Core Mumblers.

Film I'm currently in the midst of watching my way through all the films listed on the Wikipedia page for mumblecore films and I'll talk some more about it when I've watched everything which is available (and there's plenty available on Netflix). On the occasion of the release of proponent Andrew Bujalski's new film Computer Chess, Ryan Gilbey outlines some of mumblecore's features and considers whether it really existed as a genre at all:
"It doesn't mean anything to me," says Bujalski, whose 2002 film Funny Ha Ha was the first mumblecore work (though the influences stretch back past British movies such as The Low Down and Bronco Bullfrog and into Cassavetes and Rohmer). Swanberg recalls a time when it seemed to be gaining momentum. "In summer 2007 the IFC Centre [in New York] did a mumblecore retrospective and it felt very much like a big deal," he says. "Years later it became crushingly clear to me that few people had heard of mumblecore. It was never a unified movement. There was no manifesto."
Certainly, there's no formal connection and it's possible to also see the features in some of Richard Link... no wait, when I'm done. Later, yes. Ok. Right.  Now, when.  No.  Yes.

"Isn't that basically Twitter?"

TV In an unusual detour for Doctor Who's PR juggernaut, this week's The New Yorker has an eight page essay about the series, in which Jill Lepore, professor of American history at Harvard University and chair of Harvard's History and Literature Program and staff writer for the magazine interviews Steven Moffat at Roath Lock and offers a commentary on the history of the programme and its thematic underpinnings.

 It's one part Guardian fluff piece and the other part The Unfolding Text and what a messy, poetic, often brilliant piece it is (though you would miss its existence on the news-stand, because unlike some magazines who would run a picture of Matt Smith no matter how many pages they've set aside for Who, the cover image is a satire on the ongoing problems at, the Obamacare sign-up website).

The first three paragraphs are here.  The rest is behind a paywall.

As ever, because they always creep in unless a fan's writing and sometimes even then, there are some inaccuracies, or arguably inaccuracies, though this being The New Yorker, they're rather strange and ambiguous and might not even be inaccuracies at all:

(1)  Lepore says, "An Unearthly Child," the first episode of "Doctor Who," was broadcast - live, in black-and-white -- from a BBC studio in London on November 23, 1963, one day after John F Kennedy was shot in Dallas."

In fact, "An Unearthly Child," was recorded on 18 October at Lime Grove, which was own by the BBC.  The second episode of what's now collectively called The Mutants or The Daleks, "The Survivors", was taped on 22 November 1963, the day John F Kennedy was shot in Dallas.

(2)  Lepore says, "The biggest change that Davies made concerns the Doctor's backstory.  He decided that the Doctor's home planet had been destroyed by Daleks in the Great Time War, leaving the Doctor the last of his race."

Well hum.  Semantically Gallifrey was apparently destroyed because of the Dalek invasion, but it's the Doctor who pressed the button, pulled the lever, or whatever we're possibly about to see John Hurt do in Day of the Doctor.

(3)  In one bit, Lepore seems to imply Dinosaurs on a Spaceship happened under RTD.  Maybe.

"When Doctor Who, a character who operates as an allegory for Britain, becomes the remnant of a nearly terminated race, a timeless atrocity is folded into the national narrative.  Davies's Doctor is consumed by grief, regret and compassion.  In one episode, he meets a space pirate who has murdered the inhabitants of an ark, the last survivors of a doomed planet.
"Piracy and genocide," the Doctor says, grimly.
"Very emotive words, Doctor," the pirate says.
"I'm a very emotive man."

See what I mean?  Is the new Doctor still "Davies's" if it's being written by Moffat or in this case Chris Chibnall?  Does it matter?

(4)  Perhaps as a consequence of the interview were Moffat describes the casting process, Lepore says that Capaldi was the only actor auditioned.  Again, possibly.  Ben Daniels says that he was on the list, on stand-bye, all of those things in this Digital Spy interview but he never once uses the word "audition", just conversations.  It's an interesting distinction.  Was the plan to hold more auditions and have a proper process if Capaldi fell through.  Again, ambiguous accuracy.  Possibly.

(5)  At one point she describes seeing, during her visit to Roath, even though she says she signed a confidentiality agreement, four Cybermen which seems at first like it might be a spoiler for Matt's final two episodes, except she then goes on to imply that we don't know already why Clara turned out to be Dalek which suggests that the article was written ages ago which means those Cybermen sound like they're from Nightmare in Silver which was recorded last year.  The New Yorker certainly has some long lead times for articles.  Unless that is a spoiler and Lapore hasn't quite caught up yet.

Jennifer Lawrence's new film.

Film Firstly, this advert, which is awful and a tie-up which also means Lawrence's image is stuck in the window of Subways throughout the land.  Notice that the comments are turned off under this upload at YouTube as though the sandwhich shop senses its disastrous potential.

Secondly, this quote round-up at New York Magazine. Example:

"Just recently, I read a script that had me sobbing. I've never been so moved by a story, and I thought it was so beautiful and amazing, and I just couldn't wait for this script to get made so that the world could see it … but I just wasn't her, I just wasn't the character. And I also had an experience once where I read the script, and I loved it, but I couldn't stop picturing Amanda Seyfried. So I e-mailed the people [behind the movie] and said, 'You gotta hire Amanda Seyfried for this!'"

WHO 50: 2013:
The Bells of St. John.

Life The first social network I ever joined, I mean online as opposed to hanging around the sixth form common room at school doing The Guardian crossword, was probably the Leeds Metropolitan University email service. A text based, Telnet terminal sort of a thing, it was in 1993 and it wasn’t out of choice but necessity. But for those of with an enquiring mind it was just possible to do the sorts of thing which would later be possible in more open environments such as randomly finding strangers to talk to by entering keywords and names into the search boxes and then emailing whoever appeared, a useful displacement activity on a wet November Sunday afternoon when we should have been working.

After a while, “friendships” would develop. Not to the point of actually wanting to meet the person, you were at university, probably in halls and already had quite enough friends anyway, but strong enough that you’d be pleased if you saw their email address and subject line if you logged onto the email server in one of those idle moments on a wet November Sunday afternoon. Quite often you wouldn’t actually talk about personal details. It was mostly chatter about the weather or films or the kinds of things people still talk about in more public surroundings now that personal emails have largely been replaced by comments under blog posts, instant messaging and Twitter.

But of course there was always the itch and there was the moment that you began to wonder what a person was like in real life. Hello, Zoe. Say what you like about Norah Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail, for all the dated technology, the fundamentals are exactly right, at that time you could still conduct an online friendship with a stranger who remained a mystery, you would spend a lot of that time imagining what they were like. Zoe seemed remarkable. Funny, intelligent and sharing many of my interests and in the two weeks we emailed each other it all seemed like it was leading up to something if I could just get over the sheer horror of having to ask first and then realising I’d entirely misjudged the situation.

Well, the inevitable other element of Norah Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail played out in widescreen. I’m sitting in the computer annex, which at that university amounted to a low ceilinged musty room at the top of a Georgian building whose previous use had been a farmhouse, next to an extraordinarily pretty girl wearing a dark blue sports sweater, who I notice (not that I made a habit of spying on other people’s work but the monitors were inches away from each other) is replying to the email I’d sent to Zoe that morning the contents of which included the phrase, “and there’s this weird bloke sitting next to me who can type very fast” which given the odds and descriptive accuracy was clearly supposed to be me.

I froze. I was stuck or at the time I thought I was. If I turned to her and introduced myself she’d know I’d been looking at whatever she was typing which didn’t look too good. But if I replied, what was I supposed to say? In hindsight, with twenty-odd years worth of hindsight in fact, the plan should have been to simply have gotten up and walked and lived to type another day saving both of us the ensuing embarrassment.  Or to have purposefully not checked my email.  Or, well I don't know, but anything but what I did do.  I replied to the email saying hello and that I was the weird bloke sitting next to her who can type fast, assuming that it would be a prelude to an introduction, us both laughing over the coincidence before deciding to go for a coffee, then a drink, then friendship and all the things that come afterwards.

The results were farcical. With her not making eye contact she began to reply to the email I’d just sent, with me unable to do much (as my heart pounded) but glance at her screen (remember, inches apart) and her stopping off mid sentence to type onto that screen to stop looking and to wait for the email which I duly did and read after she’d packed her bag and left me sitting there reading, the gist being that she was horribly embarrassed by the whole thing and that it would be best if we stopped emailing each other. A couple of subsequent replies to the contrary from me went understandably unanswered and that was that, the first offline contact with someone I met online and an excellent example of why those random email contacts were best kept virtual.

Given the number of people I’ve met on and offline since, it is strange that I remember her name. Luckily subsequent offline contacts with someone I’ve met online have gone rather better even when they’ve been just as random, though the coincidences aren’t quite as expressive given that they’ve tended to be at private views and those sorts of functions and I have my own face as my Twitter avatar. Plus we do know more about each other or tend to be capable of finding out unless there’s some so-called Catfish element and whatever it is we're interacting with isn’t real (or less real than what passes for the online versions of us no matter what we say about their accuracy). I wonder if Zoe’s on Twitter?

Art Turning Left: How Values Changed Making 1789-2013 at Tate Liverpool.

Art Tate Liverpool’s new exhibition, Art Turning Left: How Values Changed Making 1789-2013, investigates how the production of art and distribution have been influenced by left-wing values. As that opening sentence indicates, unlike some exhibitions the intent is purposefully complex, requiring the visitor to spend much longer than the hour or so I did this morning at the press view thinking about the political underpinnings of art in general and in the activist realm specifically. Co-curated by John Moores University, the effect is of stepping into the source material for an academic paper, an academic paper which the visitor is essentially asked to piece together themselves and then apply to their own thoughts on the art world and the extent to which, as a visitor are themselves affected.

This is achieved by grouping the exhibition around a series of questions and providing art from a range of sources which propose possible answers. Everything is subliminal. Nothing is entirely certain.  Rather like some of the very good Liverpool Biennial exhibits, for example the City States at the old post office building in 2012, in which the visitor is being presented with the flavour of a topic which could easily be expanded to fill the whole space. There’s clearly much more which can be said and shown about the Guerilla Girls and their hacking of the advertising aesthetic of Saachi and the like to demonstrate the overwhelming gender bias and lack of balance within the art world. Whole hours could be spent listening to the many hundreds of tracks on Ruth Ewan’s fully functional A Jukebox of People Trying to Change the World. Is this the first time Tom Lehrer’s been played in this environment?

As such it’s an incredibly difficult exhibition for a layperson like me to review in any kind of meaningful way without it becoming redundant lists of “stuff I like” and “stuff I don’t like” or even in general terms because what the visitor gets from the exhibition depends on what they put into it, in time and intellectual rigour. Instead, I’ve decided to attempt to answer each of the questions posed within the exhibition, subliminally informed by what's there but largely typing the first thing which comes into my head and just to add some structure, and so that I’m not still writing this at midnight, one paragraph each of just about identical length. The results are only partially coherent (I’m writing this introduction last) but in producing them I have at least illuminated some of my own values and prejudices, which is, I suppose, sort of the point of the exhibition itself.

Do we need to know who makes art?

Yes. No. Maybe. Perhaps. One of elements of activism is its anonymity with a group calling itself Anonymous being the ultimate expression, so arguably if a piece of art is being created within that kind of socio-political, collective thought environment (oh dear, look at that) then naming names creates an unhelpful hierarchy, to mention a target for the authorities. However, not naming names also creates problems for the communication receiver, for us, because without knowing the source, we lose a certain element of understanding the intent. This leads to conspiracy theories about whether the source of the message ideologically agrees with the message or is simply utilising the tropes of the message for their own political aims in order to ridicule or create counter propaganda against a group that does truly believe that ideology.

Can art affect everyone?

Yes, which is why the financial bloodletting within the arts and artistic institutions across the globe, not just in the UK is a disaster because as well as education, the arts can be civilising and that includes television, which as the last example of mass culture is itself being slowly eroded. Subconsciously or not, politicians know the answer to this question and do everything in their power to try and make sure everyone’s exposure to art is minimised. The more people think, the more they consider, the more they have opinions, the greater the likelihood they do something with those opinions. Keep them in a semi-conscious state of ignorance and they’re malleable.  So they keep art elitist and if possible inaccessible through funding cuts and closures, make libraries seem like luxuries and so easily closable and degrade society’s ability to inspire itself going forward.

Can art infiltrate everyday life?

The answer is rather the same as above, although with different shading because even after local councils have sold off their art collections and closed their libraries and television channels are unable to afford intellectually rigorous programming, art will still have its way through fashion, through consumer goods and through the architecture in our environment and all of that, however much of it simple marketing, has some intellectual underpinning, thematic interest and the potential to make us think, even if it’s that we think it’s rubbish or it doesn’t work. Some William Morris wallpaper features in the exhibition under a different question, and although outwardly it doesn’t seem left wing, the philosophical and political aims that led to its creation mean that it’s entirely possible for the interior design in the home of a classic right-winger to be inspired by socialist ideology.

Does participation deliver equality?

No because it depends on the participants and the nature of the hierarchy. Purely on the basis of gender, there have been female participants in most of the major art movements across the century but their work has been largely obscured or at the very least tokenised in favour of the men. Only recently, thanks to the strict chronological rehang of Tate Britain have the contributions of female artists been acknowledged strongly and their voices included in the chorus, with Britain's first female professional painter, Mary Beale given some of the prominence she deserves. Clearly that’s changed somewhat in the contemporary art world, but for all the nominations there have still only been five female winners of the Turner Prize in its three decade history and it’s worth asking how many of those went on to become household names thanks to the ensuing publicity.  Or lack of.

Can pursuing equality change how art is made?

Yes. Please. If I glance back through old reviews of the Liverpool Biennial, the largest proportion of work I’ve appreciated have been created by people who aren’t white and male (as far as I can tell). Whole sections of culture and the arts are stagnating because it’s simply impossible for non-white male voices to be heard, not particularly in some cases because of direct misogyny and racism though that clearly happens, but because society has a kind of bland acceptance of cultural structures that include those things. Even when non-white males are promoted to become heads of those cultural structures, it’s still predominantly people who aren’t like them who are the creatives, let alone people from a range of economic backgrounds. The amount of films and television apparently created for women with a so-called feminist undercurrent by men is utterly reprehensible.

How can art speak with a collective voice?

Well, it isn’t through predetermined rules, that’s for sure, unless they’re rules being created with the expectation that they will be broken. One of my favourite elements of the Dogme95 manifesto, in which the proposers created a set of rules as to how a certain type of film should be made and handed out certificates to those films which fitted those rules, was that the ordinary day-to-day requirements of filmmaking meant the rules had to be broken and so after about six productions, they began handing out certificates anyway, providing the filmmaker listed the ways in which the manifesto had been broken. The pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood lasted only a few months or so before their own personal artistic agendas began to intrude. It’s the artists who work towards a political rather than aesthetic agenda who seem to endure, or who are influenced by one another without trying to put something together on paper.

Are there ways to distribute art differently?

There are now although the exhibition has plenty of examples from the pre-digital era. The most famous image in the exhibition, Jacques-Louis David’s The Death of Marat was copied by members of his studio and distributed throughout the country to spread the revolutionary message and while as the catalogue suggests it was “making accessible art which would have previously been displayed only as a unique object in elite circles” as an oil on canvas or print of Marat’s face it was still an incredibly time consuming endeavour. Now everything, taking into account copyright objections, can be infinitely reproduced as this Google Image search demonstrates. Which then leads to the question of whether a reproduction of a painting has the same value in terms of its message as the painting itself, but like all of these questions there are no easy answers and arguably any art which says it has a definitive answer is a failure.

Art Turning Left: How Values Changed Making 1789–2013 is at Tate Liverpool from 8 November 2013 – 2 February 2014. Prices: Adult £8.80 (£8 without donation), Concession £6.60 (£6 without donation).

The French Revolution.

Thought In an extract from his new book, Divine Fury: A History of Genius, published in The New Republic, Darrin M. McMahon, the Ben Weider Professor of History at Florida State University investigates "How the French Revolution Gave Us the Cult of Genius":
"That belief, that myth—whether celebrated in the Panthéon or bemoaned in counterrevolutionary phrases, such as “the Revolution is the fault of Voltaire”—highlights a way in which the revolutionary experience gave a new inflection to the cult of genius. By linking geniuses emphatically to politics and political change, the revolutionaries highlighted the capacity of extraordinary individuals not just to understand the world, but to change it. Only with the Revolution could a myth of revolutionary genius emerge, and with the propagation of that myth was born a possibility, still fledgling, but soon to be fulfilled: that genius might be used as the basis of political power, celebrated not only in death but in life, employed to justify an extraordinary privilege and license. The very possibility raised a question: What was the place of the genius in a free nation? To a regime that had declared liberty, equality, and fraternity as its founding ideals, it was not an idle concern."

The Silver Bullet.

Food "I like bananas. Bananas are good."
"Over in Brazil, a quiet revolution has been taking place in the banana category. The total market dominance of Cavendish, the global standard variety, has been steadily eroded over the last decade by the Prata – or silver – banana, whose unique traits are gaining it popularity with suppliers and consumers alike."
"Well, I've got a banana and, in a pinch, you could put up some shelves."

Fire. But not the god of hellfire...

That Day The music for tonight's display in Sefton Park was themed around "fire" with Adele's Set Fire to the Rain arguably the most recognisable track.

 Jose Feliciano's cover of Light My Fire was in there too, which is eclectic.

 But no, no The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. Shame.

Anyway, the whole display went off without a hitch, organised by Walk The Plank and Bay TV caught up with them during set up.

The future of Doctor Who. In 1963.

TV As part of my personal celebration of Doctor Who's 50th, I've decided to also watch some of the other programmes which were broadcast that night. After visiting the Liverpool Central Library this morning I gathered some photocopies of the television schedules for that day, though not daytime on the BBC, the page having been torn out and since replaced by a photocopy, featuring as it did the preview for An Unearthly Child. Whoever replaced it didn't think to include whatever was on the back. Either way, glancing through the programmes, I've found that to an extent it's like seeing random, coincidental aspects of the franchise's future on a single night.

Of course.  Plus:

"Incidental music composed and conducted by Ron Grainer" who was a busy composer that evening.

Over on ITV, or rather ABC:

Notice the mighty Donald Sutherland, 90s rumour Doctor as Hotel Clerk. A bit tenuous. Oh well, um ...

It's the Espionage episode with future Master actor Roger Delgado. In a fez.

It's an Avengers episode by future Doctor Who scribe Malcolm Hulke, who'd later write Delgado's final story, Frontier in Space.

Michael Gove reviews Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle.

Film After yesterday's rediscovery of the Tom Paulin's Star Wars critique, a glance through the Newsnight Review archive reveals that current Education Secretary Michael Gove was also a contributor which means we have on record his views on the Angels sequel:
"It's all parody and its no structure. It's a bit like one of those pizzas where you put Peking duck on top. You already have a bastardised art form with nothing truly or genuinely original about it. I enjoy spoofs. Ali G In Da House, I enjoy teen comedy, Something About Mary I liked. I enjoy action films with very, very little plot lines. I love almost all Bonds. But this is I think aeons behind all of those in terms of originality, charm, humour, wit, anything which makes a good night out at the cinema."
On Die Another Day:
"There is a sense in which the Americans act as the invaluable aides to Bond and the Brits can't manage on their own. Bond triumphs through the exercise of a particular English form of savoir-faire and self-deprecation and his quintessential characteristics carry him through. The interesting thing is that the villain appears to be a quintessential Englishman gone to the bad. It is nice to see the dark version of Bond. The interplay between them is wonderfully effective."
On Spider-Man:
"It's for teenagers, because it has a genuinely, I believe, sophisticated morale structure than most films aimed at that age group, and without it being explicitly Christian, I do think it has that theme running through it.

When the Green Goblin takes Spider-Man up and shows him New York City and says, "My boy, this could be yours if you join me in this wicked project" is reminiscent of the Bible.

And the final scene is the renunciation scene. It's an affirmation of celibacy and vocation."
On Solaris:
"I think we have to judge the film in its own right. You can say it's half the length of Tarkovsky's already overlong faux classic.

What's the game? You are wasting 90 minutes rather than 3 hours.

The other thing is for anyone who is a genuine sci-fi fan, a lot of the science is hocus-pocus.

They lay on the science in an effort to give it an air of sophistication and all they make any genuine sci-fan do is roll his eyes."
He doesn't know much about films either does he?

Clyde Langer.

Technology Richard Wright, Senior Research Engineer Archive Research at the BBC writes on the R&D blog about inaccessible or missing data:
"An internal BBC publication is a tiny issue compared to itself, the BBC's world-class media website. BBC policy is to hold the text from in a sort-of archive, but reasons of space/budget/complexity mean that the audio and video content on is not archived. The justification is: all that audio and video goes out on radio and TV, and so gets archived separately. Has the validity of that statement been checked? How much audiovisual content is NOT also broadcast? I wish I knew! The business case to build a real archive (something with comprehensive capture, and access) was chopped and chopped until it was reduced entirely to a 90-day legal requirements system, with just a couple of access points. Meanwhile, anybody who does want to see BBC content that has been taken down from has to go to Internet Archive, where they do monthly (or thereabouts) scans of the entire internet, and make it available to all through their Wayback machine."
Apart from streaming video which only ever links back to the original source which means if you want to watch an old episode of Newsnight Review, which had been up and working perfectly well for years, but has now been pulled, you can't ...

"Kevin Bishop is a notable absence"

Film Find above the French trailer for, Chinese Puzzle, the third film in Cedric Klapisch's trilogy which began with Pot Luck and Pot Luck 2, or The Spanish Apartment and Russian Dolls if you're outside of boring old UK with its boring approach to film titles. Running somewhat in parallel with the Before films, this has seen Roman Durais's Xavier grow from cocky student to miserable thirty something and now he's in his forties.  Oh this trailer's a tease not least because it's not in a language I understand. But Audrey, Kelly and Cecile are back, though judging by the IMDb page, Kevin Bishop is a notable absence. Sandrine Holt has joined which an interesting genre change for her. Can't wait.

Tom Paulin reviews Attack of the Clones.

Film From 2002 (obviously), a classic culture clash as the Will Self of the 90s reviews Star Wars on Newsnight Review:
Tom Paulin, Star Wars makes a lot of money, still does. Does it make any sense?

I thought so. I had a dread of going to it. I had never seen any of the other movies, and I got absolutely fascinated by it.

This is an extraordinary epic about the American Republic, and it starts with the idea of a civil war, of course, America fought a bloody civil war to preserve the Republic.

On the one hand, it's saying to most of its viewers that out there is an axis of evil, far galaxies, there are these terrible people. But on the other hand, it's saying actually the axis of evil is part of us. We are split. So it's something to do with George Bush having won, narrowly or illicitly...
And it just keeps getting better and better...


Enrico Box.

Food At first I thought this was an April Fool piece that had floated to the top of my online reading list until I noticed the date. From today's Observer:
London restaurants refuse to take bookings as diners are forced to wait two hours in queues

A line of people wait patiently on the pavement of a Soho street in London on a midweek evening. They shuffle slowly forward towards the commanding figure of the doorman, who warns them they will have to wait longer.

The queue is not for a modish nightclub but for a restaurant. It has become a common scene in central London and is spreading to other parts of the UK. Many restaurants now refuse to take reservations and tell customers they could wait up to two hours to eat.

Joyce Wang, a restaurant blogger, said she hated the new trend of queueing. "Now I try to get there early or wait a maximum of 15 minutes. If you are savvy, you don't go at peak times," she said.
As a fair weather friend to restaurants and eating out in general (because I can rarely relax) I can't imagine any meal is worth queuing two hours for unless it's the only food available for the reasons I expect you can imagine.  Is anything of such culinary uniqueness, such an experience that you would want to spend two hours waiting?  A burger?  Really?

Now I would imagine that if you are someone who's interested in food in the same way I'm interested in film and theatre and want to find out what X restaurant is doing with chicken that month I could, that is I could, imagine why you'd want to, if it's perhaps your job or you find yourself part of the culinary scene and possibly have to have an opinion of the work of such and such a chef.

But the general diner?  Why?  Why would you do this?