The Spotify Playlist

natalie imbruglia?, originally uploaded by AlmostPhony.

Not Natalie

New Natalie Imbruglia music has begun turning up online, or more precisely YouTube, where bootlegs from her new album are appearing with some abandon. I'll save judgement until I've heard the completed version, but the wait since 2003's Counting Down The Days has been far too long (and notice how I managed to avoid the obvious joke there). She might have begun with a cover version (original included here) and that's still probably the song she'll continue to be known for (that and playing Beth in Neighbours) but I've yet to meet anyone who's given a bit of time to those later albums and haven't been pleased.

Find above a recreation of the greatest hits collection using tracks which share the same title, with some creative license here and there. I tried to find some things which share the mood of Imbruglia's songs, but just aren't. Admittedly it's not all good. The David Weckl Band track sounds like the kind of stuff knocked together by the Radiophonic Workshop in the Eighties for sitcoms when the characters visited a wine bar or club and the producers were unwilling to license the proper stuff. And here's what Spotify has to say about the not terrible, Platinum selling, Taxiride:
"Australian harmony quartet Taxiride distance themselves from the choreographed dancing vocal "boy bands" of their time, seeing themselves stylistically more as an updated version of Crosby Stills Nash and Young, but definitely a band rather than a group of individuals.
My italics. For contrast:

geocities rescue

Periódicos De la Película

I don’t think I’ve ever found the perfect film magazine. None of the items on the rack seems to offer the correct balance of news, reviews, interviews and archive articles. So I seem to buy most of them in the end each month (and no that isn’t because I can’t read text which doesn’t include pictures).

Top of the list is 'Empire Magazine', mostly through loyalty (I’ve always bought it). In the beginning it was definitely a fans guide to cinema, but lately it’s become more corporate and so not as good as it used to be. 'Sight and Sound' is next for its independent coverage, and because sometimes it’s important to read articles written by people obviously passionate about film as an art form. 'Premiere Magazine' was always a special treat whenever I had a long train journey anywhere so that I could get previews of films that usually wouldn’t be out for years. Less essential now though, what with the ‘net, but it still has some good writing. If I’m really desperate, I’ll look at 'Total Film', which I suppose isn’t really fair given its coverage of low-budget film production. Much of time, The Guardian’s film writing can be of a very fine quality, although recent guff about films like Hannibal haven’t won it any favours.

But what of the rest? ‘Film Review’ is eminently ignorable with its simplistic ‘Big Breakfast’ style interviews which seem to reproduce press releases and its woolly film reviews which don’t seem to want to offend anyone who might otherwise grant them an interview. 'Flicks' has some good writing, but I’ve never seen the point of buying something I’d otherwise get free. 'Hotdog' thinks it’s the natural successor to 'Neon', but through some very tired writing and seem to be of the opinion that film history basically amounts to Guy Richie and Tarantino – look no further if you want to be less than thrilled.

[The older version of me notes -- I still read Empire and Sight & Sound and The Guardian. Old habits etc.]


I'm sure you've already heard by now, but just in case ...

David Tennant reprises role in RSC Hamlet for BBC Two

Well, him and the key players from the original cast. I had expected that it would be a filmed version of the stage show at the Courtyard, but it's being shot on location instead, which does sound rather wonderful.

In Dreams Begin Responsibilities

TV So the Doctor’s new companion is Karen Gillan and I’m very excited.

Not because like the also largely unknown Matt Smith I can claim knowledge after having watched something she’s been in – with the exception of an earlier episode, The Fires of Pompeii, in which she played the Soothsayer -- you couldn't get me to sit through The Kevin Bishop Show if you paid me -- but because once again it demonstrates that the new production team are thinking very carefully about what the new version of the show is going to be like.

Selecting someone whose not already a household name, a Freema rather than a Catherine, potentially resets the dynamic of the show; the companion can once again be the viewpoint character for both kids and adults as we discover who the Eleventh Doctor is in much the same way that Billie did in Rose, something which has changed over time as we’ve become used to David.

Does the look in the publicity picture point towards the kind of character she'll be, someone rather more angstier than we're used to, perhaps prone to the odd voiceover relating how she's feeling any given second?

"When I stepped into the TARDIS for the first time, it was like, stepping into a new world. It was, like, bigger, on the inside, than the outside. I wondered if the Doctor's brain was like that too. Or something."

click click

About The new Friendfeed redesign has its critics, nominally because it's essentially aping the look and feel of Twitter. But it's still an invaluable way of keeping everything in one place, tweets, blog posts and links. Here's mine and if you don't mind not getting the full blog content without an extra click click is the best way of keeping up with everything I'm doing should you want to.

it certainly explains the travelling circus

Film Alfred Hitchcock’s homage to his own British films, Saboteur offers references to most of these earlier movies within, some cheekier than others. The structure mirrors The 39 Steps and Young and Innocent – a wrongly accused man (pictured above) chases across country to prove his innocence picking up a lady along the way who is initially suspicious of him but ultimately falls for his charms. Like Sabotage, there’s a secret organisation committing terrorist acts and there’s a game changing scene in a cinema. At one point a knife drops to the floor like murder weapon in Blackmail, there’s a joke about triangles which Rohmer and Chabrol (in their book The First Forty-Four Films) suggest is Hitch’s way of laying to rest the love triangles which were once a prominent plot detail. Classical music runs through it recalling Waltzes from Vienna (that may be a stretch) and a villain falls to their death from a landmark (Blackmail again) and a great height (Jamaica Inn).

It’s the first time Hitch is able to marry the lush visuals of his domestic dramas with a big episodic structure. Foreign Correspondent has some interesting shots, such as the chase through the Magritte landscape of bowler hats and black umbrellas, but it was mostly a b-picture. Saboteur opens with a fire in a munitions factory (not unlike the house at the close of Rebecca), and Hitch holds on the main doors of the factor as pitch black smoke engulfs his frame like Octopus ink in an aquarium tank. Later, when the central couple are dancing their way to some protection at a party, the camera stays on them as the rest of the guests swirl around in the background, obliviously continuing to enjoy themselves as their hosts plot our hero's death. The overall impression is that Hitch has realised that even his thrillers can be beautiful. He talks often talks about putting the camera in the best place to tell the story and this perfect example of that.

It's a corking script too, literate and surprising. Dorothy Parker's fingertips can be seen all over the film to a smaller or larger extent, particularly during the aforementioned highly poetic triangle scene and it certainly explains the travelling circus. The accused man and his companion, still are on the run, stow themselves away in their sleeping quarters. His reaction, essential gratitude and humanity when faced with this menagerie, is what convinces her that he can't be guilty. TCM have a clip here and it's precisely the kind of unpredictable, unexpected moment that seems to be missing from mainstream genre movies these days. About the only criticism could be that once again the love affair between the leads seems rather sudden but that's more than likely a convention of cinema at the time. It's also rather sweet.


Life Annette visited Liverpool yesterday. She wanted to see as much of the city as possible and I think we probably did. Both of the cathedrals, Penny Lane, my old school, Picton Clock (all site/sights covered then), the Cavern that isn't really the Cavern, the Albert Dock, Liverpool One, the Banksy, Chinatown, Ye Crack, St Lukes and the Everyman Bistro, and passing through on the bus, where I live and both universities.

It is quiet a while since I walked the city in such a concentrated way, certainly since before the building projects transformed some sections of it so unutterably. Liverpool is deceptive. It seems much larger than it probably is. As we trailed about, every now and then we could see somewhere we'd already walked as streets criss-crossed each other and seemed to turn in on one another like a Escher drawing. Even so, in places, it felt as though I was visiting my own city for the first time; luckily, the massive landmarks, the cathedrals, St John Beacon, Liver Buildings were constant reminders of were we where.

Nevertheless, I realise now how tied up my biography is with the touristy areas of the city (which sounded less obvious in my head than it does now on the screen). I was born in a building not far from the catholic cathedral. All over the place I could point to places I'd studied and worked to the point that I felt like I was live-blogging (and not this kind) or most likely live-boring. I apparently know more about my own city than I thought I did, and we apparently have more Costa Coffees and Tescos than I thought. Why do Tesco seem to own half of the city now?

the stuttering enterprises

Film Suspicion is a close cousin of Rebecca. Both feature Joan Fontaine in a fast marriage with a distant figure whom she slowly discovers isn’t all he seems. Unlike the earlier film, she remains the lead through to the end, her spouse Cary Grant’s secrets her incessant psychological torturer. It’s a measure of Fontaine’s abilities as an actress that the trajectory of this character is almost the reverse of that in the earlier film, from a figure of confidence to human wreckage, displayed in the lines which slowly develop on her face and the shadows Hitch casts into her eyes.

This is as good a time as any to note that one of the problems I’m encountering with this particular endevour is that having discovered why Hitchcock is considered the master (after a shaky start), I’m also discovering why the older generation of film critics view newer films with such disdain and why they’re so rapturous when faced with something like There Will Be Blood and its attempts to smash through the orthodoxy of the Hollywood style. Hitch was doing that with every film ‘now’; it’s as though he understands the language of film, the expected tropes, then tosses them out with abandon because they don’t serve the story, which is something you can't always say of some of the stuttering enterprises of the time.

There was always a slight nervousness about the experiments in earlier film, in Blackmail with the prominence of the word knife on the soundtrack to show the psychological state of the murderess. Compare that to the milk scene in Suspicion; when Grant wishes his wife a good night it’s as if it's for the last time but the only evidence we have that this might be the case is the force of information information beforehand (mostly the way that Grant is shot) and the look in Fontaine’s eye. There’s nothing in Grant’s voice, he’s charming, yet we’re convinced that a slug of dairy will be the death of her. And this isn’t the conclusion – it’s all part of a structure which ramps up the tension so tightly that by the end we’re sitting in that car with Fontaine waiting for an inevitable tragedy.

good choices

Music Just in case you've missed it, has a free MP3 page. Good choices all, some ZZ Top, Neil Young, Saint Etienne and lovely thing from Diana Krall.

Nothing specific, nothing like

Film Wheels within wheels. The Guardian's My Media column today has (Adam &) Joe Cornish talking about the kinds of things he likes. Amongst the kinds of websites he likes he mentions Ultra Culture, a film website, he says he'd "highly recommend".

Charlie Lyne's Ultra Culture is indeed recommendable, a PopJustice for movies and exactly the kind of thing I couldn't write because I'm not funny enough and always seem to use forty words with three would do.

In his review of Synecdoche, New York, Charlie suggests the following:

"It has the perfect runtime for a drama film - 120 minutes excluding credits. Incidentally, the perfect runtime for a comedy film is 95 minutes."

I've been attempting to compile a list of maxims we should be followed in order to make a good film. Nothing specific, nothing like "Don't employ Martin Lawrence." Structural suggestions, mistakes that are made time and again.

So far, it boils down to:

"Every film should have a duration that ends on the half hour."

In other words, if a film's duration is 1:40, it's ten minutes too long; if it's 1:50 it's ten minutes too short and if it's 2:10 it's ten minutes too long and, well, you get the idea. But I've never been able to work myself around 1:45 films. Which way to go? Which way? I think you can see what happened when I read this:

"It has the perfect runtime for a drama film - 120 minutes excluding credits. Incidentally, the perfect runtime for a comedy film is 95 minutes."

I feel like Crick & Watson when they realised what Rosalind Franklin had been up to, though I'm giving Lyne the credit here. Let's add the two together:

"Every film should have a duration that ends on the half hour. If it's a drama that should be two hours; if its a comedy, an hour and a half."

We can quibble about the other five minutes later. And it works. There are very few dramas that can justify being longer than two hours. The Dark Knight is 152 minutes and feels it and so does Spiderman 3 at 139 minutes and feel it.*

Except when it doesn't work. I was watching Hitchcock's Stage Freight earlier. It's wonderful, especially Alistair Sims performance. But I also think it is too long. It's 1:45. It would be perfect at an hour and a half with less of the running about in the middle. But isn't it a drama? Well yes, and no. Hitch injects an awful lot of comedy in there, especially in relation to Sim. And what about some action films? Let's modify things again:

"Every film should have a duration that ends on the half hour. A drama should be two hours, a comedy an hour and a half, but if it's a bit of both, it depends how funny it is."

I know there will be exceptions related to directors cuts, special editions, tv movies and Lord of the Rings. And possibly The Godfather. But it's lunch time and I'm in the mood for an omelette. I'll report back when I've thought some more about it.

* Another issue worth discussion is about how extra antagonists in these films always seem to add about ten minutes to the duration if they go over the two hour rule. The Dark Knight is too long because of all the messing about with Two Face and the bloke who threatens to reveal Bruce's identity. Spiderman 3 is too long because of all the set up and pay-off that goes on in relation to Venom. And as for Return of the Jedi...

Holiday booked.


Holiday booked. Finally.


Including the RSC's productions of The Winter's Tale and Julius Caesar.

Four nights, five Days, at the end of June. At a B&B.

If I was going to go somewhere, it might as well be the birthplace of my hero.

The Spotify Playlist

First Night of the BBC Proms 2009

The programme for this year's Proms seasons was published a couple of weeks ago. With an additional year of listening to classical music, it's a curious experience turning the pages, seeing a composer's name and having some idea of this or that tune will sound like, either because I've become familiar with their work or already know the piece. It's also comforting to see the same royal blue advert for National Savings and Investments on the back, which hasn't changed in years.

With Spotify, it's now entirely possible to hear most of the music from the Proms nearly instantaneously and put together playlists from what must be the largest cd collection in the world. This doesn't invalidate the experience of listening to the concert on the radio. Neither of the recordings of Bruckner's Psalm 150 is available. It is also a mish mash of interpretations and there's none of the flow and anticipation of the live experience provided by a singular musical voice. And lacks the rather good commentary supplied by the presenter. And unlike the BBC, has adverts.