Before Midnight Sold.

Film  Some good news.  Before Midnight, the return of Celine and Jessie has been picked up for distribution by Sony Pictures which means it might get something like a decent release though the inevitable later blu-ray boxed set implications will be interesting.  The first film, Before Sunrise was released by Warner Brothers on blu-ray even though:
"Castle Rock and Sony's Columbia produced the first one, while Warner Independent released the second. Seven buyers including Lionsgate were in the hunt, but finally Sloss closed a high seven-figure deal yesterday with Sony Pictures Classics for North American and UK rights."
The festival reviews are amazing.

"She was a barber-school student"

Subconscious Having thoroughly explored other forms, Vanity Fair is now allowing their journalists to simply post their passive aggressive commentary in the form of dreams:
"So as night buried itself into the bed of dawn, I had a dream in which I was taking part in a sketch on Saturday Night Live. I was sitting in a barber's chair, a white towel tied behind my neck, and along the perimeter I could see television cameras, cables, crew members, a hint of audience members in the bleachers. The sketch took place at a barber's school and suddenly Elizabeth Wurtzel appeared. She was a barber-school student and I was her first customer."
It could be sincere.  I hope it's sincere.  Perhaps it is sincere.  Yes, it must be.  Meanwhile, in 2010.

The Newton Institute.

WHO 50: 1972:
The Time Monster.

TV The Time Monster is one of my favourite Doctor Who stories of all time.

Glancing across season nine, which also has the first of the Peladons, The Sea Devils and Day of the Daleks with its epoch defining first use of the phrase “Blinovich Limitation Effect”, most would suggest that the only reason The Time Monster has any merit is because at least it’s not The Mutants.

What they fail to notice is that it’s also one of the most expressively bonkers of stories, that its virtue is that it lacks any kinds of logic, its determination to ignore anything like a coherent story and instead provide us with yet another explanation for Atlantis’s destruction just one year after The Daemons.

It thinks the acronym TOMTIT is a good idea and has most of the actors saying it with a straight face. It has the Chronivore, a man in a brilliant white helmeted chicken costume that couldn’t be convincingly studio lit for videotape in any decade. It has Benton being turned into a baby. It has pre-Star Wars Dave Prowse playing a Minotaur.

There’s also the element of the Doctor making things, like the Time Flow Analogue which he knocks together from a Moroccan burgundy bottle, spoons, forks, corks, keyrings, tea leaves and a mug. It’s a beautiful object and potentially buildable by children at home.

What also of one of the show’s best TARDIS interiors, the only seen once due to fire "washing up bowl" design, a design so good the Master adopts it for his TARDIS at exactly the same time?

But such things are window dressing for one of Roger Delagado’s best performances as the Master, flirting with Ingrid Pitt’s Queen of Atlantis. Whenever anyone complains about Eric Roberts’s interpretation for being “too flamboyant” they’ve entirely failed to notice that this is the character at his most charming.

It’s also the story which features Jon Pertwee’s ultimate moment of charm or in this case moment of Zen, the Buddist-themed story about the Time Lord guru who influenced him as a boy. That remarkable glint in his eye.

Plus there’s the climax, the naked Benton climax, which is hilarious and embarrassing in equal measure.  Remember that next time you're tutting your way through Bad Wolf ...

May Day.

That Day The Guardian offers a history of May Day or rather the history of May Day in the modern era:
"The origin of our present holiday lies in the fight for an eight-hour working day, in which cause the leaders of the socialist Second International called for an international day of protest to be held at the beginning of May 1890. They did so just as the American Federation of Labour was planning its own demonstration on the same date. The UK protest actually took place on a Sunday, and in London alone attracted 300,000 protesters to Hyde Park."

Hadley on Ferris.

Film One of my favourite writers ever on the internet, Hadley Freeman, talks about one of my favourite films ever, Ferris Bueller's Day Off:
"I can say with some certainty that there is no movie I have seen more times than Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. In fact, I might have seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off more times than any other person on this planet, including the late John Hughes. When I was nine years old, my mother bought me the thrillingly grown up looking video cassette of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and, as soon as I put it in the family Beta Max (yes, I am actually Beta Max old) I fell in love for the first time. I don’t think I had a crush on Matthew Broderick, exactly (I was a very slow developer in that sense and, c’mon, I was only nine), and it’s not that I even wanted to be Ferris Bueller: it was more that Ferris was my ideal older brother and his Day Off was exactly what my nine year old brain fancied having an older brother would be like."
It's worth it for the final pay-off and the other pieces which are totally new to me (the Brad Pitt rumour especially). While I haven't seen Ferris nearly as much (it's one of those films I love so much I don't want to over watch it to keep it special), I can did mirror Hadley's behaviour with Adventures in Babysitting which I watched every Saturday night for nearly two years. I did have a crush on Elizabeth Shue.

John Osbourne on why Shakespeare is better than Shaw.

Theatre  I'm having a bit of a round to it day, and that includes clearing through the piles of papers on my desk which for some reason includes a printout of this rather marvellous letter to The Guardian from John Osbourne in 1977:
"Michael Billington cannot have read the plays of George Bernard Shaw since his Oxford days. To call him "the greatest British dramatist since Shakespeare' is close to having a critical brainstorm, as well as perpetuating an exam-crazy classroom myth. Having recently seen Saint Joan in London and Caesar and Cleopatra in Sydney, it is clearer to me than ever that Shaw is the most fraudulent, inept writer of Victorian melodramas ever to gull a timid critic or fool a dull public."
Yes, it's the literary equivalent of Sega vs Nintendo.

1001 Nights.

Audio As I’m sure you’re tired of hearing, one of my favourite Doctor Who moments is from Paul Magrs’s novel The Scarlet Empress. The Doctor’s captured by alien birds and to keep them busy while other shenanigans are afoot, he tells them stories of his exploits, but as their clamour for more adventures reaches its apogee, he invokes Vladimir Prop’s study into Russian fairy tales, and just as those feature roughly the same elements across their otherwise diversity (the hero, the princess, the mentor, the rest of the plot of Star Wars), he gives them a set of locales, some monsters, a companion, a story genre and explains how they can write their own.

Big Finish’s latest portmanteau audio riffs on a similar idea, if not exactly plunging into such metafictional depths. Perhaps. Inspired by another piece of socio-mythological literature, a Sultan (Alexander Siddig), having captured the fifth Doctor challenges Nyssa to keep him amused with stories of their adventures as a stay of execution. If she amuses him enough, he may or may not put the Time Lord to death. This is a different approach to previous anthologies which lacked as strong an umbrella story which means that to an extent it’s a richer experience as it soon becomes apparent each of them is inspired by its themes and aren’t simple, stand alone, short trip delights.

Between them, the collected writers Emma Beeby, Gordon Rennie, Jonathan Barnes and Catherine Harvey bring us a psychiatric horror set within a isolated alien prison, some metropolitan demonic possession and what happens on a planet in which stories really are the currency. As with all short fiction, they’re so slender that to provide much more in the way of story information would be to ruin their pleasures, except to say that they all contain a fairly good twist that makes the most of their medium. My favourite, if I must, is the last of the three, which explores its hook in surprising ways. If only a limerick could pay for a round in the pub …

The fourth part brings the wider story to a close and it’s here that the strength of the cast shows itself with Siddig breaking out of what is initially a pointedly stereotypical portrayal of the Sultan to reveal a more angular antagonist. He appears almost exclusively with Susan Sutton in the rare position lately of playing the younger version of Nyssa again during the timey-whimey storytelling of the reunion plays with Turlough and Tegan, which also has the benefit of giving her more to do. Peter Davison offers another floorless performance as his Doctor, avuncular even in the company of the Old Man he meets in the prison played by Nadim Sawalha.

As I think I’ve implied it’s a story best listened to than written about. There isn’t anything spectacularly new here and at a certain point I did begin to wonder if the writers were making a point similar to the Doctor with those blasted birds, that as with fairy stories, there is only a limit to the ways in which his adventures can play out, that they are simply a series of functions. Then in the final few moments the play becomes an investigation into the nature of the Doctor himself and his importance as a protagonist in effecting the narrative of those adventures and 1001 Nights offers its final twist. But you’ll just have to listen yourself to find out what it is.

Doctor Who: 1001 Nights from Big Finish is out now.  Review copy supplied.


Four More Years.

Four More Years. by feelinglistless
Four More Years., a photo by feelinglistless on Flickr.

Four years ago:

Barack Obama headlines from The Guardian

RIP Blockbuster.

Elsewhere  This time last week I was preparing to visit the offices of Liverpool's The Double Negative, the culture website conceived and co-founded by writer Mike Pinnington and curator Laura Robertson.  It's cosy space in within a local art venue.

We talked about this and that and somewhere in there they very kindly invited me to write something for them should the inspiration take hold.  I think they assumed that would take a few weeks if at all.  I think I warned them that it might be.

Then Blockbuster followed HMV into receivership a couple of days later and I was inspired and so here we have my first essay for The Double Negative recording a couple of decades of video rental.

It's quite a while since I've seen my writing posted on someone else's website and it's something I really should be doing more often. My blogging style is pretty far advanced now, so it's probably just the challenge I need to keep myself sharp.  Any ideas?


Architecture A Love of Monsters has taken walking tours of New York City and highlights the presence of gargoyles in the local architecture. Unsurprisingly, Wall Street has a few of them:
"The streets of lower Manhattan are insane and amusing. They're really just impossible little alleyways that one suspects started out as cow paths, and now they're lined head to toe with huge, self-important buildings that block out the sun. During the business week there's the bustle of suits and the rush of money and everything is terribly important. I find it rather funny that these oh-so-serious financial folks are racing about on former cow paths with silly ornamental owls and jaguars perched over their heads."

The Eleven Doctors?

TV  Only just noticed by the relevant news sites but posted two days ago, the Birmingham Mail's made a bid for relevance by posting a rumour that the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who will The Eleven Doctors.
"Show boss Steven Moffat is close to completing a script which will see the current Doctor, Matt Smith, needing the assistance of ALL his police box predecessors – even if three of them have died."

"The half-century special, to be broadcast in November, will use studio trickery to resurrect the first three Doctors – William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee – in brief flashback scenes."
Like the best genus of these things, the article features not a single source, not even a Mail patented person "close to the project" or "unnamed source". It's a mishmash of wishful thinking, non-denial denials from the potential stars and qualifications (would, could, may).

All of which said there's one element that this story has which did make the blood rush to my fan gene, which is the idea that River Song would be the key to bringing the various incarnations together against the Eleventh Doctors wishes.

Well.  For one thing this sound in character for her and him, especially since as we know from  (I think) The Silence in the Library, her diary has images of "all" his incarnations, so she would at least know what they all look like.

This does sound like a very Moffat-like thing to do, mixing the opening sections of The Pandorica Opens with the time scoop sequence from The Five Doctors.  To be really Moffaty, it'd be called The Twelve Doctors, the tease.

But of course it's (probably) all old rubbish.  We won't really know what's happening for at least a couple of months and even then just something sketched in via a press release from Cardiff and even then ... oh sigh ... you see what happens ...?  Just be nice to have a source.

Ramsbury Airfield.

History RAF Ramsbury was a key component of the allied effort during World War II:
"Construction began in mid-1941 and the majority of the work was completed by August 1942. Initially the plan was for the airfield to be used by Operational Training units from RAF Bomber Command, but following America's entry into the war it was earmarked for use by the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) for troop carrying operations. (See also Membury airfield).

"However before the Americans arrived the aerodrome was occupied by an RAF training unit, equipped with Airspeed Oxfords, who taught the pilots the rudimentary skills needed to control multi-engined aircraft. The unit was Number 15 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit (15 [P] AFU) and whilst at Ramsbury large numbers of British, Australian, Canadian, New Zealand and South African pilots passed through the school. Ramsbury also had its own Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) contingent, who were employed as parachute packers, cooks, drivers, storekeepers and administrators."

Bacon Sandwiches.

Food  Not something for vegetarians, I should warn you, but this interview with a butcher about how the emotional state of a pig effects the bacon's quality is fascinating:
"Not only does pork have a remarkable ability to absorb the odours around it – far more than any other meat – but it is also affected by the pig's health and happiness, right up to the time of death. A pig that has been stressed in its final hours – by being separated from its family group, say, and transported many miles to be slaughtered – will have a noticeable toughness, bruising or even a sewage-like taint. Buttercross's pigs travel a mere three miles to their final demise."
I wonder if that's true of all animals.

BBC Three.

TV BBC Three is to host a live Bollywood festival from the City Park in Bradford, in the style of the previous live Frankenstein from Leeds and the Preston Passion:
"BBC Three bosses last night announced it will stage a one-hour “spectacular”, re-telling the story of Bizet’s opera Carmen in a contemporary Bollywood style, set in the UNESCO City of Film. It will feature a cast of international and national stars, dancers and musicians, as well as involvement from the Bradford community.

"Bollywood Live, which will take place on Sunday, June 9, follows the story of Bradford girl Karmen, a wannabe dancer obsessed with movie stardom, who thinks her time has come when an Indian film crew comes to the city to record sequences for their new movie version of Carmen."