The Time Machine released.

Audio I've already tweeted about this but for those of you who don't social network in that venue, some good news. Thanks to this hero who's not at AudioGo anymore but let's hope gets some work soon and the good people at Big Finish, Doctor Who's Destiny of the Doctors's The Time Machine has been released for download roughly on schedule:

Any old merchandising news isn't really my thing, but with poor AudioGo (who commissioned the series) going, it looked, briefly, like this wasn't going to happen even though Big Finish produced the thing, so I thought it was worth shouting about. More news in the week about the cd version apparently.

Updated moments later.  Hold on a sec though. There might a problem with the mp3 download.  Some of the tracks cut Jenna off mid sentence, even mid word.  And it's not just my copy...   The audiobook (m48) version's probably fine though.

Updated the next day

Updated 18/11/2013 The CD version is available from Big Finish.  Good, good.

Jennifer Lawrence's interviews with Simon Mayo.

"I actually do mind auditioning. I wouldn't mind never auditioning again."

The Art of Lying.

TV William Gallagher on lying. Ten times yes and twice on Sundays:
"Next time Apple is about to announce something, take a peek at the storm of analysts saying it will definitely be an Apple TV set or it will be an iWatch, no question, we've got proof, and then when it isn't, shield yourself from the storm of "Apple fails!" stories. I switch off my RSS news feed around these times.

"But with soaps, I can't. It's not that I plug soap news into my RSS feed but I do tend to shop in supermarkets and there is not one day I do that there isn't a shelf of magazines with soap headlines on them. This character is about to die, this one is about to kill, that one is pregnant. Most of them are extremely over-hyped but some would genuinely be big moments in their series, except we know about them already."
He's being cagey, but I expect if you read this blog you'll know what this is all about already. We've been lied to in interviews and through internet discussions, time and again, over and over, sometimes venomously to a hilarious degree and thanks to that, we Doctor Who fans have been genuinely surprised on a fair few occasion this year. Sometimes, it was confirmation surprise, as in "I can't believe they actually got Peter Capaldi" but nevertheless surprised. Lie, lie and lie again.

BBC 1963: January.

I Love 1963
"Gerry Marsden welcomes you to the year Dr Who first stepped out of his TARDIS and The Beatles began to break records."

1963 Remembered: Marking the 50th anniversary of a momentous year
"It is 50 years since one of the most event-filled British political years of recent times. In 1963 the Labour leader Hugh Gaitskill died suddenly - with Harold Wilson elected as his successor. The Prime Minister Harold Macmillan resigned on health grounds, to be replaced by Sir Alec Douglas Home. There was also the Profumo affair, the assassination of JFK and the Beatles' first album. Alicia McCarthy met three people well placed to reflect on events 50 years ago. The Conservative peer, Lord Carrington, was well into his government career starting the year as First Lord of the Admiralty under Macmillan and ending up in the cabinet as Leader of the Lords under Home. Lord Donoughue was lecturing at the LSE in 1963 - very much a Gaitskell supporter he was later to become Harold Wilson's policy advisor and a minister. And Lord Hennessy - one of Britain's best-known constitutional historians is very much the youngster - a grammar school onlooker as the dramas of 1963 unfolded."

1963 upheaval: Wales, the world and social revolution
"1963 was the year The Beatles took the world by storm, US President John F Kennedy was assassinated - and Doctor Who made his first appearance on TV. It was also the year of the Profumo political scandal, which has inspired a current exhibition in the National Portrait Gallery in London. It was a year of huge social, cultural, and political change, and in Wales, it saw the early days of protest over the Welsh language. On BBC Radio Wales' Sunday Supplement Vaughan Roderick spoke to cross-bench peer Lord Elystan Morgan about the significance of 1963 and, first, asked historian and author Hywel Williams if it was the year the modern world was born."

BBC News: Queen Mother footage of 1963 museum opening discovered
"Never-seen-before footage of the Queen Mother in 1963 has been found. It shows crowds in Stonehaven welcoming her to the opening of the Aberdeenshire town's Tolbooth museum. The footage has emerged amid a wrangle over museum artefacts, between volunteers who now run it, and Aberdeenshire Council."

This Is Your Life: Uffa Fox
"Cowes inventor Uffa Fox talks to Eammon Andrews on This Is Your Life"

Home for the Day: Enid Blyton
"Children's author Enid Blyton speaks to Marjorie Anderson about her own childhood, how she defied her family's expectations by becoming a writer and how she tries to 'get to the hearts of children' in all her stories."

Inside Out: All the world's a stage
"In 1963 a new theatre opened in Nottingham. The Nottingham Playhouse promised to introduce new audiences to the joys of staged drama. Inside Out asked Kenneth Alan Taylor, former Artistic Director and best known for his annual performances as pantomime dame, to investigate whether the Playhouse has lived up to its promises."

Composer of the Week: Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)
"In a condensed version of the week of programmes Donald Macleod explores Francis Poulenc's unique musical voice - and sometimes troublesome character - showcasing a blend of much-loved favourites and rare works." (pictured)

Top Gear: Testing the smallest production car - the Peel P50
"The smallest production car, the Peel P50, was built in 1963. Presenter Jeremy Clarkson test drives it on today's busy roads to highlight its strengths and weaknesses, looking at features including flexibility of use, economy, parking and weight. The tiny vehicle is even small enough to drive around the office and travel in lifts."

Football Focus: FA Cup: When 'the big freeze' hit the Cup
"Football Focus looks back at the 1963 FA Cup third round, which took two months to complete due to freezing conditions. Fixtures were postponed several times during one of the coldest winters on record, with fourth division side Lincoln's match against Coventry having to be rescheduled 15 times. Current president of the Lincolnshire FA Norman Saywell recalls the efforts that took place to get the fixture played."

WHO 50: Unfolding:
Watching and listening to all of televised Doctor Who in order.

TV Here we are then, one week to go before the fiftieth anniversary and the moment to take stock. Back in, well I don’t actually remember which year this was back in, when dvd producer Dan Hall announced all of the available material would be released on dvd by 2013 and I decided I’d collect everything ready to watch and listen to the whole of Doctor Who in that year, little did I realise that (a) there would be seven years worth of new material to add on at the end along with two spin-off series, that (b) the amount of “available material” would also grow during the process, oh and that, (c) I’d actually be both still interested in Doctor Who and (d) have the time for various reasons to fit the whole endeavour into about twelve months.

Which isn’t to say I didn’t have a few contingency plans. So that (a) I began a little earlier with the pilot on the day it was recorded then the first episode on the forty-ninth anniversary, (b) beginning before all of the available material had been released which led to lengthy gap while I waited for the dvd of Reign of Terror and buying the original edit VHS of Terror of the Zygons because it had shifted in the schedules.  (c) was less of a problem because each new release brought even greater curiosity as to how the programme stayed on air for all those years and my unplanned hernia operation (yes, I had a hernia operation) (by the way) which left me bed ridden for most of September with little to do, and in the mood to do, but watch Doctor Who, which meant (d) was perfectly fine, as am I now.

There were also a few ground rules, because you must always have ground rules, I think. Firstly that I wouldn’t be blogging the endeavour, not this time. For one thing, the brilliance of this and this rendered the whole idea pointless, and I knew that Who 50 was already going to be enough of a challenge and unavoidably informed by it anyway. So instead I’d simply mark progress and post boring comments on Twitter if I needed some catharsis. Sorry about the two days of Torchwood’s Miracle Day madness. Secondly, that where possible I’d only listen to the missing episodes on audio unless a recon(struction), thanks to the vagaries of release/deletion schedules was the only way of experiencing an episode.

My only companion for the duration (apart from my hernia) would be the production subtitles, the often thoroughly researched text commentaries included on almost all the classic dvds, providing information about the stories providing a welcome distraction during dramatic longueurs and leading to some scenes having to be rewatched due to having become wrapped up in a behind the scenes anecdote when something especially important was happening on screen. Most of these have been provided by Richard Molesworth and Martin Wiggins, with Richard Bignell, David Brunt, Nicholas Pegg, Andrew Pixley, Jim Smith, Paul Scoones, Stephen James Walker and Karen Davies filling in the gaps.

Watching enough of these in this concentrated a period meant I began to see stylistic similarities peculiar to each author, Molesworth with his block capitals transcriptions of alternative drafts and dialogue, Wiggins with his helpful inclusion of Radio Times synopsis and ratings at the beginning of each episode, Brunt and Smith with their hilarious asides. Sometimes I kept myself entertained trying to guess which of the contributors had provided a given commentary like a spoddy You Bet contestant, though it’s fair to say my strike rate would not have seen celebrity guests Dickie Davies, Richard Digance or Kate Robbins leave with any money for their chosen charity assuming they hadn’t bet against me.

If you’ve never seen a story with these subtitles turned on, do so as soon as you can, though be warned they’re as addictive as Doctor Who itself can be. Just as detailed as the Doctor Who Magazine Archives and Fact of Fiction articles, they also have the added bonus of being able to talk the viewer in detail through the nuts and bolts of production. I hadn’t realised, for example, that the process of rehearsing a whole episode across a week then recording it on a Friday night didn’t change until well into the Pertwee years when it changed to two weeks of rehearsal then two episodes recorded on successive nights which, again, was still the norm right into Tom Baker’s first year when it shifted to set by set. The subtitles educated me.

But the process of watching all the series in broadcast order for the first time as opposed to the random approach the modern viewer usually has is educational too. Only then do you notice that with a few notable exceptions, for much of the time Doctor Who is pretty good, meaning that every series and season has its fair share of rubbish, average and excellent stories, even in those eras when the scripts might as well have been typed on gold plated paper or the producers were reputationally taking a dump on the concept for the series and that for all the knocks the Moffat era’s been receiving, it’s not unusual that a series might encompass something as wrongheaded (literally) as Nightmare in Steel and brilliantly entertaining as Hide.

If nothing else all of this confirmed that to an extent I’m as much a fan of the production side of the programme as the programme itself, of the drama inherent in simply getting the thing on the air. Knowledge of that also means that it’s near impossible to actually decide what an “era” is in Doctor Who terms, the broad chunks that it should be separated into. In merchandising terms its usually by Doctor (the Pertwee era). Fans tend to demark things by producer (the Hinchcliffe years). But there’s also an argument to be made for script editor or decade or production method or even whether an episode was made in colour. Such things inform our appreciation of the franchise.

After what’s probably still Doctor Who’s finest ever episode, my approach to the Hartnell era was much the same as slow cinema, to simply sit back and let images wash over me, unless it was only available on audio in which case it was whatever images my imagination was in the mood to create. To that end, both The Rescue and Marco Polo were confirmed as my favourite stories of the era and I was reminded that that what the years produced by Lambert, Wiles and Lloyd lacked in budget more than made up for in their desperation to try new things, the restrictive definitions of the kinds of stories the show could and couldn’t tell not having been defined yet. Only in the wilderness years did this level of experimentation return.

It’s during the Troughton era such definitions began to take shape, the often restrictive and ponderous need for a monster in every story, the death of the “pure” historical, that most stories should be split between the “alien invasion” and “base under siege” genres (sometimes both at the same time) and at the very end the removal of some of the Doctor’s mystery, by naming his race and giving him a home planet. All of which is easy to forgive thanks to the peerless performance of the actor in the central role but also to miss because so much of that performance can only be heard and not seen see. The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear were still largely audio adventures when I reached them. I can’t wait to see what they look like.

It’s fair to say the biggest disappointment of what ended up being called #whowatchorbust on Twitter was the Pertwee years simply because in this concentrated form I began to realise just how awful the third incarnation of the character is, with his patronising, paternalistic, patricianistic approach to everything and the horrible way he treats the Brigadier and Jo (the sandwich affair) and how he certainly causes the deaths of innocent people in a more insidious way than the Master who at the very least signposts his villainy by looking like a villain. Plus there’s a not overly successful attempt to explicitly politicise the show when it had trundled along quite well implying its philosophy. The Green Death is still unrivalled however.

Thank goodness that the month spent in the company of Tom Baker reminded me just how much I loved him then and still do. Throughout the #prodsubs indicate to the viewer when Baker had changed a line and on almost every occasion made it better, otherwise terrible stories like Underworld and The Sun Makers made entertaining simply because he’s there. Despite everything that was happening in the real world (discovering I had the hernia and what to do about that), watching the Baker years was certainly my happiest even in his final year because I noticed for the first time the rapport he had with Matthew Waterhouse, his character and Adric and the disappointment of not seeing that develop further.

My appreciation of the Davison era, or lack of, didn’t change much. By then, because I didn’t want to be watching his successor’s adventures during my recuperation (and didn’t) I was thundering through stories and travelled from from Castrovalva to Androzani in about five days. Mostly I was reminded just how tiny a scaffold of original material supports the spin-off material, Davison and co’s Big Finish contributions having well outstripped their original appearances. Of all these eras, it’s here we can see the “pretty good” approach to the making of Doctor Who, with Kinda in the same year as Time-Flight. It’s just a shame that there wasn’t time for the main characters to be written in anything approach a unified way.

The Sixth Doctor era’s still rubbish and thank goodness the whole thing was short enough to only take three days and that included sneaking in radio's Slipback. I polished off The Trial of a Timelord in a Saturday. Everything which tends to be said of it is true with the Sixth Doctor an even less likeable figure than the Third, the ponderous, endless TARDIS scenes because of the forty-five minute episode, the general lack of coherence. Whilst its true that it contains one of the franchise’s best ever cliffhangers (episode one of Vengeance on Varos) and committed performances (Colin tried his best), it’s a rudderless thing that doesn’t know what it wants to be any more so …

… thank goodness for Andrew Cartmel who steered the series back on track even if the ratings were too low for anyone to notice. After Time and the Rani (which does at least have Kate O’Mara doing an impression of Bonnie Langford which is never loses its mix of horror and hilarity), the show entered its strongest three years of production, perking me right up even as I wasn’t able to move much other than to eat meals, go to the toilet and change the dvd. Whilst its true that some elements are of the time (Keff off) in seeking to turn the show into a kind of televisual 2000AD, Cartmel reduced the importance of the monsters, noticed that the invasions and bases could be in unusual settings and returned some of the mystery to the central character just in time for cancellation.

All the while, as well as official, broadcast Who, my one concession to the spin-off world was AudioGo & Big Finish’s Destiny of the Doctors which I listened to within chronology which indicated just how accurate some of them have been invoking that chronology. This also meant that as well as the TV movie, the Eighth Doctor was represented by Alan Barnes’s superb Enemy Aliens, a Buchan pastiche bringing together 8th with (still my favourite companion) Charley again, albeit through India’s reading during which you can almost hear the moment when she remembers just how much fun the earliest appearances of the character were. I’m certainly not done with the Eighth Doctor. Expect the reviews of the comics and audios to begin next year.  Maybe.

Then, time compressed and within a couple of hours of Survival and the TV movie I was deep into the Eccleston era which when watched in such close proximity, for all of some of its innovations feels very much like a tonal continuation of the Cartmel era presumably because of Russell’s admiration of the New Adventures which had as its spine “masterplan”. The mystery is back and it’s all about what the Doctor’s withholding from his companion, albeit because he’s trying to psychologically deal with the horror himself having wrought on his own people the same fate as the Daleks in Remembrance. Apropos of nothing, the pizza conversation in The Parting of the Ways is one of my favourite pieces of dialogue in all of Who history.

Just to make things a bit more interesting and so more difficult, I decided to watch nuWho utilising the viewing order I posted on the blog in July, slipping between the Tennant episodes, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures and for the most part discovering that indeed Russell T Davies et al had been meticulous in how the various sections worked together only now and then effected by the shared world problem of wondering what Torchwood was doing during some global catastrophe being dealt with by the Attic gang and vice versa and just why the Doctor only seemed to drop in at various points. Even Planet of the Dead seemed to make some sense this time around albeit because I was following the Doctor’s narrative order.

Torchwood’s problem are still writ large most of it barely watchable in the traditional sense. My coping mechanisms included turning the audio commentaries on for the first series (generally pretty boring unless Russell or Julie are involved) and tweeting through most of everything else (sorry again for the Miracle Day madness). The cabinet scene in CofE: Day Three is still its high point even though it has nothing to do with the stars but the actual high point are the Radio 4 episodes when the show seemed to become much more relaxed in its skin, told some “pretty good” stories and in The House of the Dead arguably gave the show its finest three quarters of an hour thanks to its twist ending and heartbreaking denouement.

Heartbreaking for a whole different set of reasons is The Sarah Jane Adventures simply because it ended too soon and for the wrong reasons – I couldn’t watch the Lis Sladen tribute on the BD. Bits of it are as good as classic Who but even more than Torchwood it also fulfilled the franchise maxim of presenting a fair few duds to compensate, not least Secret of the Stars. Having not enjoyed most of Phil Ford’s earlier instalments on broadcast, I was pleasantly pleased to find myself loving Enemy of the Bane with its final appearance from The Brigadier. You can certainly also see that Davies had decided Luke was gay pretty early on; we don’t see the easy comedy of Luke misunderstanding girls or relationships at all.

As far as I’m concerned, Tennant’s still above criticism, he was a tremendous Doctor (though it’s important to stress Eighth is still my favourite) but something of a transitional figure in terms of the Time Lord’s identity. If the Davies era is about anything it’s about the Doctor embracing whimsy again, of utilising toys, sweets and disguises in his adventures, of getting to a point when he can wear a bowtie and mean it rather than the lifeless prop of the man he isn’t in Human Nature. He’s almost embarrassed by the clockwork mouse in The Doctor’s Daughter and the Ghostbusters debacle could be seen as him trying whimsy, trying to get back to the man he used to be, and getting it wrong. Only once he’s put Gallifrey to rest and …

… regenerates does the bowtie fit, is it cool and here I am in the thick of the Smith era awaiting its end. It’s here that the reconfiguration of the franchise during the wilderness years is enunciated most clearly and usually in the less showier stories like The God Complex, which manages combine Resnais-like surrealism with a quite powerful discourse on belief systems. Rita’s bravery in death and the Doctor’s destruction of Amy’s faith in him are two of the few moments I really cried during this whole project, Murray Gold’s music a destructive force as is Smith’s acting when he has his “convincing” voice on, when he’s trying to make someone work against their own nature.

If it hadn’t been for my hernia, I wonder if I would have finished, not that the hernia was in any way part of the plan. I’ve completed the fans right of passage, looked into the Untempered Schism and escaped unscathed and escaped still a fan and with the ability to understand more of the in-jokes which I missed having not paid much attention until the early noughties. But I’m not more or less of a fan, though its fair to say it’ll be a while before do it all again with the commentaries turned on or work my way through the dvd documentaries or continue with the Eighth Doctor era. Perhaps I’ll just enjoy the new episodes as they’re broadcast for a while, after I’ve caught up on dvd releases which have gone unwatched because they emerged out of sequence.

Do I want to revisit any of it, now that I don’t really have to? Unlike some fans, I’ve never been someone who thinks “I’m in the mood for The Horns of Nimon tonight” or some such (is anyone?) because there are so many other new things to see instead. Watching nothing but Who for twelve months plus has meant I’m well behind on all kinds of other television, not to mention books and music, far more than I’d ever be able to catch up on even with a TARDIS. I presume I’ll simply carry on buying and watching any new dvds (can something still be described as a “lost episode” if it’s on Amazon?) and enjoying or bitching about the new series and thinking about this year with the same fondness as this, this, this, this and everything mentioned here. In 2013, I did that.

The Night of the Doctor.

TV Best watch it first if I were you. Then join me below the line.

"Ah, see? Look, it's me. De-monked. Sensible clothes. Can I come in now?"

TV The BBC's native embedding system is rubbish, so find linked below An Evening With Steven Moffat in which Boyd Hilton interview The Moff at BBC Cymru about the history of the show.

An Evening With Steven Moffat

There are plenty of well judged clips too. If you were going to show someone a montage of the tv series's best bits, it would probably be these.  Especially for the Sixth Doctor.

"I'm the Doctor. I'm an alien from outer space. I'm a thousand years old, I've got two hearts and I can't fly a plane! Can you?"

TV I've been a bit slow on the uptake. Again. But isn't the music and narration for the above essentially the nuWho equivalent of the below? Is it meant to be? Try muting the top, starting the bottom, then pressing play on the top as the drum beats kick in just before Mr Pertwee starts talking. It's practically doing the same thing, isn't it?

"This is what the conversation looks like"

Art The @johnmoores2014 twitter feed has posted some photographs of last night's event. The first one features the back of my head, the hairy blob just below the painting.

Artist Chris Evans’s I don't know if I've explained myself.

Art Artist Chris Evans’s “I don't know if I've explained myself” is a series of works in which a group of observers sit in a room with an artwork watching, relayed from a different room, a group of interested parties discussing the work based on their own experiences and tonight the latest iteration was organised by Tate Liverpool and Liverpool Biennial and held at the home of James Moores, art collector and Biennial founder. The process of booking had the whiff of a 60s happening, 90s illegal rave or 00s Secret Cinema (depending on your generation), with the location of the event only emailed to participants a few weeks before hand. I’ll not say where it was exactly other than it’s one of the more affluently owned dwellings in a similar vein, if a lot smaller, to the now National Trust owned The Hardman's House, though oddly in layout it also reminded me of the digs I lived in during my second year of university, we audience members sat in the front sitting room or as was the case when I was at university, my bedroom. So as well as the art, there was the curiosity of finally seeing inside one of these houses, though the couches and armchairs I’d expected to be sitting in had been replaced by rows and rows of chairs facing an inner wall, presumably to maximise the number of audience members.

At an appointed time, a projector at the front flickered into action to reveal on the far wall five people sitting around a kitchen table, two on either side and one at the head and the audience, who had the perspective of sitting at the other end of the table, a position we retained throughout the action shown from this single camera position without cutting to close-ups, hushed ourselves, aware of a discussion just in progress. Participating were the typographer Will Holder, freelance curator Lucy MacDonald, curator of the Grundy Art Gallery Richard Parry, the writer Marina Vishmidt and Vanessa Boni, Public Programmes Curator, Liverpool Biennial (most of them have a thorough biography here). They’d already made their mark on the table, its black table cloth containing a jug of water, half full drinking glasses, scraps of paper and a smart phone, all of which means as Lucy MacDonald kicks off the discussion, we're not quite sure how long they’ve been sitting there, how much preparation they’ve made. Some have prepared questions, conversation points jotted down either by them or the artist, but now and then it’s clear that someone is referring to something they’ve mentioned doing or saying before the camera turned on which has in and of itself a distancing effect which only adds to the distancing effect of being in an audience watching five people having a discussion in another room.

As was soon identified within the discussion, in a moment which led the audience and the discussion participants to giggle simultaneously proving the feed was indeed live, the audience is sharing the room with two different artworks. Chris Evans’s projection and the piece under discussion, a work by Pádraig Timoney, a kind of topographical landscape painted from above with limpet shells carried by parachutes attached to it at right angles. Who is the more important voice, whose biography is best annunciated within this semi-review?  In the context of the event should the audience disregard their own perspective on the Timoney piece in favour of interpreting the discussion of the piece and the perspectives of the participants? Is the content of the discussion itself even important or the simple fact of its existence? I think Suzanne Lacey’s similarly artifical discussion piece, Storying Rape, which was my favourite of the last Biennial, was probably easier to parse because the topic under discussion and the discussion itself were at the thematic core of what was being achieved. Evans’s piece is complicated by the fact of the discussion being just the sort of thing the Biennial might run anyway as a matter of course.

The explanation on the Tate's website helps. It says that the artist’s “work evolves through conversations with people from various walks of life. He has conducted similar discussions with a number of different people: from the directors of a leading champagne house to a former member of the British Constructivists and the CEO of a Texas pharmaceutical company. Sculptures, letters, drawings, film scripts and unusual social situations are created as a result of these talks, exploring how Evans deliberately confuses the roles of artist and patron, genius and muse.” Which suggests that the content of the discussion is simply part of the artifice, that what’s being said is beside the point, except when it isn’t. But then one also wonders if what we’re watching is the only time this piece will be available, that it only exists as we’re watching and unlike the Lacey work won’t be shown in some other context at a later date and whether that makes it a form of performance art. Does that also mean that unlike a few other Biennial events this discussion won’t appear on the website for viewing later because we all didn’t attend because we wanted to find out more about Timoney’s painting but because we wanted to watch another artwork inspired by Timoney’s painting? Or just to see the interior of the house?

Confused? Try being in the room. If all of that is or isn’t the case, what should be draw from it? Are we allowed to talk about the discussing group, observe their interaction? Will Holder at one point noticed that he was, the “plumb” somewhat becoming verbally besieged because he was the only one of the five who’d seen the painting within the context of an exhibition, bashfully admitting that he didn’t know enough about the history of painting to really offer a perspective. Richard Parry spent his time leading the discussion, from notes on his lap beneath the table. The discussion was punctuated by pregnant pauses as a collective thought ended and all five waited for one of their number to jump in with another point or observation. Sometimes they found themselves hitting against the edges of whatever ground rules the artist must have outlined as a rather interesting tangent into James Moore’s purchase of the work and how it fits into the context of his collection was quickly deemed to be straying too far away from the point. Similarly, the title also came into play as one of the participants interjected with a quite fascinating jumble of words to capture their thoughts but pointedly then failed to entirely explain what that meant.

As television viewers and radio listener's we're trained to watch and listen to discussions which tend to have a particular grammar and usually feature experts.  This was like hearing an episode of In Our Time crossed with Just A Minute, the participants only having been given the topic just before being faced with Melvyn Bragg or an attempt to fulfill Glenn Gould's philosophy that in order to reveal what a person really thinks or feels you should find someone who is an expert in something then ask them a series of questions about something else.  We didn't know how long before the discussion the participants had seen the painting.  Perhaps it was only minutes before the audience arrived within that context and not before.  In that sense, as audience member's we're almost put in the position of judging their contribution, leading us unconsciously towards the less salubrious end of the broadcast discussion format (#bbcqt, #kyle) even though, as then, it's entirely unfair to do so and we wouldn't if this discussion was happening live in front of us, rather than project.  As I suggested earlier, if the participants hadn't heard us laughing from the room above and then reacted to that, we might have suspected it was prerecorded and considered if it this would have mattered if it had been.

I was in constant state of fascination and tedium and not a little bit uncomfortable. In his book Hollywood Cinema, Richard Maltby says that an extended take “forces us to wait, watch, and grow more nervous as the movie deliberately refuses us the luxury of escaping back into a more comfortable, edited narrative time or a safer vantage point.” He goes on to explain that for all that there is still the matter of context, and that “while a musical’s use of the long take allow the audience to celebrate the performers’ skill, suspense movies are usually much less benign, turning the audience themselves into victims of the movie’s manipulations.” But this wasn't just a long take, it was a single take without cutting and with the exception of the moment when Holder took an empty water jug to the tap for a refill, almost entirely without any action to speak of and although the context wasn’t fictional, we were watching content beamed in from another room, the apparently deliberate longuers and stilted interjections created an unsettling atmosphere. At various points, the participants seemed to have simply run out of things to say. Towards the end, Holder glanced off camera as though expecting the discussion to have ended already and all had a brief flicker of relief when it finally did.

Did I fidget? I’ll admit to fidgeting. The small, metal fold up chair we were given to sit on had a smooth surface which led to me slipping downward in my jeans and the need to constantly sit back up again. I also kept getting a trapped nerve in the back of my leg, which led to it vibrating. At one point I leaned towards the painting, which was on the wall above my head to see what the parachutes were made of, revealing paper mache. Sat at the front, I looked backwards around the room to see what the reaction of the rest of the audience was because you can tell a lot about anything from the live reaction of an audience. I glanced along the line to the wrist of the nearest person in sight wearing a watch, I thought surreptitiously, to see what the time was, to see how far into the discussion/piece we were but couldn’t make out the hands which the golden glare of the supplied lighting camouflaged against the face. This distracted the person sitting next to me and before I knew it I was miming by pointing at my wrist and they were whispering the time to me. I think I may have annoyed them a bit overall, which I genuinely didn’t mean to do which is why this paragraph sounds not so much like autobiographical observations than excuses pretending to be autobiographical observations.

The ending was abrupt when it came. I’d misheard the time when it was whispered to me, and had thought there was plenty more to come, or more time to wait, still not entirely sure which part of the experience I was supposed to be paying attention to. I still don’t. But as is so often the case with the Liverpool Biennial it was an experience, which is I suppose the real point. After saying hello to a few people I wandered out into the hallway were I was handed a small, white circular disc made from the same paper as a beer mat. On one side was a tiny line drawing by Peter Wachtler, perhaps also inspired by the Timoney piece featuring, I think, an ant flying away in a hot air balloon his friend having fallen out, and on the reverse the news that the next Biennial, the 2014 number, opens on the 5 July which is amazingly early. Last year’s ran from 15 September which is one of the reasons I missed most of the opening weekend due to work. Next year’s is right slapbang in the middle of the Summer holidays, and the very fact that I have Summer holidays is another clue you can add to the mystery of what my job actually is (assuming I still have it then). Out on the street, I glanced through the frosted windows into the basement where the discussion had apparently happened, not that I could see anything because of the frosted windows. July!

"Eleven is the best. You'll cry your eyes out."

TV This weekend the Guardian & Observer ran some Doctor Who coverage. There was this delightfully positive interview with Jenna and with Mike Tucker, model maker extraorinaire and dedicated the regular top ten page to listing "The 10 best Doctor Who stories".

I'll let you go and see what they they chose, but there's not much to argue with here.  Moan about the lack of Colin and Paul all you want, but the former's only truly great moment on television was the cliffhanger in the Vengeance on Varos and the TV movie is a curio.  All their best work was in the wilderness years and beyond.

Underneath, like everyone else, I gave my ten:

Marco Polo
City of Death
Storm Warning
The Caves of Androzani
The Scarlet Empress
The Eleventh Hour
The War Games
Father Time

Or rather ten I thought of before I inevitably began changing my mind.  The inherent problem with trying to choose the ten best Doctor Who stories is that like film, like anything, it's near impossible because of the volume of choice and the parameters keep slipping.  In my post Gravity miasma, I'm assuming that this is how people who knew something about film felt after seeing Citizen Kane for the first time, but will this still be true in five or ten years time.  At one point I felt a similar way about The Waters of Mars.

When in 2009, Doctor Who Magazine conducted a poll of all available stories, this happened:

The Caves of Androzani
Genesis of the Daleks
The Talons of Weng-Chiang
The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances
Human Nature/The Family of Blood
Pyramids of Mars
City of Death
The Robots of Death
Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways

The bottom ten were:

The Space Museum
The Dominators
Fear Her
Paradise Towers
The Underwater Menace
The Space Pirates
Time and the Rani
The Twin Dilemma

A bit out of date and the top ten includes some contemporarism but I don't think you could argue with either, apart from Paradise Towers which I rewatched again recently, because of course I did, and enjoyed it immensely. Also trust Doctor Who fans to coincidentally put neighbouring stories at opposite ends of a poll like this.

If nothing else it confirms what I've always said.  That even when Doctor Who's rubbish, it's amazing*

* Apart from The Twin Dilemma which is just rubbish.  But just that.  Everything else is amazing.

Jennifer Lawrence on Newsnight.

"Kate Moss running at you with a bow and arrow wouldn't really be scary..."

Love Actually is so rubbish even The New Statesman hates it.

Film ... or Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Holly Baxter of the Vagenda Magazine writing on The New Statesman website anyway. Covers some of the same ground as my original post in a humourous manner with big photographs and more of a focus on romance. Example:
"Recently lost your mum to a tragic terminal illness? Dad off the scene? Perhaps you need someone to tell you that mum really loved you and that that love will always shine in the sky for her. Someone like a grief counsel-OHMYGOD LOOK AT THAT FIT GIRL. In another instance of those pesky, sexy Americans coming over the pond and grabbing the attention of unsuspecting Brits, tweenage Joanna gives ten-year-old Sam his first romantic feelings. He then defies airport security to kiss her goodbye with the help of Rowan Atkinson, somehow without being mistaken for a terrorist with a bomb in his underpants and Tasered: it’s a Christmas miracle!"


Museums This morning I attended the Museums Association Conference and Exhibition 2013 as an exhibition delegate which gave me access to the latter aspect of the event title but not the former (the former requiring a fee).  Since the ACC conference centre attached to the Echo Arena opened I've been curious to see more than the mezzanine I sat in last time I was there, and although I didn't see inside the lecture halls again, I can now tick the exhibition rooms off the list, though only half (the other half currently being inhabited by the British Society of Breast Radiology) (there tend to be a lot of medical conferences there).

 Having been to similar events before elsewhere, it was pretty much as I expected, companies and services in the sector selling their wares from display cabinets to climate controls to interactive displays, the kind of event where you end up having a long but surprisingly interesting conversation about recent developments in compact shelving technology. Attending with no other pretence than this blog, I couldn't help feeling like a bit of a fraud and slightly guilty about wasting the time of someone who should probably be talking about their massively complicated camera to someone who might be in a position to buy one.

Nevertheless I did see plenty of very interesting things here and there amid passing out moo cards, especially in relation to the mechanics of guide book publishing (there are companies that specialise), website production and archive presentation some of which will feed into the blog over the coming months, here and there. But here are a few of things I think you might enjoy looking at or knowing about right now.

International Council of Museums [].

Museums have an international council, a massive global association for museum workers, with individual committees for people who work in sectors like Egyptology, Costume, Money and Banking Museums and Conservation (they're all on the website). Even having worked in the sector myself in the past I had no idea they existed but here's the reason I'm bothering to mention it here. The benefits. The annual fee is a bit steep. It's £70, with a £33 concessionary option for students and retirees. But for that one receives a card which gives free entry to all museums everywhere plus preferential rates in shops and on publications. This won't be for everyone, but I imagine if you live in London, work in the sector and visit this sort of thing a lot, £70 isn't that expensive and even less so if you fit in one of the concessionary category and it seems to cover more places than an Art Pass. Plus they're quite relaxed it seems in who can become a member. The person on the stand said they'd probably accept me with my library degree, film studies degree and having worked in the sector at some point.


TIME/IMAGE developed out a group of former employees from the British Council who were tasked with researching, collection and digitising the selection of film produced by the council for international distribution from 1939 onwards. The collection is here and its amazing and especially amazing because its under a Creative Commons license and available for download and streaming. Not until I began typing this did I realise that I've bumped into these films before when I wrote about them on my Shakespeare blog last year (despite showing embarrassed ignorance at the stand) (my memory is failing even if my curiosity isn't). See the top of this post for an example from the collection.

Mamiya Leaf []

Mamiya Leaf produce high end digital cameras and I'm mentioning them largely because they were good enough to spend a longish while talking about how the hardware works. They showed me their Leaf Credo and iXR camera system, which produces highly detailed images using an 80 megapixel camera which offers the highest resolution I've ever seen from a stills camera and we are reaching the very top end of my understanding. We talked a bit about where the technology is leading and it seems there are limits because of the capabilities of the light sensors within cameras and lenses and unless there is some huge new innovation (like being able to read sources from outside the visible spectrum) improvements will be incremental. But what I saw seemed pretty startling.

Greater Manchester Museum Group []

Museums in Greater Manchester have a group. A partnership of eight museum services in the North-West, thanks to this project I was able to say that I'd visited most of them. They look for ways in which the various museums and galleries can co-operate both in terms of back office functions, education and publicity which includes international touring exhibitions to places like China. Next March they're launching a project which will tell the story of their part of the North-West utilising objects from across their collections for all the reasons I began my own project in the first place.  More soon.

"What is that box, anyway? Why have you got a box? Is it like a snogging booth?"

TV Oh well played the BBC. Here's the Doctor Who's The Day of the Doctor trailer that went out Saturday night which presumably few of us watched when it actually went out because we assumed it was going to the one that was accidentally posted by BBC Spain. Perhaps this is the trailer which was supposed to be released Sunday night but brought forward. Oh well, anyway. It's mainly an extemporised version of the one that's half its length with more of the 10th Doctor being the 10th Doctor and a sense that like every Doctor before him David Tennant's still the Doctor or his Doctor at least and a definite confirmation that he's not playing the human metacrisis version what with all the asking about his future and 11th talking about remembering things. I'm not sure about the hair. More Rose. A bit more Clara. Loads more 8.5/Ninth/whatever.  Exciting.

Defining Gravity.

Film Having stayed away for well over six months, I went to the cinema twice this week, on Monday for Thor: The Dark World (because keeping spoiler free within the Marvel franchise superstructure is a pain in the all the, um, diodes down my left side) and on the Friday to Gravity, which is the best film of the year and, outside of the business model of the MARVELverse at least, the most important film so-far this decade.

In her typically detailed and spoilery analysis Kirsten Thompson rates it higher than both 2001 and Napoléon and although I haven't seen the latter, I could help her with an argument for it, at least in terms of pure spectacle, eclipsing the former (though to be fair I've always prefered 2010 anyway). Unlike There Will Be Blood, which seemed at the time like it could herald in a new epoch until no one bothered to go see it, but like Inception, it's an avant garde art house film that's mainstream enough to capture the mass audience which has bothered to go and see and see again in their droves.

Unable to watch 3D films satisfactorily, I sought out a 2D showing and hugged myself for much of the duration between laughing along with the Clooney and crying along with Sandy.  These are not spoilers by the way, at least not if you've seen the trailer.  Not even the crunchy popcorn muncher who came and sat directly behind me could distract me too much, though for people who've been to see it already, I think you can guess the moments when I was less than tolerant.

What's bloody remarkable is that the film almost didn't get made and be this good.  The whole thing nearly fell through and indeed the release date of the film slipped.  As Thompson mentions in her post, the studio bore down on Cuaron to give the work more traditional character beats, break the structure of the thing, make it even more mainstream in all the ways that destroyed Robert Zemeckis's Castaway.

I've actually followed its production over the past few years on /Film and a glance through their archive shows some of the twists and turns the film went through before, during and after production, or at least how they aggregated the possible twists and turns as reported across the web,  which began with a ... well let's have a look shall we? Note there are spoilers from the start, though it's fair to say some of the details are a bit wonky.

Thursday, February 25th, 2010 
Wanted 2 Not Happening; Angelina Jolie to Star in Alfonso Cuarón’s Space Thriller Gravity
"According to Vulture, Jolie will play the sole surviving human member of a space mission, desperately trying to return home to Earth. She will be the only actor on screen for most of the movie. Oh, and did I mention that Jolie isn’t alone on the ship? Jolie will also be playing her daughter."

Which sounds weirder than turned out and I can't even see how this would work. But yes, the project began as a Jolie vehicle.  Which would have been fine, but might not have been as distinctive a work as it is now with Bullock in the lead role.  We'll return to this later.

Saturday, February 27th, 2010
Angelina Jolie Not Doing Cuaron’s Gravity After All?
"EW reports that Jolie’s reps say the actress “passed on doing Gravity at Warner Bros.” Furthermore, the site says that it cannot confirm whether or not the film is even really set up at WB right now. Which is interesting. Dying to know more about this one, and hope that it can come together somewhere."

The film was released by Warner Bros in the end. This post is just the sort of reason why I've tended to stop reading film blogs in their entirety -- there's plenty of rumour posted (or as is the case here reposted) as fact which is then turned around.

Sunday, March 14th, 2010
Robert Downey Jr. in talks for Alfonso Cuarón’s 3D Space Thriller Gravity
"now Mike Fleming has learned that Robert Downey Jr. is in talks to star in the film instead of Jolie."

Mike Fleming was at Dateline. In this version of the story, it's a space station not a space shuttle.

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010
Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity Will Be 60% CGI, Opening Shot is Over 20 Minutes Long
"Starring Robert Downey Junior, the film is a contemporary survival thriller that follows a woman as she attempts to make her way back to earth after a satellite crash sets off a chain reaction of further crashes. Because it’s set in space, most shots require every element to float in zero-gravity."

The detail of this post is scavenged from The Playlist. At this point then, Downey Jr's attached but it doesn't have a female lead. The space station is still there but otherwise the post title is entirely what's now on screen.

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010
Will Louis Leterrier Direct Insane-Sounding Sci-Fi Thriller ‘Gravity’?
"Pajiba has the news, explaining that the film is about ” a father who has to search for his lost child as the world stops spinning and Earth begins to lose its gravity.” This is an in-development situation, so we’re not likely to hear anything too firm about it yet, and when we do hear more, in all likelihood the film will have a different title. The project is with Mark Gordon Productions and Universal, with George Nolfi (The Adjustment Bureau) reportedly producing."

Pure link bait. It's a different film called Gravity. Did this get made? Leterrier instead directed the perplexingly almost good Now You See Me (which looks like it might be getting a sequel). Either way, Cuaron is still on his own project.

Tuesday, August 10th
Will Blake Lively or Scarlett Johansson Star in Alfonso Cuaron’s ‘Gravity’?
"Johansson pepared to sign on to David O. Russell’s Old St. Louis, which seemed to put her commitment to Gravity in doubt. Now THR says that Gravity probably won’t shoot until early next year, and that Cuaron tested both actresses in the past couple weeks. A decision between them is expected “within the next week or two.” There’s a suggestion that WB is interested in Lively, thanks to her work for the studio in The Town and Green Lantern."

The post also says Marion Cotillard tested for it and the synopsis now includes mention of repairs on Hubble and uses Cast Away as the relatable project. What's interesting about all this casting mayhem is that apparently much younger actresses were envisioned for the Bullock role and of varying statuses and because of the nature of the project, casting any of them would have put a different complexion on the end result with Cotillard indicating something even more art house, and Lively (really?) and Johansson skewing closer to Hollywood.

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010
Angelina Jolie Again Declines to Star in Alfonso Cuarón’s ‘Gravity’; Project Now in Jeopardy?
"Deadline says that after Jolie first said no, Warner Bros. and Alfonso Cuarón tested and met with a wide range of actresses including Sandra Bullock, Natalie Portman, Marion Cotillard, Naomi Watts, Carey Mulligan, Scarlett Johansson, Sienna Miller, Abbie Cornish, Rebecca Hall, Olivia Wilde, and Blake Lively. In other words: just about everyone of a certain age who has some sort of a widely recognizable name, and several who don’t."

See my comments for the previous post. The film would have been remarkably different in texture with each of these actresses in the central role. Note it's the first mention for Bullock. Was the film really in jeopardy or was that the /film writer's hyperbole? It is possible. Films can fall apart, even massive, big budget films, if a "star" isn't attached, but there's very few actresses on that list who could really sell the film in the way that Sandy has, bless her.

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010
Story Details Revealed in Script Review of Early Draft of Alfanso Cuarón’s ‘Gravity’
"The other criticism at this point, which goes along with the thin characterization of Ryan, is that the action is repetitive and unleavened by any humor. But if the technological ambition that is rumored for the film turns out to be true, this could still be a showstopper. And remember, again, that this draft is nearly a year old and considerable work has been done to the script since then. So don’t take many of these details as gospel, but rather as indicators of where the film could be going."

I hate these "script reviews", hate them, hate them, hate them. The script isn't the film and as we've seen now and as Thompson outlines in the post linked way above, the characterisation is purposefully full of grace notes because it's really not needed, we identify with both her and Clooney because they're playing versions of the kinds of characters they've always played in much the same way as used to happen in the Irwin Allen disaster films and actually in hyperlink films were there simply isn't the time for any great depth. The mention of a lack of humour's bemusing because actually there's plenty of humour, especially in the Clooney scenes, though often quite bittersweet.

Monday, September 6th, 2010
Natalie Portman Offered Alfonso Cuarón’s ‘Gravity’
"Now Risky Business has learned that Natalie Portman has been offered the role, as the studio approved the actress without requiring a screen test in the wake of the early Black Swan reviews. According to the report, Portman is expected to read the latest version of the script this week and make her decision shortly."

Risky Business is another blog by the way. Instead Black Swan was followed by the romcom No Strings Attached which was destroyed by the funnier on the same theme Friends With Benefits, the rubbish Your Highness (in which Portman seemed to be acting in a different film ala Emily Mortimer in Scream 3) and the Thors. Which just shows what film careers can be like. We'll return to that shortly.

Sunday, September 12th, 2010
Sandra Bullock is WB’s Latest Rumored Lead Choice for Alfonso Cuarón’s ‘Gravity’
"With the choice of lead role for Alfonso Cuarón‘s ‘Castaway in space’ film Gravity hinging to a great degree on a bankability index, it’s something of a surprise that Sandra Bullock‘s name didn’t come up as a serious first-pick choice until now. With Warner Bros. reportedly nervous about the idea of an $80m sci-fi film in which one actress is the only person on screen for much of the time, turning to Bullock seems like a no-brainer."

The gist of the post is that Cuaron wants Portman, but the WB wants Bullock. Assuming this is correct (and let's face it...) artistically it's the studio which is making the more creative choice. At this point, The Blind Side accepted, Bullock's career was in something of a quagmire, not financially as this Forbes piece demonstrates with numbers, but creatively having spent most of the noughties pre and post Crash appearing in slightly rubbishy and obvious romcoms, with the exception of Infamous which like Gravity showed what she's capable as an actress. A bankable star, but in Hollywood terms (and I'm not impressed with myself for pointing this out) an aging one. Portman for all her relative lack of bankability at this point seems like the more obvious choice for the film since she's played this sort of character before. Putting Bullock front and centre in a film like this is an astonishingly poignant and risky move and I think one of the reasons this may be a game changer and hopefully not a one off, is that it might make the studios more flexible when casting these kinds of somewhat riskier films both in terms of gender and age.

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010
Natalie Portman Now Negotiating For Lead in Alfonso Cuarón’s ‘Gravity’
"Cuarón reportedly wanted Portman thanks in large part to her work in Black Swan, and put the offer out to her for the picture in early September. Warner Bros. has been said to be nervous about the financial prospects of the film, which is budgeted at around $80m and features the lead actress alone on screen for most of the running time. The idea is that a marquee actress is needed to sell the film. Jolie is an obvious choice; with Portman on board, I wonder if Cuarón will be asked to reduce his budget, which has been discussed as a possible necessity. Robert Downey, Jr. co-stars in a smaller role."

See above. There's a narrative in development here by /film. Note Downey Jr is still attached.

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010
Natalie Portman No Longer Pulled By ‘Gravity,’ Next Up is Sandra Bullock
"The slam-dunk casting is Portman, no question — she could knock the picture out of the park. But I’d like to see what Bullock can do with it. That said, I’ll be only half surprised if she passes. When you’re in line behind actresses like Jolie and Portman, who’ve both passed, would it seem like a job you’d be eager to dive into? Then again, these decisions are made for many reasons, and we haven’t read the latest script draft, which has been said to fix a lot of old problems."

The narrative continues. But there can't be many paragraphs posted on film blogs containing that many qualifications. The dates are worth looking at. This story and pre-production process on the film has been in progress for over six months. Notice too the mention of script revisions.

Monday, October 25th, 2010
Could Alfonso Cuarón’s ‘Gravity’ Lose Robert Downey, Jr.?
"Mike Fleming at Deadline says he’s hearing that Mr. Downey will have to pull out of the film thanks to scheduling issues, and while he doesn’t say anything specific, that means Sherlock Holmes 2. Here’s the good news: both Sherlock and Gravity are Warner Bros. films, and the studio has every interest in working things out so that the actor can appear in both movies. Indeed, WB is telling Deadline that there really isn’t any problem, and that things will be sorted out."

The narrative shifts to the male lead. The general sense being presented in all these recent posts is that this is a project in jeopardy, that can't find the right cast.

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010
Robert Downey, Jr. Leaves the Cast of ‘Gravity,’ May Join ‘How to Talk to Girls’
"The last time we reported on Alfonso Cuarón‘s Gravity, which has had a hell of a time assembling a core cast, the production was reportedly in danger of losing Robert Downey, Jr. He had long been set to play a key supporting role in the film, even through the process where a series of actresses from Angelina Jolie to Natalie Portman and finally Sandra Bullock were courted for the lead."

There he goes. How different would the film have been with Downey Jr? I think Clooney brings a different energy and baggage to him, and increases the sense of this being a companion piece to Soderbergh's Solaris in some ways. But you could imagine Downey Jr in that role perfectly well. Anyway at this point, Gravity now lacks its entire cast. Apparently.

Thursday, December 16th, 2010
George Clooney Replaces Robert Downey, Jr. in Alfonso Cuarón’s ‘Gravity’
"The cast for Alfonso Cuarón‘s 3D sci-fi space film Gravity has finally come down to Earth. After months of shuffling both the male and female leads, it seems that George Clooney will star opposite Sandra Bullock, replacing Robert Downey, Jr., who dropped out not long ago."

Woosh, here we are. After nearly a year, Gravity now starts looking like the film we're all watching.

Monday, April 18th, 2011
Producer Says Alfonso Cuarón‘s ‘Gravity’ Shoots in May, Will Be Post-Converted to 3D
"Collider (via The Playlist) talked to Mr. Heyman at CinemaCon, and he said that the film “starts at the end of May,” as he waxed very enthusiastic about Mr. Cuarón’s directorial abilities. (“The whole film has been pre-vised and figured out, it’s fuckin’ awesome. I mean, unlike anything you’ve seen in space. It’s just great. He’s a privilege to work with—he’s a real visionary.”) And it sounds like this is going to be a technological leap forward from Children of Men"

And how. This is all standard working procedure on film blogs as the narrative shifts again from the cast to production details. The 3D is a bit of a grey area in relation to Gravity since much of the films is CG and so was probably animated in 3D anyway.

Monday, August 15th, 2011
Guillermo Del Toro Calls Alfonso Cuarón’s ‘Gravity’ “Completely Mind-Blowing”
"What is incredible about what they did is, they talked to David Fincher, they talked to Jim Cameron, I connected Jim and Alfonso for that. And what Alfonso is trying, is so insane. And Jim said, well, look, you’re about five years into the future…it’s too early to try anything that crazy. And they did it!"

This is another fairly typical post. Indication of what a film might be like offered by guy we like. But it's two years before the film's release and already we have indications that it's going to be something special.

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011
Russ Fischer’s 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2012
"We seem to be hitting a point where studios and financiers are willing to gamble on original sci-fi properties, so long as there is some commercial hook. This list has three films that might not have been made at a different nexus point, but we’re lucky enough to get at least three in ’12 and a fourth, Elysium, in ’13. The hook here is that Children of Men director Alfonso Cuarón is creating a film that is nearly a one-woman show in which Sandra Bullock has to navigate her way to safety after an orbital mission goes wrong. His methodology seems to be an expansion of the approach that led to the long takes and famous car shot from Children of Men. Gravity may end up looking like it is built from only a handful of very long takes. Even without that element of technical spectacle, Cuarón is an impressive director, and after six long years I’m happy he’s back."

Bit early. He also has Only God Forgives on the list which also didn't get a release until this year. He put Gravity way below Prometheus and Looper. In a word, heh.

Tuesday, January 3rd
Part of Alfonso Cuaron’s Approach to Capturing ‘Gravity’ Was “No Makeup”
"God help us all when my face comes rushing at you with no makeup on. I’m going to apologize now, but Alfonso, in a brilliant move, said, ‘No makeup.’"

Eight paragraphs built around a single quote. I'm not sure I noticed though it's fair to say that the film pleasingly allows Bullock to show her age. She still looks amazing. Just as she always has. I'll stop gushing now.

Friday, May 4th, 2012
Early Buzz: Reactions from the First Test Screening for Alfonso Cuarón’s ‘Gravity’
"This week in Pasadena, Gravity had its first test screening, and while the cut was apparently very rough, audiences saw enough to form some strong opinions about it. From here, it sounds like it could be this year’s Tree of Life — gorgeous, innovative, worthy of acclaim, and perhaps a little divisive. Hit the jump to see some reactions."

Notice the date. That's nearly eighteen months ago and it was already being test screened and in a very early form. The reports are mixed and that hasn't changed. Most of the commentary I've seen, not unlike Inception and There Will Be Blood actually, is mixed between those who think it is a game changer and people who've missed the point. This highlighted AICN post in particular is bang on: "This is like if Avatar had been released in 1927 a week after The Jazz Singer." Yep, pretty much.

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012
Alfonso Cuaron’s ‘Gravity’ Pushed To 2013
"One of the most anticipated films of 2012 has officially been delayed. Alfonso Cuaron‘s Gravity, originally set for release in November, has been moved to a not-yet-specified date in 2013. The film, which stars George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, recently began test screening and it’s safe to assume Cuaron and the Warner Bros. executives felt it needed a bit more time to reach its full potential. The sci-fi thriller is said to be very effects heavy."

Not unsurprising given what we've read so far and the result. The tone here is very good. Usually on film blogs when a film slips its usually seen as a bad sign and given the narrative to this point you wouldn't be surprised if /Film added it to their jeopardy narrative. But based on comments of Del Torro and the test audiences they've shifted their stance into supporting the film and so have decided that the slippage is for post-production reasons. Given all of this, do we really thing Star Trek VII which is sure to be just as effects heavy and is still casting will be ready for the end of 2015?!?

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012
Alfonso Cuarón’s ‘Gravity’ Near Completion? MPAA Hands Sci-Fi Thriller PG-13 Rating
"Had all gone according to plan for Alfonso Cuarón‘s Gravity, we’d be eagerly talking up its Oscar potential in anticipation of its release next month. However, Cuarón’s effects-heavy sci-fi epic apparently needed a bit more time to come together than had originally been projected. In May, Warner Bros. announced it’d be pushing back the release to an unspecified date in 2013. The open-ended nature of the announcement naturally had some movie lovers fearing production woes and wondering when we’d finally get to see the finished product."

Six months later and ... was it ready then?

Monday, December 31st, 2012
Angie’s 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2013
"Gritty and grim but deeply humane, Alfonso Cuarón‘s Children of Men was one of the most potent sci-fi films to hit in recent years. Advance buzz indicates that Gravity may be even more brilliant, with a career high performance for Sandra Bullock. Perhaps it won’t be for everyone, but Cuarón’s ambition will make this worth checking out even if it’s less than perfect. Had I made a most-anticipated list last year, Gravity would’ve been on it. But Cuarón decided he needed a little extra time to get it right, so instead it’s one of 2013′s most exciting contenders. (Release TBD)"

She puts it at number three behind Joss Whedon's Much Ado and Before Midnight. The list also included Bullock's other 2013 film The Heat (really?) and a Untitled Diablo Cody Project which I don't think has had a release yet.

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
Alfonso Cuaron’s ‘Gravity’ Will Take Flight In October
"Alfonso Cuaron‘s latest, Gravity, is back on the map. After having a 2012 release date and then being pushed into this year, Warner Bros. has now dated the George Clooney/Sandra Bullock sci-fi thriller for October 4. It’ll open against Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith 3D, Harrison Ford and Liam Hemsworth in Paranoia and Vince Vaughn’s latest, The Delivery Man."

The US October date was accurate in the end though none of the rest of that sentence is. Everything slipped or in the case of Star Wars 3D cancelled. By that point the forward word on Gravity was too big for it have anything other than some counter programming opposite it. It's about the only film released in the UK this week.

At which point we're in the recent past and I'll break off again. The narrative from there is pretty well known, the well received test screening in Venice and then one of the best film trailers ever produced.  Reading back through these Slashfilm posts can we say if the film was ever really in jeopardy?  Don't know.  But if nothing else it underscores what William Goldman says: "No one knows anything."

If in 2010 someone had said that a sci-fi action adventure film starring Sandra Bullock would turn out to be one of the greatest films ever made let alone of 2013, would anyone have believed them?

[Updated 13/11/2013  Kristin's uploaded her second post about Gravity which covers how the film was made and its visual structure.]

"I don't take the TARDIS into battle."

TV Find above the trailer for Doctor Who's The Day of the Doctor which was released with the usual butterfingered stealth that much of the pre-publicity for the 50th has been dealt with (thanks BBC Spain!). There must have been a moment this morning when someone at BBC PR, who had otherwise been building up to the presentation before Atlantis on television, simply shrugged their shoulders and said, "Fuck it, they've all seen it anyway, just post the damn thing."

Anyway, what have they got for us this time?  Generally the vibe reminds me of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, the moment when a franchise decides to show its fans something which has otherwise existed in their head, in both cases a massive war in the heavens.  Except of course, as Doctor Who fans, we know it's most likely going to be in The Clones Wars range of amazing rather than The Phantom Menace.  Don't we?  Despite the Gallifreyan wastelands?

Perhaps this trailer's showing is practically nothing about the episode and all of that stuff is in the pre-title sequence with some typically foreboding voice over (in other words what's in the trailer) ala The Lord of the Rings or Doomsday.  Clara says, "Who was that man?" "He was me." "He was the Doctor?" "No.  He was something else." "But I thought you said he was you." "Let me explain..." Cut to Hurt wandering out of the TARDIS and recreating the opening shot from Star Trek V (not really).

It's Hurt's identity which is the real draw.  He's the Doctor and yet he's not.  Is he some ancient version of the Eighth Doctor or a new Ninth Doctor making Eccleston the Tenth?  8.5?  Does he not count in the numbering because afterwards the Doctor refuses to call himself with that face the Doctor?  Why is he wearing Fitz's old jacket over the Eighth Doctor waistcoat?  Or Destrii's assuming it's not the same garment?  If nothing else, the spin-off media's going to have fun with it going forward.

We're also presumably supposed to assume that the "moment" is the one referred to by Rassilon in The End of Time and that's the big red crystal and whatever it is Rose is talking about.  The IDW comics in the US have run with filling in the gaps in exactly what the "moment" pinning the whole thing on the Eighth Doctor which is interesting given that they were all signed off on by Cardiff, though if Moffat wants to he's unlikely to be bothered with what's happening in the comics.

Buzzfeed has its expected listical with some helpful stills including the one of Rose going "Bad Wolf".  When is this set within Tenth and Rose's time stream and isn't this the first time what is effectively a past Doctor story has occurred on-screen (The Five Doctors and Time Crash accepted)?  I really hope it isn't the human 10th - it would seem inauthentic to me.  But Billie's been done up to look younger so it seems like it must be some time during season two.  The cavern of chronological mystery around Love & Monsters seems like a good bet.