The Torchwood Problem.

Film You will have seen the Latino Review piece about why Edgar Wright left Ant-Man. Go read it now, if you haven't.

Here's my random speculation. It's the Torchwood problem.

Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish are working on the film within the MARVEL Universe and with the aid of Kevin Feige, who's said that he's only still making the thing because of Wright.

The film is tonally of a piece with Wright's other work and because of the vision Feige has for the MARVEL Universe, that it should be able to encompass all kinds of genres and tones it's continued to be a go project.

Anomalous in relation to everything else because it began development before Iron Man, but like Guardians of the Galaxy, a way for MARVEL to say that they're willing to experiment happy that it'll attract a smaller audience.

Except, this is Disney. Disney who for all their experiments with Miramax and Touchstone, have their own particular vision for the kinds of films they want to make and they're at most PG-13.  Is Ant Man R-rated?

Plus Captain America: The Winter Soldier happens in the meantime and now Disney expect all of MARVEL's films to have massive blockbuster openings.

In other words, Disney expect MARVEL to produce films which attract something in the region of Doctor Who's wide demographic, Wright was offering them Torchwood and while the BBC are quite happy to be in that business, Disney isn't.

So essentially some higher-up, a Disney exec, overrules Feige (though it's also possible there's a contractual mandate), says they want something called Ant Man to be skew younger than Wright and Cornish's script and be more connected to the other MARVEL universe films and with greater scale.

A rewrite is ordered.

Wright keeps faith because he's been on the thing for over a decade and perhaps there's the promise that if it doesn't work out, they'll revert to the script which was the reason for the given cast and start dates and everything that's already been announced.

Script comes back and it's terrible, or at least it's not what Wright had signed up on to make which is something of mature quality, whereas this is family friendly. But if he wants to stay on the project, he's stuck with it.

So he can either walk or spend the next two years working on something in which he's essentially become a director for hire on a project he initiated.

He walks and probably good for him.

Two things. At least.

(1) The general sense until now has been that like Who in the Davies era, the MCU was being designed to encompass a range of different types of programmes and films for different audiences.  Could we indeed be seeing the first signs of Disney now wanting to increase the homogeneity?  That might explain why the Black Widow film suddenly seems like a shaky proposition.  To be done properly it has to be R-rated.

(2) Joss's still perplexing tweet and now James Gunn's obviscating statement. If, as it seems, he's showing solidarity for Wright, what are the implications?  That the directors within this verse are starting to feel even less in control of their own projects?

In other news, Drew Goddard's walked from the Netflix Daredevil. Again, this could be a Torchwood problem, but it could equally just be his commitment to the Sinister Six. Whedon alumni Steven S. DeKnight has taken over and the transition seems pretty clean. As Jeffrey Stepakoff's memoir, Billion Dollar Kiss: The Kiss That Saved Dawson’s Creek and Other Adventures in TV Writing describes, shows change showrunners all the time for different reasons but if this is also due to some Disney exec muscling in on MARVEL's model and like the WB way back when attempting to micro-manage go projects so they fit a particular tone then battlelines are going to be drawn and there will be casualties.


Film I really have to go to work now, but what does one make of this?

Is Edgar Wright back? Is Joss showing solidarity for a fellow director in the MARVEL machine and does that mean that none of them really have any control? Could Joss put his foot down? It's classic Joss really, though of course you can't really disregard the possibility that it's part of MARVEL's process of keeping the fans on side.

"dabbled with Christianity"

Religion When I was at school I dabbled with Christianity, the born-again, singing dancing sort of Christianity which involved attending bible study, scripture union meetings and prayer gatherings. I even took lunchtime minibus trips to Garston market to watch preachers offering the word to shoppers, wearing a pullover to hide my school uniform. But I never did "convert" because in the end none of it seemed entirely real to me, it was the start of my genuine adherence to the Groucho Marx rule and I had other things on my mind being in my teens and all of that.

At this point I'm not really anything but I do remember the odd couple of weeks when I was closest to converting but never did (it was the not converting which ultimately led me to toss in the whole thing because these were kinds of Christians who really didn't seem to like you hanging about with them unless you were a Christian yourself which seemed a bit inconsistent and counterproductive) and so still have an affinity for this Buzzfeed correspondent who talks about her falling out with religion but also how she sort of misses the feeling of having everything explained to her:
"I know — I think — that Christianity isn’t real, but I miss believing it was real. When I got confused in my career, or hurt by a broken relationship, fellow Christians assured me that it was all part of God’s plan to lead me to the right calling or the right person, something that made me calmer and more willing to take risks. Now when things don’t go the way I want, I cling to a vague “everything happens for a reason” sentiment or confront the fact that shit, maybe life IS meaningless, because now I can’t view trauma as just a rolling ball in some cosmic Rube Goldberg machine.

"Some days I wake up in my bedroom in Brooklyn and I just don’t know what to do, in an existential sense. Christianity gave me something to do. A large reason I converted to the faith as a teen was because I felt a weird void in my life, like something was missing that no relationship, amount of money, or enviable career could fill. The Christian message was packaged and sold to me as the only thing that could fill that void. And for six years, I let it."
Some of the commenters underneath suggest that she's taking an unhelpful all or nothing approach and she could just you know, pick the good bits, but as she says herself in the piece, once you realise how much of the book is consistent and contradictory and in the end as much based on earlier legends and stories, retelling them in a similar to how they've always been repackaged (not unlike Shakespeare actually), it's difficult to work around it. You can say to yourself that it's simply how man has chosen to worship or communicate their feelings with and about God, but since this its also the scaffold on which that belief is built, it's difficult to square the two.

The only posts people ever read on this blog are about Doctor Who ...

TV ... so it's good to have fair warning of when the traffic is going to increase (assuming I can be bothered to review the next series) in the form of this teaser video:

It is August then. Oh wait:

I think you're absolutely correct @eddierobson which makes Who's launch date the 23rd August.  A couple of things on this:

(1) This means it'll run through September, October and into November, leaving a decent enough gap until the Christmas

(2) This is also the same weekend as the Liverpool International Music Festival whose main stage is across the road from my flat and if last year's anything to go by means I'll have to watch Capaldi's debut with the background noise of a Beatles cover band, assuming I can hear myself think at all anyway.  I couldn't last year.

(3)  Already people are being annoyed and silly about this teaser because it doesn't show Capaldi's face as though we don't already know what he looks like.  What are they expecting?  Someone else?  It's only May.

(4)  Edgar Wright's left Ant Man over creative difference.  I know this is unrelated to anything but it's a disappointing thing.  A few things:

(4.1)  Even more than Guardians of the Galaxy, Antman seemed like an auteur deal and a passion project for Edgar Wright and co-writer Joe Cornish within the MARVEL Universe.  If he's left, was it because what he was doing strayed too far away from the brand and if that's the case how did it go this far along in terms of how the project was looking?  Too much comedy?  What element did MARVEL want to change?  Was it a cinematic universe issue?

(4.2)  All of this being the case, who'll replace him?  Joe Cornish himself would the obvious candidate but that would depend on what went so horribly wrong.  But genuinely who do you get to replace an Edgar Wright on a pet project?  Who'd want to?

(4.3)  Going back to recent posts, MARVEL are going to have to tread carefully on this.  Wright had a lot of fans and the venn diagram with MARVEL fans is pretty interesting in terms of size.  It's not the first time directors have moved on.  Favreau decided against Iron Man 3 (despite starring in it) and Patty Jenkins left Thor: The Dark World for reasons still not entirely explained.  If fans smell that Wright's be done badly to it will backlash depending on how it's handled going forward.  It may require (spoilers permitting) a certain level of openness with Wright himself giving an interview if he's at all amenable which again depends on how acrimonious the separation was.  But such things are not unheard of.

(5)  Anyway, so yes, three months to go...

Jennifer Lawrence's Puke.

"He smelled like sandalwood."

The Feeling Listless Soundtrack 1.0:
How Do You Talk To An Angel?

Written by Stephanie Tyrell, Barry Coffing & Steve Tyrell

Music When I first moved into my tower block, the council had installed a communal BSB Squarial on the roof. At first it picked up their Sport Channel, but when Sky absorbed the fledging satellite company this was changed to Sky One. Which meant that during the early nineties I could enjoy the Johnny Depp series ’21 Jump Street’ and the other US imports the main channels at the time wouldn’t touch with a barge pole. ‘The Heights’ was one of these shows, Aaron Spelling's attempt to transfer ‘Melrose Place’ to Seattle and set it around a rock band. And each episode would end with the band singing a new song. It sounds awful, but it was actually very very good, partly helped by the quality of the writing, but also the unknown performers. In one episode the drummer finally managed get the girl of his dreams into the bedroom – and she fell in love with him because he was the one who wanted to wear the condom. OK – perhaps it was in the playing.

In the first episode, the band was looking for a new lead singer and stumbled upon Jamie Waters. In the show he had fallen for a backing vocalist and wrote her a poem, which eventually became ‘How Do You Talk To An Angel’. The spin-off single did great business in the US (I believe it went to number one) but tanked here. No one watched on either side of the atlantic and the show was cancelled (what is it with me and cancelled shows?). Waters tried to go on and get a career on the back of this single but that never really happened either (the album, which I found in a second hand shop in Birmingham is very bad). But here is the single for you to enjoy. It’s a bit dated (a bit?), but the words work quite well. Expect Travis to cover it next Glastonbury. [Originally written over twelve years ago]

[Commentary: On the upside it was memorable enough for Buzzfeed to write about it last year. What I didn't mention above is that I ended up owning three copies of the song. On vinyl single, on a cassette of the soundtrack and a cd single. The b-side was Natalie, man.]

Liverpool to Manchester in 32 minutes.

Commuter Life Liverpool to Manchester in 32 minutes reports Liverpool Confidential. This is exciting:
"SUDDENLY Liverpool and Manchester have got even closer. Train company First TransPennine Express today launched a non-stop express from Lime Street, and the train really is taking the strain out of commuting between the two big cities.

The hourly service to Manchester Victoria will take just 32 minutes - part of a brand new route that finishes at Newcastle. The service leaves at 12 minutes past the hour from 6am until 7pm.

It complements the existing 45-minute express from Lime Street to Piccadilly.

The first train in the opposite direction is at 7.35am and the last 8.35pm."
The time brackets are about the only downside as is the fact that you're going to Victoria rather than Picadilly so you've got a bit of a walk or tram ride to get into the main part of town so what you're gaining in train time you're losing in navigating through Manchester.  Still, it's better than nothing and the service has already started...

The Wikipedia Rule.

Film Following on from the Youtube reaction I posted underneath the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer, here's a conversation about transmedia from the Toronto International Film Festival's industry conference which provides a potential answer as to why people are more excited about a film about a talking tree and a racoon with a gun than another with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and possibly The Rock.

Once you've skipped through the ten minutes in which the camera entirely fails to pan across to the exciting presentational video you reach a comment from Andy Merkin (Head of Special Projects and Transmedia, Mirada Studios) who notes that one of the elements of the Wikipedia is that 90% of people who use it are readers, another 9% sometimes edit the thing but only 1% actually originate content.

This is then picked up by Evan Jones (the founder of Stitch Media) who says that he's forever having to caution clients who say they want to simply advertise to the masses and ignore the hardcore fan bases because why should they care about the 1% when the 99% of people will lap up whatever they're selling anyway. As Jones says, it's the hardcore fan base, the people who really care about the thing, that end up leading everyone else so they ignore them at their peril.

I wonder if this isn't DC/WB's mistake.  When they released the image of Affleck as Batman the other week there was a genuine sense of ho-hum from bloggers and the twittersphere and the comics blogs I sometimes frequence, very much a case of, what, Batman?  Again?  Which is odd when you consider this is Batman.

MARVEL in creating their various films, especially Guardians which is frankly an amazingly weird concept, are being deeply respectful of the various mythologies, even to the point of keeping Groot and Rocket, difficult characters which other studios might have omitted (see the legendary Bloomberg article).

This interests fans of the comic and comics in general.  Indeed there's a general sense of amazement that not only a Guardians of the Galaxy film exists as a thing, but that it looks to have kept at least some of the spirit of the comic book and also do things like hire Vin Deisal to play a tree and bring in some of the Who fans by hiring Karen Gillan.

The Star Trek reboot also worked because the whole concept of the film was built around the premise of not pissing off the hardcore fan base by negating the original continuity and simply creating a new "timeline".  Doctor Who (sorry but it's true) has also gone out of its way to solidify the concept that even the new series is part of the same story.

DC and Warner Bros are otherwise on the back foot because they don't seem to be putting the work in or to explain that more clearly, they're working from the assumption that because it's Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and possibly The Rock people will turn up anyway, not least the fan base.

The last thing hardcore fans like is being taken for granted.  They get suspicious and know immediately when the mythology and characters they care about aren't being done "properly".  They knew it from the moment they saw the first Man of Steel trailer and after that disaster was released they simply don't trust DC/WB with the thing any more.

But Man of Steel made money and because DC/WB are only considering the 99% at this point, they've handed the project back to the director who made the money, handed over all the characters they assume the fans will go gaga for not recognising that at this point they're really not and gone with it.

What they should have done, and could have done, is taken it slow.  Made a Superman sequel but with a more fan friendly director and writers, still slowly setting up the world in the background and worked towards the Justice League.  If they believe the 99% will turn up anyway then it wouldn't matter.

Instead the negativity of fans is beginning to permeate.  The 99% are, as far as I can see, shrugging.  Just as fans are saying "What, Batman, again?" the 99% are too.  Everyone seems to be talking about what MARVEL are doing.  The DC buzz just doesn't seem to be there.  Well see if that changes once the trailer appears ....

Updated later.  These quotes from an interview with David S Goyer, Man of Steel writer and story credit on what's now being called Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice (yes indeed and #ffs) goes some way to proving my point.  Setting aside his attitude to She-Hulk (if we must), the quote about Martian Manhunter is astonishingly wrong headed.  If MARVEL had a character called Martian Manhunter, you know they'd find some way to make it work.  Meanwhile it's the comments threads on posts like this which WB/DC should be looking at to see how they're getting things so badly wrong.  That this film will see the first appearance of Wonder Woman in films and she's not even mentioned in the title (which she could given the Trinity or World's Finest comics lines) does not bode well for us feminists.

"They're both wearing wigs."

Film Following on from the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer, here's the reason why Matt Smith as well as Karen Gillan wore a wig in Doctor Who's The Time of the Doctor. He'd been in the US filming Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut which on the basis of this clip looks full on late era Tarkovsky and has Fitz from Agents of SHIELD looking on bewildered as the Eleventh Doctor runs around the Powell Estate asking us to regard his pecks like he's been locked in a basement for three years with only the dvd of Paradise Towers for company.  Look at his muscles indeed.

Just like Richard Nixon.

History Investigating the politics and potential narrative manipulation inherent in his presidential library, the New Yorker asks, "Who owns Richard Nixon?"
"Most Presidential libraries are terrific, if sometimes inconveniently located, resources for researchers; what turns up in their archives (especially documents from the typewriter-and-ink era) can be fascinating and sometimes revelatory. Meanwhile, the adjoining museums, which draw the tourists, tend to turn these sites into temples of Presidential sanctification and sympathetic history. The Nixon Library is no temple, mainly because (Timothy) Naftali (director) was determined to give an honest picture of the Watergate scandal, which after much effort led to a smart, instructive interactive exhibit. This somewhat asymmetrical focus is part of the draw for curious visitors. But it cost Naftali any remaining support from the foundation, whose members hated the direction he was heading. Naftali finally quit two and a half years ago. He still hasn’t been replaced, which, as he recently wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “has disturbing implications both for how public history is approached at federal museums and for how public access is granted to crucial historical information.”"

More Guardians.

Film MARVEL have released the second Guardians of the Galaxy trailer. It's a bit more mainstream than the first, though still pretty off beat and brings the news, or at least news to me, that Glenn Close is now playing a character in the 'verse. The whole thing has a Firefly with aliens vibe with a touch of Doctor Who and I'm not ashamed to say made me glisten at its awesomeness. The best comment in the inevitable Youtube thread says this:

Yes and presumably Warners & DC can't believe it themselves. It's why they keep piling things into what should have been just a straight up and hopefully better sequel to Man of Steel.

"You were expecting someone else."

TV Watching Amanda Vickery's immensely enjoyable corrective on the history of women in art, The Story of Woman and Art and in a section about Sofonisba Anguissola, one of her sketches popped up on screen of a laughing child. The face looks oddly familiar:


For context, I think the Eighth Doctor modelled for Thomas Jefferson in Mount Rushmore so ...

Sugababes 1.0 return?

Music After the record company seemed to cruelly dump their first single onto the market so that it's title gained a cruel irony and the oddness of what had all the wheft of an album tour without an album to tour, Mutya Keisha and Siobhan went unusually quiet. Ish.

Their Twitter feeds in particular went unusually quiet at least for them for at least a month but in the past week, they started buzzing again.

Siobhan's Twitter feed's been relatively busy with felicitations to friends and the odd shot of the three girls but there was the worrying moment the other day when she tweeted a publicity shot for Revolution in Me which is thick with scary symbolism but anyway.

Not that it seems like a reason to worry really. The week before on the ninth, Mutya did this:

Which is, well, it just is, isn't it? Then Keisha said this earlier today...

Which clearly means they're still talking to one another.

Now Popdust have posted that "new gossip reports in the British papers" (which haven't turned up on Google News yet) (or anywhere else) suggest that the three have changed their management, moved record label and have appropriated the Sugababes name again (in a capacity perhaps more than stationary) and are planning another come back this Summer. Cue the "source":

"“The girls have changed label, got new management and are getting ready to release their new single in the summer as Sugababes. It’s been a messy battle legally but MKS are now no more.”"

Given that this is a single blog post and there's nothing about anything anywhere else, I'm reluctant to head to far into the speculation zone, but given the hash that was made of last year's relaunch, there's no lack of logic here, other than to do with contracts and copyright and what Heidi might think about all this. Anyway, I'd be quite happy to not have to call the Sugababes the "Sugababes" again but I wonder if the name's too tainted now. Though it's also fair to say that we've all spent the past two years calling these three the original Sugababes anyway.

BBC Arts clips page.

TV Further to my post from earlier about the BBC Arts first collaboration with Glyndebourne, a bit of a glance around shows that as part of the website's infrastructure, BBC Arts has been assigned its own programme page, which also means it has its own "clips" page and one for galleries. Might be as well to have those bookmarked to save having excavate visual content.

Audrey Mildmay's dress.

Music The new BBC Arts page is beginning to seed with content. Pieces of the Museums at Night live broadcast will apparently be appearing later today. The collaboration between BBC Arts and Glyndebourne has begun though, with the first in a series of short films, this featuring an archivist describing an early production of The Marriage of Figaro and one of the original dresses. Excellent compact shelving action. Bonkersly huge embed. Might be best to enter full screen if you can.

The BBC Arts website is like a rabbit hole. Clicking a related links brings you to some other bit of content then something else. Entirely unheralded by the link or feed text is this old episode of Monitor from 1959 about Carl Ebert, Glyndebourne's artistic director back then.