Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari.

Film  Coming soon to a cinema near you is a brand new, as distributor Eureka suggests definitive restoration of director Robert Weine’s German expressionist classic, Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari and I’ve been lucky to be sent a preview disc ahead of the London press screening because I’m somewhat out of the area. In Sight and Sound’s 2012 poll this seminal silent came 235th amongst critics, 322nd with directors which is surprising considering the near century long influence it's had on the cinema which came after with obviously horror and film noir most clear in its debt thanks to its dramatic lighting and sinister overtones.

Away from its film studies canonicity, now that it’s back in cinemas, can it be simply viewed as popular entertainment? The set-up is entirely unlike anything in contemporary mainstream film. In a small German town, carnival entertainer and hypnotist Dr. Caligari introduces his audience to a somnambulist and apparently clairvoyant Cesare who sets about predicting the future of audience members. At least it seems like clairvoyance until Caligari sends his cohort out into the world to carry out his bidding. Cue mystery, murder, mayhem and lashings of psychological horror as the towns inhabitants seek to find the truth of this unusual force.

The extent to which this scares you rather depends how much you can buy into the artifice. The sets, deliberately jagged and abstract are the stuff of a Munch painting and the actors frequently have to shift their weight in unusual ways in order to fit through rhombus like doors. The performances are expressive but that works with the general mood of excess. Perhaps the best entry point for modern audiences is the new soundtrack composed by John Zorn, which partly utilises the Karl Schuke organ at the Berliner Philharmonie and mixes classical, jazz and other genres to thoughtfully enunciate the emotional undercurrent of events.

My first experience of Caligari was at the Liverpool Biennial 2006 when I was invigilating at Afoundation in Greenland Street building, in the furnace section of what’s now Camp and Furnace, or the big room with the long tables and caravans. Goshka Macuga’s Sleep of Ulro installation included a giant wooden architectural construct directly influenced by the sets in the film, particularly in the studio bound moments when Caligari is apparently being chased across the landscape. At The Furnace, visitors could run up such a space then find themselves trapped in a dead end, much like the structures on screen (images here).

Accompanying the screener was an explanation of the how the restoration came about the gist of which is in the video I’ve included above. Even on this timecoded single layer dvd-r I can see clarity the new image has, the care which as been taken in sourcing the best materials to create as lucid an image as possible. To some extent it’s almost too unblemished. Scuzzier prints have ancient quality to them which in the case of silent horrors always enhanced the atmosphere. But it would be churlish of me to suggest that this isn’t an improvement of some rep copy which has done the rounds and it might just mean the film will survive for another hundred years.

Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari is released theatrically in he UK & Eire on the 29th August.

The Feeling Listless Soundtrack 1.0:
Eric's Ghost.

[from: 'Eroica: Piano Improvisions', Virgin, 1990]

Music Looking over the compilation I’m not sure now what I was trying to achieve. I think I was hoping to complement the tone of the weblog, include some of my favourite music and also offer a few surprises. I think I’ve done that. The trouble with compilations is that they can imply that this is my musical taste, and look over the track listing I’m not sure that’s what’s here. ‘The Heights’ track is on the edge, as is ‘The Flying Pickets’, curiosities more than anything else. Ironically, ‘Extremis’ may well also have been a mistake. But it could have been a lot worse. I nearly did include the aforementioned Richard E. Grant dance record. And a ‘This is the World Trade Centre’ track I’m particularly fond of. But this was originally put together in May this year and I’ve discovered a bunch of new music since then so I’m thinking about a sequel featuring just instrumental music. Which would be an odd way of expressing a medium built so much on words [originally written twelve years ago].

[Commentary:  Yes, well, if you say so.  The choice of the Lisa Coleman tracks will probably require some explanation.  They make better sense in the mix tape where they're interrupted by the Morissette and McEvoy acapella tracks.  They originally appeared on one of this five inch cds in the box with the above album as a bonus.  I'm yet to find an interview which bothers to mention this, so instead, here's Richard Keys patronising both Wendy and Lisa on the TV-AM couch in 1989.  Opening gambit: "Are you sisters?"  Minor kerfuffle: "His surname is Nelson, well, I never knew that."]

The Circle Line of Life.

Music If the Circle was in NYC, but I couldn't think of a better punning post title. The second best thing about the video is the general shrug of the commuters, the general collective sigh of "not this again" as they keep their eyes firmly fixed on their phones which at no point are even raised to record the hub bub. The commenters at Gothamist are pretty much in agreement that this kind of marketing is just intrusive but if the cast of The Lion King turned up on Merseyrail, I'd be thrilled. Not that there'd be much time for them to get the song out before they'd be halfway to Southport.

Liverpool Biennial 2014:
St. Andrew's Gardens.

Art Ridiculous. Ridiculous, ridiculous, ridiculous. This is ridiculous. How ridiculous? I’ve just spent an hour this afternoon sat on couch in front of a plasma screen in the housing office at The Bullring, sorry, St Andrews Gardens watching a stupifyingly boring art discussion programme from Belgium in the late eighties and when I had finished, after I’d been to the onsite toilet and photographed a copy of the accompanying explanation in the booklet sat on the coffee table in the space, said my goodbyes to the very kind invigilator who’d begun the screening over again especially for me right from start, all I could think was why? Why had I done this?

Apart from the existential realisation, not in a good way, that I’m currently in the place in my life when I can spend an hour on a Friday afternoon sat on couch in front of a plasma screen in the housing office at The Bullring, sorry, St Andrews Gardens watching a stupifyingly boring art discussion programme from Belgium in the late eighties, I have few answers. As the final venue on my tour of the official Biennial exhibitions, the A Needle Walks Into A Haystack cluster, it’s at best anti-climactic. But as I discovered at the last Biennial when I did the venues in numerical order based the figures selected for the map in the official booklet, they’re not meant to be done in numerical order based the figures selected for the map in the official booklet. It just sort of happened that way this time around.

The idea of bringing a curated collection of work by Belgian television director Jef Cornelis isn’t unsound. At least as a student of television history, there’s something potentially enthralling for me about seeing any television from the continent, especially arts television, because it’s something which hasn't been broadcast much in this country. When histories are written and documentaries are made about the history of art television, it’s always from a British perspective and we simply don’t get to see or hear about the Beligian or French or Spanish equivalents of Kenneth Clarke, Melvyn Bragg, Alan Yentob, Caroline Wright or Humphrey Burton.

As the Biennial booklet and website indicates, when Jef Cornelis worked at VRT (the Dutch-language Belgian public broadcasting corporation), he made over 200 films and here we have the ability to dip in and see this voice and see how a different culture reflected back on itself through its own programming. Like a one man Arena, across the decades, which oddly mirror the period "classic" Doctor Who was on the air, not that this is important but is on my mind for some reason, he covered a similar range of topics across many disciplines and titles which stand out from the list of works here in the booklet, including “Things that aren’t mentioned: Alice in Wonderland”, James Lee Byars: The World Question Centre” and “Landscape with Churches”.

Yet despite all of that, my own intellectual justification for why this is relevant, as I walked away from the display, I still asked myself, what is the point? Partly it’s the delivery. There’s no particularly connectivity between the Bullring and Jef Cornelis’s work other than perhaps the deliberate incongruousness of it, in which case to choose this venue in which we’re asked to concentrate on a television recording while the housing office quite rightly goes about its daily, noisy business, is, like I said, ridiculous and doesn’t do the work any favours. If this hadn’t indeed been necessarily subtitled I wouldn’t have had a chance in hell of following any of, let alone the miniscule amount I did latch on to.

On top of that, I’d also ask how we as an audience are supposed to interact with it. If I was following the rules of my own project which was to watch all of the video art on display the Biennial I’d be spending the best part of the next two months at the Bullring working my way through this stuff. I will not. Apart from the fact that we’re in the grey area of whether this is art or commentary on art or both, I can’t imagine the Biennial's curators expects us to either. It's worth asking how much of it they've seen themselves given that the show's been curated by Koen Brams, the director of the Jan van Eyck Academy instead. So how much of this do they expect us to see? Across the hour I was there, I saw three other visitors, a couple and someone on their own and they each stayed for about five to ten minutes, not much of which was spent sat on the sofa or accompanying armchairs watching the programme.

What did they make of it? What did it do for them? You can’t legislate for the reactions of every audience member or visitor but I wonder how many of them have also sat and watched a whole programme, or sat in the back room and watched one of the other documentaries and do they realistically have the time? I’d be genuinely interested to know if anyone reading this has either (through through usual channels please). If all the visitors are doing is wandering through, glancing briefly at a snippet of a seventy-five minute fashion documentary (or whatever), reading the information boards then heading off to another venue, it’s worth asking exactly what the point was in specially subtitling all this material in the first place. What’s it all for?

Container 3: Heine’s Paper Crane (Jef Cornelis, 1989)

The work is being displayed through a weekly screening selection on that main screen and through headphoned screens in a room at the back so it really depends on when you visit as to what you’ll see. This week it’s the turn of the third episode in the producer’s ten part philosophy discussion programme which began broadcasting fortnightly in early May of that year as a way of giving the a voice to the intellectuals of Flanders, who he thought at that point had no particular tradition in that regard. Two regular moderators and two guests hashed around a topic and in this third episode the participants read and discuss the relationship intellectuals have to history as a construct through letters by the likes of Goethe, Marx and Schopenhauer.

Which sounds pretty run of the mill and the sort of thing which might turn up on Radio 4. It’s not that much different to In Our Time. It killed Cornelis’s career. As the accompanying notes describe, “the Flemish press could not find a single good thing to say about Container” and the reason it only lasted ten episodes was because the VRT ended it. It’s not hard to see why. Ridiculously (there’s that word again) the Container of the title is an actual container, designed and built especially for the programme by Belgian architect Stephane Beel. Throughout there are cutaways to outside of the container with these four intellectuals sat around the table inside which entirely tip the viewer out of whatever point is currently being made.

It’s just the kind of experiment that Channel 4 might have carried out in its early days when they were allowing anyone to make programmes and which would later show up being sneered at by Mark Lawson on the A-Z of TV Hell or parodied by Adam & Joe. It’s After Dark filmed on the set of Network 7. And boring, so, so boring. The problem is that unlike In Our Time or After Dark, there’s no attempt to bring the viewer up to speed. Like turning up in the middle of an Oxbridge seminar, we’re expected to know who all these figures are and why their centuries old words are interesting. I would say I managed to follow about ten percent of it (see below), but the rest, what I could concentrate on amid the bustle of the office, was a fog.

The bit I did latch on to at about the twenty minute mark (I could keep an eye on the duration thanks to the massive screen showing BBC News on the wall nearby) concerning the notion of history not existing or rather what we think of as history actually being something cobbled together by academics and politicians, the winners, through the prism of their concerns and interests. This reminded me of the coverage of the World War One commemoration on Monday which included packages about the contribution the then British Empire made to the war, and how the native peoples of the areas of the world participated and died defending the very people who’d conquered them.

Having written this stinging criticism, again I ask myself what it’s for, what’s the point? Container 3: Heine’s Paper Crane won’t in any way be representative of Cornelis’s work and can’t be if he managed to previously carve out a thirty year career at the station it was produced at, like assuming all of The West Wing is like Disaster Relief. If I’d visiting a week earlier or later the previous four paragraphs would have been entirely different. Is Biennial therefore asking me to watch a range of his programmes in order to gain some knowledge of the kind of work he does? Is this art appreciation or screen theory?  If the piece had been displayed in a white cube rather than what's otherwise a student common room would I be asking the question in the same way?

The Biennial text suggests he was attempting to work against the grain of what television expects which does make him as much an artist as programme maker but within the limits of being a Biennial visitor, what’s the goal? Not for the first time this Biennial, I’m perplexed by the curatorial choices. On the basis of Container alone, with its artifice, I can see his artistic intervention (in a similar way to the Suzanne Lacey piece from two years ago) but by putting it in an exhibition does it become a piece of art and did Cornelis want it ever to be judged in these terms or was his primary focus simply on making this discussion programme visually interesting in a similar way to Roland Rivron when he decided to present a chat show while floating in the Thames?

Liverpool Biennial 2014:
Tate Liverpool.

Art Either I’ve been taking on too much caffeine again or this Liverpool Biennial is finally starting to get to me. There’s no other way I can explain my Room 237 moment while visiting the Claude Parent installation in the Wolfson Gallery at Tate Liverpool. Room 237 is an increasingly notorious documentary regarding the conspiracy theories surrounding Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, that more than a pretty good horror film, it’s at the nexus of socio-economic intellectual mush, which includes such things as the director subtly revealing that the footage of the moon landings was all created on sound stages with himself in charge. Like a fever dream, these theorists drag together disparate elements like Danny’s t-shirt, the shape of shadows and the colour of the carpet to reveal a truth which just simply isn’t there.

Clause Parent’s installation is a multi-level architectural construct which like much of his work, attempts to disrupt our expectations of a given environment, in this case filling the white cube space with ramps and balconies and splitting the levels turning the Wolfson into a kind of mini-Guggenheim. The works housed in La colline de l’art are supposed to extemporise and complement the space it seems, full of abstract shapes and circles on canvases against three-dimensional curves. In some respects it reminds of the fears expressed by artists in an open letter to the Guggenheim when it opened that visitors wouldn’t be able to experience their works in the best environment because they’d effectively be standing on a slope. As it turned out the gradient there wasn’t as exaggerated as they were expecting. It is here in places.

Now, join me in Room 237. After spending some time in the space, engaging with some pieces, reviling others, I walked up the ramp at the very centre of the space which leads up to the main balcony. At the top of this ramp is Paul Nash’s Voyages to the Moon, an abstract pieces which as apparently the result of him sitting in a restaurant and noticing a glitterball refracted the moonlight across the space. We see what looks like the moon gradually rising through the space and up into the sky. At the other end of the balcony is a Roy Lichtenstein piece, Moonscape, a gorgeous image which utilises plastic to provide the gradients in colour in the deep blue sky, like cosmic currents. Thinking about the both pieces, it occurred to me that in moving up the ramp onto the balcony, I’d essentially watched Nash’s moon rise in Lichenstein’s sky.

At which point I began to think about the other pieces I’d seen and the recurrences of moon and space symbols in them. Paul Delvaux’s Sleeping Venus has a crescent moon in the sky. Naum Gabo’s two pieces Model for ‘Construction in space, suspended’ and Model for ‘Monument to the Astronauts’ have it in the title. Francis Picabia’s The Fig-Leaf has a moon shaped ball on it with a person on top – moon landing? The video piece Trisha Brown WATER MOTOR has a slow motion section in which the dance looks for all the world like its happening in low gravity. Looped Network Suspended in Pictorial Space by Gillian Wise resembles a rocket scaffold. I was sure that the other pieces would reveal some connection but I just hadn’t seen it yet. I was enthralled. I'd found some hidden message right there.

Yes, well, ok. I did what you need to do in these situations and asked an invigilator and of course it was the first time he’d heard of it. This was not, as I suspected some hidden joke by Claude Parent. He hadn’t selected the art, just designed the space. The art had been selected by Biennial curators Mai Abu ElDahab and Anthony Huberman and although its possible these connections were intended, it seems unlikely. In the main Tate collection display which investigates mundane domestic objects in art, we’re told in no uncertain terms that this is what its doing. If this whole moon connection was more than a coincidence it would certainly be mentioned in the accompanying text. It is not. The accompanying text is all about how the art complements and contradicts the space. Welcome to Room 237.

Trisha Brown WATER MOTOR (Babette Mangoite, 1978)
Felix Gets Broadcast (Mark Leckey, 2007)
Instructions No 1 / Instrukcije br. 1 (Sanje Ivekovic, 1976)
The Coat (Karen Cytter, 2010)

Since this is a Tate collection display, most the pieces are already heavily documented. Babette Mangoite has written at length about the making of Trisha Brown WATER MOTOR on her website and the Tate has its own critical appreciation which is the basis for the text which appears with the work in the gallery space. Both of these rather blow the wind out my sales and I can’t be bettered so you might as well go and read those. To offer a quick description, it depicts legendary postmodernist American choreographer and dancer Tricia Brown performing her WATER MOTOR piece in black and white in single takes firstly at normal speed then slow motion taking full advantage of her obvious abilities to compulsive effect. It’s projected at Tate and is arguably the most eye-catching piece in the space.

In her text, Mangoite says her one regret is that she didn’t record synchronous sound because as she says, even though the dance occurred without music its impossible to convey that without recording the silence, which of course wouldn’t be silence because microphones would have picked up the sound of the camera, Brown’s breaths and shifting footwork and ambient noise. For my part I probably violated the artist’s wishes by listening to my own music during the two or three occasions I watched the piece, various tracks (some Kevin Shields, Eliza Doolittle) all of which eerily synched up. Seeing it instead with the ambient noise of the gallery space was also counterproductive, the mix of children screaming, random chatter and feet banging on the woodeness of Parent’s sculpture working against the magnetism of Brown’s athleticism.

Having just spent the past week and a half with the Commonwealth Games, whose visual language, especially in the gymnastics, includes the slow motion replay, it didn’t occur to me that the recording of the second dance wasn’t simply the first duplicated and slowed down. But it isn’t. This was recorded in 1976 when such technology was still magnificently unreliable. Mangoite filmed the piece three times, twice at normal speed, the third in slow motion then selected the best takes. In the third take, did Brown especially emphasise certain moves for the purposes of extemporising on the underwater feel of the whole dance? Perhaps. Not sure. But it’s a starting, emotional piece of choreography which repays multiple viewings even if we can only imagine what it sounded like.

We Need To Talk About Peter Quill.

Film If you've seen MARVEL's Guardians of the Galaxy already you'll know that it ranks with Inception, Gravity and Boyhood as one of the greatest film exploits of all time, one of those epoch changing moments in cinema which can do nothing but inspire awe. Much of this has to do with both the film itself which is as spectacular a space adventure as we could hope it might be based on the trailers, but also the effect it potentially has on the film business and the nature of the blockbuster. If MARVEL's Captain America: The First Avenger was innovative in how it extemporised the narrative synergy between film and television, MARVEL's Guardians of the Galaxy has the potential to change everything.

Such hyperbole probably need some explanation and in short order, here it is.  MARVEL is the shit.

Guardians made over $90m in its opening weekend in the US.  It's beaten by Transformers: Age of Extinction so far in annual totals but its the second biggest opening of the year and looks to have a huge second weekend.  But, whisper it, this was never a sure thing.  Transformers was a sure thing because even people who hate what Bay's done to the characters will have gone and it has a wide popular appeal with children.  Plus its the fourth installment in a franchise which has been massive despite the variable quality of the product.  Transformers was a sure thing.  Transformers was always going to be a massive opening.  People will go and see Transformers.

Guardians was not like this.  The trailers were excellent as was the poster marketing.  Arguably it had the best marketing campaign since all of the films listed above.  But it was never a sure thing.  Even up to a few weeks ago I was seeing online commentary, professional and amateur which talked about it being a risk.  No one was sure.  This Forbes article tries to have it both ways.  Nothing about the film made sense in relation to what people know about the film business.  Only one of the main characters is human, and two of the others are a digitally animated talking racoon and a tree.  The trailers betrayed a certain offbeat humour more akin to the cultiness of Firefly/Serenity, which have only really found an audience amongst the kind of people who like that kind of this.

Essentially it's asking the audience to accept the stuff they like about PiXAR films in a "real world" setting, in the middle of space, amongst giant alien empires filled with masses of preprepared mythology.  Star Wars and Lord of the Rings accepted, these are not the sort of things popular audiences like.  John Carter (of Mars) is a prime example of this kind of film, and although it's not quite as good as Guardians, it's still better than Transbloodyformers.  The storylines aren't dissimilar either in some respects and toally they're not that different either.  But a nervy ad campaign meant people didn't come even though that was also made by Disney.  If people didn't come to that why would they to this?

People came.  Boy did people come.  Look at them on the Twitters talking about this being the new Star Wars, even suggesting JJ's wasting his time because whatever he's doing can't be as good as this (which would make the Star Wars studio pretty nervous if it wasn't for the fact that it's the same studio).  It helps that the film itself is akin to the new Star Wars capturing quite a bit of the same humour and wonder of the original trilogy which the prequels sumerilly failed to offer.  It's funny, poignant, has some jaw-dropping visual moments and more importantly you forget the racoon and tree are being animated only now and then marvelling at just how accurate Rocket's fir is.

And in coming, they disproved the expectations of what we'll call the mass audience are tolerant of. The humour in this is offbeat and like I said the trailers told the audience that it was offbeat.  But they came and they came some more and social media suggested their friends come too.  Right up until I went yesterday, people I wouldn't imagine in a hundred years would see Guardians signalled their intention to go and afterwards tweeted how awesome it was in some way or other.  Having seen it myself I still can't quite believe this has happened.  This is a cult film.  It has all the elements of a cult film.  It's practically a remake of Space Truckers.  Yet there we are.  Over $90m opening weekend.

Now the previous MARVEL films will have something to do with this, what with MARVEL being a PIXAR like brand now.  But Captain America and Guardians are such different films you can't imagine there would be much crossover.  Tonally, Guardians is effectively a Troma film (as it would be given the career origins of the director) on a massive budget.  It's the kind of film which you'd find unheralded at Blockbuster in the mid-90s with c-list actors including Stephen Dorff directed by an auteur whose next film is The Incredible Ice Cream Suit but which more than lives up to your low expectations and which you know must have looked even better in widescreen before the studio panned and scanned the thing on the cheap.  Actually, no, that is Space Truckers.  $90m.

Amazing.  Game changing.

It's game changing for a number of reasons.

Not too long ago one of the blogs I read joked when seeing the plans DC has for their characters in cinema that MARVEL should just make a Squirrel Girl film to rub their faces in it, which was became even funnier when it emerged that MARVEL had copyrighted the character meaning that she's likely to turn up in film or on television in some capacity.  But the point is whereas before Guardians no one would think it possible that a character whose main power is the control of squirrels, who has cameoed in a Fantastic Four cartoon as a visual joke to demonstrate how low down the pecking order their recruitment process for a team replacement had sunk now looks like a sure bet.

Even Ant-Man looks like it could be a sure thing at this point even though in no way should they even be making it.  But Guardians gives them the flexibility to and make it another massive release.  Apparently yet more screenwriters are taking a pass at it, which is what happens when you have to replace your director.  If anything even at this point Ant-Man looks like about as appetising as the failed Gen 13 pilot with Alicia Witt but even turned out to be pretty good.  All Ant-Man needs to be now is pretty good and it'll open huge or at least huge enough for the whole thing not to have seemed like the massive waste of time it currently looks like.  Edgar Wright might even agree to direct the sequel, though probably not.

Right now, Disney's MARVEL could pluck any of the characters they have the rights to and turn it into a film and people will go.  They're still being cautious and they have every right to be.  They're not greenlighting projects left right and centre even though Black Widow has to be on the cards now, especially when you add in Lucy's opening weekend.  The trailer for Lucy ran before Guardians at FACT yesterday and as much as I enjoyed it and can't wait to see it, there's not one moment when I didn't wish it was a trailer for Black Widow.  Never mind Squirrel Girl, MARVEL at this point could probably make a Captain Barracuda film work and he's a pirate.  Obviously.

As a sidebar, Kevin Feige is still prevaricating on the point, but Guardians's screenwriter says on Twitter that she worked on a treatment in 2010/2011 for a film, the kind of statement someone only makes on the Twitters if they've been given the go ahead from someone to make that kind of statement even if she says that its not in active development, like a governmental leak designed to sound out some new policy.  At 80 odd retweets and fifty-five favourites its not exactly gone viral, but the news sites picked up on it, and you can imagine someone at MARVEL development is watching the reaction.  My guess is they're waiting for Captain America to have its threequel before offering Black Widow up as a replacement.

Sorry, second indulgence, but that's my theory about what MARVEL's doing here.  They're not thinking about the market in terms of characters but tones.  Now that Iron Man 3's shuffled through they're launching Ant-Man another film about a technoscientist.  Black Widow or even Hawkeye won't be launched until Cap is done because it would be strange to have another SHIELD agent based film series on the go.  I'm not sure what will happen after Thor, although you could argue the Doctor Strange film carries on the fantasy/horror element.  Guardians truly is offering a different genre to all of them.  But don't be surprised if in ten years when that's done, and after Fantastic Four tanks and they reintegrate the rights that we'll get Silver Surfer.

Anyway, they're sticking to two or three films a year which is a shame but probably all they can usefully produce without the quality dipping.  When the MCU was originally announced I remember one thought being that there would be a series of prestige films based on the bigger characters then smaller budget projects for the c-listers.  Arguably these smaller budget projects have migrated to television.  But think on that.  Agent Carter and the Daredevil series exist in the same universe as Guardians and Thor, which they do in the comics of course, but this is unprecedented in film and television.  But I've already covered that at some length elsewhere, so let's not do that again.

Because audiences turned up for Guardians, it means that studio expectations, notably at MARVEL but also elsewhere should widen, hopefully widen, and they'll take more risks with the kind of films they'll produce and the projects which look slightly offbeat may well get greenlit now [see this io9 piece].  My hope has been that MARVEL in particular will range out into other genres but set in the MARVEL universe and there's been some of that on television in the Netflix deal but I'd love to see a cop drama or rom com set in the MCU for the big screen.  I expect the question they'd ask is exactly why they would but if nothing else Guardians proves that a MARVEL film doesn't have to have superheroes in it in the traditional sense, even aliens, to be successful.

But what does that mean for the other studios?  Given their idiotic decision to not fall in with MARVEL and attempt to construct their own cinematic universes around the characters they have (though I still wonder if Disney and Sony attempted a proper deal over Spider-man which fell through) Guardians will either have a positive effect on them or it won't.  It depends on the percentage of the audience who went because it was the next installment of the films set in the MCU or simply with the MARVEL logo on the front.  That I simply don't know.

The other game change is in how DC reacts.  Up until this point they've been pottering along knowing that MARVEL's doing well but straight on with their plans.  But Guardians has to have given them pause not least because of comments like this found on Youtube under a copy of the trailer for Guardians:

Yes, exactly.  Superman and Batman are top draw characters which is why DC are so desperate to make films about them even though there have already been plenty of films about them and now MARVEL have come along and turned the equivalent of their Legion of Superheroes into a film and made it one of the most successful films of all time.  This shouldn't happen.  If DC are pinning their hopes on the same-olds it certainly wasn't even on their radar.  After writing that sentence, now I would be more excited to see a Legion of Superheroes film that Batman again even starring Ben Affleck.

But no one is excited about Superman v Batman that I can see.  Despite the release of the various images at Comic Con and the teaser footage with the glowy eyes and some ensuing excitement, I simply don't see the same level of excitement about that film than for pretty much every MCU release.  Everyone has something to say about everything, but people are already talking about Guardians 2 and what might happen in Guardians 2 in ways which I simply don't see with SvB or whatever it's called this week amongst the non-geeks, or should I say the people who would identify as geeks in the old usage.  That's a problem for DC and its unsolvable.

The other problem DC has is that its only making one film for release in 2016 [correction: actually two see below].  MARVEL will have at least four or five films out in the meantime not including the other version of MARVEL from the other studios.  Which will either mean that audiences are sick of superheroes anyway by 2016 and will simply shrug in the face of Kal-El and Bruce or the intervening films are so awesome they'll still shrug and wonder why they should care.  As Man of Steel shows, they will make money, but purely from a business perspective, taking into account the television series, in film terms they're sitting on a whole universe full of characters and still doing nothing with them.  HAHAHAHAHAHA.

Updated 07/08/2014  No sooner had I posted this and gone to bed had it been announced that DC have effectively blinked and moved Batman v Superman from its original release day of the 25th March 2016 opposite the third Captain America film to late March.  Deadline also reports they've offered up release dates for a raft of projects through 2020, none of which have titles yet but which exists to show that they aren't sitting on these characters and they do have some ideas.

Neither Variety or Deadline make the connection but I find it inconceivable that this announcement which has come under a week after the release of Guardians has nothing to do with Guardians.  The release dates will already have been decided but the fact of their announcement has to be connected, doesn't it?  Either way, in just ten years we've come to the point were DC actively believe a Captain America threequel would beat a film starring Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman at the box office.  MARVEL is the shit.

Losing Voice.

Music PopJustice has a column about the BBC's Saturday night pop talent content The Voice which notes that the first single from the winner of the last series, Leah McFall, went in at the high fifties in the pop charts despite being a pretty good pop song with the participation of William, sorry, Will.I.Am.

It notes that if a talent contest about singing can't produce successful singers, that it's a broken format. Of course it is but I think PopJustice misses the truth of it.

It's not that Radio One won't support the singers produced by the show, it's that it can't.

As previous winner Bo Bruce has identified, the BBC's own restrictions about cross promotion mean that Radio One can't A-playlist songs and heavily play them across the networks.  If they tried, the Trust would have an aneurysm which would lead to the press printing endless articles about them stepping outside of their remit.

But as PJ notes the given artist is also screwed because the commercial stations won't touch her either, presumably because they hate the BBC despite the fact that most of the artists they play were discovered by the BBC (who can play whatever other music they want) and also because they're part of the Syco promotion machine.

Now, I haven't watched one of these musical talent shows since Fame Academy which ultimate experienced similar problems, but for The Voice to exist as a thing going forward, which is somewhat important for some of us since it's somewhat wrapped up in the Saturday night Doctor Who whirlwind.

The BBC's restrictions are going to change any time soon.  They essentially exist so that Syco and the likem can't cry foul about a publicly funded body restricting them commercially.

Perhaps the prize needs to change.  A slot on Eurovision is problematic since as we've seen before it has the ability to destroy careers or at the very least not help them much and becoming the singer on a charity record brings other baggage.

Well, hum.  Let me have a think.

Prozac Nation at 20.

Books Elizabeth Wurtzel's Prozac Nation turns twenty this year. For The Daily Beast, Nicolaus Mills offers this appreciation, which notes that those passages which some saw as its weakness were actually its strength:
"Anyone going through Prozac Nation can certainly find plenty of callow moments when Wurtzel does whine. Wurtzel’s mother gets mugged in New York, and Wurtzel is reluctant to leave Cambridge to be by her bedside. Wurtzel’s boyfriend goes home during Christmas vacation to be with his mother and sister, and Wurtzel, trying to avoid another breakdown, resents the attention he gives his family.

"But what reviewers who seize upon these moments as proof of Wurtzel’s fundamental callowness ignore is that in Prozac Nation she makes a point of deliberately parading her worst side. Her aim is to show her readers that her depression did not just make her unhappy. It often made her unfeeling and incapable of empathy."
Here's what happened when I read the book in 2003. I've since met someone who read that review and took it literally.

"another multi-sport event put t' bed"

Sport There we go again, another multi-sport event put t' bed. When the London Olympics completed I wrote this lengthy obituary, something which I don't propose to do for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. My sentiments aren't that different.  My favourite wins are still those in which the athlete was surprised by their success, which notably happened in the race events as they pushed on ahead of the Australians and Jamaicans.  My enmity towards Gary Linekar as a presentational force remains undiminished.  As exciting nights of competition drew to a close in the pool or on the track, he was always there at the end to suck the atmosphere from the screen like the televisual equivalent of the DJ playing St Elmos Fire at my 18th birthday party (which to be fair I did select) clearing the dance floor.

Once again I woke up this morning not really knowing what to do with myself, not having a whole day's worth of sport to navigate, chasing vicarious achievement for the home nations.  The BBC Sport app on my iPad whose schedule has been invaluable for the past week and a half has already updated, replacing much of the Games coverage with a live blog of the football transfer window day.  Mostly I've been watching the World War I commemoration services which have been a sobering contrast, though thanks to the iPlayer I do plan to catch up on a couple of events I missed even though I know the result, Laura Trott's gold in the cycling points notably and the rhythmic gymnastics.  That's my other main "takeaway" from these Games, a new appreciation for gymnastics.

Social media's been strange during the Games.  During the Olympics, the Olympics was the subject.  But the majority of the people I follow have generally got on with their lives, barely mentioned these Games even when the same athletes they were so very excited about last time were competing.  Even on Bolt nights.  I didn't see much outright hostility, other than during the closing ceremony which was as messy as closing ceremonies tend to be and, rightly, over the number of Commonwealth countries which have deplorable anti-LGBT laws often in places where equality has been fought for a won for other reasons.  I still tweeted away, especially during our unsuccessful netball campaign but even more than usual it was like texting into a vacuum.  The interaction which made the Olympics generally wasn't there.

So yes, another multi-sport event put to bed.  Doctor Who's back in a couple of weeks with all the chaos and mayhem inherent in that, already beginning to swirl thanks to the leaks, the cinema release of the first episode, the usual hullabaloo.  As always I make my usual promise to myself to try to follow some of these sports between Games but I don't know.  Will I choose whatever's being shown on the red button (where so many of these sports end up) rather than watch a film?  We'll see.  I would like to revisit Glasgow now in the wake of the games.  The couple of hours I spent there on a coach trip a decade ago clearly wasn't long enough.  I think I'll leave it until some of the buzz has died down though.  Except if it's anything like Manchester, that could take quite some time...