Almost Doctor Who:
The Tudors

TV Oh, The Tudors.  Having managed to miss the first two seasons, I finally cottoned on to The Tudors after visited the British Library’s Henry VIII: Man and Monarch exhibition in 2009. I’d been enthralled by seeing the original documents and costumes, as I said at the time, “the notes scribbled between Henry and Anne Boleyn during services, the divorce papers from Katherine of Aragon, the material which led to the dissolution of the English church from Rome, innumerable peace treaties and, by the way, the chain Henry is seen wearing in the famous Holbein painting”. As often happens, I quickly watched all the documentaries I had stored, listened to a radio adaptation of Shakespeare’s All Is True and ultimately making a purchase at Amazon.

I was horrified. I knew that creator Michael Hurst had taken some liberties with the historical record, but having become an instant expect (I’d also read the exhibition catalogue), I couldn’t understand why Henry sister’s Margaret had been merged with Mary, why she was married off to some Portuguese monarch who hadn't existed who she subsequently murdered, why they’d bothered to mess about with the circumstances of Cardinal Wolsey’s death and why that happens at much the same time as the death of Henry’s fictional sister. For all the work which had apparently gone into creating the sumptuous costumes and settings, other “errors” big and small distracted from the achievement.

Eventually, I had to rationalise some kind of coping mechanism and as you might have gathered, it was, like Outcasts, to assume that I was watching the version of Henry VIII’s life as it appears in the Doctor Who universe. The franchise has always had a very loose approach to historical accuracy right from Marco Polo referring to Peking instead of Khan-balik, which means a series that actually shows Tudor composing Greensleeves should fit right in, even if some of his sexual antics would be enough to make Captain Jack blush (assuming he isn't already engrossed). After that realisation it was entirely possible to swallow even the most basic of changes, especially in later years when Hirst seemed to stop trying and even resorted to including ghosts.

Of course most period dramas with a dodgy grip on history could fit in the Whoniverse.  But there's something rather unique about The Tudors, its production design, direction and writing as close an analogue to nuWho as similar shows were to classic Who which would regularly re-utilise the costumes.  Certainly to look at a piece like The Nine Days' Queen section of SJA's Lost in Time, is to watch Who attempting to live up to the sumptuousness of The Tudors on a tiny budget.  Perhaps the connection is more even more tenuous than Outcasts, but if nuWho ever does manage to produce a pure historical, The Tudors is something to aspire to.  With slightly less lechery.

As you might expect, the Doctor’s met Henry VIII on a few occasions. In The Sensorites its mentioned that he and Susan being sent to the tower on purpose because that was were the TARDIS was located. In a Short Trip, the Doctor and Nyssa stopped Henry marrying the daughter of Lord Cromwell as time went out of wack then later in his timestream but earlier for the King, in the Big Finish audio Recorded Time, Henry takes a shine to Peri and decides to make her his wife instead of Anne Bolyn. I wonder what he would have thought about the Doctor later effectively becoming his son in law after marrying Liz I.  Not that she would have been born if he's had his way with King Ycarnos's future wife.

"Thanks for your kind words."

Music Digital Spy have a story about a Sugababes single being released in the Summer with album to follow. It's based on this tweet from Siobhan:
Though as someone in the comments on the DS article notes, "That tweet is clearly about her solo work, lol."  Either way I'm excited to hear Donaghy talking about releasing music again, solo or not.

AudioGo’s new BBC Archive Voices dedicated to Margaret Thatcher

Audio Released to coincide with Meryl Street’s award winning impression in The Iron Lady, AudioGo’s new BBC Archive Voices dedicated to Margaret Thatcher confirms its worth in the shift between the first two interviews. Chatting to Jimmy Young moments after becoming leader of the opposition in 1975, Thatcher’s voice still retains the femininity which her advisor's suggested would need to be trained out of her in order for the top job to be in swinging distance of her handbag. Cut to seven years later and a clip from Pete Murray’s Late Show in ’82 and the more familiar richer timber has been established.

The shift is surprising even with the knowledge of the media management which had been involved between which is also evident in how the new PM carries herself. Young is throwing her softball question in the earlier interview but her answers still lack varnish and are politically revealing, in places bordering on socialism, Thatcher of the opinion that polarised political positions do no good. As time passes, even biographical anecdotes gain a practiced rigidity, her political message decidedly right wing. Formally Murray’s chat has the atmosphere of a cosy late night encounter, but every word is still deliberate, carefully chosen.

This isn’t by any means a “greatest hits” selection of speeches and interviews. Listeners wanting to hear Thatcher being harangued on Nationwide about the sinking of the Belgrano or her rendition of Two Little Boys must return to YouTube. Instead producer Neil Gardner has attempted to create a kaleidoscope of material (across six interviews) that hope to pin down a woman who unlike many of her predecessors, as she reveals to Russell Harty, refused to keep a nightly journal for future publication lest she be accused of bias or reporting events without the benefit of hindsight.

The Harty section is a typical example. In edits from Favourite Things, a kind of televisual Desert Island Discs from 1987, Thatcher apparently in the residence above Number 10, is called upon to pull out some of her possessions out of cupboards and the results are surprisingly banal, pieces of ceramic from an potter she describes as a “genius” and “exquisite”. The approach is presumably to make her sound like a woman of the people but the results are paradoxically alienating because like inadvertently seeing David Cameron’s dvd collection, we assume them to have better taste.

Critics of “Thatch” (of which I can easily be counted as an example having been born during her reign) will find much to parody, the stark contrast between her resolute assumption that people should be able to take advantage of their own potential in just the moment her government were destroying the futures of many of their citizens. Politics simply can’t be avoided even by selecting a Wogan retrospective piece rather than a contemporary Humphrys dingdong, when all the talk is of Gorbachev’s visit or reflections on the Falklands War rather than the minutiae of her theories about our manufacturing industries.

But I’d still recommend this even to people who can’t stand the sound of her voice. Know thy enemy perhaps, but the roots of Cameron’s big society idea were germinated in Thatcher’s rhetoric and the so-called new Tory feminism was already evident in this old Tory. There’s even one moment when Thatcher offers some useful advice (I know!). She’s talking about her love of Harry Seacombe – in the later phase as presenter and crooner on ITV’s religious slot Highway. She remarks how cheerful he always is, even off camera, and that this seems to be the way to succeed in life.  And before you say it, yes, it’s a pity she’d create so much misery herself.

[The BBC Archive pages has the full versions of some of these interviews plus a whole lost more.]

Patrick Stewart and Simon Callow in The Guardian

Patrick Stewart and Simon Callow have a joint interview in today's The Guardian about their competing West End shows, Stewart plays the bard towards the end of his life in Bingo and Callow is performing the latest iteration of his collaboration with Jonathan Bate now called Being Shakespeare:
"There's one thing they do agree on, though: contrary to the conspiracy theories, Shakespeare was definitely Shakespeare, not the Earl of Oxford or Francis Bacon. "It seems so unnecessary to go down that route," Callow splutters. "It's so clear that his is the work of a working writer who dealt with the common problems of life." Stewart shakes his head. "All the reasons that people give that Shakespeare could not have written Shakespeare are, for me, reasons why it has to be him."
Tell that to Derek Jacobi.

The Titlebar Archive: Gattaca

Architecture While we await the moment BBC Four give Victoria Coren the budget to complete her documentary about corners, Jonny Morris offers up this quite interesting blog post about staircases in drama:
The staircase can even be seen as a metaphor for death. It is a ‘stairway to heaven’, a place of execution, a sequence of evenly-spaced horizontal wooden ledges rising upon the diagonal that connect stability to instability, the known with the unknown, the past with the future, the living with the dead, the ground with the first or second floor (depending upon whether or not you are American). Within each step lurks the inevitable threat of violence, of the step giving way, of an ankle twisting, a foot slipping, a neck breaking, a crash—zooming, and a corpse lolling with wide open eyes on the hard stone floor. To me, the staircase functions in a liminal space, a space fraught with danger, serving as a metaphor for the series as a whole. "
There's only really one response to this:

One of my favourite staircases in films continues to be the symbolically superb spiral in Gattaca.

"I hurriedly adapted one of my tavern chairs"

Architecture In another of their storming "How We Made" series, The Guardian talks to the people behind the modern Coventry Cathedral, one of my favourite buildings. As Anthony Bee explains, everything was touch and go, right through up to and including the consecration:
"Three weeks before the consecration, I got a call saying the Queen had to have a throne for the ceremony. There wasn't time to design one from scratch so I hurriedly adapted one of my tavern chairs. The worst moment came when, during the consecration, the mayor fainted. As he fell, he grabbed the royal crest on the throne. If the Lord Lieutenant next to him had not stepped in, Her Majesty would have tipped over backwards."
As someone in the comments notes, the kaleidoscope of colour refracted through the stained glass windows of the cathedral at different times of the day is magical, like a man made aurora borealis splashing against interiors and exteriors.

Oscar agreed with me.

Film Once again having missed the Oscars thanks to not being anywhere near a television broadcast, I have only my predictions to cling to.

 Let's see how I did.

Best actress in a supporting role
I said Bérénice Bejo, The Artist.
Oscar said Octavia Spencer, The Help.

Best actor in a supporting role
I said Christopher Plummer, Beginners.
Oscar agreed with me.

Best actress in a leading role
I said Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady.
Oscar agreed with me.

Best actor in a leading role
I said Jean Dujardin, The Artist.
Oscar agreed with me.

Best director
I said Michel Hazavanicius, The Artist.
Oscar agreed with me.

Best original Screenplay
I said The Artist.
Oscar said Midnight in Paris.

Best adapted screenplay
I said Hugo.
Oscar said The Descendants.

Best foreign language film
I said A Separation.
Oscar agreed with me.

Best animated film
I said Chico And Rita.
Oscar said Rango.

Best picture
I said The Artist.
Oscar agreed with me.

Art direction
I said The Artist.
Oscar said Hugo.

I said The Artist
Oscar said Hugo.

Costume design
I said The Artist.
Oscar said Hugo.

Film editing
I said The Artist.
Oscar said The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Sound editing
I said Hugo.
Oscar agreed with me.

Sound mixing
I said Hugo.
Oscar agreed with me.

Visual effects
I said Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2.
Oscar said Hugo.

Make up
I said The Iron Lady.
Oscar agreed with me.

Music (original score)
I said The Artist.
Oscar agreed with me.

Music (original song)
I said The Muppets.
Oscar agreed with me.

All of which is about average. My general impression was right -- that The Artist would sweep the upper categories but the technical and acting awards would be spread about a bit, though I didn't think they'd cluster quite so much around Hugo -- which if The Artist hadn't existed would certainly have grabbed the top two too.

Excellent news that Woody's won what used to be his customary Original Screenplay award, disappointing that Chico and Rita didn't win the animated category, though for all I know Rango might equally be a classic (reviews were mixed).  Having subsequently seen the thrilling A Separation I'd also agree with this assessment.

Gawker's has Billy Crystal's opening montage song, which is comforting rather than necessarily funny and the section where he appears in other films and has a really bizarre sequence representing Midnight in Paris which probably had Twitter in attack mode last night.  They thought it was the worst ceremony ever.  But they say that every year.

"All that glisters is not gold."

"I ended up making films about talking dogs."

TV e-flux has an expansive, multi-part interview with documentarian Adam Curtis which includes how he entered the BBC and what is first job was:
"I was being silly, and the man who was running the training course thought it was so ridiculous that he sent me to work on the silliest program in the whole world, which was called That’s Life! with a woman called Esther Rantzen. And I ended up making films about talking dogs. So there wasn’t a moment of epiphany, but it was more like a strange drug-induced experience of lurching from one extreme to another, from teaching politics at Oxford and getting bored to making films about talking dogs and dogs that could sing. But I loved it, I just thought it was simply wonderful. My mother hated it. She thought I should be a serious academic. I had done very well at Oxford, so all the academic people there thought I had gone completely mad, leaving to make films about talking dogs."
Did Adam Curtis make Sausages? Did Adam Curtis make:

The dog has the same accent as its owner. I've never noticed that before [via].

"Esperanto had more than 7 million speakers"

Film The AV Club tackles the commentary for the Esperanto-language film Incubus starring William ...
"Shatner, who pronounces “Esperanto” with a noticeable French-Canadian accent, also singles out the language problem. Stevens, he recalls, convinced him that Incubus would be a hit because Esperanto had more than 7 million speakers; it did not occur to him that these 7 million people were spread out into a few hundred in every major city around the world, not exactly a recipe for box-office success. “There was a large contingent of [Esperanto speakers] in Liberia,” he notes, “but we couldn’t reach them because there was no telephone.” He also makes the odd claim that Incubus was a big success in France because French people do not understand one another, and thus had no problem not being able to understand the actors speaking Esperanto."