Links for 2006-12-15 []

  • North West Vision: X-Factor finalist stars in Northwest film
    X-Factor's Ray once appeared in the short film 'Bulletproof' -- and here's a testimonial from the director. Really I don't care who wins and it doesn't matter -- they'll still end up being the Christmas No1.
  • The Manchizzle: Stu's Review
    Amazing post about Review 2006 posted two hours before my own appeal. I love the 'Get Your War On' style graphic.
  • Get Your War On
    So that you can see what I mean ...
  • Review 2006

    Keris asks:
    Can you explain the appeal of Keira Knightley?

    On the dvd for his film The Jacket, director John Maybury tells the story of how the British actress Keira Knightley ended up being cast as the American diner waitress in his film. He describes how he had seen a number of young actresses who would have been perfect for the role and had a short list but when he went to see his financiers and producers, they told him that actually if he didn't cast Knightley they wouldn't make the picture.

    Maybury says he met Knightley and they both sat looking at each other, and he interpreted the pregnant pause to indicate that neither of them really wanted to be there. He made his pitch:
    "I don't really want you in this film. You have to explain to me why you want to be in this film." Bold statement to make to the person whose cache will essentially bankroll his enterprise.
    "Well" she said, "If I don't make this film I'll be stuck in corsets for the rest of my career."
    He was able to happily cast her on the spot. Caught off guard, he simply hadn't expected her self awareness and sassiness.

    I had much the same reaction watching her performance in the film. Her name flashes up amongst the credits and given everything else that is going on, with the interesting editing and Iraq War flashbacks you do wonder what part she's going to be playing. When she arrives somewhat later, outside a diner looking all sullen, she does seem to be miscast and there is a period where she has little dialogue and part of the tension of the film is in awaiting the arrival of her American accent. When it does speak somewhat later, it's actually very good, reminiscent of Winona Ryder.

    Meanwhile it becomes apparent that she's actually giving a very good performance, complementing rather than trying to live up to what Adrien Brody is doing as the broken, possibly time traveling man. He's understated and so is she and despite everything you'd expect their chemistry works. It's a pattern that I think is repeated in most of her performances - there's a very real sense each time of 'oh no not Kiera Knightley' and then sometimes, somehow she nullifies your prejudices.

    She has her doubters, as the tone of the question suggests. I was in a pub not that long ago, when those posters for Tony Scott's Domino were around town. Someone had commented on how dreadful they were and somehow the conversation turned to Knightley and it was interesting to see that although the men were all in agreement that they liked her - work - all of the women hated her and some went into details which included the shape of her face, her hair and her figure, it was almost pathological. But in a non-scientific google poll, "I love keira knightley" offers 1620 hits, whilst "I hate keira knightley" gives just 84 so she must be doing something right (although it should be noted that adding in misspellings of her name add in an extra fifty or so).

    She has an unattainable quality; far from the girl next door, she reminds me of a middle class swan in school who lived in the affluent part of Liverpool whom everybody fancied but was too good for all of us trolls. I'm guessing that some men fancy her because she's out their reach and some women hate her because, perhaps unconsciously, she reminds them too much of the girl or woman who'll blank them in the corridor at work or always seemed to be wearing the perfect everything.

    But this ignores her performances and I think that's the source of her appeal for the rest of us. The first time I remember seeing Knightley was in Nick Hamm's The Hole in which she was one of the four students trapped in the eponymous dank, dark place. It's one of the few times the actress has played evil, as Frankie, the regulation grammer school bitch. Although Thora Birch was still in the glow of American Beauty and stole the film, I think Knightley was the other real survivor and I'd guess this was the performance that led casting agents to take notice.

    It's a shame that since then she has been largely stuck in romantic roles but they've never been that similar - unlike Meg Ryan, for example, she's never playing the same character. There's a big difference between her turn as Lizzy Bennett in Pride & Prejudice and the wood nymph version of Guinevere in King Arthur. She has a surprising range that is often forgotten and has the capacity to improve what is not necessarily a great film.

    Love Actually, in which everyone has a role that is only slightly larger than most cameos, is probably the decider. In a few short scenes, the audience is supposed to understand why Andrew Lincoln is infatuated with her, playing his best friend's new wife. If when she arrives at his flat with her banoffe pie because she thinks he doesn't like her, if your heart melts it's because you like her. If however you think it's a cynical move from someone who can't understand why anyone wouldn't like her she's lost you. Personally, I'm sobbing at the end when he declares his love for her Bob Dylan style, and I hate the film.

    Review 2006: An Appeal

    Review 2006 Time to fess up. I now only have five questions left in the bank to answer. That puts me into next Wednesday, somewhat short of new year. I'm really enjoying this, and I know some you are too, so please, if you have a question to spare, no matter how small, please do what you can this Christmas and submit it to Thank you. Normal rules apply. Check press for details.

    Links for 2006-12-14 []

  • Filmlog: D.E.B.S (2005)
    Fabulous cross genre experiment with an indie-sensibility, this action-teen-romance looks like a labour of love and benefits from the spirit of wanting to try something new. Watch with an open mind and you're brain turned off and you'll love it.

  • feelinglistless' bookmarks tagged with "Filmlog" on
    I'm attempting to keep a film diary with a pith review of everything. I tried this a few years ago but then I simply filled in the odd comment (lamely in some cases). Now I'm making a concerted effort and here's the Delicious feed ...

  • Premiere Magazine: 20 Most Overrated Movies of All Time
    Wins points for including 'American Beauty' up front. Then quickly loses them again with 'Clerks', 'Field of Dreams' and 'Jules et Jim'. I think they're about 60% right. 'The Red Shoes'. Overated? Are you on crack?

  • The Triforce: Is It Just Me, Or Does Everyone Think Everything Is Shit?
    Two links to The Triforce tonight because it's ace. The first is mostly as a discussion of the fact that no one can see anything funny in Microsoft Vista. Plus some other things. I think my Win98 install with be seeing out it's tenth anniversary ...

  • The Triforce: So I guess that?s it for me and the cinema
    I'm very selective about what I see at the actual cinema now. This post describes some of the reasons why.

  • Filmlog: The Grifters (1990)
    Splendid neo-noir with an Oedipal twist and a great score by Elmer Bernstein, this drops the expected con-related plot develops a character study in which the greed of the characters propels the story forward. One of Stephen Frier's best films.
  • Review 2006

    hayleys-comet asks:
    What are you most afraid of and why? What have you done to overcome your fears?

    I met Anna Ford yesterday.

    It's graduation day and I'm sat in the Whitworth Hall at Manchester University, a giant medieval-style hall with a wood carved ceiling, with my two other remaining course mates. I'm looking through the order of service booklet and notice that the presiding officer will be Anna Ford. I wonder if it'll be the Anna Ford and I'm rather excited - perhaps in a weird way - more than getting the certificate. I'm very nervous for reason I can't quite work out - all I'll be doing is walking up onto the low stage, shaking a hand and processing through the central aisle back to my seat.

    Earlier I'd gone to the gown and hat fitting and spoke to the nice lady who made sure that everything was in the right place. I think I said something like: 'I didn't think this would happen. I remember seeing last year's students in the robes and thought it would never happen' and she had said 'Well you are. And its an MA and you will have worked really hard for it.'

    Briefly I'd felt the weight of that work on my shoulders, the tired nights, the academic frustrations, tinged with a nostalgia I'd voice later to my tutor that I was actually missing it, which I am. I'd do another degree in a heartbeat. The fitter had probably said the same thing to everyone who walked up to her, but it was exactly what I needed to hear. She mentioned that her own kids would be going through the process to and I suggested that she'd be going to a few graduations herself. 'I hope so.' She smiled.

    The mace is brought into the hall and the opening procession begins and as the Phd's pass by and the dons it becomes apparent that actually yes, it is Anna Ford. Nationwide's Anna Ford. She was shorter than I'd expected in the way that famous people usually are. I'd seen Coronation Street's Susie Blake earlier in the day fussing over biscuits in Marks & Spencers at Lime Street Station but she seemed quite tall. Why is it that people always fixate on these things? Just me?

    The ceremony begins soon and Anna Ford gives the address in which she talks about our achievement, and says that we'll be Manchester University students for the rest of our lives before listing all of the awards the institution has won lately. Again, I think, as I always do -- I went here? Apparently my Dad, who was sitting with my Mum at the back of the hall got quite emotional at this bit which is not like him.

    The students begin to process up for their handshake and certificate. As I watch, it was almost like watching my year pass by as I realise how many people I'd actually met over the year. I might not have become great friends with any or all of them it also demonstrated that I wasn't really as insular as I thought. Somewhere clapped more than others (as you'd expect) and some reacted to the honour more than others - after the shake he stepped forward and clenched his fist as though he'd scored a goal.

    Then it was our turn. We stepped up into queue. Someone checked I was in the right place by asking my name and the nice fitter lady from earlier in the day made sure that my gown was still on properly. Between times I'd been to pick up my dissertation - I agreed with all of the comments even the negative ones - and got my picture taken. At the studio, the photographers had noticed my Liverpool accent and asked me which team I support. Even though I said Everton but that I knew nothing about Football, they still asked me who'd scored some goal in some year in some championship. Blank-blank-blank-eff-blank-eee. Nope, sorry.

    I'm at the bottom of the stair now looking up at Anna Ford. Mentally I keep staying: 'Don't trip up, don't trip up, don't trip up.' The announcer said: 'And in Screen Studies, graduating with a merit ? Stuart Ian Burns' I walked forward and didn't trip on the stairs, kept my stride pattern and put out my hand.

    Anna Ford said something. I think it was 'Well done'.
    'Very pleased to meet you.' I replied and grinned. She returned the grin then looked off towards my course mate Geraldine who was next up.

    I turned and faced the audience. Whether it was the clapping or the fact that the announcer sounded like he'd just confirmed that I was the Heavy Weight Champion of the World, but I began to wave. Then stopped. So it was a half wave. I was handed my certificate and that was that.

    Mum and Dad went home and I went to the reception for a drink with my course mate Marie-Anna and her family. My tutor, David, found us and said lots of nice things and agreed with me on my disappointment with Pan's Labyrinth. Once the party was over we talked for another hour about my dissertation and Torchwood and Doctor Who and agreed to stay in touch.

    On the train home I ate a cheese, bacon and tomato baguette and somewhere in there I began to finally feel like a graduate. It seemed right to be on the Manchester train home again, just as I had after all those days of study for all those weeks. As the end of the journey, I must have been showing the tiredness of the day as I stood up because a fellow passenger said.
    'Nearly home.'
    I nodded.
    'Where did you come from?'
    'Manchester,' I said, 'But I graduated today. It's been a long day.'
    'What did you study?'
    'Screen Studies.'
    I looked at his table. There was a brochure for Newcastle University there.
    'You going to Newcastle?'
    'Hoping to.'
    'Was it the open day today?'
    'The uni - I saw the polytechnic when I was applying...'
    'The uni.' He grinned.
    'Did you get that feeling as you were walking around of "This feels right, I want to be here."'
    He nodded his eyes lit up.
    The train stopped.
    'Well good luck.' I said.
    And I walked away.

    The thing I was really, truly most afraid of was not graduating. I overcame my fear by graduating.

    And meeting Anna Ford.

    Review 2006

    Gia from SunshineDNA asks:
    What do you feel provides the human race with answers, closest to the truth, Science or Religion?

    "You can't handle the truth." - Col. Nathan R. Jessep, A Few Good Men.

    I should preface this with some notes on my own religious history because I believe this will have some baring on the opinions that will follow. I'm technically Protestant, although my mother is a Methodist and I'm not quite sure what my dad is. So any of the following will be from something akin to a Christian perspective. I didn't go to church much when I was very young, but watched Songs of Praise every week. Church only really became a regular activity when I was in the Cub Scouts although it was compulsory rather than a choice; there were hymns and prayers in primary school though.

    This continued into secondary school were I experimented with Christianity in my first year attending Bible Study and Scripture Union and the rare prayer meeting. To this day I'm not sure why, standing in Garston Market during freezing cold lunch times even though I wasn't born again. That sort of ended at the beginning of the second year when the teacher who ran everything wanted me to do something and it become clear he'd simply assumed that I'd born again before I joined the school. From then on and felt like I'd been excommunicated.

    Throughout the rest of school I did my best to try and find out as much as I could about the other religions available, actually trying to pay attention in RE and talking the Muslim student. I was in the school choir and the music was generally of a religious content, apart from a bizarre incident later on when we sang a Beatles medley. But the prayer continued in assemblies and the hymns.

    Eventually I came to the conclusion, then note, that God and science weren't incompatible. I remember voicing the idea in one of the classroom discussions that the bible might just have been a metaphoric way of describing scientific proof, that God used the big bang to create the heavens and the earth, with 'day' being a flexible term for any great length of time. That's right - I was inadvertently advocating something akin to intelligent design, more on which later.

    Since then I wouldn't say I turned my back on religion, I just haven't specifically joined any of the monotheists in a particular cause. When asked I tell people I'm a non-denominational spiritualist, which until recently didn't specifically mean anything to anyone but me, but I've noticed lately churches being set up or green witches describing themselves as such so I might have to decide upon something else. I was using in the phrase for occasions when I wanted to encapsulate my odd don'tactuallyknowwhatthehellsgoingon-type feelings and so that I can be spiritual in my own way, lighting candles in cathedrals, making wishes, singing the good hymns and enjoying Christmas carols.

    Even more recently however I'm seriously beginning to see a shift in my belief system. I'm beginning to understand that religion is a human construct, its laws and acts the work of people like me, with perhaps only a slightly clearer idea of what it all means based on earlier teaching. That's obviously understating the scholarship involved and the expectation that the product is the work of God but its difficult equally for me to live with the fact that people have sometimes gone to war over whether their version of the truth is the correct one even if there is the distinct possibility that they're both wrong. In addition, are we saying that current religious thinking is any more right or sophisticated than the Greek, Roman or even Egyptian belief systems. Aren't they all just manifestations of the same thing - the need to believe in something?

    Now, what I probably should do here is drop in some good quotes from people like Richard Dawkins or The Dalai Llama to cover the two sides of the argument. The fact that I'm not shouldn't in any way be thought of as a lack of research, more that I want to attempt to present my opinion unfiltered which I know presents the risk that the following will sound like the kind of pissed meanderings which I'd often spew during a pub lock-in in my early twenties. I can still hear Richard Coppell, the scientist who I'd known from school telling me I don't know what I'm talking about, not that he seemed to either.

    Frankly it's difficult not to actually come to the conclusion that neither science or religion holds the answers because people are involved. In a sense, all that religion does is allow control, either benign or otherwise with the most powerful figures wielding the most influence. The New Testament, for example, is a collection of books that gained orthodoxy in the fourth century AD, banishing, with perhaps the exception of Revelations, anything really controversial. The apocrypha makes for eye raising reading but underlines how the Christian church's attitude to most things might be very different now had they not been disregarded as heresy by other religious figures way back when.

    In a similar way, science cannot be considered cold and unbiased. True, science just is but scientific breakthroughs and theories are merely understandings of available evidence. If the evidence is obscured and hasn't been revealed yet the developments will be limited. But scientists are the gatekeepers of the knowledge and again it's the most powerful of these, either through magnificent thought or sponsorship from major companies seeking business opportunities who dictate the scientific truth that will be disseminated. That's why green sciences have until recently been severely under funded and are in some cases decades behind other fields. Why would anyone want to fund the development of a car that can run on water or ethanol or whatnot if their vested interests are in old?

    I was shocked to discover recently, reading the local newspaper, that the same teacher I had the probable falling out with is attempting to bring the teaching of intelligent design into science lessons. Nothing too concrete, just a few videos, an attempt to open up the possibility that any science that can't be explained must be God's work. The reason I eventually rejected my version of intelligent design is that actually its not that they can't be explained - it's that they can't be explained -- yet. Fermat's Last Theorem looked impossible for three centuries until Andrew Wiles came along and found a proof.

    If then it is possible to take us people out of the equation, for us to peer at science and religion in abstraction, which do I think is most likely to provide the truth? Drum roll please.


    It just is. There will inevitably be a time when the current religions, no matter how complex they may be will change or even disappear just as the aforementioned Mediterranean belief systems have. They're the product of humanity (at least through my eyes) and as such perishable along with whatever the apparent truth might be that they're advocating.

    Science however will continue, there will always be something to discover or rediscover after the apocalypse and whatever truth it may be will continue to exist waiting to be stumbled upon or sadly suppressed. I don't know that there's some ultimate equation that offers the answer to everything and really it also depends on what you expect the truth to be. But you know what's really scary? Somewhere in here, is something that actually gives sense to a famous quote from Donald Rumsfeld We know there is a truth, but we just don't know what that truth is.

    "Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know."

    Links for 2006-12-11 []

  • Pickard of the Pops: Pete Bennett - Nuff Buzzin'
    Pete from Big Brother has a single out. Oh good lord. It could be worse. Nicola from BB1 could be rereleasing her attempt ... 'It's only a gaaaame.... it's only a gaaaaame.' Err right.
  • C4Chaos: B-SCAN with Rebecca Blood
    Perceptive interview with the first blogger whose work I ever read ...
  • Cinematical: Seven Things You Didn't Know About It's A Wonderful Life
    Having researched the film for an essay this year I can honestly agree that these are seven things I didn't know, although I'd say read the autobiography in conjunction with Joe McBride's biography. Frank was a bit fluid in his memory.
  • Review 2006: Graduation Day!

    F asks:
    I've kindly been given a subscription to LoveFilm and while I have a few things I'd like to see I want to make the most of the opportunity and see films I wouldn't otherwise. I have a largely uneducated interest in foreign film, particularly French and Italian - any recommendations? No horror please, just interesting and beautiful films you think are worth watching.

    First of all, welcome to LoveFilm (the European Netflix), which is finally creeping out of its Fight Club-like obscurity and becoming the rental company of choice for the film fan. Well alright the service can be maddening sometimes, you'll only rarely get the film you really want but the whole of the global film history is available to you (apart from anything which isn't available on dvd) and it's going to be a wild ride. Again, I say, welcome.

    Secondly, I love this question. I love this question because I've almost already answered it. Earlier in the year, a friend's girlfriend asked pretty much the same thing and I spent that night drawing up a list. I decided that rather than simply dropping in those films which everyone expects you to have seen, I'd include the interesting and beautiful films that I thought were worth watching. And that's what you've asked for here. As it turned out ...

    It's a bit long.

    I originally posted it on here mid year and looking through there's not one I would change, although I have added a couple I've met since. It is an ecclectic mix, although the high proportion are French because for many years most of anything released here has heralded from that great nation. I have to admit to there being a void in my knowledge were the Italian cinema industry should be but we have ways and means which'll be described afterwards. Anyway, here is the list and just for you as well as flagging up the films I've really loved with a *, those with a (h) are the horror films so that you can avoid them...

    8 Women
    20:30:40 *
    400 Blows
    L'Apartment *
    A Very Long Engagement
    Aimee and Jaguar
    Amelie *
    Amores Perros
    Bande A Part *
    Battle Royale
    Belle Epoque
    Belleville Rendez-Vous
    Betty Blue *
    Blue Gate Crossing *
    Bob De Flambier
    Closely Observed Trains
    Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
    Etre Et Avoir
    Fairwell My Concubine
    Un Flic
    French Twist
    Goldfish Memory
    Goodbye Lenin!
    He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not
    House of Flying Daggers
    In The Mood For Love
    In This World
    Intimate Strangers
    Jean De Florette/Manon Des Sources
    Jesus of Montreal *
    Jules Et Jim
    Kitchen Stories
    La Règle du jeu
    La Reine Margot
    Last Life In The Universe
    Like Water For Chocolate
    Look at Me *
    Love Me If You Dare
    Ma Vie En Rose
    No Man's Land
    Partie De Campagne
    Place Vendome (pictured)
    Pot Luck * (l'auberge espagnole)
    Le Gout des Autres
    Red Lights
    Rome, Open City
    Run Lola Run
    Shaolin Soccer
    Show Me Love *
    Summer Things
    Survive Style 5+
    Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter And Spring
    Take Care of My Cat
    Taxi *
    Taxi 2 *
    The Dreamers *
    The Hairdresser's Husband *
    The Horseman on the Roof
    The Last Metro
    The Man Without A Past
    The Motorcycle Diaries *
    The Seventh Seal
    The Umbrellas of Cherborg
    The Russian Dolls *
    Three Colours Blue *
    Three Colours White
    Three Colours Red *
    Three Seasons (1999) *
    Throne of Blood
    Trilogy - One / Two / Three *
    Un Coeur En Hiver
    Un Flic
    Une Liaison Pornographique
    Wild Strawberries
    Wings of Desire
    Y Tu Mamma Tambien
    Zatoichi *

    So actually, no horror, which could mean that my mate's girlmate had the same request. Although to be honest once you've seen Ringu, Ju-On, The Name of the Beast, The Eye and Audition everything else seems a bit derivative.

    There are a couple of crossover films - which might be considered English Language in a certain list, and it's far from complete. I'm sure there are omissions which will have other film fans bristling. What only one Almodovar they'll be saying. Where's all the Truffaut gone? Which is why I'm also going to throw in some hints and tips. Sorry if any of this is too obvious or unhelpful:

    Don't expect many happy endings. I think it was Godard who said that if the film has a happy ending people will remember the middle. Give them a surprise and they'll walk away talking about the ending. Expect curve balls and surprises. But sometimes that can be the good thing because just when you expect the suicidal homeless prostitute to kill herself finally and violently, the rich bloke she met in a café earlier in the film will sweep her off her feet.

    European filmmakers tend to adhere to something called the auteur approach which means that many of their films will have similar concerns and have a similar style. American examples would be Woody Allen or Steven Soderbergh. If you like one of their films you'll more than likely enjoy everything else although be wary of artistic development - I love Jean-Luc Godard's early New Wave films but as time's gone on he's become increasingly more obscure and abstract stretch what might be considered a narrative to its limits to the point that I find is most recent stuff unwatchable. Oddly enough, play the casting game too. Actors like Emanuelle Beart or Irene Jacob or Jean Reno have been very astute over the years in working with some of the really great directors and if its good enough for the ... Be wary of Gerard Depardieau though - he's the Michael Caine of France and has made some real stinkers over the years.

    What I've tended to do lately is really scrutinize the synopsis that appears on the site and if the story doesn't seem attractive you're probably best steering clear. The main problem with getting this stuff through LoveFilm is that you'll have been to work had a shitty day and if you're not careful they will have sent you a masterpiece from Bergman's particularly depressive period. Uplifting stuff in a 'I'm glad my life's not like that' kind of way but not the sort of thing to be looking at when all you want is a bit of escapism.

    I'd imagine I'd get shouted at by some of my peers for that last sentence but I'm working from bitter experience. If you see something you think you'd like to see but don't think you'd like to see any time, keep it noted down somewhere and surprisingly maybe your local library has a copy. If you're at uni, you might even have access to a language centre connected to that school and often they'll allow anyone to borrow the material or watch it there if they have the facilities.

    French Heritage films are great. You really haven't seen a costume drama until you've seen them do it - whereas the British do the small intimate chamber stories, the French are generally all about the big sweeping melodramatic gestures, autocracy getting the chop and what not and the budgets are generally massive. I suspect the reason that Sofia Coppolla's Marie Antoinette was booed at Cannes is because she was riffing on one of their beloved genres more than the apparent misunderstandings about French history. Pick up some books on French Cinema and there will be a massive section about Heritage films but the funny thing is that although as with everywhere else they share cast members and directors and even writers with other styles of filmmaking, they're a law unto themselves. As usual, the wikipedia is a good place to look for more information and recommendations. I've included a couple in the list above.

    Now, to address the Italian film void and everything else ...

    Look at BBC Four's website. They're pretty selective and haven't broadcast many bad films not even for contractual reasons. Many of the things I had to watch for my film studies course were recordings from their broadcasts. They also generally have an introductory essay which will give you a flavour of the film and also a list of suggestions for further viewing.

    Also the list of Oscar nominations. Amazingly, there aren't that many bad choices amongst the winners, and looking back into the past some really seminal films have been chosen. But basically if it looks boring and a haul, it probably is.

    The Wikipedia. The entries for French Cinema and Italian Cinema are a mine of information and individual film entries have links to database websites like the Internet Movie Database and Rotten Tomatoes so that you can see what the film is really like. Time's precious and thirty seconds glancing through this can save you two and a half hours screen time spent with some insufferable people café hopping in Marseille who you'll just want to smack. To save time just these are the links to just the film lists for France and Italy. The metaentry for World Cinema is here.

    I hope that is of some use. Anyone else got any ideas?

    It is the same universe! It is!

    Audio Blake's 7 to return as audio drama: "Production company B7 Productions has created a "radical re-interpretation" of the cult series, with actors including Derek Riddell (Roj) and Daniela Nardini (Servalan) taking part." So they're going to Battlestar Galactica route of recasting everybody.

    Here's the bit I don't understand: "The series will be released as 36 x 5 minute dramas and will debut in early 2007. Each drama was written by Ben Aaronavitch, James Swallow and Marc Platt." So some Doctor Who writers on board which is good, except is five minutes enough time to do anything, and how are they being released? iTunes?

    Review 2006

    Ian asks:
    What one question, if asked, would you be most inclined to answer with a lie - and why?

    I think it's probably the lie we all tell on a daily basis.

    'I'm ok.'

    This isn't to imply that anything is particularly wrong. Alright I'm not in work at the moment, but I've just graduated with a merit from the one course I've almost always wanted to do. I'm not with anyone at the moment but I'm not particularly lonely for some reason. I'm not rich but the money is there if I need it. If I glance at the all important Maslow's Hierarchy I'm pretty high up on that pyramid. Still feels like a lie though if I do say that I'm 'OK'.

    But in general terms, for some reason, no matter how shitty life actually is - someone's died, you've lost your job, you have no money, you are lonely, you're more inclined to say that you're ok when asked how you are. It's politeness -- the understanding that the person is asking after your well being but doesn't actually want to be burdened with the nature of your well being. That they're possibly just asking you because they want the question returned so that you can both feel important in the eyes of the other person. And let's be honest, how many people do you know that you like not pity that will actually tell you their problems up front?

    It's what dear Douglas Adams was satirizing in The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy with Marvin The Paranoid Android. When Arthur and Ford first meet him, he's more inclined to describe all of his woes than take them to were they want to go. It's all about the 'pain in all the diodes on my left side'. We've all met a Marvin somewhere along the line and they're no fun and there's always the fear that you could become that person.

    Perhaps even more strangely people are inclined to say that they're ok, they're fine when in fact they're ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC YEAH! BRILLIANT HOORAY, and have lots of positive news in case their friend's cat has died and they don't want them to feel bad. I've had that conversation (or a version of it) and it can be a real downer.

    Conversation is like a verbal game of scissors-paper-stone, and which one of you will be first in with the negative/positive news and set the tone for the rest of your time together. I suspect the reason that gossip is popular is because it means you have something to talk about related to someone who isn't there and no matter how good or bad their life is going you're both divorced from it and it can't really effect your own emotional tenor.

    Gossip or talking about someone else is something you can both agree on. If they've died you can share sympathy. If they've won the lottery you can agree that they're a lucky bastard (and if you're in a Hitchcock film and one of you is an heir, decide upon the perfect murder). Sometimes this can artificially create the possibility of introducing something personal, slipping it in as a way of leavening things.

    Some might say, under all these circumstances, with all that pressure, that the best conversations are the shortest.

    "Hello, you ok?"
    "Yeah fine. You?"

    Random Shoes.

    TV "Life's full of disappointments…" Yes, yes it is. Every Sunday at 10pm on BBC Three (or as it appeared tonight briefly Children's BBC). Really must I? Can't I just say 'What Sean said' and move on? This isn't going to be half as entertaining or perceptive. I've just spent the past week writing this critique for my own blog for various reasons describing the main thing wrong with Torchwood and here's an episode that generally ignores my criticisms and creates a whole bunch of others. I could hate it just on that basis, but that wouldn't be fair so it looks like I'll have to make up a special list for this one. It's eleven o'clock at night, I should be thinking about going to bed or running another episode of Spaced which I'm watching once again. Have you seen the end of the paintball episode lately? It's like a forward homage to the Doctor Who episode Fear Her with 'There's a storm coming' and a crane shot and everything. Or are they both Terminator references?

    I mean what the hell was that? Do the production team not think that we're not sitting at home thinking - 'Hold on - this is a bit like Love & Monsters…' or 'Is he a ghost? Out of phase with the rest of reality? A non-corporeal clone? What?' or 'Is she in wrap or idle whilst she talking to Gwen - isn't she thinking about her weekly stats - what kind of a call centre is this?' or 'Jesus Christ that's a horrific music cue… what a winy voice … is this supposed to be a joke' or 'That's the original A For Andromeda. Don't pan away, I'm watching that!' or 'Will that man please stop singing? This funeral scene has gone on long enough … what it's still going? How many bloody verses are there in 'Danny Boy' and apart from anything else what the hell is he doing singing it in Wales?' or the many thousands of other niggles that flopped through my brain as I tried desperately and should have been engaging with the story.

    Eugene seemed a nice enough bloke, but his plight wasn't enough of a mystery to stretch out over twenty-five minutes let alone double that time. The episode seemed to be copying the structure of Citizen Kane which followed the steps from childhood forward to death in order to reveal a mystery -- it's about how a man lived being revealed in flashbacks and whatnot. Here it felt like the montage sequence from The Ghost Machine slowed down across a a whole episode but instead of the main character discovering information such as Eugene's early childhood it was shown to the audience first. Which meant that when it was revealed to Gwen later it lacked dramatic impact.

    It just seems very wrong to me that on such a regular basis, that the so-called regular characters are given so little to do. Ianto's back to saying basically nothing and Tosh is simply asking questions. They're supposed to be main characters and yet they're being sidelined - it's Classic Star Trek all over again. The trouble with this episode was that it wasn't Gwen's story it was Eugene's with the maths 'genius' using her to discover what happened because he pushed her forward - too often she would walk into a scene and sat listening as characters described another bit of the plot. This wasn't really detecting because she wasn't allowed to put the clues together herself -- Eugene was motivating her, revealing his memories, the final moments being his success. Eve Myles was sidelined in her own show.

    There wasn't anything actually wrong with the story, but surely it's the kind of thing you trot out in season three when you've established all the characters and you want either give them a week off or you're double banking and have some fun with them. Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Lower Decks is a prime example, as junior officers became the focus and we got to see the regulars from their perspective. Here, Eugene basically followed Gwen around because he lurrrved her and didn't really regard any of the others. During The Hub visit, he seemed more interested in The Doctor's hand (we get the joke already) than anyone else in the hub which seemed a waste.

    Eugene was also a bit talky though, given to half quoting everything from Douglas Adams through to Ferris Bueller's Day Off via Monty Python's Galaxy Song, all very poetic, probably thematic, but slowed what little drama there was even more. Unlike Love & Monsters, however, it never felt like the ramblings of a half normal person, seeming more like it had been brought in because the story was being adapted from a novel and the screenwriter was too afraid not include the author's winning material. I'd also argue that the fact that Eugene was both describing events in both the past and present tense confused the point of view still further.

    Paul Chequer is a talented actor and even though the character felt like a rehash of his character in As If, even with the Hitler quiff, he still managed to be sympathetic and appealing despite that wordiness. Once again, Eve Myles somehow managed to make Gwen seem like a normal, appealing figure even if her job on this occasion was to largely sit there and listen. The performances across board in this episode were good if not excellent amongst the guest cast although this has always been a problem with the series - the regulars are just less vivid and unloved in the face of the populace of South Wales.

    The special effects too were very nice all of the wizzing around the solar system and galaxy, presumably representing Eugene's imagination, giving the episode a scale others have lacked. It was just a shame that they couldn't stretch to more than one moment in which he actually put his hand through someone. He was still walking around at normal speed with doors, such as the ones in the hub, waiting for him to walk through. This quirk could have been worked into the episode - perhaps providing Gwen with proof of her feeling that someone was about but instead it looked like an inconsistency waiting for a nitpicker like me to point it out.

    Other oddities -- have Gwen and Owen split up is that what all the arguing is supposed to imply? Why just imply it, why not just say it? And why the hell after all the lovely scenes earlier in the series haven't we seen a proper break-up scene for Gwen and her boyfriend? The show seems determined to reduce every character to a plot point or cypher. Are they allergic to giving the characters convincing private lives? Most of the problems with this episode could have been solved with a reduction of the influence of Eugene's character and the introduction of a B-plot about Jack or Tosh or even Ianto.

    Marks were gained for the use of 'Starman' instead of 'Life on Mars', but what the hell was that thing during the autopsy sequence in The Hub? (and as a side note if they had cut him open wouldn't they have found the eye?) Well I know what it is thanks to Outpost Gallifrey - 'Hope There's Someone' by Antony and The Johnsons and in a different context I might have liked it, but here it just ruined the mood and was completely out of context. Love & Monsters had a coherent musical structure but this was just a mish-mash.

    But taking the episode as it stands though, it simply wasn't as touching as it should have been even with all of that music layered in, for the reasons already listed and that bloody funeral scene at the end. You really have to have worked hard in the body of a drama to earn something like that and they didn't and as that poor actor graveled his way through even more of Danny Boy I was screaming at the screen for him to stop when I know I should be crying and didn't matter how much sob music was layered in afterwards, they'd lost me again.

    Next week: It's more Star Trek plots as TNG's The Neutral Zone and Voyager's The 37ers are given a run around. Once again, we're left wondering what the premise of this show is actually meant to be.

    Links for 2006-12-10 [] - Rmail

  • Wikipedia: Across the Universe
    New Julie Taymor film using puppets, animation and live action and the music of The Beatles to tell the story of a Liverpudlian dock worker Jude (Jim Sturgess) travels to America in the 1960s to find his estranged father.
  • Filmlog: A Brief History of Time (1991)
    Somehow manages to be an illuminating science documentary and coherent biography. A follow-up film could continue the science from the 1992 release date until now, bringing in the new material from 'A Briefer History of Time'.
  • Review 2006

    Keith of Tommy Westphall's Mind asks:
    What's the major problem with Torchwood and can Russell T Davies fix it or is it a lost cause? Can a showrunner really run two shows at once?

    The difficulty with defining the major problem with Torchwood, is that the answer is bound to be highly subjective. To look some of the preview sections of newspapers or comments online (particularly the Doctor Who fan discussion boards at Outpost Gallifrey) the show is going from strength to strength and the viewing figures confirm this with the BBC Three first run regularly polling as the top show on the channel. If Torchwood wasn't entertaining viewers they'd be drifting away. Obviously a percentage of that audience will be Doctor Who fans still watching because it's a spin-off from their favourite show, they would not be enough to sustain what's clearly being seen as a success by the BBC, with Mark Thompson recently suggesting that it will run and run.

    On a purely subjective level, then, the mistake was in creating an adult spin-off from a family show, largely making the show an exercise in justifying its timeslot. At its inception, the production team explained that it would allow them to tell stories that they couldn't in the Saturday night family slot. This has certainly been obvious in the episodes already broadcast which in no particular order have featured suicide, nymphomania, rape, murder, pedophilia, cannibalism, necromancy, swearing and metro-sexuality. The execution of these elements has been very gratuitous, which isn't necessarily to be criticized in and of itself. Except this has largely meant that the content of the stories seems to be governed by the need to include these elements rather than logical plotting, and indeed in an episode like Small Worlds the scary but benign opening to the story is rejected for something darker with the death of an apparently important character being almost entirely arbitrary. Did Jack's old flame really need to die with all of the other mayhem that was happening around them?

    There is a willful (and bizarre) ignoring (or ignorance) of the need for standard genre storytelling, of following classical narrative techniques. Film writer Thomas Sobchack indicates that 'in the genre film the plot is fixed, the characters defined and the ending satisfyingly predictable' and this is just as, if not more important in genre television, of which Torchwood is an example, as the viewer gets their weekly fix of variations on the theme. In all cop shows its an investigation - who broke the law and why. In The X-Files it's discovering the cause of some strange phenomena and in Buffy as with all superhero shows it's the ongoing attempt to destroy evil. Without A Trace is about the race to find the missing person. In Star Trek it's more often than not the Enterprise or whatever ship has mission to carry out before the episode is up - in Voyager that might be finding some metal to build a new shuttlecraft etc. In Quantum Leap, Sam has to put right what once went wrong before he can leap. It's simply not possible to define Torchwood in these terms, especially since it even ignores the opening speech that Jack gives before each episode.

    In all of these shows the goal that is clearly defined the beginning of each episode is satisfyingly resolved by the end, the equilibrium maintained unless its purposefully left open as part of an ongoing story arc. In Torchwood, the initial goal, which usually involves the investigation of an alien something police procedural style is more often than not resolved in the opening first ten minutes of the episode and then a secondary goal is usually created because of the motivations or mistakes of someone within the crew. Although it's possible to suggest that this is the format it doesn't simply doesn't satisfy because predominantly the secondary goal is far less interesting than the proposed original. In Ghost Machine the alien dongle's power is explained in the opening ten minutes as is the initial mystery of who is in Gwen's vision and the secondary goals of where is came from and Owen wanting to avenge the rapist are not strong enough to carry the rest of the episode Cyberwoman and Greeks Bearing Gifts are entirely based upon the premise that someone within Torchwood hasn't been entirely honest and in all three the climax boils down to the results of one of the team deciding to admit that something dodgy has been going on.

    This narrative uncertainty is carried over to the treatment of character. One of the key elements of any drama is narrative agency - in other words which character's point of view is being followed within the story and on a more particular level each scene. In genre television, narrative agency is held by one of the main characters, or a particular character if that's all that's in the room. In The West Wing tonight, towards the end, there was a scene when Leo was finding out from the staff how bad a day its actually been. All of the close ups are with him as he looks out into the room at people who are essentially much smaller than him. So the audience is viewing the scene through his eyes and that continues as he goes into the Oval Office to have an argument with the President who again is usually shown well into the frame. It's a very subtle thing, and it has to do with acting, shot angles, editing and music and the director deciding who is most important in a scene and the message.

    In Torchwood, narrative agency is often all over the place and too often is 'conferred' on the guest star. In Greeks Baring Gifts, which let's not forget is Tosh's first showcase, in nearly every scene she shares with Mary, it's the alien whose in charge - it's all about her reactions to Tosh and her manipulation of the situation. The problem is that it makes Tosh look weak and we never know what she is thinking - the episode is about Mary getting into Torchwood when it should be about Tosh trying to discover who this woman is. But Tosh hardly ever has agency anywhere in the episode - at the very end, it's all about Jack's leadership skills not Tosh trying to work out what do next. When she crunches the necklace it's about Jack (and so therefore us) willing her to make the correct decision. Random Shoes was really only about the guest star with Torchwood becoming supporting characters in their own series.

    On other occasions, there are scenes and episodes in which no one seems to have agency so the audience doesn't know what to think. Countrycide has a morass of these scenes; look at the moment when Gwen is sewing up Owen's wound. Who is that scene about? It should be about Gwen saving Owen and the consequences of that, but the camera angles don't favour anyone and the performances don't reflect anything that has happened in the episode up until that point. This makes the characters a largely unsympathetic group and unapproachable curbing a lot of the entertainment. It's like watching Big Brother's live feed before the editors have taken a day's footage and created a narrative.

    Can these problems be resolved? Of course they can. The show just needs a much clearer vision, the Torchwood team needs to be far more goal-orientated and a more clearly defined episode structure. Each episode needs to state the mission or goal of the ensuing drama. This doesn't have to be something as strict as a diary entry from Captain Jack (for example) but it should have at least a scene in which all the characters pertinent to the story are together and the point is made. Spooks does this all the time and it gives the ensuing story clarity - and whatever the goal is should be the point of the ensuing drama, the closing moments of the episode resolving whatever this is, with secondary goals being additions rather than substitutions. Possibly, the best episode of the series Day One does exactly this.

    Above all Torchwood needs an injection of 'realism'. Often, the attitude to logical time is haphazard at best and sometimes its tricky to tell exactly the real world duration of an episode. It's not clear exactly how long Tosh and Mary spent together in Greeks Bearing Gifts and the flub in They Keep Killing Suzie when Owen says driving along in pitch darkness that they have minutes to save Gwen and moments later to be greeted with a climax in pure daylight is unforgivable. Although that's just careless, the probably solution to narrative problems might be to rain in the team and have a Jim Phelpsian figure sending them out on the missions underscoring the importance of what they're doing. It might even be an idea to make them more clearly answerable to the government - that would put a stop to all the pissing about in The Hub with basketball games - give them quotas and reports to consider.

    The so-called run of the mill stories in most shows allow the premise benders to really shine. Arguably every episode of Torchwood breaks a premise that hasn't been too clearly defined which makes the series incredibly difficult to watch. Some might call this a brave experiment, but how can the audience hope for a return to a status quo if it isn't entirely clear what that status quo actually is? All of the show's other problems, such as characterization are a knock on effect from this and would be largely resolved if classical storytelling techniques were being followed. If the characters are allowed to actually save the day without being the cause of the crisis in the first place, our empathy with them will improve too.

    The answer to the second question is -- yes. Definitely. In future years we'll discover how much day to day time Russell T Davies spent on Torchwood along with Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures. Is he, as I suspect, only actually the showrunner on one of them? Its worth keeping in mind that Joss Whedon managed Buffy season seven, Angel season four and Firefly altogether in the same year and arguably the first two were a renaissance for their respective shows and the last is still a television classic. But he cleverly had the right creative teams put together whom he trusted with some of the nuts and bolts but he was also, somehow, able to keep his own creative vision for all three. Listen to the audio commentaries and its apparent that the majority of his energy was with Firefly, but he still managed to pen the final episode of Buffy. Frankly the man is a creative machine and anyone in those circumstances who can turn out a great piece of television - period - like the Firefly episode Objects in Space deserves respect.

    The Scarlet Empress.

    Books  I was a bit disappointed to hear that the Eighth Doctor radio stories which are appearing on BBC7 through into February will be the story of the time before his regeneration.  I rather like the mystery, the fact that nothing about his era is predetermined, the details about the time war, how he became Ninth.  Does this mean that it's in fact Ninth who was involved in said war, sometime after Eighth took a passionate, brilliant, dangerous decision one final time?  Of course my fantasy, if it has to happen, he'll be regenerating in episode eight after defeating the Cybermen, a big bang, a musical flourish and a familiar Manchunian twang saying 'Oh, fantastic!'

    But all that's in the future.  I'm back in 1998 and ready to praise Paul Magrs, The Scarlet Empress a magnificent BBC novel which I think for the first time conscious bends the flexible format around a literary genre, the fantasy romantic quest story.  The Doctor and Sam are taking in some R&R on the ancient planet of Hyspero when they get caught up in an adventure for Iris Wyldethyme, a similarly bohemian timelady renegade who is tasked with a mission for The Scarlet Empress, the tyranicaly monarch of the world.  They travel across the landscape in Iris's TARDIS, a London bus which is even less reliable than The Doctor's type-40 (it's smaller on the inside than the outside) and along the way they collect members of a band of adventures, their glory days ended.

    That's the framework anyway.  What Magrs has recognized, however, is that a quest is only really about the journey the getting from A to B.  The ultimate goal is almost always an anti-climax and so it proves to be here.  But what a journey.  The author threads in references and influences from inevitably Tolkein, but also Pratchett, Lewis Carroll, J M Barrie, Frank Baum and probably a dozen other writers I've never read.  It's also effectively a road movie set in the fantasy realm, intensely episodic, the characters all learning something about themselves and each other along the way.

    Hyspero unlike many planets that appear in Doctor Who feels like a consistent world - it has continents and races and the entire population isn't all huddled together in one area.  Once again the novels were able to witness an entire civilization, albeit one with a somewhat post-modern history.  This isn't just the population of one house or village speaking for a whole world as is so often the case and given the sheer number of different landscapes and environments traversed it's massive.  This is the Tolkein influence and sometimes its hard not to think of New Zealand as the travelers get lost in a mountain range or a bog.  The Scarlet Empress of the title is certainly a reference to the 1934 film with Marlene Dietrich at least in terms of how the succession in power occurs on Hyspero.

    I mean you've got to love any story in which The Doctor uses Vladimir Propp's narrative theory to get out of a scrape.  For the uninitiated, Propp reduced all stories to a series of thirty-one functions  and when The Doctor is captured and is called upon to tell endless stories about his life in order to survive, he suggests that all he need do is create a list of monsters, villainous plans, companions, locales and heroic actions and the captors could simply construct their own adventures randomly and satisfactorily from the ingredients.  He's very conscious of the repetitions of action that occur in his own life.

    It's exceedingly metafictional that way, with both The Doctor and Iris referring to how their lives are really a string of adventures joined together and there's a particularly neat interchange towards the end in which they discuss exactly which genre The Doctor seems to spend most of his time in.    One of the props which is returned to throughout is the Aja'ib an ancient book filled with stories and magic and mystery which could just as well be a metaphor for the Doctor's life or the collection of incidents in that life we fans are collecting.  The Doctor even describes his life in terms of story titles; in one memorable moment he looks at one problems and fears that it might be the brain of Morbius all over again.

    The main theme is of transformation.  At some point in the novel, each of the characters and even, eventually the whole world goes through some kind of renewal or alteration either through a change to their genetic makeup or the merging of beings.  Quite rightly as the regular characters, Sam and The Doctor are immune although the former reflects on the three years she spent away from the timelord and growing up and the latter for once largely sits back and lets himself be carried along by everyone else.  He does get a final heroic flourish however, which feels like The Caves of Androzani if everything had gone right for him.

    It's also I think the first novel since Alien Bodies that very specifically strives to be a piece of literature as well as a tie-in to the long running television series.  Throughout the narrative swaps from a first to third person perspective with Sam, Iris, the other travelers  and even Doctor describing and interpreting the action, the latter being very self-conscious about it.  Although there's all the dialogue you would expect from a Doctor Who story, there are also very dense descriptions and flights of fantasy with some characters and bits of landscape requiring an imaginary leap of faith to fit within the reader's imagination.

    This book marks the introduction of Iris, who through lashings of back story and very distinctive characterization she comes across as vividly as The Doctor.  There are plenty of riffs on the nature of time and experience, with Iris taking credit for her friends adventures to the point that even he isn't entirely sure who re-opened the tombs of the Cybermen on Telos.  The author apparently and quite rightly has a very clear notion of who would be playing the various incarnations of Iris, and this model is apparently Beryl Reed which helps the visualization of the character enormously.  In the audios she's played by Katy Manning and that doesn't quite sit right for me.

    What's obviously clever about Iris is it's you're constantly having to remind yourself that she was never in the television series and it's a real tragedy that she wasn't picking fun at his various incarnations or standing shoulder to shoulder against the Master.  They could have had real fun, as Magrs obviously is, having her show up being played by a different actress with a different personality.  The old series was never as complex in its thinking although that probably had more to do with what was acceptable on television at the time than anything else.  That was a family show and this really isn't a family book although I'd love a new fan to read this and see exactly how flexible the format really can be.

    But I also loved that she was constantly having to remind the Doctor about his own life as we discover that the Doctor isn't all that sure about his own timeline, and that not every detail can immediately be called upon.  It seems right that he shouldn't remember every adventure, every planet overthrown and life saved and this recalls to an extent the exchange in School Reunion when it becomes apparent that Tenth hasn't mentioned any of his previous companions to Rose.  He's constantly about moving forward, even when that's into the past, not looking back.

    Over time, the novel version of the Eighth Doctor is becoming increasingly coherent and he's slowly becoming as familiar as any of the others, with all of the familiar gestures and whatnot.  But it also feels increasingly natural, the verbal ticks coming from the venture at hand rather than being plugged into to create distinctiveness.  In the Afterword (its that kind of book), Magrs remarks on how refreshing it is to be writing for a Doctor whose only a few steps ahead of the audience:

    'No more all-knowing prophet-like Doctor.  I was always pleased when the Doctor was content to simply blunder into things, and let himself meet fabulous characters in that sweetly picaresque, eighteenth century way of his.'  Which is exactly the man who appears in this novel and is I think a legacy of the Eighth Doctor's long era in the new series, returning that unique sense of adventure which was largely lost after the Baker Mk #1 era.

    Of the rest of the menagerie, the figures who stuck in my mind were Gila the acerbic walking lizardman, Cassandra (oh yes) the very first Scarlet Empress and the cause of all the trouble and Gharib, your worst nightmare of a librarian too afraid for you to look at anything in case you either misinterpret or mishandle the books.  One of the few problems I did have with the book was keeping track of all the characters, especially towards the end as the merry band had grown to a considerable degree.  I'm sure I spent a whole chapter in there thinking two different characters were the same one which is ironic because later two other characters did exactly that.  But all of the descriptions are very vivid and it's more than likely because I read the book over an extended period rather than in one or two sittings.  This is possibly not something to dip in and out of even if it doesn't overall have a very complex multithreaded story.

    If there's a criticism of the book, it's that by including all of these other great characters Sam gets rather overshadowed largely being someone for Iris to talk to who isn't The Doctor.  It's to his credit though that the character still remains colourful, not afraid to give her opinions on everything even when it isn't required and when she and The Doctor are separated once again, she stoic rather than panicky for a change.  But then I've just remembered there is a rather lovely moment when she faces up to some sea creatures who want to envelope her into their collective (I think) were she realizes she still loves the Doctor which is just devastating.

    As you can see from the length of the review, I really enjoyed this book appearing as it does from a whole other world and point of view to the new series and all of the merchandising thereof.  It occurred to me the other day that at present Big Finish are the only company published material about the old Doctors and although they're doing a sterling job of that, it seems a shame that this older material will largely be missed by new fans, known only to collectors and available only secondhand.

    If this had been any other kind of book it would have been relaunched and republished many times in the past eight years and packaged right it could appeal to a whole new audience.  Perhaps when the new ipod-style books become more prevalent and people will be as comfortable buy novels online as they are music, the BBC could rerelease the entire back catalogue at budget price.  It'd certainly beat ferreting through eBay.

    Anyway The Janus Conjunction next and judging by the blurb we're back in space opera territory ...

    Links for 2006-12-09 []

    "It's just my way of getting my own back at the B*stard who I have devoted most of my adult life to, only to find out he is a piece of lying cheating scum!" Is it an advert or is this true? Not sure but either way its a clever use for a billboard.
  • Filmlog: Churchill: The Hollywood Years (2004)
    Dreadful squalid little film. There's a real game to be had trying to decide which actors manage to get through with their dignity and I'm voting for Neve, Sally, McKenzie and Miranda. Only about an hour long without credits and outtakes.
  • The 15 Sexiest Sci-Fi Babes
    What -- well alright I'm in a funny mood and it made me laugh. And Zooey Deschanel was the best of the Trillians. Shame that it's so US centric though -- wither Leela, Kochanski or Cally? [via Fimoculous]
  • Kristine Lowe: The World We Live In...
    Talks about how a blogger was assaulted on London Underground and wrote about it on her site with pictures, controlling the story and eventually leading to the capture of the criminals.
  • sashinka: Banana Bread
    Looks yummy -- and simple to prepare which is also a plus. I must try this.
  • Neil Gaiman's Journal: Small copyright puzzle...
    As usual I can't find a hole in Neil's argument. Although it's a shame that in future people might only find exposure to some music through cheap compilations as opposed to the originals.
  • Hot Coffee Girl: the people you meet
    Met them all too. Have a sneaking suspicion I'm one or two of them. Will be speaking about this soon in the increasingly inaccurately titled Review 2006.
  • Jane Espenson: We Need an Arc Angel to Tell Us Where the Story's Going
    Jane comments on what you should do about spec scripts for shows that have an ongoing story arc. The '24' solution is amazing although it surely runs the risk of including characters that have been killed off.
  • Review 2006

    Suw from Chocolate and Vodka asks:
    Of all the trivia that you've blogged or read over the years, which bit sticks in your mind the most, and why?

    I heard this during a television documentary from two people who attended the concert. There was no information agreeing or denying that it wasn't true but some reason it stuck in my mind which is why I posted it as one of the first contributions to our sometimes group blog, HeardSaid:
    "At the Live Aid concert at Wembley in 1984, concert goers had a very portable solution to water movements. Empty water and soda bottles were filled up over the course of the day and in some sections passed along the line to waiting bins to be taken and disposed of."
    The reason this is so memorable is not just because of the image - people passing bottles filled with presumable red hot piss across the crowd to the far reaches and into a bucket presumably filled with similar vessels but that people would put aside their necessary inhibitions in order to accomplish the feet.

    The old Wembley Stadium was more than sold out that day, capacity to the rafters, tens of thousands of people. My first thought would be for my bodily functions. How will I eat? How will I excrete? I love that obviously the same thought went through the head of these people and they took the practical solution. But whilst they were doing that thing that they would usually do alone in private (now, now, not that) it would appear that it didn't cause I riot. I'm sure there was probably a little kid shouting 'Eeeeeeee...' but other than that no one must have batted an eye lid because they took the bottle, presumably with spillage down the side off the hands of the peeing person and passed it along.

    How did it begin, and was it a widespread phenomena? Or was it just the two punters on the documentary (one of which by the way I think was a girl. Funnel?). By dusk had the bottles begun to stack up around their feet, smelling, and someone suggested they be moved on before they so some real damage (or some bright spark decided it was cider). Did words have to be spoken or was eye rolling enough as lukewarm receptacles went from hand to hand as, let's not forget, Freddy Mercury was singing We Are The Champions on stage. Did some just shut their eyes and think of what they were doing for Africa? There might have been fundraising that day, but another collective act of will was also taking place which should also be applauded and remembered...