The Return of Frannie Hughes.

TV In 2010, US daytime soap opera As The World Turns fell off the air after over fifty years of continuous broadcasting (begun in 1956). Across the years it included some notable actors including in 1986 a young Julianne Moore who played the daughter of a couple of the characters who were still on the show when it ended. Well, bless her, she turned up for its closing stages to wish the whole thing a bon voyage. See above. It's all rather jolly. Below find her original appearance when she was a jobbing cast member:

Leland Chee has wasted his life.

Film The Star Wars EU is dead. Long live the EU. As I sort of suggested they should and as I suppose was expected, as of today's announcement LucasDisney have effectively dumped the old expanded universe as a continuity and the new films won't be beholden to the bloated inaccessible mess the post-Jedi continuity had become.  Except it's not that clear cut, sadly. As this video and the ensuing new publication announcement annunciates, the EU will still be used as a massive resource of ideas which creates a bit of a grey area for fans presumably.  Would have been better to start again.  Instead they're still utilising odds and sods created for role playing games in the 1980s as back story for new cartoons and the like so there'll still be the nagging feeling that this or that old publication "counts".  This'll become clearer moving forward, I guess, as the new story group, which to be fair includes Chee so he's being kept around at least, and his holocron.  Either way, Chewbacca's alive, Boba Fett's dead again and ebay's about to be flooded with fictions rendered utterly pointless.  Oh and updating the Wookiepedia's going to become a pain in the arse for a whole bunch of people.

The Films I've Watched This Year #15

Film Evening. Another short list this week because I spent Sunday night in the company of that disappointing All About TWO panel game and did some more of the clearing out which has been a theme this year finding amongst other things a game of Travel Trivial Pursuit with current affairs questions which look like they were written in the eighties. One of the film questions was about Against All Odds. Anyway, here's this week's slightly mixed bag.

In Your Eyes
About Time
The Limey
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
Erin Brockovich
Computer Chess

About Time is rubbish. It's another evilly patriarchal, emotionally manipulative yet beautifully acted blamange from Richard Curtis which makes no internal sense.  Ryan Gilbey expands on its many problems in this old New Statesman article but what it boils down to is that like Love Actually and The Boat That Rocked, it's another example of Curtis creating powerful male protagonists and putting them in a position where they can manipulate women.  For laughs.  The commenters on that article note that in the most problematic scene Rachel McAdams consents to sex the first time.  Would she be quite as happy if she'd been made aware that he was effectively winding back time so he could repeatedly have sex with her?  Doesn't that lack of awareness put the consent issue on dodgy ground?  How is this any different to say, Owen and his pheromone spray in Torchwood which was widely regarded as being immensely rapey about two seconds after it was broadcast and which generally ruined our perception of that character going forward?

The second half of this film should be about Rachel McAdams's character dealing with the fact that her husband has essentially been controlling her life, rewriting it for his own ends, crafting it so that she falls in love with him because he's gotten rid of all the other men she could potentially have relationships with.  That he's a god-like monster, changing the past of others (including his opponents in court cases) and bending them to his will and we're supposed to support him for it.  He's Paul Dano's character in Zoe Kazan's Ruby Sparks but in this case we're supposed to be cheering him on.  The final message of the film should be that the protagonist should stop using time travel because he doesn't have the right not because the world's already a glorious and amazingly sunny place without it.  Please understand, I went into this with high hopes.  I love Rachel McAdams but the way she and her character are treated in this is "criminal".

Unfairly considering what an awful, awful, awful rotten piece of work this is, I'm entering a third paragraph to note how the time travel also doesn't make any sense to the point that either Richard Curtis assumes we're all morons or doesn't understand it himself.  Within about fifteen minutes I was shouting at the screen and try as I might to take a Bruce Willis in Looper or Tenth Doctor in Blink approach to the thing, when it's the driving force behind the story, the thing which knits everything together, it's impossible.  None of which is to say I didn't cry.  Like the Emma Thompson scene in Love Actually, you're put in a position where its near impossible not to because of the performances, the writing of scenes on an individual level and the music.  Curtis is a powerful writer/director as Vincent and the Doctor demonstrates.  It's just a pity his grasp on romance and gender dynamics is so shocking.

Right then, onward and in direct contrast, In Your Eyes. The reviews for this Joss Whedon written and executive produced piece have been a bit mixed, but it's noticeable that more negative reviews have been of the rather mean spirited variety and written without much in the way of minimal research, content to make flip jokes about Whedon knocking the screenplay together between Avengers films, the extent to which Brin Hill directed the thing and the "CGI" or noting "plot holes" about the lack of cell pones and the like.  If any of them had read a publicity interview or three they'd know that Whedon originally wrote the screenplay in 1992, that the film is actually set in that year nullifying a vast array of the so-called "plot holes", that this is as much Hill's film as Whedon's and that given the tiny budget this was made on, the CGI is as good as it needs to be.

As you might expect I adored In You Eyes to bits.  Apart from the astonishing central performances from Michael-Stahl David and especially the aforementioned Kazan who manage to convince us of their onscreen chemistry despite not being in the same frame, the premise, of a kind empathic, telepathy is intriguing and well explored.  The script, is funny and sharp and filled whole new Whedonisms (which I won't quote here because I don't want to spoil them) and it's also a great looking film in many respects.  I've seen criticism of the aesthetic that it looks like a tv movie and while that's true, it does sometimes look like an ABC Family Movie or a Hallmark piece and in Kazan's husband has a character as one dimensional as might appear in them, my impression is that like Todd Haynes's Far From Heaven or Soderbergh's The Good German, it's using a chosen format in order to enunciate themes and smuggle content which would not normally appear.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is what it is.  It's the cheaper seeming sequel to an original film (oddly because this apparently cost £90m to the first film's £95m) with television actors in for film stars, Anthony Stewart Head replacing Pierce Brosnan in the horse legs, Nathan Fillion for Steve Coogan (it's a real Whedonfest) (there's even a Firefly joke) with Stanley Tucci turning up to bring some of The Hunger Games glamour.  The scale is markedly reduced with a simpler quest which covers less territory and smaller array of mythical beasts and gods, but I still enjoyed spending time with the cast and characters even if some of the randier material which made the first film more distinctive has also been removed.  A third installment is apparently in production for next year and actually I'm glad about that not least because of the cliffhanger ending. 

Watching all of Steven Soderbergh's films in order brings me to The Limey, which this blog has previous with having expositioned on the dvd's audio commentary almost exactly ten years ago.  He recently said of the experience: "I’m glad I got to work with Lem again on Haywire, because that’s a fairly typical exchange for us. It’s not anger—he’s more incredulous than he is angry. I enjoy those conversations, because he’s very bright, he’s seen everything, and he has a strong point of view."  In career terms, it helped to solidify what would become his expected approach, of hand held cameras, pointed jump cutting within dialogue scenes but retaining old school elements like establishing shots.  That it's a masterpiece goes without saying but it's also worth noting that there's there's no flab.  It manages to tell its thematically rich story in 85 mins minus credits.

What's remarkable and generally forgotten about Erin Brockovich is that it's a studio film.  There's a version of this material with the same cast which could have been directed by someone like Mike Newell or Gary Fleder with their steadycams and Christopher Young scores but which become entirely dated.  Soderbergh instead directs it like an indie film, in much the same way as everything since Schizopolis and ends up with something which looks like it could have been directed last week, let along thirteen years ago, except that this wouldn't have been greenlit now, they probably would have told him to go and make a documentary for Netflix instead.  There's only really one unintentionally funny moment that looks like it would be in the other version, when Aaron Eckhart's looks mournfully at the biker's driving off into the distance while he's looking after Erin's kids.  What were they thinking?

A Fish.

Art TARDIS caretaker manager Peter Capaldi (keeping the console warm until Romola takes over), wearing something akin to the Doctor's new costume, introduces the surrealists on behalf of the Tate. Watch for the explanation of what surrealism is. Doesn't that sound something like this?

Arcangel Grabs Warhol.

Art Cory Arcangel, whose work was major hit at the Liverpool Biennial last decade has helped to recover long lost art work created by Andy Warhol on the Commodore Amiga:
"The idea to salvage those works occurred to Brooklyn, N.Y.–based artist and Warhol devotee Cory Arcangel after watching a YouTube clip in which a young Warhol is seen promoting the release of Commodore International’s Amiga 1000 computer. In the video, the artist’s platinum locks graze his neon pink-rimmed eyeglasses while his hand expertly guides the mouse over a nondescript pad. Within minutes, Debbie Harry’s face appears on the screen."
Does anyone remember a BBC early evening programme from the eighties in which artists used Quantel paintbox to create work? For a quick reminder, here's Tom narrating a commercial for the thing in the 90s:

Tom's in amazingly good mood on this isn't he? Doesn't sound like a fucking disc jockey at all or any other kind of shit. This is definitely more like magic or dreams.  Sorry, I strayed off the point a bit.

"If Lego made Doctor Who Lego, then all Lego becomes Doctor Who Lego."

Toys I've just phoned Lego. It was as you might expect an awesome experience. I mostly phoned Lego because I didn't want to have to try and fit the following into the comments box on the website and also to make sure that another person heard and to hear their reaction. Their reaction was that they thought it was a really innovative idea they'd not heard from anyone else. First of all I asked, "Have you heard of the television series Doctor Who?" He said that he had. Well of course he had. It's 2013 not 1994. Anyway, this is what I said next:

"If Lego made Doctor Who Lego, then all Lego becomes Doctor Who Lego."

There was an audible pause. I wasn't sure if he was rolling his eyes, because let's face it there's an adult speaking to him about Doctor Who Lego, so I pressed on.

As I explained to him in slightly less detail than here because I was nervous, the Doctor travels through time and space which means that all of the different gift sets which Lego makes, which I assume still includes things like pirate ships, medieval castles, space ships and garages all become potential places for a little lego TARDIS with whatever incarnation of Doctor Who and his companion could land. Add a monster and you now have a Doctor Who adventure, assuming you're not going for the pure historical vibe.

You could recreate actual episodes. The pirate ship suggests Curse of the Black Spot. Dinosaurs offers Invasion of the Dinosaurs. A moonbase suggests The Moonbase. You could also have the Doctor aiding and abetting Batman or Spiderman or Luke Skywalker for crossover fun.

Or make up your own.

From a Lego merchandising point of view, my suggestion was that you wouldn't need to rebrand existing sets. You could simply bundle a Doctor Who set with one of the above. But kids would get it. Sets which might otherwise seem a bit stale now become landscapes for the Doctor to have adventures and also an opportunity for Lego to bring back sets which have otherwise gone out of print.

But you could and would of course produce sets which are specifically Doctor Who based, Dalek ships, console room interiors and The Valiant all of which could be populated with existing figures.  Need Dalek victims?  You can already buy them from Lego in their hundreds.

Also, I pressed on, how about in Lego shops in the section where people can design their own?  People could make a little Lego version of themselves or friends then add them to an empty section in a Doctor Who gift set where the companion should be. They could give the gift of adventures in time and space.

Which is when he said the thing about it being innovative. He also said regretfully that he couldn't simply send the idea to the design team, but that he'd log the comment and that it might be read at some point.

Just to make sure that it's out there, I've posted it here too.

Updated 5/10/2015 It's happened, it's really happening. TARDIS playset out 1st December 2015. Wayhay.

The Feeling Listless Soundtrack 1.0:
Feeling Nothing.

Written by Joey Lauren Adams
[Chasing Amy soundtrack unavailable]

Music ...

[Commentary: If that seems remarkably short, it's because I'm censoring myself. These four paragraphs really shouldn't be anywhere on the public internet in the same way that you wouldn't publish private correspondence. Which is odd because this was originally posted on the blog in its earliest days when no one was reading and I was still coming to terms with what was acceptable to publish and when publishing what amounted to private correspondence was still acceptable because no one was reading. On the upside for you, Joey Lauren Adams in her magnum opus as a performer.]

Forty-five Hamlets.

Yesterday for Shakespeare's birthday, The Guardian published forty-five images of Hamlet from various productions.

Which was essentially an opportunity for me to say, "Seen that. Seen that. Haven't seen that. Haven't seen that. Not old enough. Seen that. Seen that."

Michael Billington also offered his suggestions for the best of each the decades in his career.

I still maintain my favourite's been Natalie Quatermass.

Shakespeare at the British Pathe Archive: Happy Birthday!

Today would have been Shakespeare's 450th birthday, so to celebrate let's delve again into the Pathe archive to see how it was marked in earlier years. Essentially it's a history of the traditional tour around Stratford.

We begin in 1920. You'll notice as we continue through these that Stratford doesn't much change across the century.

Our first proper glimpse of the flag raising ceremony in 1930. Sixty-four nations at this point.

In 1936, the birthday was relegated to few shots in the News in a Nutshell montages. Same as 1935.

In 1938 at the dawn of the Second World War. Merriment in general though a key country has been removed from the flagpoles.

A reigning monarch's first visit to Stratford apparently. Includes tour of birthplace and shots inside the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre of a Julius Caesar rehearsal and greeting Anthony Quayle in costume as Henry VIII.

The annual tradition continues in 1957, now in full colour.

It's 1964, the 400th birthday and here we're in in Techniscope and Technicolor. What looks like the opening of The Shakespeare Centre up the road from the birthplace. The Duke of Edinburgh is there. Frustratingly it looks like its been transferred at the wrong speed obliterating the sound.

Oh, hold on, here's the same thing in black white with sound.

Liverpool in the British Pathe Archive:
Sefton Park.

Life Let's go hyperlocal now  and search in the archive for my general area in Sefton Park, Liverpool offering a short history of the review field which is now the home of the festivals and over the Easter weekend, Billy Smart's Circus.

"Item title reads - Liverpool "Terriers" reviewed by RUSHTON, A. LORD MAYOR OF LIVERPOOL And MAJOR GENERAL H. DE PREE. Sefton Park. Merseyside."

"Liverpool: WS. Lord Derby, Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire representing the King takes the salute at the Review Field in Sefton Park WS. Pan across dignitaries and officers saluting. WS. troops marching past. LS. Detachment of the Mersey division of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve passing the Lord Mayor with shouldered rifles. MS. The lighting of a beacon on top of Moseley hill. WS. Beacon burning brightly. WS. Beacon burning."

Opens with a policeman's parade.

In Your Eyes. The future of film?

In Your Eyes from Bellwether Pictures on Vimeo.

Film  Find above an embed for the In Your Eyes which as you can see was written and executive produced by Joss Whedon and directed by Brin Hill.  I'll talk some more about it in the proper time and place, but will offer the spoiler that it's easily in my top five films of the years so far.  Which does rather mean I have to have a top five now.  Um, in no particular order then:

In Your Eyes
Captain America: Winter Soldier
Safety Not Guaranteed 
Stories We Tell
The Broken Circle Breakdown

Maybe?  Dunno.  Given the fact that I've only been to the cinema once this year and I'm not sure what "counts" I expect that's it.  Oh well anyway, the point is that given the variety of films I have seen so far, this is the little one that could and does a lot.

It's was also another one of those surprise releases which are becoming common amongst artists with a following.  Though I'd been following its production somewhat on Whedonesque, I had little idea that it was going to be released this weekend and mores to the point that I'd be able to watch it on the release date.

The process was astonishingly simple.  Visited the Vimeo website, paid via Paypal, the film was added to my "Watch Later" list then streamed it through Vimeo's app on my Roku 3 box.  This service is available worldwide.  No messing about with timezones, no worry about region coding, none of that.  Just sent them the $5/£3.06 and there it was in HD.

Of course without an app in a streaming device and enough bandwidth (eg) me at this point last year, the whole thing would have been impossible and I would have been willing for a dvd release to come soon.  But nevertheless, the ease of this process makes this feel like another paradigm shift, especially since this hasn't seen a cinema yet.

Will it see a cinema?  Dunno.  The point I suppose it whether it needs to.  Like A Field In England and the various Soderbergh experiments before it, we're in the experimental territory what constitutes a film's release.  Unlike those, this is just a pay-per-view release but with the ability to embed the thing, to share its existence, it feels different.

I care.

Film Well, not really, but this whole thing is a getting a bit interesting. In previous posts (here and here) I've discussed exactly what the Expanded Universe has to do with the upcoming new Star Wars films the extent to which the two will intrude on one another. Looks like we have our answer. In an interview with IGN, Star Wars spinoff film consultant and Rebels executive producer Simon Kinberg said this:

"I know for the movies, the canon is the canon and the canon is the six films that exist."

So there you have it. In making the sequels, the EU's being ignored. No Mitth'raw'nuruodo, no Skywalker kids, or at least not the Skywalker kids from the novels and Chewbacca lives. Well, good.  Of course, this also means no Mara Jade and Boba Fett's still a clone, which is bad.  But in terms of not feeling the need to adhere to the late night fevered whims of a spin-off author trying to meet a deadline in attempting to construct a decent screenplay, good, good.

The New Yorker's Relics.

Shellshocked. That's the only reaction one can draw from receiving a PR email from the venerable The New Yorker magazine about the Shakespeare related article in the new issue. Since this is a momentous occasion, at least for me, find below the guts of the press release as it appeared in the email:

Why Do We Still Search for Relics of The Bard?

In “The Poet’s Hand” (p. 40), Adam Gopnik explores scholars’ painstaking efforts to discover authentic vestiges of William Shakespeare’s life and work, and the doubt that often surrounds their findings. What drives people to search for bits and pieces of Shakespeareana four hundred and fifty years after his birth? Gopnik met with two Manhattan rare-book dealers, George Koppelman and Daniel Wechsler, who are convinced that a heavily annotated sixteenth-century quadrilingual dictionary they purchased on eBay once belonged to Shakespeare. “They believe that he kept it on his desk and scribbled in its margins, learned French by turning its pages, and was inspired to poetic flights by delving among its Latin synonyms,” Gopnik writes. Some of the connections that Koppelman and Wechsler have espied between the dictionary and the Bard—they are self-publishing their findings this month—“seem a little far-fetched,” Gopnik writes. But some of them “are genuinely arresting.” One counter-argument: the handwriting, Gopnik notes, “just doesn’t look like Shakespeare’s.” Additionally, “there is what might be called the argument from Inherent Improbability: it seems fantastically lucky that, of all the thousands of possible annotators of a single dictionary of the time, it would be the one in the world you would most want to be the guy,” Gopnik writes. “We live in an Elizabethan world of our own reductive devising, populated by the Queen and Ben Jonson and the Dark Lady and the Bard and a theatre full of groundlings.” Gopnik continues: “But the real Elizabethan world had a lot more people in it than that, and countless more possible . . . annotators [of the dictionary].” Shakespeare is a prime candidate “only because we don’t know the names of all the other bird-loving, inquisitive readers who also liked their dabchicks and their French verbs.” Gopnik spoke with Daniel Fischlin, a scholar at Canada’s Guelph University, who has spent years researching the “Sanders portrait,” a painting he believes to be “the best mirror left of Shakespeare’s face.” Though the portrait is dated “1603,” and, Fischlin claims, it can be traced to Shakespeare’s London neighborhood, the portrait does not immediately seem to resemble the one verified image of the poet. David Scott Kastan, a professor of Shakespeare studies at Yale, tells Gopnik that enthusiasts are “trying to get close to this most wonderful and mysterious of authors, this most mysterious genius—what has he touched?” The truth, according to Kastan, “is that it doesn’t change one thing about what we think about Shakespeare or why we love him or why we value him.” He continues, “It’s easy to be glib and dismissive of Bardolotry, but that’s how we all got here, in some way.”

Doctor Who in the British Pathe Archive:
Jon Pertwee.

TV There's nothing I could find for Patrick, so it's straight on to Jon.

Not the last time Pertwee will wear a coat like that. Or a Doctor would have a scarf like that.

Blink and you'll miss a waistcoated Pertwee early in this clip, but he reappears later comparing styles with Michael Pertwee and Jean Marsh.

A year later, here they are again in colour attending a fashion show for women's waistcoats. "This is something new. Geraldine Smith wears an embroidered waistcoat for the beach." Bonus appearance for cinema's Dr Who, Peter Cushing.

"A films stars gala organised by the Variety Club of Great Britain in aid of children's charities." "Jean Marsh, Jon Pertwee, Jean Kent and Tony Wright are feeling energetic."

The premiere for Woman in a Dressing Gown. "Jon Pertwee chats with Liliane Sottane."

Another variety club event, this time at Battersea. "Panning shot of Jon Pertwee and Eunice Gayson riding on round-about on the same horse."

Billy Smart lights Jon's cigarette while he's dressed as a cowboy. A cornucopia of 50s talent in aid of charity (Bygraves, Baker, Butlin and Cooper).

Premiere of Hancock's The Rebel. "Freddie Mills and Jon Pertwee"

Back in the big top. "Actor Jon Pertwee encouraging baby elephant to stick its trunk into a drink."

With the Carry On gang at Christmas in Petticoat Lane.

Back to Battersea for the eleventh year. The modern equivalent of this would probably be the London Film Memorabilia Convention or some such. Charles Hawtrey feeds Jon a cream cake. Jon's unimpressed.

Years before it became Compo's signature mode of transport, Jon tries his hand at driving a tin bath.

More nauticalia. Jon attends the Boat Show at Earls Court and has his eye on 'A Speranziella', the winner of the 1963 off-shore power boat race.

Silver anniversary of the Children's Film Foundation and the premiere of Lionheart. Jon's here with his two daughters and "Mrs Pertwee". He looks like he's just on the edge of becoming the Time Lord (assuming film wasn't already under way...)  As for Doctor actors, this as far as the Pathe Archive stretches.

Doctor Who in the British Pathe Archive:
William Hartnell.

TV Some silent footage of the First Doctor actor in a script conference with Stanley Holloway, Griffiths Jones and Clifford Evans, though I can't work out which film (the IMDb suggests nothing).

Billy also turns up briefly in this earlier footage of a garden party, shot in a way which makes him look like he's on a see-saw. Or in Mean Streets.

It's the 1947 British Film Festival and here he is with Joyce Howard, his co-star in Appointment With Crime.

He's in here too having a rather intense conversation with Richard Attenborough. They co-starred in The Lost People.

"The play was chippy all the way through."

Sport On this day 28 years ago, the Montreal Canadiens fought the Quebec Nordiques in the National Hockey League. Literally fought. At a certain point in what might have been a routine ice hockey match, the whole notion of wanting to get the puck into the goal became secondary to personality clashes and punches.

Andrew Cohen of The Atlantic remembers:
"It has been called the Good Friday Massacre, the Battle of Quebec and Le Bataille du Vendredi saint. Having watched thousands of games before and since, it is one of the three or four I will never forget. The teams started fighting in earnest just seconds into the game. The play was chippy all the way through. As the second period ended a brawl broke out, worse than anything the NHL has seen since. Then, to make matters worse, the referees allowed some of the angry, ejected players to return to the ice for third period, at which point an even more brutal series of fights occurred."

Doctor Who in the British Pathe Archive:

TV Happy Easter! After last night's Yeti revelation, here's the handiwork of one Victor Sherlock of Horsham, West Sussex, his "remote control" Dalek.

"John Aubury, of the Lancaster College of Technology, designed a radio-controlled robot that is used to sell rag magazines. M/S of a dalek-style robot on a busy shopping street. A young man walks past and stops to buy a magazine. He takes one from a panel in the side of the robot. A money pot hangs from the end of the dalek's radar gun, the man drops some change into it."

The search results for the pepperpots also include this which becomes slightly less worrying when you realise that Pathe have mislabelled it and it's actually the building of the Bank of Manhattan building, so no Dalekanium required.