G! because we DIY!

Music Just watching the Live in Edinburgh Concert on BBC One which is what it is. They have at least had the good grace to invite Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, what remains of The Beautiful South. They sang this:

With its surprisingly familiar sounding chorus which is basically this:

I wonder if it's a direct homage and if so, well, goodie, goodie, yum, yum.

The Films I've Watched This Year #26

Film To break format briefly, this has been a rich old week for film with any of the following being a potential film of the week in previous lists.  That one actually does rise above them reminds me exactly why film is my cultural medium of choice.  Missing from the below list is all the football I watched last weekend, the many episodes of Damages and the first episode of Stig Larsson's Millenium, meaning the first half of the television version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo which as I guessed, oh so long ago, does flow much better structurally than the edited version which turned up on our cinema screens.  I'll still be interested to see if Lisbeth does have more to do in the second half, disappears as she does from the theatrical cut.  But that's for next week, I'm taking this slowly.  Anything else?  There was the FACT visit of course, but I think I've said everything I'm going to say about that.

City of Ember
Army of Darkness
The Dark Knight Rises
The Great Gatsby
Evil Dead
The Invisible Woman

Boyhood is one of the greatest films of all time.  Within six months to a year, articles will appear in film journals.  Within ten years it'll appear relatively high in the Sight and Sound film poll and within twenty it'll be in the top ten.  Along with Gravity, it's a demonstration of how every generation is still capable of producing works as thoughtful and mighty as Citizen Kane, Sunrise, La Règle du jeu or Tokyo Story, that in these moments when it seems that film has plateaued or become stagnant, that there will always be a work can stand amongst the greats.  If you've not seen it yet, go now before it disappears from cinemas so that in years to come when you're talking about it you can say you saw it at an auditorium on release rather than streamed it.  Or indeed go because it also feels like the final celebration of celluloid, the last gasp of a medium which as the filmmakers explain became increasingly difficult to shoot on as the project proceeded.

What will those film essays consider?  Most filmmakers change their style somewhat over time, especially directors as industrious as Linklater so we could ask about the extent to which that impacted on the creative decisions he made during shooting.  Is it possible to see his own creativity develop and change across the film along with his characters or is the resulting work different to how it might have been when he started out?  What about the element of nostalgia or as Linklater has himself identified in interviews the way in which he was shooting a kind of contemporary period piece knowing full well that what was cutting edge technology would seem archaic by the time the film was released.  As he also says, the ambience of society hasn't changed as much in these twelve years as it did between, for example the late 60s and the early 80s, the same period in years as his work on this has.

The film's production began at the same time as this blog.  I think of this blog as an ageing relic sometimes, so what must it have been like for the Linklater to edit this film?  What of the cast, who hadn't seen any of what was shot before it had been put together, not least Ellar Coltrane who was apparently entirely discombobulated by the experience of seeing the six year old version of him acting for the first time.  The film's big achievement, I think, is that it's constantly possible to forget the effort and simply enjoy the result even if sometimes it is possible to guess which other project Ethan Hawke was working on depending on the extent of his facial hair and girth.  There's also the clever Harry Potter element in which he acknowledges the kinship with that other film series which shows young actors growing with their parts.  But the intents have been different, Linklater's level of creative will greater.

Time's short so I'll give the rest the short shift they barely deserve.  City of Ember is Dark City for kids, obviously and just as unseen and unmemorable, despite the presence of Bill Murray as the mayor of a town lost for two hundred years beneath the Earth and Saoirse Ronan on the edge of ascendancy.  The real star is the set, which was the biggest ever at the time of shooting, a massive, completely practical edifice built in Belfast which unlike a CG replacement gives a real epic sense to a piece which would feet perfectly in the Moffat era of Doctor Who.  And yes, that's a compliment.  But The Great Gatsby is just as beautiful because of the way it utilised CG to create impossible shots as the imaginary camera sweeps across the landscape as is The Invisible Woman because like Boyhood it's interested in life's incidentals, like mechanics of going to the toilet in the Dickens household.

Doctor Who began filming this day ten years ago.

Travel ... and my first impulse on hearing this information was to book two days in Cardiff so that I could see the city before it became a tourist attraction, a trip I catalogued in a series of posts on this blog. Example:
"In the event, the only time I brushed past one of the main reasons for going to Cardiff was in a really undernourished coffee shop near the castle. One of the baristas, a tall, loud theatrical man was loudly telling his colleagues and by proxy everyone else in the place that he'd received a call from Cardiff Casting asking if he wanted to do a few days on Doctor Who. Ironically he seemed only to be thinking about it. I would have left my job and home and moved to Cardiff just to walk past in the background. They'd apparently been looking at him because he was a particular height, weight and proportion. I took comfort in the fact that if he took the job he'd more than likely be encased in latex and wouldn't be seen anyway, sweating his way through the three days. I'm not bitter about these things you see."
Yes, right.  In case you're wondering, because for some reason I failed to mention, the film I saw that evening was The Motorcycle Diaries at the Chapter Arts Centre.  There's no way I would have let a detail like that slip through now.

"Manic Pixies, it’s time to put you to rest."

Film Nathan Rabin, the culturalist who coined the term "manic pixie dream girl" has now disowned and apologised for creating the term "manic pixie dream girl". Writing for Salon, he says:
"I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to pop culture: I’m sorry for creating this unstoppable monster. Seven years after I typed that fateful phrase, I’d like to join Kazan and Green in calling for the death of the “Patriarchal Lie” of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. I would welcome its erasure from public discourse. I’d applaud an end to articles about its countless different permutations. Let’s all try to write better, more nuanced and multidimensional female characters: women with rich inner lives and complicated emotions and total autonomy, who might strum ukuleles or dance in the rain even when there are no men around to marvel at their free-spiritedness. But in the meantime, Manic Pixies, it’s time to put you to rest."
I can think of about a dozen films I utterly adore which feature a character like this. Half of those feature Zooey, a couple of Megs, a Natalie or two and some Kirstins. Ok, so actually more than twelve. I appreciate this is problematic especially since I'm also one of the first people to bemoan the lack of autonomous female protagonists (see recent moan about La Grande Bellezza) and how as was noted in the original articles these characters exist simply as motivational plot points but there's also an extent to which some films are fantasy and can and should work on that level, especially if they're only ninety minutes long. I liked Elizabethtown.

The problem is that there's no gender reversed equivalent that I can think of and we're still living through a moment when they're often the only portrayal of young women on screen.  That's the problem.  It's especially galling in films like Cemetary Junction or Love and Other Drugs when the MPDG figure is suddenly given a scene or twos worth of narrative agency in the worst kind of tokenism imaginable and only so that they can either make the big decision as to whether they're going chase after the male protagonist or put them in a position so that the male protagonist has to go find them and learn something about themselves anyway.

As the Norah Ephron scripted Meg Ryan films, Friends with Benefits and Easy A have demonstrated, balance is possible in romantic comedies and there have been other moments when female leads have been in the ascendency, notably in the eighties teen cycle.  Kazan's being slightly disingenuous about Ruby Sparks since at least under my reading its actively criticising the writers who create these characters even if it ultimately bottles it at the very end.  The character she plays therein is a MPDG as a way of demonstrating how disastrous in creative terms the worst excesses of these characters can be.  Which is all to the good, because it's only when you point this stuff out that anyone learns anything, or something.

Liverpool Biennial 2014:
Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT)

Art The first important piece of information you need to know about FACT Liverpool exhibition is that it opens at 11am. The other venues open at 10am. Having checked the Biennial website before today’s visit which said “Weekdays and Sunday 12pm - 6pm”, I was actually on Bold Street and in FACT briefly at five to eleven but then spent the next hour trying to find something to do, which in this case amounted to visiting Forbidden Planet and then wandering down to Marks & Spencers to buy a jar of marmalade when I didn’t need to. I mean I didn’t need to kill time rather than needing marmalade. You should always have a jar of marmalade in the house. But I could have bought it after visiting the exhibition rather than before. During the writing of this piece the website has actually been corrected to give the right opening hours (old version cached here) necessitating the replacement of the sentence which previous appeared here with this one. But remember, 11am.

FACT also demonstrates the “danger” of spreading out your Biennial experience across weeks and assigning a day to each. The venue is highlighting the work of a single artist, Sharon Lockhart, and focuses on just a few pieces across its massive spaces. Within the context of a day spent wandering around the whole Biennial or a number of venues this is presumably less of a problem than if it’s your only destination, where the experience is to be brutally honest a bit sparse. I was in and out in an hour and that included a good fifteen minute chat with one of the volunteers about the implications of one of the works in relation to visitor expectations. The artist is also curating a film series and premiering a new piece later in the year, but the fact remains (sorry) that this is one of Liverpool’s primary art venues and for the next three months it’s displaying something that previously would have more naturally found a home at one of the temporary spaces which are fewer in number this time.

Podworka (Sharon Lockhart, 2009)

The single piece massive gallery one space on the ground floor, Podworka is projected onto a giant, square screen resting on the floor, with a long bench or seat opposite. On that screen we see footage, half an hour of footage, of the same children, more or less, playing in a series of urban locales, car parks, derelict commercial properties, around bus stops and alleyways. We’re in Lodz, the third largest city in Poland (location of the national film school) and witnessing the creativity of children and their ability to find stimulation in the degrading remnants of humanity, of the disintegrating architecture which tends to destroy the hope of adults. Where we see a dangerous pothole full of dirty rain water, a small boy with a bicycle enjoys experimentation shifting the wheels of his vehicle in and out marvelling at how the water leaves patterns on the concrete or noticing how he can see the depth of the pool from how far the wheels have submerged.

The only adult appearis in the car park scene, in the very far distance supervising as the kids ride their bicycles around and round. Towards the end of that vignette, all of the children wander over and they embrace and we assume this must be a parent. But since we’re also sitting on a bench in front of each of these static scenes, are supposed to be experiencing what it’s like to be a parent or at least a supervising figure in these children’s lives? Certainly as two boys fearlessly climb up the side and onto the roof of a graffiti strewn building which looks as though it’s about to collapse at any moment, our natural impulse is firstly of fear and secondly to almost call out to them to be careful. But we’re also behavioural anthropologists guessing the implications of play and how the children interact with one another and if we can easily tell if they’re in long term friendships or simply at a loss that day and enjoying each other’s company however briefly.

As this rather good survey from The Seventh Art blog demonstrates, Lockhart’s approach is to lock off her camera in various locales and capture the results, a kind of long form, in motion version of still photography. But people interested in film will see parallels with slow cinema, notable Michelangelo Frammartino’s Le Quattro Volte with its seemingly endless shots capturing the life of a goat farmer or for the (somewhat) more mainstream option Michael Hanneke’s Cache, in which important plot details are almost in hidden in full view in frame within lengthy mater shots of buildings or the view from a dashboard. There’s also perhaps some kinship with Atom Egoyan’s Calendar, which also plays on the intersection between a locked off moving image having similar properties to a still camera as he let part of his action play out against a backdrop of images of churches in Armenia in preparation to be taken (see here for a review).

But all of those are a fiction and have narrative intent, whereas Lockhart’s is a documentary vision, which is fine, but after the second or third vignettes, I was bored, the point having apparently been made. Because of my decision to watch through all of the film and video work on display at the Biennial, I stuck it out until the end, but most visitors drifted in and out, some watching a couple of vignettes, some barely most of one. If we are supposed to be in the position of supervising these children, perhaps boredom is the intent. Perhaps it’s simply that the vignettes are too long, on average about five minutes. It’s also notable that there’s no shape to Podworka, no credits, so it wasn’t until the first vignette I’d seen reappeared that I’d known I’d seen them all. Which was the first? Are we supposed to know? Or is the first whatever we see first, Lockhart conscious of the display of video and film art in a gallery setting where its usually near impossible not to mooch in at the middle and then after to stay after credits to see how it begins.

I’m also not sure what it’s for, or at least what we’re supposed to gain from it. There’s a certain poignancy in the way that it captures a moment in these child’s lives and evokes our own memory of similar modes of play when we were their age (which is especially true for me growing up in Speke in the 70s & 80s) and you can see why Lockhart has chosen to include  Richard Linklater's Boyhood within the series of film’s she’s presenting at FACT which does something similar across a much longer form. During the making of the piece, the artist one of the teenagers which led to a five year residency in Poland, the results of which appear in the rest of the gallery, but before seeing that, just watching this purely without context I was constantly wondering if I was learning anything particularly new about childhood and a child’s imagination that indeed my own memories don’t otherwise provide. Perhaps the best audience for the work will be these children, all grown up, being reminded of what it was like for them.

Mise en scène dans Quand Harry rencontre Sally...

Film The Vulture has a slide show demonstrating how the use of space on screen, and the physical position of Harry and Sally in When Harry Met Sally changes depending on how close the characters are emotionally:
"It's safe to assume that the main theme of When Harry Met Sally is about whether men and women can be friends, since the characters talk about it a bunch. However, on the 25th anniversary of the film's release, I'd like to offer another reading: When Harry Met Sally, with all of those cute old couple interviews, is a movie about how people come together. Not only is that the story Nora Ephron was telling with the plot, but it's also the one told visually by director Rob Reiner. In every scene involving Harry and Sally, the physical distance between the two in the frame reflects where they are emotionally. And I mean every scene. Here’s a scene-by-scene slideshow of screenshots, GIFs, and videos that explains what I'm getting at and illustrates how Reiner used spacing in the mise-en-scène to tell this love story. You'll never be able to watch When Harry Met Sally the same way again."

The Feeling Listless Soundtrack 1.0:
Your House.

Written by Alanis Morissette & Glen Ballard
[from: 'Jagged Little Pill', Maverick, 1995]

Music  This is my favourite Morissette track. It captures the essence of what she’s been trying to do, with all the props and guitars which usually flood her tracks entirely absent. Unlike everything else it doesn’t have many words syndrome, but like her best songs it’s a list. When she performs it live, it’s always with a minor guitar accompaniment which seems out of place as though someone else has joined her trek through her ex-lover’s new life. Keep it natural [originally written twelve years ago].

[Commentary:  This is still my favourite Morissette track.  It captures he essence was what seemed like she was trying to do before the props and guitars really began to flood her tracks.  Unlike everything it doesn't have many words syndrome, even though considered her recent excesses it is a list.  When she recreated it for the acoustic album, it was with a guitar accompaniment which was out of place and along with the vocals made it sound like a sub-Sarah McLachlan b-side.  Keep it natural.]

Molly Ringwald on her struggle to have a child.

"So when I was six years old I recorded a jazz album..."

Film Hosted at The Guardian, Molly Ringwald's turn at The Moth, the storytelling thingymajigy which is often the source for more stories of This American Life [see here].

Squirrel Girl!

Film Kevin Feige has commented on Edgar Wright leaving Ant-Man and this really does, as I speculated, sound like the Torchwood problem. Key quotes from The Guardian piece:
"We sat round a table and we realised it was not working," he said. "A part of me wishes we could have figured that out in the eight years we were working on it. But better for us and for Edgar that we figure it out then, and not move it through production.

"We said let's do this together and put out a statement. What do we say? 'Creative differences'. I said: 'That's what they always say and no-one ever believes it.' Edgar said: 'But in this case it's true … '"
The more I scrutinise at this, the more it looks like Feige and Wright were desperate for two entirely different film making styles and creative modes to coalesce, so desperate that they recklessly went ahead anyway but ultimately, in the end, shrugs.

Watch this:

Edgar Wright - How to Do Visual Comedy from Tony Zhou on Vimeo.

The idea that Wright could direct a Marvel film and have it do all of the above and retain his directorial vision is ludicrous for all the reasons, however much some of us would love to see it, Woody Allen's never directed a Western or straight science fiction film.  Or Alfred Hitchcock.  His fans would hate the thing because however much he tried he'd end up watering down those things they like about his films because of the needs of the 'verse and that's exactly what was happening as it edged towards production. MARVEL fans would hate it because it couldn't deliver on the things they expect, though it might have done some of the usual box office, it would have been the odd Ant-Man out.

Both sides have been pretty silly about the whole thing, especially MARVEL which is now saddled with this strange project which will still be a half-way house under Peyton Reid.  Is it still a straight up comedy?  Was it ever?  MARVEL could have cancelled this five years ago, but the cache of having Wright on board presumably gave the studio a certain cool and Wright was on a passion project.  The whole thing remains a mess, frankly, and if I was MARVEL I'd cancel the whole thing, or at least fill the production gap with something else (Squirrel Girl!) until they figure out exactly what a proper Ant-Man film should be like in the MARVEL universe.  Starring Amy Acker as The Wasp.

Senses of Gravity.

Film Senses of Cinema considers the sound design in the film Gravity, and how its "realism" was as a result of a series of very conscious choices rooted within the visuals and narrative:
"Techniques which defamiliarize a film’s soundtrack can be effective devices that create a disturbing, unsettling sensation for the audience that “shocks” them in an “immediate” way. The absence of explosion sounds for instance is not shocking merely because it is unconventional, but also because the defamiliarizing effect encourages the audience to focus on the disintegrating debris which in an ordinary film might escape such close attention as it would be in one sense just an embedded part of the overall mise-en-scene. By stripping away the expected explosion sounds Gravity demands more crucial apprehension of its visual details—just as the remote sound of the contact microphone recordings of Stone’s tools in the opening sequence focus the audience’s attention onto the exceptionally photorealistic virtual space environment."

The Doctor meets #leveson.

Education Liverpool John Moores University has updated a short video of their graduation ceremony featuring the university's chancellor, Lord Leveson and Paul McGann who was receiving an honorary degree at an event which took place at the Anglican Cathedral yesterday.

People With Enough Disposable Income To Ignore The Event They Paid For [PWEDITITETPF].

Music The Gothamist has an excellent rant which explains the 50% of the reason why I don't attend concerts any more which isn't about mobile phones:
"At Tuesday night's otherwise exquisite Andrew Bird performance in Central Park, I had to repeatedly ask people around me to please stop talking. Yes, at a performance by Andrew Bird, an indie recording artist known for his soulful whistling. You'd think the uniformly twee audience at an Andrew Bird show would be a reverent, bespectacled vacuum, but it turns out that people of all stripes are willing to wait on a very long line for the privilege of vapidly chatting over achingly sublime music. A young man next to me, who spent the entire concert gabbing with his friend about unrelated bullshit, added to the mix by occasionally CRUNCHING an empty plastic water bottle in time with the music. While continuing to talk. I asked him to stop, and he looked at me with incredulity, as if I was senile old man. Back in my day, we drank water from fountains."
Truth be told I tried attending the classical music portion of the Liverpool International Music Festival last year and ended up walking away for all these reasons. Stood next to the stage I spent my time watching and listening to people with smart phones and giant fucking camera lenses taking pictures of the event, clicking and beeping away during the music and if you were sat in the crowd you couldn't hear the music over the incessant chatter of people talking about they'd done that day, would be doing the next day or eating their way through the fast food being sold on site.  Just because it's a free event doesn't give people the right to be disrespectful, does it?  I really can't afford to pay for a similar experience any more.

Obligatory Doctor Who trailer post.

TV I'll be quick because the #GER #ARG match is still on ("Come on my continental neighbours!"). But three things *

(1) The prominence of Clara.  Now that she's no longer a walking plot point, she'll presumably assume the more standard audience POV position and therefore be better liked by that most fickle of audiences, the audience.

(2) The prominence of Capaldi. I hadn't expected this much footage of him in character this early.

(3) Doctor Who Into Darkness.

(4) "I'm 2000 years old..." It's going to take a while for us to get used to the hundreds of years he spent on Christmas.

(5) Invasion of the Dinosaurs.

(6) Nice new library in the console room. The mini is parked just off camera, presumably.

(7)  Isn't that the same castle from The Almost People and Nightmare in Silver?  Hope it's a better episode than either of those two.

* It's never three things.

Streaming Forgotten Films. Nina!

Film Back in 2007 I spent a month reviewing a series of films which fell out of view within minutes of being released hadn't been seen since, which included the Laura San Giacomo starring minor classic, Nina Takes A Lover, which I wrote about here.

Well goodness. Only ever available on VHS in this country and well deleted on R1 dvd, this morning, Amazon Prime UK added it to their subscription, which is an unexpected pleasing surprise, and as you can see from the above image it's a nice, clean widescreen HD transfer (and thanks to Maft for the tip).

In 2012, I went through the list again to check on availability and this seems like the perfect nudge for me to try again.  Not much has changed.

I'm With Lucy (2002)
Still some availability on dvd, though it looks to have been deleted.  Are some copies from between £.01 to £3.50 depending on where you're looking.  Available on Lovefilm on dvd.

The Most Dangerous Game (1932)
On dvd.  On Amazon, for rental and streaming.

Magic Town (1947)
Meanwhile on dvd to buy and rent.

The Hour of the Pig (1993)
Only available on dvd via an expensive R1 copy under the rubbish title The Advocate.  Otherwise its still only available in the UK on a Curzon Video.  Sometimes turns up on BBC Four in a terrible cropped print.

The Red Violin (1998)
Available amazingly cheaply now on dvd at Amazon.  Reached BD in the US.  Dvd to rent at Lovefilm.

A Thousand Acres (1997)
Budget dvd at Amazon which is rentable at Lovefilm.

Barfly (1987)
Available in multiple versions and formats to buy.

Late Night Shopping (2001)
Available on dvd in various flavours.  Also at Lovefilm.

Loser (2000)
Second hand dvds plentiful.  Streamable at Lovefilm and Netflix but curiously not rentable by post.

All World Cinema (1895 - present)
Link included here for completion sake.  But I'd still recommend all the films listed.

The Core (2003)
Of all the films on this list to be available on region-free BD it had to be this.  Dvd too and in a double bill with Deep Impact which is practically a tragedy remake.  Lovefilm link.  Also added to Netflix today.

11:14 (2003)
Amazon, Lovefilm.

Hostile Hostages (1994)
DVD under its UK title, The Ref.  Lovefilm on shiny disc.

Quinceanera (Echo Park LA) (2006)
Amazon, Lovefilm (streaming and by post)

The Tribe (1996)
Still only available on R1 dvd, and even more expensive now than in 2007 or 2012.

Stealing Beauty (1996)
Amazon, Lovefilm.

Visions of Light (1992)
Some dvd copies still floating around for sale and available at Lovefilm.

View From The Top (2003)
The worst film on the list is still one of the most available.  Amazon, and on Lovefilm by post and streaming (so you can skip directly to the scene I'm writing about).  It's on Netflix now too.

Next (1989)

Life Story (1987)
One of the best films on the list is the least available.  The BBC Education VHS copy doesn't look likely now though there is a low grade copy on YouTube.

Nina Takes A Lover (1994)
Status hasn't changed in five years.  R1 only.

Love and Other Catastrophes (1996)
Status hasn't changed in five years.  VHS only, despite that cast.  I mean look at that cast.  Was available briefly to stream on Lovefilm.  Gone now.

Chacun cherche son chat (1996)
Available on R2 import for £20.

Memento: The Beginning of the End
Is an Easter egg on the special dvd edition of the film.

The Red Siren (2002)

One Night Stand (1984)
Not available.  Not even the VHS version I bought ex-rental in the mid-90s.  There are two clips on YouTube now though.  Here and here.

The Family Stone (2005)
Of course it is.  It's The Family Stone.  Happy Christmas.  Amazon.

Happy Endings (2005)
No, not the sitcom.  It's a Don Roos film.  Was available on R2 for about three seconds so there are copies floating around.  Lovefilm also have it and Amazon Prime has a purchasable SD version. Along with the sitcom.

The Night They Raided Minsky's (1968)
Amazon, Lovefilm.

The Whistleblower (2010)
Cheap dvd.  Or Netflix.  Or by post.