trilogy meter

Film I post this 'trilogy meter' only to confirm that it's all a matter of taste. Arguably Jurassic Park 3 is a more entertaining film than its prequels and Terminator 3 is rather fun and has a wonderful ending. Pity about the score for Alien 3; I know that it renders the conclusion of Aliens rather pointless, but it does have Brian Glover essentially reprising his Kes role, an incongruity which just about saves the film.

cheese on toast

TV Out on Blue Six profiles 80s game show title sequences:
"Is it just the passage of time and changing of fashions that now makes the original Play Your Cards Right opening titles seem as though they should really belong to some supernatural drama anthology series with a ‘twist’ in the tail?"
My favourite was Bullseye simply because it reminded the younger version of me that other people have nightmares too. Here we're given a window into Jim Bowen's psyche, a dark nightmare world in which Bully represents his id, driving a coach filled with darts players into the endless purgatory of a revolving dart board then taking off into certain doom on the back of a giant dart. That'll teach him to eat cheese on toast before going to bed. Or was that just me?

emotionally raw

People Yes, I know, the promised extra 25 things haven't been forthcoming. I've been busy with this and that and 'tother. So, for now, here are reporter Dawn Porter's instead, since it's one of the most emotionally raw examples I've seen and I was going to include 24 myself.

the style of Saul Bass

Games Or as Something Awful are describing them, Classy Games. A selection of cover art for likes of Half-Life and Halo done in the style of Saul Bass, 60s spy novels, art deco, modernist literature and continental romances. The second selection is here.

I felt very welcome.

Liverpool Life I’ve just got back from the first hopefully semi-regular Liverpool Twitter Festival at the Leaf Café on Parliament Street, and you know what? I had a wonderful time. We’ve talked before about my general reaction to these kinds of gatherings in which I’m faced with lots of people I don’t know. What energised me this time was that the majority of people were like me and besides, we did sort of know each other through the web application which inspired the event (or in the case of a few people we knew each other very well already).

This wasn’t an intimidating brace of strangers. I felt very welcome. On entry we were given the option of a id label which meant we could all identify one another through out Twitter usernames; that meant at the beginning of the evening there was the repeated sight of people craning their necks like meerkats trying to read the writing on the labels, but this settled down as names were put to faces and people who’d never met could at least begin a conversation with ‘Do I follow you?’ or ‘We follow each other.’

In that way it was a bit like a school reunion, as we asked one another what we were doing for a living, where we were living now and how we’d travelled there. Except this wasn’t a group of people you spent six or seven excruciating years with during your teens and you were still somehow umbilically connected to for the rest of each other's lives, but folks you genuinely wanted to spend time with and perhaps fill in the gaps between what little you'd already learnt through those updates of a hundred and forty characters.

A couple of people recognised me from my photograph and still more from my usernames. Some said they read this blog or knew of Liverpool Blogs. I met Adrian who I’ve known on and off online for years (see here and here) and who thought of @merseyshipping. I finally saw Alison and Laura and nattered with some of their colleagues from the Liverpool Daily Post, including David. There were a few people I also wanted to talk to that I recognised, but the night felt too short. Hopefully next time.

The Leaf Café is a lovely clean cosy venue with excellent food – well the sausage butties which constituted my tea were nice. There was an auction and raffle for charity (in aid of charity:water) of which two of the star attractions were a book and socks from @stephenfry. The socks went for more. I pushed the bidding up on a print from Pete Carr (whose photos of the event are here – see if you can spot me). But in the end all were too rich for me. The entertainment was supplied by a clutch of bands including the excellent 6ix Toys, though I felt slightly sorry for them because we were all fascinated by a nearby machine that blew bubbles if it detected the hash-tag.

I think you know you’re having a good night when you find yourself shouting ‘Bubbles!’ in unison with others.

Thanks Mandy and all!

Woody Allen soundtrack playlist for Spotify

Music Bit busy today with this and that, so please accept this almost complete Woody Allen soundtrack playlist for Spotify by way of an apology for a lack of something more ... creative. Heavy users like me, might recognise this track in particular ...

isn't as bad as it could be

About Of course I've thought about how I'd look if a potential employer were to Google my name. But I didn't consider that you could hire a company to massage those results:
"Forget your references, your ­résumé, and the degree on your wall. “Whatever’s in the top 10 ­results of a search for your name on Google—that’s your [professional] image,” says Chris Martin, founder of the small internet company Reputation Hawk, which is one of several outfits that focus on keeping that top 10 clean for their clients."
At present, mine includes this blog, my profile at the defunct BBC collective, Behind The Sofa, my post at The Bold Street Blog, my author page at Off The Telly, my playlist at Emma Kennedy's blog, my Facebook profile, my Buzzfeed profile, Liverpool Confidential, flickr then Twitter. Which isn't as bad as it could be...

Spotify is now open to everyone in the UK!

Music Spotify is now open to everyone in the UK! We're the first market to go invitation free (though this link might still work elsewhere).

a semi-regular

Film There's a version of the Kevin Williamson problem in service industries. If you serve hundreds of people a day, you don't remember every single one, unless there's been something unusual about the interaction -- either they've shouted at you, been especially nice (to look at), or had an issue which needed some time to resolve.

But if the customer is a semi-regular, they see you fairly often and know where you work, they recognise you and think it's especially rude when you don't recognise them if you see them in the street/at the cinema/waiting for the bus. Really, we don't mean it, it's just our heads are full of other stuff, like remembering to breath or walk forward without tripping over all of the time.

Of course, the flip side of having met hundreds of people per day is that I've been at a parties (it does happen), seen a familiar face and spent hours trying to work out where we met. I've even talked to someone about it, and we each listed our respective careers and friends and it wasn't until I was on the way home that I realised they'd received [insert service here] from me, whilst being annoyed because I wasn't doing it quickly enough.

'lost' actresses

Film Illeana Douglas is one of the great 'lost' actresses who simply doesn't get the work she should or hasn't got the recognition she deserves. Perfect for The AV Club's Random Roles column:
It was funny, because they’d say, “Oh my God, you were so brilliant in To Die For.” And I was like, “Then why won’t you let me do anything I did in To Die For?” They wanted “an Illeana Douglas type.” I remember one of the [Picture Perfect] writers was like, “The studio said we had to make the character more idiosyncratic, so I said, ‘Why don’t you just cast Illeana Douglas?’” [Laughs.] But they’d put me in something like that, and then they’d keep telling me, “Too much! Bring it down. Don’t upstage the celebrity.” I’m like, “I’m just walking. I’m not trying to do anything!” I started shying away from those kinds of parts, because I didn’t think they were very fun. I mean, it was fun because it was a huge payday.
There's some interesting discussion too about how the financing of independent cinema has changed. It used to be if you cast Walken or Turturro in your film was set, it could be financed. These days, it apparently doesn't work that way. No wonder there don't seem to be any new Tarantinos, Soderberghs, Smiths, Lees or Linklaters coming up.

The Pit of Naturalism.

Life It seems that one of the new fields of interest in film studies in relation to neuroscience, or at least that’s what I discovered tonight during a lecture at John Moores University given by Dr. Murray Smith from the University of Kent called 'The Pit of Naturalism' (quoted from philosopher Raymond Tallis). The traditional view is that science and humanities can’t mix, yet Dr. Smith carefully explained that this isn’t and can’t be the case, and that ‘neuroaesthetics’ or the study of human reaction to art can reveal all kinds of interesting things about how that art is created.

The main example Dr. Smith presented was from a study in which a group of subjects (predictably university students) were presented with clips from four different film and television programmes (a tv Hitchcock, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Good The Bad and The Ugly and a random shot taken from a camcorder) and their retinal and neural responses were recorded. The received wisdom on this is that each individual has their own mix of experiences and prejudices and so should react to each clip in vastly different ways.

What they found instead was that there was a group response. Though there were a myriad results at the opening of the clip, as the subject continued watching, their responses began to mirror and in the main were eventually almost exactly the same. We were presented with the graph from the Hitchcock piece and you could see how the suspense maestro was able to connect with his audience and control their levels of anxiety and tension.

This offers a potentially explosive new way of exploring the whole business of film making and issues related to identification with characters, the filmmaker’s shot selection and why some films impress more than others. Needless to say I was fascinated, but what surprised me more was that I could actually follow what was intellectually a very complex discussion considering very specific examples of high end brain science. Once again, I was confounding my usual default expectation of who I am, that I’m generally an desperately unclever person.

What was perhaps more energizing was that when Dr. Smith brought in some of the tentpole names from film studies,Eisenstein, Barthe and Bordwell, I not only knew who he was talking about but also their notions in relation to film editing and genre. During the discussion afterwards, I found myself anticipating what he and the other students were about to say, the issues they were bringing in. Reading and study from eighteen months ago crashed back into my brain, concepts I haven’t thought about in ages.

After I completed my MA course, it was very difficult for me to simply sit down and watch a film and turn off the analysis; I’d be so busy investigating how the narrative structure was constructed or whether the lead character was conforming to the Oedipal trajectory, that frankly I wouldn’t enjoy it. You might have noticed yourself that the number of reviews being posted to this blog dropped to zero and that was largely to do with not watching many films. It’s about that time I discovered classical music and the two events aren’t unconnected.

Only lately have I begun to reconnect with film and to remember all of the reasons I fell in love with it in the first place, which is something indefinable and has nothing to do with deciding the extent to which it was subverting genre expectations (or whatever). I’m consistently reading those old Movie magazines again and as I’ve discovered tonight, the knowledge is all still there, but I’m now able to only bring it out if I really need to; much of the time it can take a back seat to simply enjoying a film for the spectacle that it is.

Sometimes, having this little knowledge can make a film far more interesting than it actually is. Recently I saw the rubbish Lindsey Lohan vehicle I Know Who Killed Me. It’s a ghastly brew of so-called torture porn and sub-Hitchcockian noodling and watching Lohan pole-dancing after years of seeing her in kids and teen films is extremely uncomfortable. It’s entirely preposterous but gloriously good fun and well worth seeing just so that you can finally say that you’ve seen everything.

But, and I’m about to spoil things so look away now if you haven’t seen the film, once I realised that it was about twin sisters and that essentially a different character picks up the story at the beginning of the second act, I began to question whether the film has twin protagonists or whether it has an extended prologue and the plot only really begins when the second sister wakes up in the hospital, she being the main protagonist, the writers skilfully conferring the sympathies of the audience on this brand new character relatively late into the film.

The point is I could enjoy the film on both of these levels, with abject horror and admiration. I’ve been feeling increasingly content lately; some of this has to do with getting some more exercise; some to do with receiving good feedback on my writing; some to do with knowing that not everything does last forever and though I don’t have anything different lined up right now I know it won’t be too long now until I’m on to the next thing. And I’m sure that a large percentage of it is because, finally, I’m loving film again. Completely, totally and unconditionally.

I wonder what the neuroaesthetists would make of that.

You don't know anything about us.

TV I saw something absolutely shocking on BBC's Click programme this morning. It was report on Philips's new ultrawidescreen 21:9 television which allows the viewing of "scope" films at home filling the whole screen area. You can watch a video of the piece here.

As you can see the Philips rep was of the opinion that true film fans would much rather that a 16:9 film was stretch to fill the 21:9 area so that they receive 'an emersive experience' rather than have the black bars on either side -- and then and this is really when I began grinding my teeth -- that a picture that is in Academy or a square ratio (4:3) is stretched to 16:9 and has those black bars anyway.

My reaction? You don't know anything about us. We film fans dreamed for years about letterboxed instead of panned and scanned videos and frankly it's nirvana that widesceen is the norm on dvd. Films should be seen in the ratio the director selected in the preproduction process and in any case making all of the actors look fatter is really not the way to go.

There's not much more information at their website, but what this actually sounds like to me is someone trying to justify a weakness in some technology which isn't quite as clever as it could be yet, in other words that Philips haven't worked out how to make a 16:9 image pillar box within their fancy new screen. And 4:3, the ratio of Citizen Kane? Forget about it.

the twenty-five random things meme

Meme Having been tagged a few times, I've been trying to compile a list for the twenty-five random things meme.

Unfortunately, whenever I think of something I realise I've already included it in the 100 Things About Me in one form or another.

Which hasn't been updated in nearly eighteen months.

Um. Oh.

Anyway, consider that my contribution.

It's not a cop-out. Honestly.

Think of it as ... another chance to read.

Table Frisbee!

Sport Greasy table? Frisbee? Table Frisbee!