Film This FARK post about the death of the US flavour of Blockbuster Video predictably allows visitors to swap stories about the service they've received:
"I was in there recently, and asked the guy behind the counter if they had "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo". He told me, "We don't carry adult films, sir", with this smug-ass look on his face. Rather than argue the point, I went and tracked it down myself-- it had been placed in a weird spot, not in alphabetical order amongst the Blu-rays-- and then wandered back up front and rented it.

I expected some sort of reaction when he saw the title, but dude didn't miss a beat. It was like he'd forgotten all about the conversation we'd had about five minutes prior. Also, he was wearing a Puka-shell necklace, and anyone wearing Puka-shell necklaces should be immediately castrated."
Which is a tad harsh, but I see the point. You'd think someone wearing a puka-shell necklace would have heard of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (sorry). Further down the section, someone suggests that when Blockbuster finally goes, it might inspire a resurgence in family/indie rental shops. Let's hope so. I miss Lark Lane Video. Not that I'd cancel my Lovefilm subscription of course. I'd be interested to hear from anyone who still uses UK Blockbuster and what our service is like.

"it’s kind of a different story"

TV I love Misfits, E4's comedy drama about special humans in orange boiler suits so when I heard that the creator, Howard Overman, had been commissioned to adapt Douglas's Dirk Gently books, I was optimistic. Then I read this quote he's given to SFX Magazine:
“What I did was take the character, Dirk Gently, and his detection method, and write a new story. It has elements from the book, obviously, in it, but it’s kind of a different story. Because if you’ve ever read the book, the story in there isn’t really adaptable for TV. Especially not on the budget we’ve been made to do it on, because it involves an alien planet and all sorts of weird and wacky ideas."
Let's review that sentence again:
"the story in there isn’t really adaptable for TV. Especially not on the budget we’ve been made to do it on, because it involves an alien planet and all sorts of weird and wacky ideas."
Harumph. Oh well, we'll see. But aren't the "all sorts of weird and wacky ideas" in Douglas's writing the point? I bet the Electric Monk was the first thing to go ...

extreme embarrassment pressure

Politics I don't if, as Gawker suggests this is the worst on camera interview ever (especially with Jon Snow v. Zac Goldsmith still so recent) but the sight of the presenter trying to keep it together under extreme embarrassment pressure as a mayoral candidate offers another method for running down in the interview time is pretty special. I expect in the British version, the BBC would have been polite enough to allow the guitarist onto the set with Oona King.

"One help point"

Travel Diamond Geezer visits Berney Arms, what may be the remotest station in the country:
"One modern station name sign and one old, the latter reminiscent of an era when a steam train might have pulled alongside [photo]. One tiny wooden shelter, of a size to protect only two waiting passengers from driving rain, containing a map of the local area (mostly empty) and a telephone number to call 'to advertise here'. One help point, consisting of a button and loudspeaker on a stick, plugged in goodness knows where. A cycle rack, with space for only two bikes, although goodness knows who'd be able to ride out this far to use it."
The building of the station was a condition of the landover selling the property to the railways.

theatre on television

TV Never mind Mark Thompson's speech at the Edinburgh TV Festival. BBC Four controller Richard Klein said something really quite interesting too:
"Klein said he as yet to "crack" how to put more theatre on television but said it is a challenge he is determined to win."
The fact that he's even mentioning it is a step in the right direction [previously]

or some such.

TV I've been desperate for the BBC to go on the offensive and fight its corner aginst the likes of the Murdoch media and the Daily Mail criticising how the license fee is spent as though they're defending the rights of the viewer/listener as though there isn't a conflict of interests.

This robust defence from Top Gear producer Andy Wilman, in which he explains why its not a waste of money to stop the identity of The Stig and "the wonderment created about what he might think" being revealed, will do nicely:
"The fact is, the “waste of licence payer’s money” argument gets trotted out many times as a way of attacking the BBC, but the reality is this: the BBC is a massive organisation. It’s naïve to think it can only ever spend money on cameras, tape for the cameras, Daleks or anything else that contributes directly to what ends up on screen. The BBC also has the right to spend money on protecting the intellectual property it created, because the truth is that all that stuff – the Stig, the Tardis, the Blue Peter dog – does belong to the licence payer, and not to some opportunists who think they can come along and take a slice when they feel like it."
More please. Expect article in the Mail along the lines of "Top Gear chief wastes tax payer's money attacking The Mail" or some such. Either way, they'll be after him. Now can we have injunction against the tabloids spoiling the next series of Doctor Who?

"characters" with "stories"

TV Waves of nostalgia as Steve Berry unpicks the Top Ten Big Brother housemates no-one remembers:
"In a last-ditch attempt to save herself from eviction, Justine lounged around the house in a bikini, danced raunchily with other girls and declared she’d once had a threesome. Not enough. Regional telly presenting beckoned, but not for long. She now works in sales."

Wait, what?

TV Reading this 1987 Paramount Memo which reveals the actors who auditioned for Star Trek: The Next Generation is predictably entertaining. Don't know then. Don't know them. Don't know them. Wait, what?

Anne Twomey
Jenny Augutter
Cheryl [Gates] McFadden
There isn't a "Jenny Augutter" listed at the imdb, so it can't be a typo. Jenny Agutter auditioned for Beverley Crusher.

This isn't as unlikely as it seems. She was in the US at the time, appearing in Amazon Women on the Moon, The Equaliser and Dear John USA and so actually was looking for a career boost. It's impossible to imagine now what she might have been like, but hopefully she'd be less marooned than poor old Genevieve Bujold was in Voyager:

In some cases, casting is everything.

"served with a range of double speak and obfuscation"

Liverpool Life The Waterstones in Liverpool recently dropped magazines in favour of a larger Paperchase franchise. With WH Smiths having moved out of its huge Church Street store into a tiny shop in Liverpool One beneath a post office which is smaller than some railway station stores, the city centre proper has been left without a newsagent carrying periodicals beyond the very mainstream.

I don't think they even have The Stage, Scott.

Ironically, the Smiths at Lime Street Station has a wider selection (and definitely do have The Stage), but if you're at the other end of town, that's quite a trek. David at SevenStreets decided to speak to some PR people from both companies to try and get some answers. Sadly he was served with a range of double speak and obfuscation:
"Cut to phone call to Fiona Allen, Press Officer at Waterstones.

“What’s happened? You’ve got rid of the magazines and periodicals in Liverpool ONE to make way for fancy wrapping paper,” we tell her.

“No,” she says, “this has nothing to do with Paperchase expanding. We think it’s important that every store offers a balanced selection, and one that our customers tell us they want. We’re just reflecting that.”

“But all wrapping paper, and no magazines? That’s not balanced,” we say.

“Like any good retailer, we have to take a holistic approach. We’re all about serving the customer. In some stores, we’re increasing the magazines we sell,” Allen says.

“But have you asked Liverpool customers?” we say, “Can we get a quote from the manager at the store?”

“No,” Fiona says. On both counts. They’ve not asked the customers. And all press enquiries must go through her. “But, I must repeat – this has nothing to do with us needing extra space for Paperchase.”
The comments thread underneath then becomes quite interesting because a former employee drops in to explain some of the real reasons, which you can read here.

Keeping in mind that this Waterstones is oddly enough, larger than the WH Smith which closed, and that we have two in the city centre, it actually seems to be a shelf design issue. Plus, if sales were flagging, it's because they weren't offering anything unusual or special and what they did have was inconsistent. They carried Classic FM Magazine and Gramaphone but not BBC Music. Madness.

"Maggie Philbin not clambering aboard until the following year, of course"

TV It's the first Multi-coloured Swap Shop book!
"Next up, factfiles for the remaining 66.7% of the main Swap Shop presenters (Maggie Philbin not clambering aboard until the following year, of course). John Craven’s hobby is “writing books about other people’s hobbies”, and he supports both Liverpool and Newcastle (we actually mistyped that as ‘Newscastle’, which was inadvertently apt). Cheggers likes to wind down by playing piano and guitar, skating and reading, and when it comes to football, he’s all Liverpool.
The Pop Shots page is particularly special which shows the attrition of the collective musical memory in full effect. Darts? Alan Price?

"a bit of paper in the student accommodation shop"

TV What Did Teenagers Do Before The Internet?:
"Much to my 18 year old sister's horror we only had 4 TV channels, no internet and no mobiles. Like, yaaaaawn. We had one landline in the house, so calling friends/long haired boyfriends meant arranging a time to ring and hours of huddling up the stairs halfway to stop family overhearing. Oh, and a large phone bill to impress the rents. No mobiles, so no texting, no options out of meeting and no impersonal dumping/flirting/lazy socialising. I mean, can you imagine? If you wanted to finish with someone you had to actually at least call them, or meet in person to do the deed. These days a simple Facebook status update with do. And it's so damned public." [via]
I make a point of never forgetting that when I was in the computer labs at university in 1995 and a mobile phone rang, everyone else in the room would collectively turn their heads, sometimes whole bodies, towards the source, a single look in their eyes that said:

"How can they afford to have one of those?"

Contacting home for me was still queuing up at the phone box at the end of the road. Looking for a house in my third year required a list of telephone numbers scrawled down on a bit of paper in the student accommodation shop and a pile of ten pences. Sometimes the only way to contact a friend was to go and knock on their front door. Oh and few people had a computer in the house, let alone one hooked up to the internet.

Gosh, I miss those days.

for mac users

Film Inception explained for mac users. Of course, the windows version would have to stop in the middle for a system update followed by the blue screen of death [via].

‘a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal’

Film Talking to some people on Twitter earlier, I somehow got on to the subject of Laura Mulvey's essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema and was reminded of the following essay which I wrote during my film studies course on the subject of the male gaze and other gender issues. I offer it now for your entertainment. This was written early on in the year before I'd realised that there are certain standard texts in film studies and that I might receive more than 60% if I'd chosen something other than John Hughes's The Breakfast Club.

The wikipedia has a huge long article on The Gaze, but briefly in film studies terms, it describes the moment when a fine lookin' man or woman appears and the director cuts to a reaction shot, the reaction shot suggesting the audience on the one hand the proper emotional response to this angel in human form but on the other how we react to their reaction says a lot about their character and us. Mulvey's essay (available here) concentrated on the male gaze with reference to Hitchcock's Vertigo (that sort of thing).

Select a short scene from a film and analyse how gender and sexuality are portrayed …

The Breakfast Club (1985) is amongst a sequence of films written and sometimes directed by John Hughes exploring the subject of teen angst and a crisis of identity. It is Saturday morning detention in a high school for five students, characterised by an opening voiceover as ‘a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal’. The film takes place over an eight hour period largely spent in the library as the students argue, then slowly bond over common ground, realising that they are all the same in their own ways.

The narrative culminates in a pygmalionesque moment during which Claire (the princess) takes tomboy Allison (the basket case) to one-side, ties her hair back, applies different make up and then sends her out again to be greeted by first Brian (the brain) and Andrew (the athlete). She becomes the subject of their gaze. Although the scene is inter cut with an intimate moment between Claire and Bender (the criminal) in a closet, this essay will concentrate on demonstrating how the audience’s reaction to the reveal is governed by the gaze, the implications of Allison’s transformation and how masculinity is portrayed through Andrew and Brian.

After a brief shot of Brian writing a detention essay, the frame focuses on Andrew’s reaction to the ‘new’ Allison and because the spectator sees her through his point of view during the final reveal, their surprise is heightened. The scene initially conforms completely to Laura Mulvey’s explanation of the gaze: ‘The male is the active “bearer of the look,” where the female in the passive object of the look.’ (Walker, 1981:83) ‘In a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active male and passive/female.’ (Mulvey, 1975:11)

The reveal does not initially hold on Allison’s form.   Andrew looks upwards, almost in slow motion. There is a brief shot of a nervous Allison, there is a quick cut back to Andrew, before returning to Allison tentatively walking forward. The fill light which has pervaded the film, which had once disappeared into the character’s dark clothes and hair, now illuminates her white blouse and angelic face, making her form leap out of the frame. The spectator’s point of view is split; they are in the position of both gazing upon Allison and sympathising with her nerves at how others will react to her change. They are diverted because she is not passive and has an active story of her own.

Jonathan Bernstein argues that the emergence of the feminine Allison is problematic. She becomes ‘just another simpering, pretty high school girl with the hots for a jock’ were once ‘she was a unique and unnerving character’ (Bernstein, 1997: 67), although evidence would point to the effect being temporary. In the closing moments of the film, when Andrew rewards her change of look with a kiss, she rips the team badge from his shirt indicating that her rebelliousness is still in force. Mary Anne Doane would characterise this as a state in which ‘womanliness is a mask which can be worn or removed’ (Doane, 1991: 765).

In previous scenes, Allison would work hard to turn herself the centre of attention, making loud noises and telling wild stories about her sexual encounters which she would later laugh off saying ‘I'm not a nymphomaniac...I'm a compulsive liar…’ Here, she is unsure of the power her new femininity has, even asking Andrew if it is a ‘good or bad’ thing when he remarks that he can see her face. When he says it is good, she smiles broadly – she has simply found another, more visual away of keep the attention of others. As Shary indicates Allison ‘diminishes her previous rebel status and (provides) simply another false façade behind which she can hide her anxieties’ (Shary, 2002: 52).

The scene also provides interesting contrasts in the presentation of masculinity. Andrew is shown initially, with muscles taut, waiting for action. When Allison enters he leaps off the wooden handrail he’s been sitting on and steps forward in what appears to be another example of the character asserting his manliness, something which happens throughout the film, generally against the other alpha-male, Bender.

During the film he has taken some time to understand Allison and why she seems to close herself off from everyone, emotionally, perhaps because he feels himself in his jock status doing the same. ‘Andy is the jock as conflicted masculinity, determined to maintain his physical power but desiring to explore his more emotional – if not intellectual – dimensions.’ (Shary, 2002: 73) Somehow the presence of Allison, especially in this scene, allows him to be softer. He actually appears smaller in the frame and when commenting that he can see her face, he gestures around his chin in a way which is also quite feminine.

Brian, by contrast, largely accepts his less masculine status in the group. He ‘is indeed ostracized, ridiculed, physically and socially inept, and desexualised, but his yearning for a transformation from his nerd status to a more acceptable or dramatic personality is minimal.’ (Shary, 2002: 35) As the other male presenting the gaze in the scene, his eyes only fix on Allison long enough to gape and offer her his recognition before returning to the essay. He is not standing. He is shot from above, from her point of view, beneath her, placing him in a less prominent masculine position. The final shot of the scenes sees him finish is writing. He punches himself in the arm celebrating his success but it seems to be an almost ironic gesture – when Brian does try and assert his masculinity it is largely in a knowing way.

In the closing moments of the film a version of the opening voiceover is repeated, but this time, each character reads their own description and the implication has changed. ‘What we found out is that each one of us is a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal’ In effect they have discovered that they each share those traits both masculine and feminine and this will effect their near future to varying degrees.


Bernstein, Jonathan. 1997. Pretty In Pink: The Golden Age of Teenage Movies. St. Martin’s Griffin, New York.

Doane, Mary Anne. 1991. Film and the Masquerade: Theorising the Female Spectator. In. Film theory and criticism : introductory readings. 5th ed. 1999. Edited by Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Mulvey, Laura. 1975. Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. In Screen 16, 3:6-18

Shary, Timothy. 2002. Generation Multiplex: The Image of Youth in Contemporary American Cinema. University of Texas Press, Texas.

Walker, Janet. 1981. Psychoanalysis and Feminist Film Theory: The Problem of Sexual Difference and Identity. In. Multiple Voices in Feminist Film Criticism. Edited by Diane Carson et al. 1994. University of Minnesota Press, Minnesota.


The Breakfast Club. 1985. Production: Universal Studios. Directed by John Hughes.

raise you

Music I see you FU by Cee Lo:

And raise you Funny How by Airhead:

(which I previously intoned about here).

"we'd want to add new categories"

TV Lance Parkin, one of my favourite Doctor Who novelists is interviewed and he talks about the challenges of writing AHistory, his chronology of the Whoniverse. Last time I heard, the project was parked, the last volume covering everything up until 2006. Well ...
"From there, it's a question of value. We added the comic strips last time because we didn't want people to feel ripped off buying it when they probably already have at least one earlier version. I'm sure, somewhere down the line, there will be another edition, and we'd want to add new categories, like the Annuals and Choose Your Own Adventure books."
Short stories? In the introduction to the last edition, Lance suggested that the sheer number and experimental nature of them of them precluded their inclusion, but apart from the tv updates that would be a huge selling point. As would non-tv spin-offs. Though if they're still including all comic strips, Doctor Who Adventures and Battles In Time will keep him busy ...

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo et al were made for television

Film On to the Swedish film, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Leaving aside the sexual content which some viewers might find disturbing, here's what I thought went wrong, or at least what I thought directly after watching it the other afternoon:

#1: Naomi Rapace who plays "goth" computer hacker Lisbeth is a star in the making. But without her presence the film would be about as impressive as an average episode of Midsummer Murders (as opposed to a superior episode obviously). She has that rare ability to appear vulnerable and hard as nails at the same time, and reflect a depth of characterisation that isn't in the script. When she's not on screen, the film falls over.

#2: For a film called "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" it makes nothing of Lisbeth's tattoo. A director like Wong Kar Wai or Peter Greenaway would have made it symbolically important. I appreciate that as a crime thriller such symbolism recedes in importance, but across its two and half hour duration Blomkvist doesn't even bring it up in conversation.

#3: As Bradshaw says, it's too long.

#4: It's poorly structured at least in terms of character. For the first hour and a quarter, Blomkvist and Lisbeth are parallel protagonist with their own goals and whatnot. Then as soon as they meet, Lisbeth recedes into the background and almost all of her scenes are told from Blomkvist's POV.

This is typical in film -- the male protagonist always ultimately "steals" the narrative agency from the female even if there are two names on the poster. From then on, with the exception of two scenes, the rest of the story is Blomkvist's and Lisbeth slips in and out of view. Yuk.

Apparently the book is much better structured, sharing the story out right to the end, which made me wonder if the film makers shouldn't have just picked Blomkvist or Lisbeth as the POV character from the start. It also might have made for a shorter film. Oh and it fails The Bechdel Test. A lot.

#5: It's poorly structured its story development, turning deus ex machina into an art form. Over and over again the investigation reaches a stand-still and then Lisbeth will magic the necessary from her computer leading to the next set piece and crucially without irony.

#6: This film would be better if either Max von Sydow or Stellan Skarsgård were in it and it was directed by David Fincher.

Search around online to see if anyone else agreed with me, I stumbled upon this translated Swedish wikipedia page, which explains that the film and its sequels were turned into a tv mini-series with more footage extrapolating out certain things.

But I think something has been lost in translation because Variety suggests instead that The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo et al were made for television with a view to the big screen before ultimately turning up on television anyway. Which of course explains rather a lot:

#1: The film would be about as impressive as an average episode of Midsummer Murders because it was shot for television initially.

#2: The Swedish title translates as "Men Who Hate Women" which has more relevance to the story than tattoos, obviously. It's also a touch less commercial which is presumably why it was changed for the translated book release and so the film. No wonder it fails The Bechdel Test.

#3: It's too long because it's two two hour tv episodes stitched together then edited down to the most important elements.  Nearly 110 mins of footage across the trilogy have been lost in the theatrical versions, about 36 mins per film. 

#4: It's structured around two tv episodes. Perhaps in the tv version, the parallel structure does continue into the second half but because Lisbeth's story is mainly character driven and Blomkvist's is plot driven and because of the needs of the genre, most of her second half character beats were lost in the theatrical version.

#5: Which might also mean that the investigative information which seems to drop in Blomkvist's lap later in the film was hard fought for otherwise. But again, to keep the film shorter such things as logic were lost in favour of creepy torture etc.

#6: I've just discovered that both Sydow and Skarsgård are both in the remake/US adaptation of the novel. Which is directed by David Fincher.

Nevertheless, I still feel like I did in the mid-80s when I realised that Battlestar Galactica was made for television and released at the cinema in the UK in the wake of Star Wars.

10 Best Hamlets?

Susanna Clapp at The Observer selects ten princes and brilliantly makes some less obvious choices. Irving, Tennant and Gielgud are there, but no Branagh, no Jacobi, no Berkoff. Instead:
"In Jonathan Miller's 2008 production at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol, Jamie Ballard was an almost revolutionarily sane Hamlet: flushed, disturbed but clear-sighted. This was Hamlet as a young man whose incisive mind was running away with itself. He was also a prince with a finely articulated past: from the beginning, he eyed up Laertes suspiciously; he debated with the adroitness and avidity of the philosophy student that he was; he seemed (unusually) truly to be in love with Ophelia. When he cried, he blubbed like a man whose flesh – and substance – really was beginning to melt."
Also has a clip of Jonathan Pryce's famous interpretation of the Ghost scene in which he was possessed by his father's spirit, the words tumbling out of his own mouth, which is unnerving.