actions unsympathetic. They seem to have forgotten that actually it's a game, that they're fairly privileged to be there and should be enjoying the spirit of the thing. Yes there was a rush of excitement under the realisation that she wasn't going to leave and that the rest of the housemates would be backing her up. But this subsided as we cut back to Davina McCall as she revealed that they had a contingency plan and as events played out it became clear that as soon as the overall prize started reducing the protests disipated, the actions fairly empty. One housemate was heard to say: "I need the money..." which seems to have been the girl's trigger to leave. Net forums are already abuzz with how well she came across in the subsequent interview with Davina. Nick Bateman (the only other contestant to be disqualified) wasn't given the courtesy -- they dragged him out of the back door -- and at least he was trying to play the game. Tonight it was about having half an hour of television to fill.

This could have been an extraordinary moment of the contestants testing the boundaries of the possible. If the counter had reached zero would the winner really leave with nothing? What would have motivated the housemates to stay in there for the next ten weeks? Why would the audience carry on watching? In the event that she wouldn't leave no matter what would we have had scenes of security going into the house to drag her out by the tails of her sailor suit? Instead the viewer is left a position counter to where they've been for four seasons -- actually supporting Big Brother and wanting to know just how successful it can be in making these people's lives a misery.

Assuming you can be bothered watching anymore .... Big Brother is supposed to be evil this year. But why does that also mean unwatchable?
Computers Every now and then when I've been using the computer for a while an odd smell seems to develop in the room -- a sort of musty smell which goes away when I turn everything off and leave the room for a while. I may not be dreaming as Wired discovers:
"This will be a great surprise to everyone who uses a computer," said Ted Smith, director of the Toxics Coalition. "The chemical industry is subjecting us all to what amounts to chemical trespass by putting these substances into use in commerce. They continue to use their chemicals in ways that are affecting humans and other species."
The article continues with enough long words to frighten the bejesus out of me then ...
"The levels in the dust are enough to raise a red flag, but not enough to create a crisis," said Dr. Gina Solomon, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council and assistant professor of medicine at University of California, San Francisco. "I have an old computer monitor in front of me now, and I'm not about to throw it away. But when I get a new one, it darn well will be free of these chemicals."
Apparently post 2002 machines should be OK. I bought my computer in 2002. I'm looking at it now in much the same way as the Big Brother UK producers are possibly looking at Kitten right now.
Film Frankly I don't know where to begin with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Having not entirely been enamoured by the previous two films both of which were far too long to sustain their storyline and didn't have enough humanity to make the viewer care what happened to anyone I went in with a certain forboding. My main, if not only reason for turning up this time was the knowledge that Alfonso Cuarón, who directed the beautiful Great Expectations and thrilling Y Tu Mama Tambian was behind the camera -- I wanted to see if someone with his talent would be submerged within the needs of this kind of franchise. I needn't have worried.

The new Harry Potter film is bloody brilliant.

I know. I can't believe I typed those words either. But its like watching a whole other film series. The closest comparison I can think of is Star Trek : The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan. In that case, out went the massive set pieces, the portentious dialogue and the assumption they needed to be answering all of the big questions and in came a revenge drama mixed with a meditation on the legacy of the past -- and so happens here. From the opening moments when Harry is practicing his magic under the covers so as not to attract the attention of his Uncle which is presented in such a way as to imply that he's doing the wizard version of what other teenagers his age might be doing under the covers, its obvious that we're in the hands of a director who has a clear vision how he wants to tell the story of how Potter is growing up. Unlike the previous films were the characters forever felt like puppets wheeled in to speak their lines on cue, here they gain all kinds of dimensions and so we actually care about what happens to them. It's quite a shock -- from watching an animated storybook illustration to a real film. For more evidence watch for the moment when the kids are trapped on the stairs and the new head boy dashes about trying to take charge and is roundly ignored.

Remember in previous films how the Quiddich game was the main feature for nigh on half an hour, with the build up and the sports film style presentation with a beginning, middle and end in which we essentially waited for Harry to win by catching the snitch? Here the game becomes something the kids do as part of their normal school year -- we don't even find out who won (although its implied). Hogwarts the school has developed into somewhere which feels like a real place rather than a bunch of sets and for the first time we even have a sense of the geography of the place. And perhaps more significantly the costume design has become more varied, with Harry and friends in their civies more often and Haggrid in particular displaying a greater wardrobe.

Is it all down to Cuaron? Well the scriptwriter Steven Kloves is the same as on previous projects (perhaps he was happy to have greater flexibility), and its widely acknowledged that is the best novel of the series. But we welcome as photographer Michael Seresin, whose previous work includes Angela's Ashes, Birdy, Fame, Bugsy Malone and Midnight Express and there are some similarity in the camerawork with those films -- the pallete in particular which includes blue and greens in comparision to the reds and browns of the past. Its more fluid, with greater use of hand held and steadicam. Throughout you feel like you're in the action instead of watching from the outside. Its visceral to an impressive degree.

But the real improvement is in the performances. Its still an British character actor's convention but even they seem to be having fun this time with more dramatic performances. David Thewlis as Lupin and Gary Oldman as Sirius Black prove yet again why they're continually hired to play the grey areas in us all -- both share some very touching scenes with Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, as does Maggie Smith. But they're greatly helped by the fact that this time they have something to bounce off, because the kids have gown up slightly and actually give proper performances. Radcliffe shows the power bubbling under, especially in the Gilliamesque opening scenes. Rupert Grint's Ron Weasly used to be a collection of facial expressions. They're still there, but now he has something behind the eyes even though on this occasion he's mainly the fall guy. The real revelation is Emma Watson who given the chance to relax and probably offers the performance of the film as Hermione, suddenly a kickass, passionate, intelligent role model -- no longer the annoying, grump know-it-all.

So I loved it and can't wait to see it again so that I can pick up on all the details I missed. Two things can happen from here -- it's either going to be the turning point in the franchise as later episodes make the first two as reductive as The Phantom Menace or it'll be the aboration, the good one, the Live and Let Die of the Roger Moore James Bonds. My great fear now as I await The Goblet of Fire is that it'll be back to business as usual, the magic of this one bleeding away. It's being directed by Mike Newell who on the one hand has made things like Enchanted April and Awfully Big Adventure which would suggest something in the old mood. But he also made Four Weddings and Donnie Brascoe so it could go either way ...
Relationships Just when you think that nothing could help confirm what those people think net users are like, you run into discussion such as this one at Slashdot. Actually some of the talk is quite witty and takes the topic in its stride. But then you stumble across the following:
"it's simple. your woman, and even your life, can be viewed as a game. instead of working hard to score in a game, work hard to score with your woman... instead of exploring levels of some fake world, figure out what places you can take your woman to in the real world that get her in the mood. figure out how to get her to do x and y things that she would never think of doing."
What repulses me? Well, the merging of reality and gaming is fairly shocking, as is the objectification of the significant other. I just want it to be irony but unfortunately it seems to be missing. Somewhat intrigued though, by the length and breadth of the rest of the discussion ... [via Cruel the reading of which possibly opens me up accusations that include the nouns and adjectives 'pot', 'kettle' and 'black']
Film Who would have thought that had franchise potential:
"Cate Blanchett is expected to take the throne again and star in the epic - based on Queen Elizabeth I - which has the working title of Golden Age. "It is about the battle between her life as a monarch and her personal life," Shekhar Kapur said. "It ends in the destruction of the Spanish Armada on the larger level."
So at what point does she turn into Judi Dench?
Blogging There sometimes isn't anything more painful than watching mainstream media trying to explain what a weblog is and why people do it. Actually there sometimes isn't anything more painful than watching me trying to explain what a weblog is and why people do it. But I digress. Suw Charman appeared on the BBC World Service the other week in quite a carefully researched piece and managed to get in terms like Moblogging and Blogisphere. And now the contrast as Wendy McLure appears in a piece for Fox News which is about what you'd expect. Here, Wendy hilariously blogs the report (with screenshots). Choice example of Fox's voiceover:
""The term 'blog' is a shortened version of 'weblog.' They've been around for years but just recently thousands of people have used those sites to catalog the details of their lives on webpages created for them, by them."
Eh? [via RB]
Life As you can tell I'm in a more boyant mood today (which is odd considering (a) I went back to work (b) I've just sat through the Woody Allen film Another Woman which basically says your life is over by the age of fifty). I'm also flooding my room with daylight now that I've been able to fight my blind open through all the plants and rocks I've got on my window ledge. Being this high up in the tower block without trees to block the sunbeams, waking up in the morning the rays splashing against my face this morning was a refreshing experience.
People Julia Roberts pregnant with twins. Somewhere along the line I forgot she was married ...
Film Kevin Smith's film Clerks is going to be celebrated in September with a three disc dvd boxset. I've been watching this develop over the months from being idea to something special. The latest grin worthy news is that the 'lost scene' from the script (ie, what happened in the funeral home to make Dante and Randell run out so fast) previously available in comic book form has now been animated in the same style as the cartoon series specially for this release. The background and screenshots are here. With this and talk of including the tv pilot which Smith knew nothing about until someone sent him the tape, this is going to very special.
H2G2 I know this has already been heavily circulated but just in case anyone did miss it, the screenwriter that isn't Douglas on the new film interviewed himself for the official site's weblog. Here is an example of his approach to the material:
"Next, I read the book with pen and highlighter in hand, underlining passages that had been left out that I wanted to try to get back in and making notes on characters and themes that were present in the book but not really playing as well as they could in the screenplay. I was going to watch the TV show, but Jay suggested that I not do that, just so that I wouldn?t have any of those images in my head. The idea was to try to create something rather than re-create (and I don?t think we have the rights to any new material created specifically for the TV show, so for that reason, I never watched it. Do you hear me BBC? I NEVER WATCHED THE TV SERIES). I did, however, buy a book that had the scripts for the radio plays. When I started writing, I had the novel on one side of my G4 laptop and the radio play scripts on the other side. They are both well-worn."
Overall it's a staggeringly long, revealing and passionate self justification which just about wins me over that he does know what he's doing. On hearing that people would be doing re-writes I was petrified that I wouldn't recognise any of the dialogue (some of which Adams carried from media to media to media --"What's so terrible about being drunk?" "Ask a glass of water...") but most of what Kirkpatrick has done is structural. As Douglas said the main problem with turning the thing into a film is that you destroy the Earth at the end of the first act -- where do you go from there? Maybe we'll finally have the answer...
Fashion The always, ahem, interesting Lucire becomes the next website to go real world with a magazine in newsagents. It's not the first (see Chud which publishes Movie Insider) but they've taken the step of putting the prototype May issue online in .pdf format and are asking readers for their input. How well can they do in an already crowded market place and is it significantly different for us to care?
Wiki In an attempt to give myself some research practice I've been doing some work on the new look Wikipedia. Just to be particular random, I'm creating new entries for all the people in the Have I Got News For You episode guide who aren't already indexed. It's the kind of writing I used to do all the time at college and in work and while I know the value is fairly limited (except for tv historians and fans of that show) its actually more of a challenge in producing something coherent outside of my field of reference.

One issue I've encountered is how copyrighted some material is and whether simply rewriting a profile from the website of a performer's agent with added sections constitutes the creation of something new or plagarism. You can ponder that as you learn about Kate Saunders, Gill Pyrah, Russell Davies (not that one) and Dillie Keane. Can anyone suggest which Martin Young this is?
Computers On the upside, I've finally sorted out my computer problems after an oblique reference in a page linked from this thread at Ask Metafilter. I had been infected by the Look2Me adware which kept hijacking my browser, sucked up cpu and slowed my processor. Kill2Me seems to have done the trick. I'm touching wood as I type this (and no sniggering). That'll teach me download freeware I didn't need from a site I've never heard of.
Life I go back to work tomorrow after my week off ill. I feel empty. I'm always wanting to be doing something but all I've been able to do is stay in bed, feet up watching television (well videos) hoping I get better in time for the next day. But it hasn't been a holiday -- other than a brief trip out for a paper in the latter stages of the week I haven't been anywhere just looked at the same four walls. Its been better the last couple of days -- being able to write something here and there, that's been helpful. But other than my health I wish I had something else to show for the past seven days of my life.