Deep Blue Something.

TV Here we go then. Back to the mission. Doctor Who returned 23rd August, the Bank Holiday weekend as previously predicted on BBC One at a time yet to be determined. We have a promo image ...

... of Capaldi giving it some Pertweean hands on hips action and Jenna laughing at something happening far off wearing a lovely spring dress.

We also have a title ...

Deep Breath

... and the news that it'll be a "feature length" episode which offers a whole world of durational speculation since based on previous experience this could mean anything from an hour to an hour and a half. There's been the suggestion this new series is to be twelve episodes long - could the extra noonoo for the first episode have swallowed up the budget of two? Or did they film two episodes and then decide to combine them? Or are there in fact thirteen anyway.

Oh and the trailer, but you'll already have watched that with its weird voiceover inflection with makes him sound like he's saying "Am I good man?" and the Clara clip which is obviously from inside the episode.  As is the voice over probably.  It's not quite "Wanna come wiv me?" but nothing ever is.

Now you can go off and enjoy reading all this information again in several hundred other places as the TARDIS like echo chamber that is the internet begins its sonic boom.

The Films I've Watched This Year #23

Film Watching something like BBC Four's Glyndebourne: The Untold History is always a bit dangerous because by the conclusion you're already making plans for holidays you'll never take because you'll never be able to afford the train fare, hotel rooms or show tickets.  Luckily the show under discussion is available to watch on the interwebs, so that's half of the psychological calamity averted, but if ever there was a reminder to me that some of the really cool stuff is at the other end of the country it was this.

For the most part this was two very good documentaries uncomfortably fused together.  At first this seemed like it would a complete history of Glyndebourne, from its inception as a bit of amateur entertainment for toffs in a shed to one of the most influential opera houses in the world, but somewhere in the middle it became a spoilery exploration of its latest production of Der Rosenkavalier and although the two weaved in and out of one another, with behind the scenes material, there was a sense of trying serve two masters.

The Telegraph's review is a thoughtful exploration of what was left out in the crush to include these two topic at the same time, but as even they admit what was here was entirely fascinating, especially from the singers in relation to creating a performance in the modern era and the expectation for someone to have an actor's psychological understanding of a character and be an perfect classical singer and how that merges with the administrative details of running an opera house ("We haven't received our payslips yet...") to create the best experience for the audience.

The Informant!
Star Trek Into Darkness
Chinese Puzzle
Once Upon a Time in China
Thanks for Sharing
Magic Mike

In the Soderbergh home stretch now, just two films to go and there's an even greater sense of the director trying to cross as many genres off the list as possible before he finishes, something I want to save and talk about in a separate post.  Missing from this list is The Last Time I Saw Michael Gregg. which he produced with the cast of a play in Australia in 2009 as a way of keeping everyone's mind focused and which can only be seen if you're a friend of a cast member or the director himself or some such.  Anyway it's never going to be released in his lifetime and is essentially a high class home movie.  Which probably cheeses off Cate Blanchett completists as well, since she's the star.

In short order then.  The Informant! feels slightly inert and isn't quite as funny as it thinks it is in that way Coen Brother farces (Burn after Reading etc) aren't either.  My guess as to why is because we're not quite as sympathetic as we could be about Matt Damon's character because so much information is withheld about him that we're forever distanced by his unreliable narration.  The story looks like it would have been better served being told from Scott Bakula's FBI character's POV rather than Damon's whistleblower, more subjective than objective.

Apparently Haywire isn't much liked by the kinds of people who tend to like these kinds of things which is probably fair because it's designed to be a purposefully generic action film for the kinds of people who don't like purposefully generic action films.  It's forever flouting genre expectations, undercuts pretty much every fight scene, kills off chase scenes before they become boring and has a David Holmes soundtrack that's not at all interested in attempting to falsely punch up any tension and is in the end a classic action film for all those reasons.

Did Soderbergh know during Contagion that he'd be giving up films soon?  At this point it's almost as though he's not just working through genres (disaster movie) but also getting in as many actors as possible.  Apart from Matt Damon (again), pretty much everyone here is new to him and relatively unexpected though you can sense that they're presumably desperate to have him on their CV before he goes.  One of those glorious films which can be used along with Rotten Tomatoes to gauge if a reviewer knows anything about the form. If they splatted this, they don't.

Aha Magic Mike.  Finally.  This was released when I began working through his biography and so understandably didn't want to watch it out of sequence.  Really pleased that I waited.  Presumably the massive audience that surprised everyone by turning up for this haven't seen his low budgeters so won't have noticed he's essentially applied much of his approach to Bubble and The Girlfriend Experience of mixing apparently improvised dialogue with the heavily scripted, long oners and resting reaction shots.  I wouldn't if I'd not seen them in such close proximity.

During the stripping scenes, I wondered how they'd square in relation to the male gaze and what Laura Mulvey would think.  Judging by this search, I'm not the only one.  Soderbergh's clearly aware of the implications and there's a key moment when Cody Horne's character Brooke attends the strip club and is shown in reverse shots being firstly repelled by her brother's antics on stage but then excited by Channing Tatum in a way which can clearly be seen as a gender reversal of the kinds of scenes Mulvey talks about in her essay.

Not being female, I don't know if the same rules apply.  As a male, I reacted to it on a narrative level but was impressed with the way the film didn't make it the character's defining trope, even though it's true that outside these odd moments she has almost zero narrative agency which is to be expected when she's doesn't have the lead role.  I'd also be interested to know if the film works on the level of pure titillation in the same way as perhaps something like Showgirls, Sin City, Rock of Ages or even Burlesque does.  Ahem.

I always thought Christina Aguilera was pretty good in Burlesque and her Lady Marmalade colleague P!nk turns up in Thanks for Sharing, credited under her real name Alicia Moore playing a sex addict and offering the most surprising, arguably the most fulfilling performance in a cast of otherwise professionals which includes Mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth, Tim Robbins, Joely Richardson and Josh Gad to the point that you forget that she isn't a professional actress or indeed P!nk and she's doing so in what's otherwise a pretty generic, albeit entertaining ensemble piece about addiction.

Apparently it was an occasion when a writer director wrote in a character who was a bit like a person, ala Terry Gilliam, Time Bandits and Sean Connery and then asked the person on the off chance if they'd be interested in appearing and they accepted and although she's not unlike the other actors who are all playing to type and she's essentially offering Josh Gad a useful manic pixie dream girl figure.  But think on that we have a film that would cast Pink sorry, P!nk as the manic pixie dream girl figure screaming in the face of the very narrow expectations which cinema in general has now.

Anyway, other than the significant rewatch, my film of the week is Chinese Puzzle because of course it is.  Having seen the first two films in the trilogy at the Cornerhouse, I made the special journey to Manchester on Tuesday for it and in a strange sense of closure, having seen The Spanish Apartment (UK title Pot Luck) in screen one there and its sequel Russian Dolls in screen three, this was in screen two which seems less significant as I type it than it did as I sat on the front row of the almost empty screening room.

Like the Before... films and others, having grown up with these characters it's almost as though we're watching to catch up with some old friends as much as wanting to see a film, though the timeframes are much shorter in this case and unlike the Before... films, more pressingly identifiable to me because everyone is stressing how close they are to forty.  I'm thirty-nine which provide an extra element of identification, if in fact not all every other significant way, not least that they have much more complicated lives involving dependents and history.  Than I do.

But despite the cast, which includes Romain Duras, Audrey Tautou, Cecile De France and our own Kelly Reilly it's also a trilogy which still feels inside, barely mentioned, culty.  There's even minimal coverage in this month's Sight and Sound other than a review which seems like it should be all over it.  The distribution's tiny.  This is all really rather disappointing but also oddly gratifying because the best thing about the last two films was that unlike the Before series it had retained that feeling of being a kind of secret.

That being the case and wanting you, even begging you to catch up, I don't want to go into to much detail on this installment other than to note how these four actors, whose careers have had their ups and downs between films have all returned for this installment and been given equal weight, unlike the tendency elsewhere in which some characters have clearly been forefronted because the actors who play them have become much more famous than their colleagues (though admittedly that tends to happen more in Hollywood).

If I've a criticism, it's that of the three female characters, it's Kelly Reilly's Wendy who ends up with the short straw of having to spend most of it on the fringes scowling for various reasons when she was such an object of affection in the previous two and it's only towards the end that she's allowed to relax a bit.  On the upside that scowl does provide one the films many big belly laughs which I enjoyed even if there were only two of us in the audience of about ten on Tuesday lunchtime who did.

What I did particularly enjoy was how Klapisch has updated the various visual storytelling elements.  The first film was all about paper, so paper maps and postcards and old media flew across the screen and provided relevant captions.  This is full of tweets, instant messaging, email, Skype and Google Maps.  Then, one of the elements was about collecting messages and making phone calls in the department and this underscored how connected everyone is, mirroring my own experience.  But it never forgets that none of this can replace human contact, especially with loved ones.

So if this is just a trilogy, it's the perfect end.  But Klapisch has said in various interviews that he's not against a fourth installment if there's a reason for it, for example Europe as an entity being destroyed or something which would be worth commenting upon using these characters.  He also said that he'd try to bring Kevin Bishop back too, who missed this installment due to a tv commitment and I oddly missed.  He's a massively irritating presence in the first film, but in the second you saw how you can't assume that someone's personality when they're young will dictate who they will always be.

Alternative ways of following and watching #glastonbury.

TV As ever the structure of the BBC's Glastonbury web pages is content rich and purposefully Byzantine in design but if you look closer, or utilise Google, the usual infrastructure surrounding a BBC event or programme page is still available and makes things a lot simpler if all you want is a conveyor belt of music. Here are the highlights:

The Clips Page

Plenty of previous Glastonbury performances stretching back as far as 2007 when this iteration of the website was still in its infancy are available on the standard clips page. Sometimes single tracks, sometimes highlight packages. There are also interviews.  Depends what they have their own rights to and hasn't expired yet or what was thought important to upload in a given year depending on what the main website was doing.


A page collecting together all the broadcasts due to happen across media, across the weekend. It's here I notice that the English National Ballet are performing the Pyramid stage on Sunday lunch time.

Available on BBC iPlayer

There's nothing on here yet other than a few random reruns from 6 Music, but in previous years this page filled up with the extended highlights from the various stages across the weekend as they were uploaded which tended to be a few hours after they'd finished as you can see from the Guide pages and this example of an episode featuring Maverick Sabre which wasn't anywhere near a television channel.  Hopefully it'll be the same this year.
Updated later:  I was right, the conveyor belt of music's begun.  Ninety artists will be available eventually for a whole month.

The Programme page in general.

The BBC's main Glasto site is an example of their newish infinitely flexible "events" page which covers these sorts of things as their happening.  But all of the BBC's content has a programme page with the same structure of clips, galleries and other links hidden away somewhere.  Here's the version for BBC Arts.  Any new content will feed through here and is worth exploring on these terms.

The Feeling Listless Soundtrack 1.0:
Ewok Feast.

Written by John Williams
[from: 'Return of the Jedi: Special Edition Original Soundtrack ', RCA, 1995]

Music  Overheard on the train home tonight ... two men in suits ...
"So you know my sister?"
"The one who's a graphic designer? She's freelancing after y'know."
"And she's been working on TV, and she got three job offers. And she only knew about one of them."
"Which one?"
"Well she knew about on a tv series series called Farscape."
"What's that?"
"It's on the BBC. It's from Jim Henson, you know who made the Muppets."
"So she took that job because she knew what it was and she needed the money."
"OK ..."
"Then she found out what the other jobs were that she couldn't take now. One was on the second Matrix film. And the other was Star Wars." [Originally posted 24th May 2002]

[Commentary: Because, presumably, you have to have a bit of Star Wars.  A glance through the imdb would probably yield who the person they're speaking about is.  Do people who work on films really worry about this stuff?  Even with a show like Farscape, series television has to be more stable work than films, even scale films like Star Wars and The Matrix.  Unless it was just for a few episodes, in which case, well hum.  Either way if only conversations on public transport were always this interesting, and I wonder now if the two blokes would simply be looking at screens and talking to other people now, rather than engaging with one another.]

Film Memories.

Film Even though Pete's Dragon was the first film I saw at the cinema, Mum and Dad took me when I was very young and we saw it at the ABC on Lime Street, one of my strongest film memories was about not seeing a film. Living in Speke in the 1980s it wasn't that easy to get to a cinema and our local was the Woolton Picture House.

Having become a huge fan of the Herbie films because they'd been shown at school in film club, I'd been promised to see a reissue of Herbie Rides Again so we made the special trip on the 81 bus one night and I'd become so excited about seeing it in a real cinema, mostly because of the Kiora and ice cream at the interval.

When we got there, it wasn't on in the evenings, with a poster for Cronenberg's Videodrome up instead. I was disappointed, but noticed that my Dad was also disappointed and I think it must be one of the earliest occasions when I noticed my parents had their own feelings too.

I remember standing outside the phone box (this was 1983) as my Dad phoned Mum to tell her what had happened and asking if we should try and get to the Cannon Classic on Allerton Road instead?  We went home in the end. It was too late. I think I've had a subliminal grudge against Cronenberg ever since.

9:13: Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Victoria.

Commuter Life With the recent announcement about the possible new HS3 route from Manchester to Leeds, there was little mention of the introduction of a new service which already shaves about twenty minutes off the usual journey. Leaving Lime Street at thirteen minutes past each hour, the new service skips all the stations between Liverpool and Manchester Victoria meaning a journey which usually takes an hour is reduced by half. The service then continues on to Leeds then Newcastle.

Having taken this journey on many an occasion (notably when I was travelling to and from the Commonwealth Games back in 2002) and sighing both internally and externally as it pulled into every station on the way, I had to try it at least once for the novelty.  So at 9:13 this morning I was sitting on the half empty Transpenine Express train pictured above and having grabbed a window seat had the vague (well ok not all vague) excitement that's inherent within an unknowable train journey.  What would would it take?

In the event, spoilers, it took the usually Lime Street to Victoria route via St Helen's Junction simply hammering through all the stations, too fast even to see the faces of the passengers waiting on the platform for the service waiting to take the slow path.  Despite having paid the same amount as usual for a ticket, there was still a frisson of being briefly amongst the privileged, how it must be on a Royal train as it traverses the country between appointments or will be when the actual high speed rail link begins in several dozen decades.

Not that there's really anything that special about this.  There are half hourly services between Manchester and Liverpool, if not more.  I took one home, from Oxford Road, which deposited me at Liverpool South Parkway in Garston about thirty minutes later.  Granted I then had to get an 80 bus home which added an extra twenty minutes to the journey including waiting time, but if I lived in Garston or closer, the whole notion of going all the way into the town to get this half hour service to Victoria is laughable.

Nevertheless, on the basis of getting onto a train in one city centre and alighting slap bang in the middle in half an hour, it works and as we pulled into Victoria having had barely enough time to put down my bag, the novelty didn't wear off which is why I took the photo as I walked up the stairs from the platform attracting a few sideways glances.  Will I do it again?  If it's available, yes, though it's rare that I enter Manchester through Victoria now, preferring Piccadilly with its easier access to Vinyl Exchange.

I spent the day visiting the Sculptural Forms: A Century of Experiment exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery and marvelling at Rachel Whiteread's Untitled doorknob, the last remaining remnant of her House, seeing Whitworth Park: Pleasure, Play and Politics at the Manchester Museum which catalogues an archaeological dig in what are now essentially the grounds of the Whitworth Art Gallery currently being refurbished before closing a circle and seeing Cedric Klapisch's Chinese Puzzle at the Cornerhouse, more on which in the usual venue.

Since this was a day for novelty, I ate my lunch on the university campus, in the park outside the library.  The area's changed a bit since I was there, with more chairs, new food hall and offices but it still felt much as it did back then which is one of the few places where I've ever sensed that I belonged.  As I sat with my Kindle reading this article and munching through the triple chicken sandwich pack which used to also be my treat when I was commuting to Manchester the first time to the call centre, I, well let's just say I had mixed emotions (mostly because I can't put them into words).

Yes, essentially I'm Rob Lowe in St Elmo's Fire but without the ability to "score" anything.  But if you want to enjoy the longevity of this blog, take a look at the old posts from back then and the period I'm referring to.  That was eight years ago.  The blog was already five years old.  It's like that younger version of me is still out there somewhere with all of his hopes and dreams.  But I'm straying into the territory of Cedric Klapisch's Chinese Puzzle and as I said we'll return to that in the usual venue.  The short version is - I need to get over getting old.

The Cavalier Rose?

TV Despite my philosophical problems with the design of the BBC Arts website, there's no denying the quality of the some of the content which is bubbling up there.

 In the past few days they've posted the whole of Glyndebourne's most recent production of Der Rosenkavalier introduced by Katie Derham available to watch for the next three months.

It's the contextual spin-off from BBC Four's documentary, Glyndebourne: The Untold History, which I'm looking forward to watching tonight.

 Even though I can't really get along with it properly yet - I'm at the appreciation end of the Gere scale:

As his character says in Pretty Woman: "People's reactions to opera the first time they see it is very dramatic; they either love it or they hate it. If they love it, they will always love it. If they don't, they may learn to appreciate it, but it will never become part of their soul."

I have nevertheless become fascinated with the production and history of opera recently which isn't something I thought would be possible even a couple of years ago.

Last week I read the special free Glyndebourne supplement on the BBC Music Magazine app cover to cover.  Crivens.

" in the lift Henry didn’t even look at Hansen"

TV England's early retreat from the World Cup means I won't have to watch much else of it, which doesn't mean I won't continue to follow it vicariously through the media and especially Hadley Freeman's piece in The Guardian. Today she confronts the television broadcasts and visits the BBC and ITV studios. One's more welcoming than the other:
"The aforementioned talent – in this case, Lineker, Hansen, Henry and Clarence Seedorf – sit silently and stare at the TV that’s weirdly embedded into the table, making them look even more remote and internalised (at ITV, the TV is set up beneath one of the cameras, so the four men stare in front of them, like normal TV watchers). Maybe it feels more serious up here because we’re closer to transmission time. But it wouldn’t have made any difference if I’d come to the studio earlier as the men don’t arrive until the very last minute, so there is none of that sense of camaraderie found downstairs (indeed, in the lift Henry didn’t even look at Hansen). Whereas ITV let me listen in on a headset to the planning of the show and stay around while Chiles talked with the guests about the running order, Tom and I are firmly ushered out of the BBC’s studio as soon as all four men are in their seat, as though we were going to leak details of their tactics."

Has Greta Gerwig been to Tesco?

Theatre Here's a New York Times preview of an off-broadway production of Penelope Skinner's The Village Bike. As you can see it co-stars Greta Gerwig in a role originated in London by Romola "Thirteenth Doctor" Garai. Gerwig's British accent is, well it is what it is. But in the wide pantheon of expected events, I didn't ever expect to hear Gerwig talking about Tesco in any context.