the book is inevitably already out of date

Books At the turn of the millennium, I was so tired from watching all twenty-six hours of the BBC's coverage and full of cold that I didn’t have the inclination to ponder the magnitude of what had been and what was to come. Or so I thought. At the turn of this new decade, on this second day of the teens, I’m not even sure what perspective really is. I spent most of yesterday nervously awaiting a new Doctor Who and writing what I thought about it.

That’s why my Noughties lists have been a mishmash and managed to talk a lot without saying much at all, probably. Not helped by my short memory. It’s for history to decide what a decade was “about” and its “defining moments”. Thirty years is my guesstimate as to how long that will take, based on the fact that only now are we really beginning to understand how the eighties influenced the way we live now (or exactly what Thatcher did).

It’s the challenge Tim Footman acknowledges in the conclusion to his entertaining book, The Noughties: a decade that changed the world. Even without the benefit of hindsight, its difficult to really disagree with his choices. 9/11 was the moment when we all realised the kind of decade it was going to be and global warming, reality tv, web 2.0, surveillance culture, the death of the highstreet, the long tail, globalisation and the credit crunch will probably be the defining characteristics, the broad strokes.

Diversification has made it impossible to quantify any one of these spans of time in a particularly meaningful way, especially since in a post-modernity society, the past and present intermingle to such a degree that the characteristics of the noughties are really an intermingling of culture from everywhere and any time. As he neatly encapsulates, family photos taken in 1960 and 1969 would be radically different, whereas similar shots between 2000 and 2009 would probably offer little difference, give or take a flat-screen tv.

The fashion trends of the 00s are really just the trends of 20s, 60s and 70s repackaged. Same for music. Same for film. Same for war too actually. But somehow Footman manages to highlight the important themes that are singularly noughties phenomena and its impossible not to find yourself nodding your head and giggle as you're reminded of something which you'd forgotten, reminding the reader that ten years can be a long time, especially now.

The book is inevitably already out of date, despite its slim publication schedule. As the author himself acknowledges, he'll probably miss some big event that really defines the decade and sadly for him that's what happened. How he must have chuckled when Rage Against The Machine became the Christmas number one, an event that neatly encapsulates most of his concerns (though there's no mention of it on his blog of the book).

Created on the web through social networking, the Rage single's success expresses the potency of the long tail and people’s embracing of old and new music due to its new accessibility, a reaction against culture defined by reality tv, reaching the top slot despite not having been produced as a physical product therefore bypassing the high street and whose title “Killing in the name of...” sadly captures the attitude of both the decade's governments and terrorists.

The End of Time: Part Two.

TV For all the weeks, then days of expectation …

The End of Time: Part Two

… was really just another Doctor Who story. Thousands leading up to it, thousands hopefully to come. In January alone, Big Finish have three stories in release, BBC Audio has an audio book read by David Tennant as well as a version of The Ice Warriors Target novel, the raft of dvd releases, and comic strips in Doctor Who Magazine, Adventures and Battles In Time (is that still going?). By my calculation, that’s seven new stories or instalments of stories and there’ll be much the same next month, and March and the month after that.

Except The End of Time was different. In our heart of hearts we know that all of those other releases are narrative polyfiller and reclaimed bricks, filling in gaps created in the past, whereas the television series adds whole new layers with Russell T Davies carrying the trowel and David Tennant pushing the wheelbarrow (I’ll let you decide where Julie and Phil and everyone else fit into this analogy). It was important for them to top it off properly ready for Steven Moffat to bring in his own set of masonry and in that regard they did him and us proud.

To an extent the difficulty with the story, and this has haunted the rest of the specials, Journey’s End was the emotional summation of the past four years of the series. At the close, after everyone had steered the TARDIS to safety and the Doctor had watched them drift off into the distance it felt like the last time. It felt right. If the Doctor had regenerated after leaving Donna with her family perhaps having hidden some hitherto unseen sacrifice from his friends it would have been just as perfect a fade out to the Tenth Doctor’s song as we found here.

Except Davies had some loose ends. The shape of his sixty episodes dictated that from the moment the Ninth Doctor first spoke of the Time War with each passing burst of information in the meantime, the timelords and Gallifrey had to return in the closing episode of his tenure. Leaving it to Moffat to sort out would have been like Anthony Reed handing off the end of the Key To Time season to Douglas Adams. What? Oh right, bad analogy. But the point is, having offered his spiritual conclusion, as in all of his individual stories, he needed to wind the plot up too.

And wind it up he did, like Trevor Bayliss on amphetamines. The rigmarole, the Doctor escaping sorry, WORST. ESCAPE. EVER.) just so he can return again with a plan is a classic Doctor Who dramatic device and the Lucas-alike confrontation and chase with the missiles genuinely exciting. The cactus aliens served their purpose as expected and Tennant got to have a final bit of humour before his long, final, drawn-out frown. The Mill did their best to fulfil Davies’s epic demands in show the Master race with lots of CGI and virtual sets, some of which came off, some of which looked like cut-scenes from Wing Commander.

The shot of a broken Gallifrey, the landscape filled with crashed Dalek saucers certainly did have the requisite armo and filled in the gaps created by the shadows of the interiors. I was joking last week when I suggested that Timothy Dalton was playing Rassilon, yet there he was, freed from the Divergent Universe, regenerated and Lord High President (presumably having taken the post in the absence of Romana, trapped outside of normal space as she was when last we chronologically heard of her) the population of the planet having not turned into zombies (ask Big Finish). Sometimes the wall can get a bit crooked can’t it?

One final global threat to deal with. I can’t help feel another writer would have had one of the humans, when faced with another planet in the sky, saying “Oh no not again” or some such, slamming the doors as they go back into his or her house. That would have undercut another chance to see the Chiswick neighbourhood watch hugging each other with relief and since we’re in summation mode it would have been wrong for us not to have seen that one final time, concluding with a member of the family looking to the sky with gratitude, Sylvia this time. And quite fitting that it all happened with shot from the Sonic Screwdriver blowing up a box of fantasy tricks. Was forever thus.

I’ll admit to being slightly frustrated with the moment that the Doctor was reduced to being a whirling dervish, mutely spinning revolver cocked as he spun between a shouting Master and Rassilon. It’s not been unknown for him to lose verbosity when faced with impossible odds but I kept recalling his opening moments with the Sycorax, and his closing chatter during the likes of The Age of Steel, The Family of Blood, hell even The Poison Sky. That’s the Tenth Doctor I’d been expecting, defiant in his closing moments, shouting and gurning right through into the undiscovered country.

Then I realised that he needed that attitude for the Master to talk himself into sacrifice because he’s the man who would, a beat signposted earlier when the Doctor chillingly acknowledged Davros’s allegation about how he’d manipulate situations so that someone else would die a heroic death. That’s the richness of Davies’s writing; behaviour which in isolation seems out of character or even a retcon when taken in conjunction with previous episodes is nothing of the sort. When Wilf reminds the Doctor of his veneration of his people, the timelord shouts that it’s how he chose to remember them, it seems inconsistent, until you remember Gridlock. He’s always lied to himself and others about these things.

Which is why, in the final analysis, the writer wasn’t going to make the Doctor’s death knell some fall out from a shooting frenzy with the Master and the timelords. As cultural commentators and writers more talented than me have already noted, if Davies has done nothing he’s proved that sci-fi can and does work with a mass audience if you give it small consonants and make it about people. Despite the broadstrokes, the moments which impressed in The End of Time were between the old men, the Doctor and Wilf, the Doctor and the Master, as the realities of what they’ve seen and done came to the fore, all three actors nakedly bringing a reality to these larger than life characters.

Davies said during Confidential that he always knew the Tenth Doctor wouldn’t lose his life at the hands of the big epic story, but a smaller choice. A beautifully shot and directed scene (vintage Euros Lynn), with the Doctor almost metafictionally recognising the same thing, railing against the world. It’s the same choice the Doctor always has to make in the end – will he sacrifice himself to save one person? He could just go. He’s a timelord. He’s a god. But as with Rose at the close of The Parting of the Ways, he can’t. He has a conscience. He’s made promises. Unlike Margaret Slitheen who sometimes let them walk away, for the Doctor, everybody lives (if he can make it happen). Even this one man.

That’s the point when The End of Time finishes. Or at least when the Doctor heads off in the TARDIS with his regeneration expectation. After that we’re into an epilogue, the deliberate epilogue. Like I said, functionally it’s not doing much more than the close of Journey’s End, it’s an indulgence. But why the hell not? If The Lord of the Rings films can have a dozen endings after nine-twelve hours of screen time (depending on which version you’re watching), the Russell T Davies years probably deserve an extra twenty minutes, the Doctor holding back his regeneration, if only to explain why Mickey and Martha didn’t join Torchwood after all.

Oh there they are in their own gun-toting spin-off, married, the Mr & Mrs Smith-Jones of the Whoniverse chasing aliens in an industrial power plant straight out of the Pertwee years. I can’t be alone in thinking at some stage this would have looked like a more palatable spin-off than Torchwood though I can’t help feeling sorry for Thomas Milligan who she’s clearly turfed over in favour of the more exciting life. Was it like Brief Encounter but with Mickey’s uzi and bug hunts rather than shopping and trips to the movie and a Weevil instead of Dolly Messiter? Noel Coward wouldn’t have stood for it.

A wink towards The Sarah-Jane Adventures. Something else entirely towards Torchwood. In his diary The Writer’s Tale, Davies notes his disappointment at not being able to afford to create the version of the Shadow Proclamation he had in his head with all of the returning aliens. Well he has now, by giving the Whoniverse its own alien-rich dvd freeze frame friendly Mos Eisley (expect a list of cameos on the wikipedia by the end of the night). It was unlikely that the Doctor’s convenient absence during Children of Earth and Jack’s reaction thereof were hardly going to be explained in the mother series and on reflection it’s ok that there wasn’t animosity, cushioned presumably by the introduction to Alonso.

More surprises. A cute nod to Human Nature, proving once and for all that the Tenth Doctor does do families and the final meeting with Rose bookending the Doctor’s story in a way we’ve not seen before and in a weird way would have been like Tegan turning up for Caves of Androzani. But as with all of this, it suits the Russell T Davies era. He apparently hummed and harred over how to bring Rose and her Mum back what with them being in the alternate universe but actually this was the perfect ending, which he suggested himself way back in the public transport and chips flashback that opened Doomsday.

The final scene, the final line. He’s alone again. Well, alone with the TARDIS. I finally cried when he touched the controls of the console for a final time. Having established that regeneration is like death, "I don't want to go” is a final act of defiance, like his petulant rant in the face of Wilf earlier, and a continuation of his gusto during his first false regeneration. No spare hand for the energy to be sucked into this time. Prophesises are finally getting the better of him. It also seems to answer what the kids are probably pleading at home “We don’t want you to go…”

My response on Twitter recently to the bizarre criticism of Tennant's ubiquitousness over Christmas was that if nothing else he's been a grand ambassador for the series (with the follow-on that since the franchise is big enough now to have his own embassy, we should be able to keep him on in that capacity). But the show would have fallen apart if he hadn't also been a bloody good actor, naturally likeable in that way which makes people want to watch the programme each week. Like all of his predecessors he redefined the part and in a way that none of them could because he was a fan. A proper fan. And probably still is.

Then, like generations of children before them, they’re greeted by a new face in those familiar clothes and Steven Moffat’s first lines for his new version of an old creation. Typical of Moffat to gamely recall elements of the Davies years and his two Doctor’s comments on their appearance (the nose, still not ginger). Matt Smith apparently channelling the Tenth Doctor in his opening scenes, though its nice to hear that he’ll be using the old fashioned RP. Geronimo, indeed. Hooray! Some of the internet goons are already beginning the negative talk. Give him a chance.

But even after all of this, Davies likes to leave his mysteries, something fior the kids to ponder or for Moffat to pick up on. It’s not just the appearance of a new new new Doctor which reminds us that the series, the story continues. Who was that mystery timelady? Was she the Doctor’s mother? Romana? The Rani? Susan? Iris Wyldetyme? Another one of his daughters? How could she seemingly circumvent the timelock and appear to Wilf dressed in River Song white? Mores to the point, who was the other 'weeping' timelord? Brax? Vancel? Maxil? Someone else whose name sounds like a spot cream? Perhaps, like Jack’s missing two years, we’ll never know the implications.

During the recent Radio 2 interview, Who on Who?, David asked Davies what his taste in movies was. Russell regretfully explained that he wasn’t a film buff and that his tastes were rather coarse that he wouldn’t go to see what he “still describes as art house films” or with subtitles. He goes for spectacle. An unkind critic would throw those words back at him and suggest that’s why his version of Doctor Who was often simplistic in its plotting and reliant on set pieces. Except that the public attitude to films is much the same as his, they like spectacle too and if by giving them that, RTD has made Doctor Who a popular success again, what is there to complain about?

Its been fantastic.

Next Time: “Ok, what have you got for me this time?”

Yes, that one.

Elsewhere Happy New Year Everyone! I've contributed to The Liverpool Culture Blog's round-up of highlights of 2009. It's the seventh one down. Yes, that one. With the photograph.

Not Review 2009: Predictions

That Day It's that time of year again when I assess my predictions for the passing year and make up some new ones. Here's what I thought:

The Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes film will turn to be good.
It did apparently. Even Mark Kermode liked it. He says so in this video. He hates Guy Ritchie. That's proof enough for me. One mark.

Gallifrey will be resurrected in Doctor Who but the Tenth Doctor will end up regenerating in the process. The next Doctor will be Patterson Joseph.
Gallifrey is back in Tennant's regeneration story. Despite what Philip Rhys said, Matt Smith is the next Doctor. Half mark depending on what happens tomorrow night.

Keisha will leave the Sugababes
This was a joke. I didn't actually think it would happen. But there we are. In recent days, Amelle and Heidi have said that it was in fact they who left the group leaving Keisha alone. But since they're still calling themselves Sugababes as an anonymous commenter at No Rock and Roll Fun characterised it: "I don't see how this counts as unfair dismissal, we didn't sack the guy, we just started a new company and invited everyone except him to come and work for us. Oh, and we kept the same name and premises." Unless they're Sugababes and Keisha can start a group called THE Sugababes. Yes, that would work. One Mark.

The Independent will close or merge properly with another newspaper
The Indy is still going, though they have moved into the offices of the Daily Mail. But since that was already happening before I made this prediction I can hardly take any credit for that. No Marks.

A lost or previously unknown work by Leonardo da Vinci will be discovered
Two. A self-portrait in a manuscript and a painting of a young girl. There was also a portait of the artist by someone else. One Mark. I'm not greedy.

Three and a half marks. Not bad. Which is better than last year.

Right then.

The Beatles back catalogue will officially be made available for digital download.

Hung parliament at next election, with the Lib Dems gaining real political power (Vince Cable chancellor?)

Blu-Ray "fails". Remains a niche consumer item like laserdisc.

BBC Two's remit changes to something akin to BBC Four, which in turn pushes BBC Four farther upmarket to become even more like a tv mashup of Radios 3 and 4.

Carey Mulligan will be nominated for an Oscar. I hope that hasn't jinxed her chances.

See you on the other side.

The Year In Film 2009. Part Three.

Bill Maher might score a few points in demonstrating the disingenuousness of religion, but his approach negates the benefits some people find in devotion and that simply telling someone they’re stupid does little more than strengthen their faith. Also, having gone mercilessly after Christian fundamentalism, Maher pulls punches when approaching the other monotheistic religions. What’s the point if you’re not going to be even handed about it?

Slumdog Millionaire

Well deserved Best Picture Oscar which in its own way, was, in symbolic terms, the filmic equivalent of the Rage Against The Machine song becoming the Christmas number one. Running in the face of received wisdom that independent cinema set in somewhere other than the US or Britain cannot find a mainstream audience, Slumdog managed to be harrowing and sweet, experimental and conventional and just a damn good piece of cinema.

Star Trek
Did for Roddenberry ’s franchise what the Doctor Who reboot managed in 2005, to be respectful of the past reminding fans about everything they liked about the core concepts whilst simultaneously bringing in an audience that might not necessarily have been too interested before, especially women. It’s just a pity that Paramount have dropped the ball in solidly announcing when the next instalment will be and do we really need to have Khan back again, as rumoured? [full review]

Synecdoche, New York
Has a “debt to the great auteurs, giants like Tarkovsky, Bunuel, Resnais, Fellini and Tati, directors who treated their audience with intelligence and respect with work in which ideas took precedence over explaining the plot and offered a visual contract that asked us to use our own imagination and personal experience to explain the order of events and character motivations. Like Kaufman, they’ve also been accused of self-indulgence which isn’t necessarily incorrect; but everyone with a personal vision is self-indulgent and more often than not the really interesting, surprising work comes when that vision hasn’t been compromised.” [full review]

Vicky Christina Barcelona
“It’s all here, the trademark opening titles (that white on black font over jazz music he’s used since Annie Hall), the abrupt editing, the wordy dialogue laced with poetry and psychological self discovery, a clinical narration sharply revealing the thoughts and feelings of the characters, counter-pointing the apparent reality. It is closer to the art-house style, and nothing like the rather bland Hollywood experience that the blurb suggests. No wonder a couple of teenagers stalked out of the screening part way through.” [full review]

Wendy and Lucy
Spiritually similar to Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne Rosetta and Agn├Ęs Varda’s Vagabond, this story of another homeless girl lost to the landscape demonstrating the fragility of life and how, if one of the pieces is removed or doesn’t quite slot into place in the morning everything can fall apart. Though she’ll likely continue to be defined by Jen Lindley, Michelle Williams still continues to work producing heartbreaking little performances like this. When she shouts for her dog, it’s ten times more emotionally authentic and shattering than all two hours of Revolutionary Road.

The Wrestler

The Year In Film 2009. Part Two.

In The Loop
“She’s very good. She’s about the funniest thing in these American scenes. Not quite The West Wing. Nope still not laughing. She’s good. Ha! That’s better. Who is she? I feel like I should know her. Must in some US tv show. No, can’t be that. (credits roll) Anna Chlumsky … Chlumsky … My Girl!?!” [full review]

The International
Battling with Duplicity as the best Clive Owen film of the year, it’s quite a surprise that this architectural finance thriller hasn’t turned up on the best of lists of professional critics, despite featuring some of the best action scenes in some time (poor MOMA) and a coherently thematic approach to its use of locations. Perhaps we just don’t like to be reminded that we’re simply part of a machine, and that film simply keeps us distracted from knowing that from time to time.

Let The Right One In
Is it this best film of the year? I expect that plenty of critics have decided it must be simply because it’s such an antidote to the bile and chunder they have to sit through on a weekly basis. It certainly kicked me in the gut, and I was impressed by its texture, intelligence and wilful disregard for the norms of genre storytelling, especially in relation to vampirism. But I didn’t come away thinking it was the best film I’d seen this year. Does that make me ungrateful?

Which feels like it was released about ten years ago, which was probably director Gus Van Sant’s intention. The trick to the film is the telling of what could be for some viewers a controversial narrative and frame it in as conventional terms as possible. Some saw that as a missed opportunity, but many scripts and stories have been ruined by experimental direction and editing. Milk is respectful of its subject and that will be its legacy.

Monsters Vs Aliens
One of the year’s disappointments, this 3D digimation demonstrated that decent character design, voice acting and spectacle mean nothing if your script isn’t up to snuff. What the filmmakers failed to notice in attempting something akin to a Brad Bird post-modern nostalgia fest is that in The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, Bird was using the imagery of the then to chat about the now. Making a film rooted in the past is inherently pointless. Only Insectosaurus made this endurable.

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist
A melancholic reminder that I’m not getting any younger. I imagined a teenager version of me being greeted by Nick & Norah and think it the best film of the year and like the similarly structured Adventures in Babysitting when I was the right age, watching it every week, in and out. Instead, I found some of the music a bit irritating, Michael Cera too much of a cipher and felt slightly grubby for fancying punkish pixie dream girl Kat Dennings. Which isn’t to say I haven’t ordered a copy from Amazon.

Rachel Getting Married
Like attending one of those weddings where you don’t know anyone and despite everyone seeming very friendly, inclusive and wanting to have a good time at no point do you feel welcome. But unlike those weddings, you’re not able to take a break and have walk about outside to test if anyone is actually missing you. So you’re simply stuck there, being alienated by the speeches, the horrible music and the general goodwill which seems to be in short supply just a couple of inches away from your skin.

The Reader
Most people would look at The Reader and find it an uncomfortable reminder that when the Nazi’s were defeated the vestiges of its network were still threaded into German society. On the other handed I was reminded that I simply don’t read enough books. I’ve now set myself a target of reading at least fifty pages a day of something. Which explains why the reading box in the far sidebar of this blog is changing on a more regular basis.

Revolutionary Road
Like being punched in the ears repeatedly or spending two hours on purpose with the argumentative couple who always seem to sit near me on long distance train journeys. Why the hell would people want to subject themselves to this as entertainment? It’s not thoughtful. It’s not telling us anything new about marriage in that period (certainly not more that Douglas Sirk). It’s just lots and lots of pain and shouting. About the most depressing film released this year.

The Year In Film 2009. Part One.

The problem with simply listing my favourite films of the year is that, as usual, that I haven't seen half of anything which has been released. So instead I've decided, over the next few days, to offer a capsule opinion of all the film I have seen from this year according to the directory printed in this month's Empire Magazine. It should be longer. Let's begin ...

Angels & Demons
Not quite as pantomime entertaining as The Da Vinci Code and mostly consists of Hanks and co running from church to church before the kind of fake out twist M Night would disapprove of. But the anti-matter explosion is Baroquely awe-inspiring and not even Hitchcock developed a suspense sequence based around trying to escape from a malfunctioning library microclimate.

Anvil! The Story of Anvil
It was impossible not be swept along by the sheer injustice of seeing these apparently influential musicians eeking out an existence while their once cohorts continued to have exciting careers. Hopefully the filmmakers continued their association and we'll be able to see a sequel that investigates this mid-level band struggling with their own limitations in the, you know, harsh face of stardom.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Impressed by taking the modern filmmaking techniques in make-up and CGI and marrying them to script and direction with an old Hollywood sensibilities, even if Brad Pitt’s performance as Button mostly consisted of him regressing through his different screen personas right back through Thelma and Louise.

The Damned United
Not knowing anything about football and particularly Brian Clough, I was able to watch this without prejudice and simply enjoy a large collared, rose-tinted study in hubris and friendship which demonstrated that you can never assume anything is permanent because it can all too easily be taken away and that loyalty is just as important as success.

A fairly good demonstration of my theory that any play will work on film if it's shot simply and you use some decent, committed actors (see also Neil LeBute's The Shape of Things). Some criticised its lack of pace and moralistic tone. I revelled in the pleasure of seeing a compelling three-hander that actually gave its participants space to act, the camera resting upon their faces, and which offered no easy answers. Revealed Amy Adams as an actress with some range and depth and a potential successor Streep who, if she’s not careful, will spend the rest of her career playing jagged matriarchs.

Battling with The International as the best Clive Owen film of the year, like Benjamin Button this recalled old Hollywood in its treatment of character, its curious mix of screwball comedy, espionage and unreliable exposition not sitting well with some critics, especially with that ending. I loved it, though the rather prosaic approach to slipping between timeframes grated after a while. Soderberghian wipes would have done just fine.

Fireflies In The Garden
Which I gave twenty minutes of my time before deciding that writer/director Dennis Lee didn’t know how to structure a script, that he wasn’t going to have anything new or interesting to say about families and that it wasn’t worth sitting through the rest. We didn’t need to see the older Julia Roberts in the opening. Better to have her living totally in the flashbacks as a memory; it makes her character more significant. Also, if Ryan Reynolds is your viewpoint character, why cut ahead to his destination?

Feels like it was released about ten years ago, which was probably writer Peter Morgan’s intention. Cleverly turned the interviews into a kind of boxing film, with the build up to the fight, the pre-show sparring and the consequences for loss stacked up against each of the participants. It would be interesting at some point to see Sheen not playing a celebrity or overtly character based role; the idea of seeing him in a romantic comedy has its attractions, not least in imagining who would be his co-star. I suppose Miranda July would be out of the question [full review].

The Girl Cut in Two
Or Sky weather girl Lisa Burke turns up in the middle of Harold Pinter’s Sleuth and starts romancing Larry Olivier or Michael Caine depending on which version you’re watching. An expression of what’s wrong with film distribution in the UK, Chabrol’s film took two year to cross the channel from France. But to be fair the terse characterisation probably didn’t help in trying to package film or the wild vacillations in tone, between May-to-December romance and psychoanalytical pseudo-erotic thriller. Fun.

Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince
Still not as a good as Azkaban and mostly set-up for The Deathly Hallows, this instalment was the creepiest of the series so far, especially the scenes in the swamp and in the retrieval of the memory. Other than the first two, I’ve only watched each of these films once. I’m looking forward to taking in the epic sweep of narrative in one go when the dvds of the finale have been released, watching the kids grow-up into fine young actors.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
In an ideal world, like Woody Allen, studios would be throwing Gilliam money every year to produce a new film, knowing full well that the result will at least be out of the ordinary and different to anything else on the market as a way of demonstrating that they are still interested in funding independent voices. Instead, Gilliam has to scrape around to get the money together, never has enough time, has to deal with studio interference and unforeseeable happenstance which results in films which always just fall short of expectation but you love them anyway. Every single time [full review].

"Eldrad must live!"

Music Village Voice gives Counting Crow's cover of Big Yellow Taxi a going over. Says it's the worst song of the noughties:
"When "Big Yellow Taxi" appeared, it wasn't because Counting Crows didn't have any ideas. (Though it wouldn't be too surprising if Adam Duritz's pea-sized brain was 85% dreadlocks, 10% water, and 5% actress phone numbers.) "Big Yellow Taxi" exists because the same nation that re-elected President Bush and demanded a sequel to Beverly Hills Chihuahua practically pisses their sweatpants at the idea of a modicum of change."
It isn't. It's a fairly inoffensive cover version and which has the advantageous addition of a pop video in which Vanessa Carlton swans about looking like a 70s Sarah Jane Smith ("Eldrad must live!"). They're wrong about this too (Amelle's bit is her single greatest contribution to the band's career). Any list that fails to acknowledge Cowell and his cohorts is incorrect on a great number of levels. But the argument is funny which is why I'm still bothering to post a link.

full shape

Film BBC Four is currently in the midst of its Orson Welles season, which includes reruns of the director's fascinating autobiographical Sketchbook series, the first episode of which is sadly missing (see below). Luckily Wellenet has a transcript, in which Welles introduces his concept then gives is recollection of what happened during a stage debut in Dublin:
"This is the Gate Theatre in Dublin. First night audiences are always an experience and in this theatre I faced the very first night audience of all in Dublin, that grand Capitol of eloquence and violent opinion. Where audiences enjoy and delight in the privilege of free speech and you can sometimes hear as much dialogue from the gallery as from the stage itself. Where first nights often end in literal riots and actors have been known to seek police protection from the public they are trying to entertain!"
The post also includes an interview with Me and Orson Welles's Christian McKay, whose won plaudits for his imitation of the director. I wonder if someone could interest him in recording a recreation of this Sketchbook episode to return the series to its full shape.

Update: This isn't missing at all, so he doesn't need to. It was the first one transmitted by BBC Four. Which I'd known if I'd gotten around to watching it already. Here it is on YouTube. The Wellesnet post is a bit confusing because it says that this is the first episode on tv before saying that it's missing. That'll teach me not to read the title of a post. Thanks to Rob for pointing out me idiocy.