Woody Allen's film Scoop

Film For those of you who still care about such things, the one that got away or rather failed to get a theatrical release in this country, Woody Allen's film Scoop will receive its British première on BBC Two next Saturday night, 7th February at 10:45 pm (Radio Times listing ). More entertaining than Match Point and better made than Cassandra's Dream, it's worth seeing for the cast, which includes Scarlett Johansson, Hugh Jackman, Ian McShane, Charles Dance, Romola Garai, Fenella Woolgar, Julian Glover, Victoria Hamilton and just for a change, Woody himself.

I was generally quite positive about it:
"The performances too are often theatrical but not necessarily in a bad way -- bucking the latest trends, everyone is in a character role. Johansson surprisingly reproduces the younger Allen avatar previously essayed by the likes of John Cusack and Jason Biggs, almost copying Woody tick for tick and often displaying excellent comic timing -- if they don’t always quite gel it's because Allen usually works best when he’s against a 'straight' person and I don’t know that he’s ever found anyone quite as good as Diane Keaton. Hugh Jackman just about works as an aristo, giving his British accent another airing. But it is Ian McShane who steals the show making such an exquisitely oily impression as the hack that you spend much of the film hoping for his re-appearance.."
I imported the film from Scandinavia last year since it's not even appeared on UK DVD despite being co-funded by the BBC. This might be your only chance to see it, unless in the wake of Vicky Christina Barcelona (which presumably also prompted this broadcast) someone has a change of heart...

Changed Priorities Ahead.

Life I effectively had a police escort on the walk into work today. Well, alright it wasn't really for me, but convenient nonetheless. At the bottom (top?) end of Princes Avenue, near the Rialto, these protesters were beginning a march. The cops started a rolling road block. I happened to be was walking first in time with, then ahead of this crowd and as I approached each junction an officer was already in the middle of the road, hand outstretched. Stationary drivers glowered over their steering wheel as we passed by. I haven’t had service like that since school and lollipop ladies. I think their banner speaks for itself. Hopefully, as the street sign says, changed priorities ahead.

scuba-diving to work

Atmospheric concept for making a city aquatic while still retaining its metropolitan feel with the potential for scuba-diving to work.

New Diana Krall album
Quiet Night is released at the end of March in the US and Germany. No sign of a UK date yet but it is on import.

New Media Guru: Meet Joss Whedon the Web Slayer
Horrible title for a particularly detailed interview that focuses on the writing process. Joss apparently only works in final drafts, because he find placeholder dialogue very difficult to replace. Though his placeholder dialogue is probably ten times cleverer than most of doggerel which gets filmed elsewhere [via].

It Girl Carey Mulligan
Doctor Who's Sally Sparrow has been doing amazing well at the Sundance in the film An Education about a May to December romance. The film's won the World Cinema Audience Award and Best Cinematogaphy and has now sold to Fox Searchlight for $3 million. New York Post thinks she's the new Audrey Hepburn. Well done you.

"The Tottenham Outrage" centenary
"At around 10:30am on Saturday 23rd January 1909, 'Paul Helfeld' and 'Jacob Lepidus' pulled off a wage snatch at the Schnurmann Rubber factory in Tottenham. During the course of the robbery they fired gunshots, which were heard by the local police. They began to give chase ..."

Why I’m Keeping My LaserDisc Player!
Survey of animation which is still only available on laserdisc. Would you believe Tex Avery?

What real life bad habits has programming given you?
Sadly, I too can claim some of these, though I think my addition would be a lower attention span [via].

Computers Destroying the Print Media: A History
Which I'm mentioning simply for the incongruity of seeing good old Pages From Ceefax mentioned on Gawker, introducing it to America (they forgot Minitel). When I was very young and we only had a black and white television, I used to look forward to going to the Barclay's Bank in town with my Dad because they had a teletext television within the foyer (I think with the idea that people could check the business news).

in my imagination

Life It’s been one week since I began walking to work and as predicted, the trip is becoming progressively easier, my legs aching less, and the space between the two points seems shorter, or at least that’s the perception. As I slowly meandering along catching up on my backlog of This American Life podasts, I’m closed off from the world, probably looking a sight in the big green coat I’m wearing to keep the cold out, as I chuckle to myself when Ira Glass or one of the other contributors says something funny.

But people seem to be increasingly unaware of each other in general. On the bus home (because you want to get home from work more quickly than you want to get there), as we rounded the corner at the top of Hardman Street I glanced out of the window near the Eatwell food kiosk and noticed a man (at least I assume it was a man) lying on the floor across the pavement.

We were going too fast for me to see if he was alive or dead or even in my imagination taking a photograph of the bottom of the wall, but I could see that some of the pedestrians weren’t just walking around the obstruction but actually stepping over him/her. This concerns me. If by some remote chance I did keel over in the cold somewhere on Croxteth Drive, I’d want someone to at least check that I was ok as they went about their business. They would, wouldn’t they?

"It's not a significant bullet."

Film Mark Kermode interviews Werner Herzog at the BFI and it's as comprehensive as you'd expect:
"I've never been out for the Guinness Book of World Records for doing something wild here and something even wilder after that. But I always had the feeling that this was going to be a film which had to do with gravity, something that burdens us. Not only physical gravity – I do not like gravity, I would love to fly, and many of my films have to do with flying. So I would like to have a certain levity, and I would like to defy the laws of nature, of gravity."
Inevitably also mentions "It's not a significant bullet" which I never grow tired of hearing about. Herzog recollects in this shakey camera phone footage:

And here's the incident itself. Note that Herzog's actually describing how people don't care about his films any more just before the bullet hits:

gratuitous photo of her

TV Just when you thought the BBC was done with primo costume drama, they've announced a new adaptation of Jane Austin's Emma, playing over four one hour episodes in the same style as Sense and Sensibility last year.

This isn't entirely a redundant idea. The versions starring Kate and Gwyneth were ten whole years ago (would you believe) and with more screen time to play about with, some of nuances lost in those adaptations will come to the fore. No mention of lead casting in the linked press release though I'd favour someone unexpected like Tara Summers from Boston Legal. Here's a gratuitous photo of her to illustrate this story:

Never worked for the BBC. Amazing.

hobbled by a legacy

Music As expected, Spotify are changing their database to reflect local licenses so that all of the world's music won't necessarily be available to all of the world:
"The changes are being made so that we implement all the proper restrictions that are required by our label deals. Some tracks will be restricted from play in certain countries, this means that if you share tracks with friends who are in other countries it’s possible that they won’t be able to listen to them. The reason for this is that our agreements contain strict rules as to what tracks can and can’t be played in various countries that we are now capable of implementing. These restrictions are a legacy from when most music was sold on tapes and CDs and they have continued over into streaming music, our hope is that one day restrictions like this will disappear for good."
Which means that a digital invention is again being hobbled by a legacy of rules from the era before. Seems very unfair that I can buy an imported album from Amazon but can't actually listen to it through a service like this, especially since we're now supposed to have a global economy.

in this day and age

TV Two of the Doctor Who related FOI requests I reported on here have finally been answered and ... they fell outside the scope of the act. The letter about Internal BBC reaction to there being no series of Doctor Who in 2009 has no new information.

On the question of the crafting of the press release, we're told that it was drafted by Taylor Herring Public Relations not someone internal which is a bit interesting since I always thought these things were put together by the corporation's in-house press office, though it makes sense that they'd hire some flexible experts in this day and age.

The one about communications between ICM and BBC has been delayed, presumably because it requires the co-operation of the production team and they're a bit busy at the moment.

here we are again in manual

Jesus of Cool: Kay Hanley & the Pussycats
You mean it wasn't Rachael Leigh Cook singing as Josie but Kay Hanley from Letters To Cleo? (makes mental note should he ever appear on QI).

Costume Vs. Cosplay: What a Stormtrooper Is Made Of
This American Life style expose of the 501st Legion. If Lucas wants to include stormtroopers in the new tv series, it would be wrong not to employ these guys.

Random Acts Of Reality :: On Books And Sleep
In which Tom Reynolds offers some notes on his writing style to his publisher: "I’m particularly poor at getting lying/laying right, sorry about that. Normally I write myself around using these words but I may have missed a few."

BBC to put every publicly owned oil painting in the UK online
Further to my latest regional art gallery post is this frankly spectacular news -- I presume "placed on the internet" means digitised images, which is a massive undertaking, especially since the majority of them won't have been photographed before. I was on the phone to BBC Jobs straight away, though all they could say simply was 'watch this space'.

Kim Manners Dies
Directed some of the best episodes of The X-Files as well as 21 Jump Street and Charlie's Angels.

Monty Python's vinyl back catalogue on Spotify
Everything is there, including Matching Tie and Handkerchief, the films and Live at Drury Lane, Cheese Shop, Spanish Inquisition, Parrot Sketch, Interlude, the lot.

Will Twitter Replace Pop Criticism?
Freaky Trigger investigates. None of the results are Lester Bangs in a hundred and forty characters but they do demonstrate how passionately fans of the top 40 are even if some of us are of the opinion that pop music isn't as good as it used to be, generally because we're in our thirties and out of touch and wish All Saints were still recording.

Red Dwarf cast to be reunited
Will be shown on Dave thank goodness. I've always had a soft spot for Red Dwarf though season six was a bit rubbish. I do love seven though -- I'm probably the only person on the planet who thought Chloe Annett as Kochanski was a good idea. I hope she's back ...

blog:Cogley: Post Delicious Bookmarks to Your Blog
My web connection has been particularly flakey this past couple of days, so rather than just storing up links and then posting them all together, I'm trying out this method of posting from Delicious all at once in groups. Though I've followed the instructions, it's not working yet so here we are again in manual. I think I'll try Digg instead ...

I gaped. I sat down on a bench and gaped some more.

Museums About six months ago, though it seems longer, I visited Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery. I suspect this is the longest time between visit and review ever in the history of writing reviews, or at the very least on this blog and I have no excuse other than that I actually thought I’d already talked about it before. Then, some time in November I realised I hadn’t and Christmas descended and here we are. New readers might want to look here for the back story.

There’s a good chance that some of the information I’m putting to screen now is horrendously out of date, but museums don’t change that much I don’t think, so it’s at least worth describing the experience. Which luckily, was vivid enough that I can still remember (almost) everything. The main permanent collection area is upstairs and set away from the rest of the museum. With the exception of cleaners and handlers using the goods lift which is part of the room, I was alone for much of the visit.

Which was very helpful, because the first thing I did upon entering the room was the burst out laughing, a big loud, haughty belly laugh of the kind which is usually only provoked by, well, nothing. It’s because I was clutching a copy of Edward Morris's Public Art Collections in North West England, and on the wall in front of me was the painting from the cover, The Loves of the Winds and the Seasons by Albert Moore. As ever, the photograph doesn’t do it justice, the colours rendered pastel on the cover popping out more vividly in real life.

Once I’d calmed down, I decided to put it to one side for a moment and take in the rest of the gallery. I gaped. I sat down on a bench and gaped some more. Having been on a fair few of these visits, I’ve generally come to know what to expect, from these regional galleries. There’ll always been something really extraordinary, some nice works and the rubbish. This is a room which I think would shame some of the nationals. It's a visual feast.

Every image is majestic, and I don’t have enough time to take it all in. I’ve also joked before about how these galleries, should you unkindly want to survey them, could be ranked based on how many pages of notes I write. At Blackburn I ended up with six large pages and the handwriting of the younger version of me shows signs of scrabbling to get my excitement down on paper. There are some words I can’t even make out.

It wasn’t until 1870 that Blackburn decided to purpose build a library and museum, having previously only offered a wing of the town hall to put some books in. Designed by London architects Woodzell and Colcutt and built at a cost of over eight thousand pounds, the style is Gothic. The collection itself is the usual amalgam of purchases and bequests though the council thought it important enough that by the early 1890s they’d added to the existing building with this upper floor added for what they described as ‘The New Art Gallery’ and after the installation of electric lights, the gallery was able to stay open until 10pm each evening. If only that was the case now.

Rather than offering proper information plaques, the gallery have supplied a black folder with information related to the work. Some of this doesn’t quite match. Above the door, there are three portraits by Hilary Coddington Lewis, her husband Richard and their son Thomas. Collected together they offer something akin to a family portrait and she’s the image of contentment, reading, and the impression is of the comfortable silence in company that’s often a feature of the best relationships. The folder simply offers a biography of him – a cotton trader and philanthropist – but I wanted to know more about her – how she gained her skills, what led her to produce such work.

Two sea themed canvases dominate the rest of that wall. The liberal brushwork Henry Moore’s Rough Weather in the Mediterranean creates a three dimensional vision of an imposing aquamarine sea crashing about as a ship falls into difficulty in the distance, an elemental drama with an inevitable, tragic conclusion. When I was at school I remember seeing an illustration of what the surface of Pluto looks like, cold and isolated and that’s also what Julius Olsson’s The Reef is reminiscent of, with its distant moon and the only indication of human life being a small blob of yellow paint on the horizon denoting a lighthouse, the men inside seemingly alone in the night as waves crash against the surrounding rocks.

Rather less nihilistic is E A Hurnell’s The End of the Butterfly Chase. A couple of pre-teens have finally captured a red admiral which one holds tentatively as the other brings in the net. They’re playing in the artist’s garden. As the accompanying information described, “Hurnell and his sister had a house backing onto the beach at Kirkcudbright. Since the people of the village liked and respected the artist, they often allowed their children to be painted by him.” Paint has been applied to the canvas using a pallet knife and brush, the thick layers giving the violets and greenery a lightly abstract quality. The artist was apparently influenced by the decorative aspects of Japanese art.

It’s always a bit redundant to describe large paintings filled with people in classical dress epic, but in the case of Edwin Long’s Diana or Christ, there’s little choice. Straight out of DeMille’s 1916 film Intolerance, this offers a cast of thousands in mid shot most ready to pounce should the poor young woman, a rich Christian, decide not to offer a sacrifice to the goddess Diana, against her own religious conviction. There’s some impressive experimentation with the depth of field, with a Roman coliseum and forum in the background but the real interest is in the collection of serving girls to the left all of whom look to have variations of Diana’s face as though to suggest they’re interchangeable somehow, all the same (though that could also be because the artist has used drawings of the same model as guides over and over).

Next, there’s the Albert Moore (pictured above). In his book, Edward Morris is very pleased with this, dedicating a whole page and of course the cover. He quotes a poem Moore wrote to put his ideas for the painting into words, the depiction of the courtship of four male winds with four female seasons. But as Edward ponders: “It is not clear why Summer, the female figure on the left watching the courtship of the South Wind and Autumn should have been abandoned, not what the (presumably) much less enticing Winter should have the North and East Winds quarrelling over her in a patch of snow under dark clouds in the right background.”

I’m not sure what to think; I appreciate the skill of the artist, the particularly in the flowers. But the figures are uncomfortable in the space and a bit vacant. The reason I love the Pre-Raphaelites is that even in the most stylistic or symbolic of works, there’s always a light in their eyes, a trace of humanity. Moore’s painting lacks that and though I appreciate the approach, there’s a lack of warmth to the work, no sense of young love. I suppose I agree with the quote provided at the gallery from Sidney Colvin on all of Moore's work: “The subject, whatever subject is chosen, is merely a mechanism for getting beautiful people into beautiful situations.” Sounds like Mtv.

So I continue walking, continue to take everything in. Stanley Corshiter’s Roberta features a woman, her hair in a Louise Brooks style, against a black background, in a pose which reminds me of a fashion photograph, including the slightly startled look in her eye from a flash bulb. Adreotti’s The Music Lesson in which two aristocratic ladies are being taught to sing by a spectacled gentleman, painted with minute brushstrokes that pick out the floral designs in their dresses. Charles Dixon’s The Battle of Juttad, an exciting documentation of the battle with the fire of war, the sea blasting into the air, as abstract as the bridge scene in Apocalypse Now.

The rest of the permanent art collection can be found in the stairwell, though its mainly animal pictures which aren’t really my thing. I could be flippant and put it down to my cat hair allergy, but I expect it's because I have an affinity for the narrative and the unusual and the profile of a horse doesn’t seem to have that. Though there is a very good painting of two lions in repose, A Siesta by G. Nastagh, the male and female dozing, shaded by a rock and looking as unthreatening as the king and queen of the jungle could ever be.

At which point, I turned around realised how much more there was to see. There's room housing something called the Hart Collection. Inside there's a selection of Japanese art, including The Great Wave, and costume. There's also, without doubt, one of the best print collections I’ve ever seen. At this point, my notes become almost completely illegible and mostly a list, but I can make out four names, Gutenberg and Caxton, Morris and Burne-Jones.

A William Morris edition of the Works of Chaucer and the Well at the World’s End illustrated by Edward Burne Jones. Even in these line drawings I see the life missing from the Moore, though because of the way they’re displayed, only two pages can be seen which is a bit of the tease. I wonder in my notes if a reproduction could not be produced for browsing and study.

Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery also actually has a leaf from Gutenberg’s Mainz Bible of 1455, which is exciting enough. But it also has an original 1495 manuscript of St. Jerome Bis Patrum from The Lives of Saints by Wynkun de Worde of Westminster which the accompanying information says was completed by William Caxton himself on the last day of his life. He printed this and then a couple hours later, he was dead. I took a step backwards at that. I might have said the ‘No!’ word rather loudly, and people may have looked.

There’s earlier than that. How about a messenger tablet from Lagesh, Babylon in the third dynasty of Ur c.2,2000 BC? Well, alright, this grand sounding document is a shopping list, but still it’s a piece of history and since this ancient shopper was sending out for beer, bread and oil – it just prove that even in Babylon everyone knew what I found out when I was a drinker -- that the best remedy after a night on the tiles (literally in their case) is a fry-up.

I’m being frivolous, but this Hart Collection just underscores why I’m doing this and why I should begin again very soon. If I’d hunted through their website, I might have found out about these treats and that might have led to some expectation. But there’s nothing better than a surprise, moments in which the works of masters almost appear before your eyes, items which you didn’t ever think you’d have a chance to see. Amazing.

an instant musical education

Music You might remember last year, music journalist Paul Morley made a documentary about pop music, asking what it's good for. Quite a lot as it turned out.

You might also remember that I created this annotation listing all of the songs and performers which appeared in the programme.

Now I've fed that into Spotify and created a playlist. It's like an instant musical education.*


* Warning, also contains Il Divo for completion sake.

a review of the film version of Frost/Nixon

Elsewhere I've had a review of the film version of Frost/Nixon published at Liverpool Confidential. I'm not engaging in hyperbole -- it is a masterpiece. Some of the most annoying criticisms I've read is that it's very talky or static or stagey. It's a film about an interview. What are you expecting?

a personal soundtrack playing

Life I'm on the bus home this evening. It's rush hour and we're all wedged into seats and the isle is full. At the back, there's the sudden but inevitable emergence of a drum beat from a mobile phone. There's no melody, no vocal, just the constant replant, thumpity thump of a drum machine of the kind which indicates that a 'musician' had pressed a button on his Yamaha, turned the mike on and gone out for a smoke. As ever, everyone is turning around trying to detect where this noise is coming from, all too scared to shout out a warning.

Eventually, the noise starts getting closer, as the source, a disappointingly stereotypical looking teenager in a hooded black top with WHAT NOW printed on the back heads up the bus with his two friends. The noise is coming from his pocket, everyone watches, but again no one admonishes this noise polluter. As he gets off the bus, he thanks the driver, who also says nothing, even though we all have headaches. It's as though its perfectly fine that this kid walks around with a personal soundtrack playing, one which we can all hear.

No wonder I've begun walking to work. On Friday morning, it has to be said after having weighed myself and totted up the final cost of Christmas, I decided to set off earlier and meander into town. Sefton Park to there isn’t that far, about two miles, but its always seemed just too far for anything other than bus travel. How wrong I’ve been. Once I get up onto Princes Avenue, with town tantalisingly at the other end, it’s not too hard and each time has become easier as I understand the length of the journey, the different. It’s cheaper than getting the bus, I’ve plenty of time to catch up podcasts, I've got some personal space back and I’m getting some exercise. Why have I never done this before?

probable ancestor

250th Burns Night, originally uploaded by Janet 59.

Happy Burns Night! It's always comforting to know that no matter how boring life can be sometimes, there's always a special day named after your probable ancestor and so therefore probably you -- or in this case me. I always to joke Fani (she's from Greece) that I'm the only one of her British friends to have a name day too...

Orla Kiely at Target
For a while I thought my perfect woman would have just this taste in fashion. (thinks) That may not have changed. Oh my...

Let's Rate the Ranking Systems of Film Reviews
Star ratings are entirely nebulous. A score out of ten is much clearer presumably because of the wider number of increments. Rotten Tomatoes is relatively infallible and since it included a wide spectrum of critics the pack mentality of the A-listers tends to be balanced out. I suspect Louise Keller the Urban Cinefile saw some parallel universe version of Woody's Cassandra's Dream were it was actually good.

Gwyneth and the big beast of American cooking
Did anyone else see the Movie Connections episode about Sliding Doors on the BBC the other night? Gwyneth said it was the happiest time she's spent on a film set.

Guardian Gives Shape To Obama’s Words

On The Guardian's Obama coverage: "There is also to be a contribution from Alan Kitching but, as I write this, G2 art director Richard Turley has just emailed to say “we just received the Alan Kitching but it’s still wet (!) so can’t be scanned….. not sure what we’re going to do about it yet other than send the work experience into the toilets to hold it under the hairdryer… guess that demonstrates the kind of timescales we operate to in newspapers."

TachyonTV's Twitter feed
"Easter Island Tourist Board reported to be "ecstatic" over Matt Smith casting"

Would You Do That If Barack Obama Was Watching?
Yes! No! Oh wait ...

Presidential punctuation
Where a single character makes all the difference.

‘Heavens woman, yesterday was 24 hours ago!’
"An ex-KGB spy has bought the Evening Standard. If only this were 1969, not 2009…"