Forgotten Films meets Scene Unseen:
Memento: The Beginning of the End

As soon as Christopher Nolan's Memento was released with its back to front yet still complete forward pointing plotting some audience members (well at least this audience member) wondered what the film would look like if all of the footage were to be edited into the correct chronological order. On the special edition version of the dvd that wish is answered in this special 'hidden' extra which, and this is why I'm listing it as a 'forgotten film', works perfectly well as a movie in and of itself. Well, alright, a crazy mixed up quasi-art house piece that breaks all the rules of classical narrative filmmaking and plays like dollop of video art straight from Tate Britain's white cube spaces, nut a movie nonetheless.

For those who don't know the story, the shorthand synopsis would be that a man who cannot form new memories is trying to discover and kill the man who was responsible for murdering his wife and giving him his condition. In order to mimic that condition, the film-maker presents the story in reverse, with the apparent end of the story at the beginning then works his way backwards, still somehow retaining all of the usual rules of storytelling and tropes of the neo-noir genre, with a revelatory scene at the end that explains everything that just happened.

In this version, after the end credits roll up the screen backwards, all of the black and white moments that litter the original cut providing a breather from the main story and signaling when Leonard lost his memory, are necessarily dropped in at the front, meaning that the sad tale of Sammy Jenkis, a man who apparently had a similar illness, is narrated altogether, broken only by the drawing of a tattoo. This gives the reveal that he shouldn't take any calls an even greater significance since it hasn't really been explained to us exactly who he's been talking to on that phone.

Such incidents which were of less importance in the theatrical version litter the film - the first colour moments occur when he's remembering his wife and the swapping of the hotel rooms and the fact that he never seems to sleep in the same bed twice becomes clearer. The overall effect is to underline the manipulation that Leonard actually experiences day-to-day, because of his condition from the hotel clerk, Teddy and particularly Natalie who quickly realizes the nature of his condition, that he isn't aware of what he's done and uses him for her own ends. Both she and Teddy are liars, and it's painful to notice that for all Lenny's insistence that he needs to look into people's eyes so that he can tell if people are being sincere, it simply doesn't work.

But despite his deceptions Teddy becomes rather a tragic figure in this direction as the film works towards his inevitable death, which is still signposted for various reasons in the opening moments. He is probably the best friend Lenny has, since, when he pops into a situation he generally doesn't give an indication that the amnesiac is missing anything important, that he hasn't done anything wrong, which is one of his primary fears. Indeed, e's usually nudging him to leave his quest either through hinting or suggestion. His only mistake is to have some fun at Lenny's expense and it's that which probably causes his death in the end (which in case you're wondering doesn't give anything away since it happens at the beginning of the 'real' version).

I've tried not to give away spoilers for either version but I wonder what someone would make of Memento if the only version they've seen is The Beginning of the End. Rather like someone's who's watching the Star Wars for the first time starting with the prequels -- only they could decide whether the release of exposition in a different order actually works. For the rest of us this is a good version of a great film that deepens our appreciation of director Christopher Nolan's achievement. It's available on different special editions of the dvd; in the uk that means the one with 3 discs that's perennially in the sale at HMV. Go to the second disc, push down until the thin blue line intersects 'biographies', push right so that the line drops to the bottom of the screen and press play ...

Links for 2007-02-23 [] - Rmail

  • filmlog: Memento (2001)
    .twists wonderful with drama executed Attentatively ?work information narrative restricted of levels different how and narrative non-linear a what explaining of way all catch a gave they'd that so tutors studies film by sponsored actually this Was
  • Amnestity International UK : Stop internet repression
    "Amnesty is urging web users to take action on behalf of individuals persecuted and imprisoned for expressing their opinions online."
  • filmlog: Topsy-Turvy (1999)
    Splendid period back stage musical that pleasingly demonstrates why Gilbert & Sullivan really aren't the enemy. Particularly liked the details on how new technology was being viewed by late-Victorian society. Bit too long though.
  • filmlog: Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)
    Good fun although I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would -- it was a bit repetitive in places and none of the action sequences had the same wit as those that appear in the shorts. Or perhaps I just can't work out what I was a bit disappointed.
  • filmlog: A History of Violence (2005)
    Clever genre bender that demonstrates that a film needn't be two hours long to present thematic and narrative depth. Great performances although if you've seen Lord of the Rings, you can hear what Howard Shore's temp track was a mile away.
  • Pistachio Restaurant
    New (if a bit expensive) restaurant that has opened on Lark Lane, Liverpool. There's to be a Sunday club with film showings...
  • Forgotten Films

    Chacun cherche son chat (1996)

    One of the worst moments I had at university was during a discussion about this film whose English title is When The Cat's Away. The fact that we had the discussion might mitigate against it being placed on a 'forgotten film' list but I haven't met many people who've seen it and it's my list so we'll just assume that I'm right and move on. Anyway, we're having a discussion about the film, about the themes and how they contrast to Jean-Pierre Junet's Amelie.

    Film studies tends to take a structuralist approach to everything - you're breaking the work down to its constituent markers and trying to decide what they mean outside necessarily of their place in the film. Whilst I understood all that, I also kept in mind that these are pieces of entertainment and it was always important to appreciate how they made the audience and therefore me feel.

    The French film classes, which usually consisted of me nodding thoughtfully while my two classmates Geraldine and Suzanne chatted away -- unless they didn't know either in which case they'd ask me what I thought and I'd tend to say something inane. I should say this was the only subject in which I did this - the rest of the time I had to stop myself having an opinion about everything. Anyway, this day, it was my turn to do a presentation on the films viewed so I decided I would say something in keeping with my ideas - these were two films that I clearly loved and I wanted to say why in a non-structuralist sense.

    So when asked, I said that I really identified with the main character. Chloe is something of a loner you see, always on the edges of communities, always slightly behind with the in-jokes, only now and then feeling at all like she belongs somewhere. When she goes away on holiday, she leaves her cat with a neighbour and it goes missing and during the rest of the film, whilst the community rally around looking for the moggy, she goes on a man hunting adventure which culminates in … you'll have to watch the film to find out.

    In any case, at the time I was identifying with the first bit because I'd been traveling to Manchester, not really been able to join the student community there, but also wasn't spending much time with people at home either. As regular readers will know I was sort of stuck. And that's what I said in the seminar. The tutor looked at me and said, and I think he even put his hand up in a stopping gesture, "You really do have to divorce your own feelings from your analysis of the film".

    I still think that could be interpreted as a bizarre statement, because any analysis is an opinion and opinions are based on your feelings about the work, but that really knocked me off my stride. Luckily, I'd covered Amelie far more traditionally first, and that had gone quite well. And I went back to largely saying nothing in the remaining seminars. But I do love the film and it is because it shows that actually no matter how much of an outsider you are, there is always a community out there.

    But director Cedric Klapisch's film is also about the breaking down of the old concept of community, a theme that is expressed visually because during the making of the film the actual neighbourhood within which it was being shot was being demolished, and the wrecking balls are part of the scenery. The film has also been catagorised as being part of the French New New Wave which emphasizes a realistic depiction of youth and their compartmentalization within that society (the protests in Paris last year being one of the expressions of it I suppose).

    The cast largely consists of non-professional actors from the district as well as amateur theatre performers and professionals. The stand out is obvious Garance Clavel as Chloe (pictured); Klapisch often simply rests the camera on her expressive face, displaying her reaction to events rather than events themselves. Much like Stealing Beauty, it's a film about blossoming sexuality, and her arc is demonstrated in the costume design as she shifts from trousers at the opening to a summer dress at the close, and having met a potential mate, running down the street to the strain of Portishead's Glory Box ('Give me a reason to be a woman') which I found out during study is slightly controversial because it implies that for a woman to find a man she has to throw off some of her independence and take on his idea of what femininity should be.

    Choosing Chacun cherche son chat allows me to include on the list a Cedric Klapisch film that isn't L'Apartment Espagnole (stupid English title: Pot Luck) or my favourite film released in the UK last year Les Poupées russes (equally stupid English title: Pot Luck 2: The Russian Dolls), both of which would also be good candidates for the forgotten film description. As it stands the film is available on dvd in France in a boxset with the rest of Klapish's oeuvre which I would have bought by now where it not without sous-titres en englaise. When I was studying the film I found a VHS on eBay which is perfectly fine and since it's from Tartan has excellent sleeve notes.

    "It works as a combination of Cool Ship and Cool Garage"

    TV Excellent article that investigates Doctor Who's employment of archetypical characters and stories which would potentially be a lot longer if the spin-off material were to be included: "The Doctor was a blend of the Heroic Archetype and Mentor Archetype (with a dash of The Professor), always trying to defeat the bad guys but normally by using by brains rather than brawn. (Very Mac Gyver!) He was usually accompanied by one or more assistants, for whom he would often serve as a Mr Exposition." [via]

    Forgotten Films

    Love and Other Catastrophes (1996)

    [Time for a trip down memory lane. This Australian film prompted or at least sparked the thought of doing film studies and here is the review I wrote in the year two thousand just as I decided that actually, that is precisely what I should do. It's almost as though, like the Liv Tyler lover of the other day, another version of me is contributing to this month's review.]

    At the end of the film a major character point is concluded through the following question. I’m telling you this because I’m about to become hopelessly recursive and it’s probably a good thing to point this out before we I go any further. The question is:

    What are your three favourite films and why?

    Not easy. A film fan will probably jabber and faint. Out of all of the films ever made ever? Are you joking? We like films for lots of different reasons. Within this film, the question seems to actually mean:

    Which three films mean the most to you and couldn’t you live without and why?

    The exercise is simplified. The film fan sighs deeply and puts down their copy of the Time Out Film Guide, safe in the knowledge they won’t have to include anything because they feel like the have to ... so out with Fellini, Bergman, Kurosawa and the gang. Just for fun, go away and write your answer to the question. You may be surprised.

    Back? Good. Surprised? When you have to justify your favourite films and extra texture is added. It’s as though you’ve got to look into yourself and find out who you actually are. The chances are you’ve actually just learned something about yourself. Why am I stringing this out? Because when I asked myself this question, here are the three films I came up with and the reasons:

    When Harry Met Sally because I think I’m a New Yorker living in the wrong place and it makes me smile every time I watch it

    Star Wars because it always means I have something to talk about with total strangers

    Love and Other Catastrophes because it felt like the first film I’ve seen about me

    See ... told you this review was going to be recursive. Believe me, I was a shocked as you possibly might be. I thought Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was a shoo-in. Anyone who’s seen this film already will wonder what that means (especially anyone who knows me). But it’s not for the reasons your expecting. This is the synopsis from the official website:*
    ‘Mia and Alice have just moved into a warehouse apartment but are still minus a house mate. Danni, Mia's girlfriend is keen to move in, but Mia fears commitment. Mia, who can be a solipsistic bitch (but in the nicest possible way), is obsessed with her favourite lecturer and becomes embroiled in a bureaucratic nightmare as she pursues him to his new department. Alice, a frustrated perfectionist, is four years late with her thesis on "Doris Day as a Feminist Warrior." She is looking for the perfect man, but can't find anyone who fits her rigorous criteria. Feeling the need for a change she falls for the most unsuitable man possible - Ari, a Classics student, part-time gigolo and the Warren Beatty of the campus. Little does she know that she has her own secret admirer - Michael, a shy medical student who is living in the share house from hell and wants out. Her search for love transcends the boundaries of the University and their respective disciplines. Omnia Vincit Amor...Love Conquers All.’
    I’ve edited that a bit – the synopsis at the website does somewhat give the plot away.

    So you’ve read that and wondered still why it’s about me. Are rather you’ve assumed it’s because I saw this film and realised for the first time I’m g-a-y. Sorry to disappoint. I’m not g-a-y. I’m not even b-i. I’m definitely s-t-r-a-i-g-h-t. So what then?

    As a Late Reviewer might say: ‘There are a number of levels.’

    I first saw the film three years ago when I bought it, ex-rental from a ‘Blockbuster’ video shop in Birkenhead. It had no cover. I just remembered the title because I knew that one of the few quite good actresses to be shipped through ‘Neighbours’ was in it. It sat on my shelf for a month. Then one afternoon I was at a loose end and put it on. Eighty minutes later I’d wondered what hit me.

    On a basic level, it has everything I’d ever want from a film. There was my love of low budget films, the slightly grainy look, the ingenious camera angles, story told mainly in dialogue. All of the actors doing their best for the script, seemingly not caring if they don’t look absolutely great during every second. The absolutely fabulous editing, scenes timed perfectly. As though Robert Rodriguez had decided to spend his $7000 making romantic comedy instead of El Mariachi. The music from a largely unknown set of musicians actually complements to action, a soundtrack album actually being a benefit not a marketing exercise.

    But a lot of films fulfill these loves. The aforementioned El Mariachi for example. So what else?

    The characters just are (I apologise to Louise if she’s reading for the strain on the verb ‘to be’ in that phrase).** They exist within the story as though the writer just wanted people it would be cool to hang about with. They aren’t there to fulfill the machinations of some theme or other. A lesser writer might have strained to make this another treatise on people coming to terms with their sexuality – and anyone who’s followed the Jack-arc on Dawson’s Creek will know how painfully that can be if not done right. Like many films in what is become an indie film sub-genre (Chasing Amy, Sticky Fingers of Time, Go Fish), the characters are quite comfortable with their sexuality thank you very much for checking. It’s not how you love, but who you love. The fact that Danni and Mia are both girls isn’t the issue. Which makes watching the film a whole lot easier and more refreshing to watch. Chumbawamba are disproved: Homophobia might be the worst disease, but you can love who love in times like these.


    It’s the script I’ve been writing in my head for years. The students away at college is a surprisingly untapped film genre (unless knives or frat parties are involved). Not quite teens, not quite adults, its difficult to completely get a handle on it. Perhaps it’s just that writers feel that not much excitement can be wrung out of find a housemate or waiting for a course transfer. Emma-Kate Croghan, the writer-director of this piece seems to have succeeded. Are heart misses a beat when we find that Mia might not get her course transfer or when Alice fails to find a house mate. I showed it to my Greek friend Fani, who is much the same predicament as the characters and she loved it. Even though the film is Australian, the experience is universal.

    But the get to the nub of the matter, the film actually made me think about what I was doing with my life and my relationship to people. I realised that although it’s important to have your ol’ friends and family, that you shouldn’t stop looking to be friends with new people, who might in turn become close friends (hey Fani!). It made me pull my socks up and go look for something better. And so it goes and so it goes and so it goes . . .

    A mark out of five is meaningless. You must simply see this film. Go rent it now.

    [Good luck with that. As I think I explained earlier in the review I bought my copy ex-rental. It has been released on a vanilla dvd in Oz but elsewhere, not so much. Bizarrely, despite the presence of Radha Mitchell and Frances O'Connor who aren't exactly names but are at least recognizable the film hasn't seen a video or dvd store in the UK or the US since. Even director Colgan's even less well known follow-up Strange Planet has seen that. My copy is like Brigadoon -- it sort of appears and disappears -- I can never find it when I want to watch it but it then surfaces when I least expect it but probably need to see it. Oh and * Which has since disappeared ** And Louise it still reading. Hello!]

    Not forgotten

    Life Reasons why this is the first non-film, non-link post in some days: I've been working on a writing project for elsewhere; I've been searching through the many job sites that litter the internet; the Clerks II dvd has three, count them, three commentaries on top of everything else all of which would have been perfectly acceptable on their own even if the cast one seems unusually hostile; Masterchef Goes Large; the wonders of the slow cooker; I'm reading Susan Hayward's Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts by way of revision and mostly unsuccessfully trying to sell some things on ebay.

    Forgotten Films

    Nina Takes A Lover (1994)

    Obviously one of those films were the synopsis is in the title. Laura San Giacomo (best known lately for the sitcom Just Shoot Me but before that, sex, lies and videotape and as Julia Robert's sarcastic best friend in Pretty Woman) is Nina, a shoe saleswoman in a passionless marriage who, whilst her husband disappears away for another three weeks on some business trip meets a photographer (Paul Rhys) in a park and begins a touching affair in which she feels fulfilled for the first time in years.

    Both Nina and the photographer relate the story to a journalist collecting interviews about infidelity and the film is structured in flashback to those recollections. It's an approach which would later be repeated in the French romance Une Liaison Pornographique and like that film, the viewer is in the interviewer's position of having to make judgments about what exactly took place. Throughout, writer/director Alan Jacobs makes us aware that not everything is as it seems and this sensation is augmented by a parallel story in which Nina's friend also has an affair that is far more sordid and less romantic.

    Giacomo's exquisite performance carries the majority of the film; she's adorable and if this film had been seen by a larger audience I'm sure it would have made her a star. The quirkiness factor here is of course the casting of Rhys as a romantic lead - for much of his career he's been typecast as emotional cripples but this demonstrates he once had the capacity for the romantic lead and the two of them lock together perfectly (so to speak). The only dull note is Fisher Stevens, whose comic turn as Nina's friend's lover is a bit too broad and now and then threatens to ruin the tone.

    But on the whole, this is a clever film demonstrating that relationships are never easy, no one is perfect and how feelings can and do change over time. It's shot and edited very simply, the photography never allowed to crowd the performance, with a perfectly measured soundtrack mixing orchestral with jazz. The film has been released on dvd and vhs and been deleted on both, but there are copies floating around.

    Links for 2007-02-20 [] - Rmail

  • Behind the Sofa: The Web Planet
    Or six or so men trying to deal with one of the dullest Doctor Who stories ever. Sample: "sometimes watching Doctor Who is a very, very painful experience, no matter how much you love it otherwise."
  • filmlog: Hot Fuzz (2007)
    Really, really entertaining from beginning to end with the kind of genre jumping hijinks I love and a dream cast. But, I don't know that I enjoyed it as much as 'Shaun of the Dead' or 'Spaced' which both had a much softer centre.
  • filmlog: Clerks II (2006)
    One of the best films of last year. It's just very comforting to be able to sit in front of a film that has few motives than to entertain and simply seems to have been made for the love of it and for us fans. I still want to marry Rosario Dawson.
  • Forgotten Films

    Life Story (1987)

    There haven't been that many dramas about particular scientific discoveries because narrative films are about people and the story of people so you will generally ending up creating something biographical about the scientist behind the breakthrough, with that breakthrough. Generally the process of testing and then retesting and thinking through the problem at hand isn't that exciting to watch so you have to look to whether the scientist him or herself led an interesting life - but if that life was spent in labs you really haven't much to go on - unless they spent more time there than with their wife in which case then you probably have yourself a story.

    Generally the problem is solved by simply making a straight documentary, which is usually what you would expect to find in the BBC's Horizon strand for which this was made. Instead writer William Nicholson and director Mick Jackson's docu-drama turns the search for the structure of DNA in 1953 into a race, cross-cutting between the two rival teams, Francis Crick (Jeff Goldblum) & James D. Watson (Tim Piggot-Smith) at Cambridge University and Maurice Wilkins (Alan Howard) and particularly Rosalind Franklin (Juliet Stevenson) at King's College London. In doing so, the film fulfills all the requirements of a film narrative, with antagonists and protagonists, binary opposites, whathaveyou, whilst at the same time cleverly demonstrating the importance of the discovery and what it means for mankind.

    Although the plot is largely based upon Watson's point of view (his book The Double Helix was a source) and the characterization of Franklin as a very reserved shy person has been disputed, the film manages to perfectly balance science and history, demonstrating the institutional attitudes that led to Franklin's contribution receding into the background in the face of Watson and Crick's flamboyance. Their working methods are carefully contrasted, with the two men's inspirational trips to the pub juxtaposed with her meticulous experimentation. The film's best scene is fittingly in the reveal of the helix, as Franklin sees the model that the men have created, a tower with Bunsen burner stands and clamps reaching to the ceiling, the camera spinning around it demonstrating the beautiful complexity of the genetic structure to her and us. It's a triumphant yet tragic moment as she realizes she's been beaten.

    Because it's shot on the grainy 16mm, the film looks like the work of another age despite the wonderful cast. It's truly astonishing to see Jeff Goldblum in a BBC Film of this type in 1987, the same year he was Brundelfly, especially since he's largely rehearsing the persona that would be repeated in Jurassic Park, four years later. His presence suggests ambitions for the film beyond its television origin and I truly believe that if it had been released theatrically it would not only have found an audience but would be considered one of the greatest British films of all time with the dvd release it deserves. As it stands, the last time the film was seen in public was during a season of programmes on BBC Four in 2003 commemorating the discovery of DNA; there was a US VHS release in 1993 under the alternative title The Race for the Double Helix copies of which are going for $70 on Amazon's Marketplace. So this might be the most obscure film on the list, especially since I couldn't find a picture of from it. If you're at university you could see if there's a copy in one of the science libraries ...

    "The wig fittings lasted longer than the scene itself."

    TV Sian Pattenden writes for The Guardian's Arts Blog about playing young Tegan in Mawdryn Undead: "Both Lucy and I grinned as we sat on our stools and went through our lines. This was great! And a day off school! We met Mr Davison, who was very charming. I'd seen him on telly and he seemed nicer in real life. Anyone else, I forget. I probably brought my autograph book with me but now it's down the back of a cupboard somewhere."

    "We are on the final furlong now really."

    TV David Tennant all but confirms a fourth series and offer a few spoilers: "Did you know Girls Aloud were going to be in Doctor Who but they were too busy?" [via]

    "I'm a stupid ass, I should have realised."

    TV Did they ask Hugh Grant first? "I was offered the role of the Doctor a few years back and was highly flattered. The danger with those things is that it's only when you see it on screen that you think, 'Damn, that was good, why did I say no?' But then, knowing me, I'd probably make a mess of it." Well you didn't during The Curse of the Fatal Death ...

    Links for 2007-02-19 [] - Rmail

  • BBC Manchester Entertainment: Brit flicks changed my life
    The BBC are planning a history of British film for next year and are looking for people to contribute if they have a story about how a film from 'over here' changed their life.
  • Sunshine: Insanity
    Gia offers some pertinent opinions on the astronaut story: "They are trained to remain calm, clear-headed and emotionless when dealing with the technical side of their jobs… but what happens if they hate (or love) one of their colleagues?"
  • filmlog: The Negotiator (1998)
    Because sometimes all you need are Samuel L Jackson and Kevin Spacey having a good rant, sometimes at each other. Interesting from a narrative studies perspective because it doesn't have a traditional antagonist, but 2 protagonists.
  • filmlog: Show Boat (1951)
    Ultimately disappointing version of the musical,; every nugget such as Kathrn Grayson's rendition of "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" is matched by an irritant like Howard Keel's whole performance. Blands out the race issue as well.
  • filmlog: Calamity Jane (1953)
    Brilliant fun and certainly one of the best musicals I've seen so far, and even Howard Keel doesn't sink it. Doris Day's on blistering form and I don't think there a bad song in the piece, favourites being 'Secret Love' and "A Woman's Touch".
  • filmlog: Cat Ballou (1965)
    Less funny than it thinks it is. Although Jane Fonda is obviously a very intelligent comedian they apparently purposefully gave all the boys the jokes which unfocuses the flick. Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye's musical interludes are the best thing.
  • Unmusic: How I learned to stop worrying and love Shakira
    Very funny analysis of one of my favourite Shakira promos, 'Obsession'.
  • filmlog: Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)
    Despite having some truly astonishing production design and lovely performances from the kids, fails to completely engross due to Jim Carrey's mugging and repetitive story. On the whole feels like Jean-Pierre Jeunet-lite.
  • filmlog: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
    As you know I'm a big Gilliam fan but I found this wholly unwatchable. Obviously it might be a faithful rendering of the novel, but most of the scenes go on far too long and it just can't seem to decide what it wants to be about. Unsatisfying.
  • Overnights: Monsters scare viewers away from ITV1
    Primeval sheds viewers and it doesn't appear to be the seasonal downturn that often afflicts Doctor Who. I haven't watched the next episode yet, but it appears to feature the old standby of monsters in sewers under London. Ho, and indeed hum.
  • IMDb redesigns
    For the first time in years but doesn't look quite right in Firefox. But it is much faster to load on dial-up.
  • Forgotten Films

    Next (1989)

    In this sublimely animated short film, William Shakespeare auditions for a bored cigar smoking theatre director Sir Peter Hall by presenting his entire canon, in mime, within five minutes using props and puppets. It’s a guessing game for the viewer, trying to work out which of the plays is being evoked within each set up and it takes a couple of watches to fully appreciate the ingenuity that has gone into making some of the more complex plays at all identifiable. My favourite, Measure for Measure, appears towards the end with Isabella shown keeping her virginity intact whilst Angelo is hoodwinked before the Duke expresses his amorous intent. What I love about the film is that director Barry Purves obviously has a great love not only for the bard but also for stage techniques with black drapes and reveals and mirrors employed throughout and the subtly of the character movements, which particular in the Hall figure are unnervingly human.

    The Web Planet.

    TV My favourite moment in The Web Planet occurs during the opening episode. The Doctor and Ian are standing at the Tardis console discussing exactly what's gone wrong with the ship again.
    "Somewhere, somehow we're being slowly dragged down." notices The Doctor.
    "Dragged down? To what?" Ian asks.
    Cut to a landscape. And the title caption.
    "The Web Planet."

    Is this is the only in the history of the series when a character's question is answered by the title? How very metafictional. Elsewhere it's all a bit tedious. Well, alright some of the interaction between Barbara and Vicki related to Rome and the futuristic National Curriculum is fun, but Ian mostly walks around as though everything is a surprise and The Doctor's acting like a pissed pensioner. Which he probably was. Welcome to a world of fantasy and adventure and subliminal education kids.

    About the only other exciting moment is when The Doctor and Ian leave the Tardis after the malarkey with the whatnot. As they pass through the doors are wide open. And then they close themselves. Many is the episode when we've watched this happen from the outside and that big blue door has flapped there waiting for a passing Sontaran to get lost in the ship's innards. There's a particularly good example in Logopolis. Now we know that those doors are on automatic, like the ones in Tesco, and they'll swish close when you're not looking. Ship can't navigate itself properly, but at least it has this safety feature. I wonder if it was something The Doctor had to fit because of a regulation on his insurance policy.

    You can tell the lesson about good narrative tension wasn't learned from any of the Dalek stories when the monster's being introduced to hardly any effect five minutes in and then doesn't return for the next fifteen minutes except in the shadows, and when it does appear, for all the comments in the commentary about how brave the design is, it still looks less like a giant ant and more like a studio runner in tights carrying a weirdly shaped canoe on his head. That's hardly going to strike fear into anyone other than psychologists wondering what condition the minds of the production team are in. You need to keep this stuff for the cliffhanger, which instead here consists of the stock maneuver from the Colin Baker era, a quick zoom into The Doctor's nostrils.

    "My ship" he says, "My Tardis" Typical man. Cares more about his vehicle than its passenger.

    More Poems

    Music Wow. I've just found out via herself that one of my long term hopes for stardom, Eva Katzler, has an album coming out soon. Here's what I wrote about her a few years ago:
    "Sometimes a voice is so expressive and silencing that words fail. I first heard Eva Katzler on the EP 'Poem' she put out in a very small run through the Virgin Megastore in Liverpool. It's a lullaby for those of us who need to find somewhere to curl up and hide when the world around us is so loud and overbearing -- her vocals wrap themselves around you and for those brief moments, everything is OK."
    And I still stand by that. I used to plug her gigs all the time on here. It's lovely and I'm sure the album will be too. Just great news. Incidentally, Eva was kind enough to contribute to Review 2003 way back when.

    "Justice, righteousness and all the rest of it..."

    TV And so for a final time this season and without any gimmicks, this review of part two of Human Resources is laced with spoilers (I spend most of the review understandably discussing the ending), but you can listen to it here first.

    That's a shame. After all the build up, well I say build up, more like a bit at the end of each episode of the series, the resolution of the Lucie Miller arc was a bit of a tease and in the end a disappointment. Reminiscent of the bad Sam arc in the novels, the idea of her back story being one of a diverted timeline in which she could and should have been a right wing dictator is rather exciting and certainly explained her willful behavior at the close of Immortal Beloved (or The One With All The Body Swapping). That it was all the Celestial Intervention Agency's fault worked too. Then making her confused and annoyed with the Doctor and giving her the Quantum Crystaliser thingy (more on which later) and having her promise, egged on by the Headhunter, the reap revenge on the timelords increased the excitement level exponentially.

    Angry northern lass with the power to change history against the Timelords and Gallifrey with only her friend The Doctor to stand in her way? That's what I call the climax to a series. But then, but then. Oh, sorry, wasn't her after all. It was this Karen character we introduced last week who you listeners otherwise hardly know anything about and won't discover her heritage after all. Instead we're going to climax the story and the series using the newly introduced Quantum Crystaliser thingy (later) to kill of the rampant Cybermen. So what could have been an exciting life or death struggle putting half the galaxy and new friends at odds turned into another anti-climax, a deus-ex-machina.

    That Quantum Crystaliser thingy (finally), despite being a wonderful dramatic invention, being able to splinter timelines and then choosing the best one, was in effect introduced to provide a close to the story, in the end about as potent as something a comic strip Doctor in the old TV Comic stories might pull out of satchel to vanquish the Zarbi or whichever monster had been licensed that week. Sorry, that sort of thing, however in keeping with the merchandising greats of the past simply can't wash now. They might as well have invented some new setting on the sonic screwdriver …

    And it is a shame because elsewhere the script, for once found some wonderful Cybermen business. I liked that once again it didn't run a recap, other than the dulcet tones of the announcer, throwing us into the action and their massed mechanical voices, the listener orally surrounded by them. That they hadn't heard of Telos but they were from Mondas and had moved to Lonsis looking for a better environment. I loved the potential visuals of the action scenes in which the giant office robots were firing upon the much smaller Cybermen which brought to mind a metal Gulliver fighting android Lilliputians with lasers. I loved that their own overly logical thinking is what undid them really in the end in trying to commandeer Telford.

    But in the end those battles weren't anything we hadn't seen or heard before. Invading hoards of Cybermen threatening to convert everyone is really getting to be old hat now and without the visuals to back it up fails to be that spine chilling. It's almost as though Big Finish decided they needed to close out the series with a major villain, but having already used the Daleks, as generally happens with Who production teams, they went with the apparent next best thing, but didn't know what to do with them.

    Plus it failed to take advantage of the strongest element of the series, the interaction between the Doctor and Lucie. The Timelord, after causing the problem in the first place, being captive of the Cybermen and Roy Marsden's Hulbert and therefore inactive for much of the first half of the episode, was only able to trade insults and look on as a whole alien race is murdered, which was a bit out of character. For most of the episode he and Lucie were separated again, so those delicious asides, the incidental antagonism was all but absent.

    But when they were speaking, whenever anyone was speaking, despite the story problems, the dialogue and characterization and performances were above average . As expected, the Headhunter is a delicious character, a 21st century Sabalom Glitz changing sides quick as a flash to whoever's paying or who she thinks might be winning. Katarina Olsen's accent brought to mind Gwyneth Paltrow in Sliding Doors, which produced some interesting visuals, at least in my head. Hence the photo.
    Sadly Hulbert was less potent than last time as he dropped into the role of collaborator generally waiting around until he caught the sharp end of a phaser blast. Malcolm and Karen became slightly cipher-like which is no reflection on Andy Wisher and Louise Fullerton just another problem in a restless story that had too much to do. Perhaps if Karen's character had been as strong as Lucie, the passing on of her tampered legacy would have resonated more. I just want to mention finally how much I've enjoyed Gallifrey: The Return however brief its been -- perfectly handled continuity wise and Straxus was as bureaucratic a timelord as you could have hoped for and his forlorn: "I think I'm going to regenerate..." really cute.

    So we've reached the end of this eight week trip through space and time with the Eighth Doctor and Lucie. As was rightly noted in Beyond The Vortex this week, it's been amazing to hear the chemistry between Paul McGann and Sheriden Smith has been an utter joy, recalling the best scenes between Eccleston and Piper and almost making you forget that Charley Pollard ever existed (but not quite -- I miss her and I hope she hasn't totally been jettisoned from the unfolding text). The show really worked best when their antagonisms came to the fore, but you could certainly hear their personalities rubbing off on one another as Lucie's idioms joined Eighth's vocabulary and she learnt how to take charge of situations, like the military offensive in the office in this last episode.

    If the complete series had a weakness it was that time and again it sounded like a reaction against the new television series, rather than trying to be its own thing yet still managed, in the case of Phobos, to run headlong into replicating a climax. Also, week on week, especially in the central quartet of oners, we saw potentially interesting set-ups being revealed to be the deployment of some old sci-fi cliché - alien mind control (twice), the body swap episode, the evil from before time and unreliable time dilations (with only the last one seemingly giving it a substantial twist).

    I'm also not sure that they entirely managed to deal with the compression to fifty minute episodes on this first outing. Big Finish has been oft criticized for filling out their cds to their full running length even if the four episode structure didn't really demand it. Here, just sometimes, it was as though in plotting each installment, they'd pulled back too far, not providing enough plot to fill the fifty minutes but at the same time not providing enough characterization to fill the time. A couple, such as Immortal Beloved dragged horribly in the middle.

    But there's no denying that these stories were still entertaining most of the time, because as I somehow managed to find some variation of saying during these reviews every week, they featured glorious casts giving excellent performances, speaking delightfully expressive dialogue and in some cases the music would give Murray Gold and the might Alistair Locke a run for their money. What too about those resplendently dotty moments that could only happen in Doctor Who, such as Julia McKenzie's Hungerian Folk Song, what I still maintain were killer wombles being bested on mass by Bernard Cribbins, the twist at the end of Blood of the Daleks that revealed the colony's troubles weren't over yet, the whole Greek god thing and making Zeus particularly randy, the Doctor taking up extreme sports to solve the problem of the week and need I say it again giant robots being run by people living in an endless day at the office.

    Hopefully see you next year Eighth Doctor and Lucie. Take care.

    If Peter Davison ruled the world ...

    TV Excellent interview done as part of the publicity for his new series Fear, Stress and Anger: "All women must have their purses out ready to pay at supermarket checkouts - but I'd also ban men from being on the tills. They're absolutely hopeless. If you ever get stuck with a bloke at the till, it's a disaster."

    Forgotten Films

    View From The Top (2003)

    The original idea for February's film fest was going to be 'Great scenes in bad films' which sort of speaks for itself. The main reason I didn't go forward with what is probably fertile ground is that it would have meant rewatching lots of really bad films in order to review those great scenes which doesn't sound like an entertaining way of spending any month. But I thought, just for fun I would let one slip through.

    View From The Top is a dreadful film. It's the meandering story of Donna, a small town girl who dreams of becoming an international flight attendant and the trials she has to go through to reach her goal. It's Showgirls with trolly dollies, with unfocused design and inconsistent costume work and the repeated deployment of too long unfunny scenes of Mike Myers forgetting how to do comedy as an instructor. Star Gwyneth Paltrow spends most of her time looking dazed and miscast, as though she's trying to work out how the script she probably signed on for ended up turning into crap by the time it reached the set. I mean look at the hair in that picture...

    Yet, somehow at about minute seventy-five, once Donna has joined a major airline the film suddenly changes into something quite good. In fact those final ten minutes look like they were directed by someone else, as the tone calms down, Paltrow starts acting like a human being and the story seems to find a direction that its been lacking for the past hour and a quarter. At the epicentre of the transformation is the expected scene that demonstrates Donna's new jet set lifestyle.

    Earlier in the film that could have meant a rather simple, cliched montage of the flight attendant grinning through a number of fabulous places. But instead director Bruno Barreto (if indeed it is he) opts to place us within a single hotel room that represents a range of destinations, the fixtures and fittings changing as the camera pans through 360 degrees to reflect the various locales. Meanwhile, Paltrow steps in and out of frame revealing dozens of costume changes as her new restless existence comes to the fore. If only the rest of the film had been this impressive and so carefully thought through.

    It's just about possible to blame the rest of the films fumbles on its troubled history. As the Internet Movie Database describes, although it was completed in 2001 ready for a Christmas release, 9/11 caused it to be put back because the studio thought that a satire on flight attendants might not be such a great idea. The film sat around for a year, then after another series of edits, including the loss of Myers routine about dealing with terrorists it was finally spat out in the US in the Summer of 2003 when it was roundly ignored by everyone and then took even longer to find its way direct to dvd in the UK and it's still available.

    But seriously, I wouldn't recommend it. Except for that one scene.