Jack's back (and front)

TV Excellent transcript of a Q&A with John Barrowman in which he says he can't talk too much about Torchwood and whatnot then somehow manages to reveal some very telling things. There is the odd spoiler depending on what you consider a spoiler to be. [via]

I'm bound to call this post 'Happy Gilmore'

I'm afraid you're pretty much being ignored again this evening because a new love has entered my life.

I've discovered The Gilmore Girls.

I know. It's only taken about six years to try it, but after getting advice from people whose advice I tend to agree (thanks Keris) I waited patiently for the rental dvds to start flowing.

The premise about the relationship between this single mother and her daughter -- the daughter having reached the age the mother was when she gave birth. They live in a small town. The daughter goes through her angsty problems whilst her mom is the manager of a hotel and has her own problems dealing with her own mother. Sounds really sappy doesn't it. I thought so too which is why it's taken me this long to indulge.

I was hooked after the second minute of the first episode.

A woman, who we later discover has the brilliant name Lorelai Gilmore, walks across the street and on the soundtrack is There She Goes by The Las plays.

Ok I think. Already losing points for using a very overused (but great) pop song in a very, very cliched manner. This isn't a good start.

The woman walks into a coffee shop and approaches the counter. The barista won't serve her coffee. He's cutting her off. She pleads with him and eventually he relents. Somewhere in there I realise that it's being played as though she's a junkie and he's her dealer.

Then I remember that one of the few things that the really cloth headed producers (and Sixpence None The Richer when the covered the song) who use the song never understood is that There She Goes by The Las is reputed to be about heroin. 'The racing through my veins' lyric being a dead giveaway. This show is intertextual. It selects music and then plays a scene based on the audience being able to understand a really, really zetgeisty pop culture references.

Then the real dialogue begins between the woman and her daughter and it's funny. But not in a Friendsian punchliny kind of way (wait for the joke) but in quite a natural, yet smart way. I'll say it again. It's really, really funny. This is one of those occasions when the premise of a show and its potential plotlines are transcended by the script, the performances, the direction, the editing and the production. It doesn't treat the audience like idiots, yet manages to be accessible. Just look at this mile long memorable quotes page at the imdb.

It feels authentic. It has realism. People pay for taxis. They have snappy arguments that don't mean anything in the long term. People have to catch a bus to get places. But there's a wierd undercurrent of darkness too I feel. Something that isn't being said. It's Capraesque that way. Everything seems sweetness and light but ...

It's set in a Bedford Fallsian town and you really get the sense of a community. One of the (very) few problems I always had with Dawson's Creek was that you never got a sense that there was anyone living in the place outside the main cast. Stars Hollow is teeming with people, people saying hello to each other even if (and this is important) they're not a massively important element of the plot of the week).

I'm currently on episode seven of the first season which was made in 2000 -- there's something comforting in knowing that I have six seasons worth to catch up on. It's the kind of show you'd imagine would be cancelled for being too good. Does it continue to be fabulous? I hope so because both Rebecca Kirshner and Jane Espenson, both Buffy alumni are writing for the show in what will for me be a few years.

Dark clouds on the reviews I've skimmed suggest that it goes a bit wonkey when Rory goes to college -- which if they actually split up the central pairing with her mother to accomplish I can see -- it always kills every show stone dead when the central characters are split up -- and the original creators have gone for the sixth season, something that The West Wing never recovered from.

But for now I'll love. I mean any show with dialogue that likens the fact that the mother hasn't told the daughter that she might be dating her teacher to the Iran-Contra Affair has got to be worth staying with. Best get back to it.

Behind Bars

TV "But, I post here not to lambast this aspect of the show, or say all that much about it, really. Instead, I just want to record the fact that on this edition, all hell suddenly broke loose when a prisoner assaulted a guard. As alarms rang out, Nick and Nadia clearly wished they could be anywhere else, but pressed on regardless with their cheery links to camera." -- Graham on a current daytime tv classic.

Like I ...

Music A brief interview with the Violent Femmes including:
'Q: What was more thrilling: Seeing Claire Danes dance to "Blister in the Sun" on "My So-Called Life" or hearing that song in the John Cusack movie "Grosse Point Blank?"

A: My biggest thrill was hearing Leonard Nimoy sing "Good Feeling" in "Star Trek 3." '
'Let me go oooout ....'


Life At the beginning of February I made an offer here for anyone who'd like a personalised blog entry posted to them to send me their address and a subject for me to write about. In the end I recieved two requests, from Annette (which you can read about here) and Alex who asked me about the BBC Design quiz and what I would have selected. I eventually got around to posting both and that was that. Unless someone else would like one.

A couple of weeks ago I was travelling home from Manchester one night and as we passed through the new Garston South Park (Way) station I caught the eye of the random commuter sitting opposite me and then verbalised what we were both thinking -- that it was wierd that a main line train didn't stop at this brand spanking new station serving the airport and we agreed that it seemed really desolate and unwelcoming. We chatted all the way back to Liverpool and did my usual and talked about my course and films and my dissertation. I'm not too much of a bore I don't think.

Last night I received an email from Alex thanking me for the letter, apologising for being slow in replying and saying some nice things which I agreed with about the clarity of the London tube map. Then she said ... "By the way I think I met you. I was on a train returning from Stockport, I think you sat opposite me and we spoke about the new but desolate South Parkway station. Was that you?"

I stepped away from the keyboard, I screamed and I ran away to tell someone.

As the narrator says in Magnolia:

'There are stories of coincidence and chance, and intersections and strange things told, and which is which and who only knows? And we generally say, "Well, if that was in a movie, I wouldn't believe it." Someone's so-and-so met someone else's so-and-so and so on. And it is in the humble opinion of this narrator that strange things happen all the time. And so it goes, and so it goes. And the book says, "We may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us." '

Ain't that the truth?

Edge of Outside

Film I don't think there's anything more exciting than discovering a great film that you'd never heard of but which can change your expectations of what is possible in celluloid. In TCM's excellent new documentary, Edge of Outside, director Darren Aronofsky describes the process of finding Spike Lee's She's Gotta Have It after the showing of a Rocky film he wanted to attend had sold out and realising that there was another way of making film with a different aesthetic leading to his own production of the ambitious Pi. This new documentary that surveys the independent spirit over the past century is replete with such stories as filmmakers repay the debt they have to their antecedants.

All of the major independents are covered (Cassavettes, Corman, Welles) but cleverly the definition is widened to include directors who have worked within the studio system but have still been able to keep their independence. Alfred Hitchock for example only shot and printed the footage that he knew he'd want in the film so that when it reached post-production the editor was left with few choices. Martin Scorsese acknowledges Sam Fuller as another example of a maverick working in the studio system and there is a surprising moment in which similar shots from both directors films are intercut to demonstrate the influence Fuller had on the look of Scorsese's films. The documentary is rich with images as the often jerky look of an independent motion picture, with not a camera track or crane available is revealed; it's a shame that none of the many clips are captioned to show which films they're from, although this may have been an artistic choice to allow the cinematography some room to breath.

The programme is particular good in describing the compromises that independent film makers have to make to get their vision on screen on a tiny budget - Stanley Tucci noting how the same five or six cars tend to appear in ever street scene of his own low budget period drama hiding contemporary features. Good archive interview footage too of Sam Fuller and particularly Orson Welles who looks like he could charm money out of anyone - as is revealed this wasn't the case as his producer described how he'd be very close to a deal only to have the rug pulled out when Welles took a dislike to possible financier. A longer documentary might have been able to give more space to international cinema although it does quite rightly list the Italian neo-realists and the French New Wave; understandably auteur theory is mentioned briefly but without the jargon - the importance of the director's vision being paramount in the independent scene.

It's probably really difficult to decide what needs to be left into such a short survey and the director Shannon Davies has quite rightly decided to concentrate on those directors whose work is being featured in the month long season which is appearing on the channel, covering only briefly those subjects such as the new Hollywood directors of the seventies which have been served in documentaries elsewhere. That section does provide one of the best quotes of the programme which also seems like an apt description of the whole piece. From Bonnie and Clyde director Arthur Penn, on the short period when the studios were literally throwing money at any twenty-something with long hair to make features:

'Didn't last but it was fun!'

Edge of Outside is on Turner Classic Movies in the US on the 19th July and a season of films continues every Wednesday night throughout July. Full listing of movies and more details available here.

It's a godawful small affair

Quiz! Keris suggests a cunning meme or quiz which should stand in well tonight in the absense of inspiration anything exciting happening my life (spent the day dissertation writing -- well I suppose there are degrees of excitement). Here goes:
So what you do is you put your iPod (or whatever) on shuffle and write down the first line of the first 25 songs that come up ("no repeat artists, no foreign muck, no songs where the title is in the first line, and nothing that even you with the title in front of you have no clue what it is" - Marie). Then you put it on your blog and everybody has to identify the songs and artists, and you post the answers as people get them. Or rather no one bothers to guess and in a couple of weeks I post the answers myself and go off in a huff.
Well, here are thirty. Some of them are easypeasy and some not so. Given that WinAmp had almost my entire music collection to play with it's surprisingly Sunday newspaper freebee compilation friendly although there are still some truly ecclectic choices ...

(1) It's a godawful small affair David Bowie - Life On Mars Monkey & Poly_Gianniba magic.

(2) Love to your mother, your brother, I kept thinking of her

(3) You don't know, when love is

(4) Hey sister, go sister, soul sister, go sister All Saints -- Lady Marmalade I'm not at all embarassed to say. Another one for & Poly_Gianniba and the Monkey.

(5) Genius to fall to asleep

(6) Well, you got me shaking through my head to the bottom of my toes

(7) What am I to you?

(8) Even on a day like, when calling on the phone

(9) There is nothing that

(10) Do you have the time?

(11) Say Goodnight, not goodbye, you will never leave my heart behind

(12) I never jumped in and rescued you but I wanted to

(13) Just you, just me, let's find a cozy spot where no one can see

(14) If, if you choose, that we will always loose Sail this ship alone - The Beautiful South -- spotted by Adrian.

(15) Ghost's speaking out from under the stairway, calling your name that's lighter than air

(16) I recommend getting your heart trampled on to anyone It is Alanis, Rasputin, You Learn.

(17) First I was afraid I was petrified I Will Survive - I'm guessing Gloria Gaynor Another one from Adrian.

(18) Everyone around the world will find themselves

(19) Mick came home late last night

(20) It's your thing, do what you wanna do The Isley Brothers -- It's Your Thing Monkey, monkey, monkey, monkey!

(21) I can't help feeling they've made a fool of me rather

(22) In the shade of every moment, I played

(23) Why you trying to second guess me?

(24) God is a man

(25) Little field mice living under the house Eels -- Flyswatter. Ra, ra Rasputin!

(26) Sometimes it's hard to make things clear

(27) Leave my lying here because I don't wanna go

(28) I'm waiting for a friend to help me off the ground

(29) When you look at me tell me what you see

(30) Are we on? We're recording now?

... remember no googling -- it's just not fun that way. Some will be bleeding obvious, although you wouldn't believe how many I had to disqualify on the grounds that I couldn't understand the lyric. Gosh, I'm getting old.

Soap survivors.

TV In recent years there haven’t been any truly innovative soap formats.

The failure of Night and Day and Family Affairs can probably be traced to the fact that they simply re-iterated the old, worn formats of a central locale and group of families in a contemporary settings. Whilst I wouldn’t for a minute suggest that the space station of Jupiter Moon would be the place to go, the success of Bleak House suggests that the audience is capable of enjoying something “a bit different”.

Perhaps Chris’s post suggests another option – why not rearrange the premise of Survivors into a twice weekly half-hour soap format? A post apocalyptic world has the EastEnders grim factor built in, and there is still the potentiality for the usual comings and goings from the make-shift village, as new survivors are found and the existing characters die of radiation poisoning or starvation. Suddenly the original becomes innovative within a new format, which seems to be how most television works anyway.


Film "As for poor old Orlando Bloom, where does one start to document the tidal wave of wetness which he brings to these proceedings? No matter how much sea water Verbinski throws at the set, nothing gets as damp as Mr Bland, whose expressions run the gamut from perky to peeved with occasional interludes of petulance." -- Mark Kermode reviews Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Truly the man is a legend. You can hear the vitriol in what amounts to an audio version of this review on Five Live. He appeared on three different programmes last Friday and seemed to get increasingly annoyed as the day went on, so that by the time he was on Late Review he was simply manic. God knows what'll happen when the third film comes out...

Slings and Arrows

Film Just blubbed my way through Nick Cassavette's The Notebook which is about the saddest bit of drama I've seen since Saturday. I didn't really know what the expect -- I'd rented it to see quite what the pre-Red Eye Rachel McAdams was doing the same year she made Mean Girls. I'd expected a chick flick with people running around in the rain pledging love for one another and men fighting each other over the woman they love -- well alright, Titanic on a farm. Certainly there are some of those moments, actually some of those beats are repeated, but this is actually one of those occasions when the direction, writing and performances transform what could have been predictable television movie fare into a real statement about the human capacity for loyalty and love despite the knocks that life can give you. It's a love story told Princess Bride-style by James Garner to Gina Rowlands in a convalescent home of two lovers many years before. In many ways it's classic Hollywood melodrama, but it's strong and clever enough not to present anything sugarcoated or too far outside the expected norms for human behaviour -- it has the capacity to not present the scenes you're predicting but something much truer to life instead.

[I had wondered what Rachel McAdams had been up to since The Family Stone. Turns out she's been in television as a regular on a show called Slings and Arrows which (according to Amazon):
"is based in the fictional town of New Burbage where legendary theatrical madman Geoffrey Tennant (Paul Gross) returns to the New Burbage Theatre Festival, the site of his greatest triumph and most humiliating failure, to assume the Artistic Directorship after the sudden death of his mentor, Oliver Welles. When Geoffrey arrives he finds that Oliver is still there, in spirit anyway, and with his guidance (and often in spite of it) Geoffrey attempts to reconcile with his past while wrestling the Festival back from the marketing department. Despite a bitter leading lady, a clueless leading man, and a scheming General Manager, he manages to stage a remarkable production of Hamlet; the play that drove him mad."
Whch sounds like In The Bleak Midwinter crashing into Northern Exposure with Mr.S along for the ride. Bites lips. How can one tv show push so many buttons? Must not order ... must not order ... oh what the hell ...]

Yadsmood Rof Srebmun

Drum roll, please Mr. Gold.

7.7m (43% share)
1.52m (63% share) for the under-16s

Thoughts? Ideas? Should dip over 8 million in the official figures which is pretty stupendous. I'm interested that we haven't had a recommission announcement yet but with a share like that on a summer Saturday can we expect adventures in time and space for years to come?


Elsewhere This isn't the show it once was. Hooray!