The Films I've Watched This Year #44

Film Now that Peter Capaldi's been confirmed for the ninth series of Doctor Who, I decided I couldn't wait another year or so to see his replacement Romola Garai in action so I'm now in full "career watch" mode and although I've already had a few glimpses of her future with The Last Days on Mars and The Other Man, I've rewound right back near the start (timey-wimey) and begun working my way through her works in order where possible, Lovefilm permitting.  They have The Last of the Blonde Bombshells in which she plays the young version of one of the characters, but Attachments isn't available on anything other than overpriced second-hand VHS (probably for the best) and neither is the next thing, an ITV drama called Perfect starring Michelle Collins.

Andrew Davies's adaptation of George Eliot's Daniel Deronda is arguably her first big television moment, in which she gives us a very coquettish Gwendolen Harleth and luminously memorable introduction as she throws a fortune away on the turn of a roulette wheel under the enchanted eye of Hugh Dancy's Deronda.  From then on she pretty much commands the screen with all the confidence of an actor with years more experience entirely aware of how the camera regards her especially in the archery scene where she simply glows.  The BBC Genome tells me I originally saw this on BBC Four at roughly this time of year in 2003 and although it wasn't until 2009 and the double whammy of Glorious 39 and Emma that I really decided she'd have the perfect future as a Time Lord, her screen presence is almost fully formed here.

If you do have Netflix or the dvds and three and half hours this is well worth the effort.  Some of the writing and performances is in broad strokes.  Hugh Bonneville's Grandcourt is a bit of a two-dimensional panto villain but in some respects needs to be to underscore the misdirection of Gwendolen's choices.  But balancing that is Edward Fox's multilayered turn as Deronda's father, whose aristocratic surface has as many cracks as his face.  Other than Bonneville the main Doctor Who connection here is its producer Louis Marks who wrote four classic stories, Planet of Giants, Day of the Daleks, Planet of Evil and The Masque of Mandragora.  It's also directed by Tom Hooper who after a bunch more television ended up on The King's Speech and Les Mis.

The Emperor's New Groove
Nicholas Nickleby
I Capture The Castle
Dirty Dancing 2
Vanity Fair
Inside I'm Dancing

The IMDb has Nicholas Nickleby as Garai's first film role which I originally saw in a free preview before Deronda back in 2003 and reviewed over a couple of paragraphs here then again in 2012 (#hathawaywatch).  Here she's Nickleby's sister Kate who is treated badly by Edward Fox's Sir Mulberry Hawk who seems to be channelling Bonneville's performance from Deronda.  It's a film which has improved with age, not least because of the now unaffordable and eclectic cast which I notice includes Daisy Haggard as "Juliet in play".  It's all the more surprising because two years before the director Douglas McGrath, a big friend of Woody Allen, directed the utterly unwatchable Company Men which I wrote about here after having watched it, and later I Don't Know How She Does It.  But also Emma and Infamous.  Creativity's an inconsistent and strange business.

I Capture The Castle, the Dodie Smith adaptation. was Romola's first starring role and demonstrates she can carry a film.  She's playing younger here, the seventeen turning eighteen daughter of Bill Nighy's washed up novelist and is delightful as this naive but intelligent ingenue.  It's about the fear, I especially experience, that once we have some great achievement (which in my case would be my MA), we essentially then spend the rest of our lives in a futile process of trying to replicate as we await the inevitable.  The script is by Heidi Thomas, who after a slight blip on Lilies, bounced onwards through Ballet Shoes (with which this feels stylistically connected), Cranford, the Upstairs Downstairs sequel and now currently Call The Midwife.  Tim Fywell's next directing job was Ice Princess of all things.

At which point she runs, or rather latin ballrooms, into the notorious Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (to give it the US title) or at least notorious to those of us who've heard the This American Life interview with its screenwriter whose original script was a relatively serious biopic about a young girl growing up in Cuba during the revolution.  They suggest its "one of the worst movie sequels ever made" and although it might be with my Garai goggles watching, it's really not that bad.  The dance sequences are spectacular, the Cuban music soundtrack which has the original Shakira-less version of Wyclef's Dance Like This is stonking (Spotify playlist) and there's an unexpected ending given what the film's about (unless you've heard the TAL piece).  Swayze himself turns up for a cameo in one of the obligatory dance montages.  The additional content on dvd shows Garai and her partner Diego Luna really learned the routines.

I wish I knew the actual order in which these were filmed.  Seeing I Capture The Castle which is a highly literate script right next to Havana Nights which really isn't, is a startling experience.  Garai treats both jobs with the same professionalism, just as she would, but in the latter she's not best served by a directing and editing style in which the shot length is  fast even when there isn't the dancing.  Plus she's hampered by an American accent which is fine but sometimes the cliches she asked to voice simply sound wrong out of that mouth.  Glancing forward, it's interesting to note that she only plays one or more accented parts and no more Americans.  Director Guy Ferland would later lense three episodes of Torchwood's Miracle Day, though we won't hold that against him.  Much.

On Thursday I triple billed those two and Vanity Fair, Mira Nair's free version of Thackeray's novel and after seeing Garai in those starring roles, it was entirely curious to see her back in the supporting position as Amelia Sedley, friend to Reese Witherspoon's robotic turn as Becky Sharp.  Actually that's not fair, she's fine, but there's not a lot going on beyond her accent and although the editing favours her, she's acted right off screen by Garai whose own story, at the centre of a love triangle, comes across as far more compelling but undernourished because Julian Fellowes's screenplay can't quite decide just how to turn the original doorstop into a two and a quarter hour film.  The structure is all over the place and it's clear that as a piece of art it would have benefited from having Garai's part excised altogether.

Or having Garai play Becky Sharp which the other films show she'd be quite capable of but from here on in, right through to 2009, she's in supporting daughters and girlfriend roles.  Inside I'm Dancing makes her the object of affection for the two wheelchair bound protagonists,  played by James McAvoy and Steven Robertson who hire her to be their inexperienced home help as they fight for independence.  Adding mouthy Irishwoman to her repertory, she manages, with the aid of the script to retain the audience's sympathy despite reflecting our uneasiness with disability.  The film is problematic.  In purposefully foregrounding that disability it does fall into the trap of presenting pity/heroism attitudes but that always sadly tends to be the case with groups who are underrepresented by mainstream cinema.  Still cried though.

Gen of Deek.

TV Den of Geek has a reaction filter article for the eighth season of Doctor Who trying to capture (a) what went wrong and (b) why people thought that wrongness occurred, as well as the good things. It's a good survey clarifying how I also eventually rationalised the thing which is that its the usual post-regenerative torpor playing out across a whole season, giving us all the usual beats as seen in Robot or The TV Movie or The Eleventh Hour stretched across ten of them. You could argue that if they'd signposted this earlier on somehow we (well, ok, I) might have been a bit more forgiving but nevertheless ...

Anyway so the Gen of ... Den of Geek piece covers the astonishingly objectionable gender politics in The Caretaker as a reflection of the show shifting towards the right wing and somewhere in this paragraph ...
"Then there’s the subject of gender. Granted, Moffat has long been accused of misogyny because of the way he is said to write female characters. However, this is more specific than that. Although this could be said to be typical of the season as a whole, consider "The Caretaker." Clara might be shouldered with the dramatic weight in this story, but she is still subject to the two men in her life (i.e. the Doctor and Danny). She is forced to explain her life choices to them as well as her decisions. Eventually, these two men assert their custodianship over Clara – something she accepts as positively endearing. Indeed, some have observed that, in this light, those of a more liberal disposition might see the very title of this episode as objectionable."
... they link back to my review which is nice of them. The phrase I've emboldened here.  Two things: (a)  I agree and (b) that its interesting that what I said would be considered as an expression of my liberal values because as we've all discovered recently it's one thing to say you're a liberal, another thing to be it and this seems like confirmation, albeit from someone reading a Doctor Who review written in desperation close to midnight that I'm not just a self-labeling liberal but display them in my writing too.  Oh well good.

Also on Den of Geek this week is a really rather good listicle of twenty-one stories which are better than their reputation suggests to which I'd add Robots of Sherwood from this series, which was in the end my favourite episode.  So there.

Soup Safari #8:
Mushroom and Leek at The Italian Club.

Brunch. £3.95. The Italian Club, 85 Bold St, Liverpool, Merseyside L1 4HF. Phone:0151 708 5508. Website.

"We lived in Arizona, and the skies always had little fluffy clouds in 'em..."

Music One of the big sellers on Amazon at the moment is the compilation album Moods which has all the tracks you'd expect it to (Enigma, Vangelis, DJ Sammy) and includes The Orb's Little Fluffy Clouds which I first heard when it was played to me by a friend at university when I visited his house. We sat on his carpet and he pumped it out of his very good sound sound system and it was like nothing this Debbie Gibson fan had experienced before.

Listening again just now on Spotify, I finally decided to try and find out exactly where the sample interview came from, this voice I've been listening to all of these years.  I've always assumed it was a news voxpop, perhaps from some US cable channel.  Or a documentary about the weather.

Inevitably the Wikipedia has an answer:
""Little Fluffy Clouds" is centred on clips from an interview with Rickie Lee Jones in which she recalls picturesque images of her childhood. Critics and fans sometimes attribute the odd nasal tonality of Jones' voice to drug use, though Jones later claimed that it was the result of a heavy cold. The samples are widely believed to have come from a conversation between Jones and LeVar Burton on the children's television programme Reading Rainbow., but in fact originated from an interview disc that was issued with some promotional boxed copies of her album Flying Cowboys. The interview was not actually conducted by Burton at all."
Which then leads to YouTube and the first interview most of us can actually speak along to ...

Interestingly, the uploader makes the LeVar Burton mistake too even though the voice we hear sounds nothing like Geordi LaForge.

What the Wikipedia doesn't mention is what the first voice we hear is. That would be John Waite whose audio show reel is also on YouTube and mentions The Orb in his CV:

He's currently the reporter on Radio 4's Face The Facts.

My Twitter Archive #3:
First Mentions of ...

About Just for fun, here are the first mentions of some of my interests on Twitter (as far as I can tell):

First mention of the Sugababes:
(The BBC was the second. Old friend of the blog Anna Pickard was the third.)

First mention of the Shakespeare:
(which is pretty philosophical until you look further into the search and find...)
(So the first use of the word Shakespeare on Twitter was in relation to a pet. The next two, here and here, are people watching a film. This is in relation to study.)

First mention of Dr Who:
(First person to call it Doctor Who.)

First mention of the next Doctor:
(Still is. I'll come back to this topic I expect.)

First mention of the BBC:
(Which is pleasingly mundane. This is the second and here is the first ever link to a BBC News article (or indeed anything at the BBC website.))

First mention of Liverpool:
(The second mention is someone moaning about the team's performance. The third was @Ev himself. Oh and while we're at it...)

First mention of Sefton Park:
(Because of course it was.)

First mention of The Guardian:
(Here's the first time an article was linked to, about Second Life obviously.)

First mention of the word "film":

(Perhaps other films were mentioned earlier but they'd be much harder to find. Which is why I'm cautious to suggest this is the first film review.)

First mention of Star Wars:

First mention of Natalie Portman:
(Twitter was so small at this point, presumably all of his followers knew who Crystal was...)

First mention of Starbucks:
(@biz's tweet was actually the third.)

More soon.


25th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Google Doodle.
"Determined to share this experience on the doodle and others like it around the world, we enlisted several folks and are grateful for their help. Our friends at arranged 17 international film crews to gather footage. The German Federal Archives (Bundesarchiv) provided powerful archival photographs by Klaus Lehnartz and Heiko Specht to set context for the video. Googlers from around the world translated more than 50 international versions. Morgan Stiff edited it all together."

What happens when you accidentally become internet famous?
"Aspiring neurosurgeon Balpreet Kaur had no idea her picture had been posted on Reddit until she was told by one of her Facebook friends. The picture, taken without Kaur’s knowledge, was uploaded to the site’s r/funny subreddit under the headline “I’m not sure what to conclude from this.” The user was apparently confused that Kaur is a woman with facial hair."

Artists Whose Debut Albums Sound Nothing Like Their Later Work:
"Before Alanis Morissette was giving us her raw emotions, and telling us about her dalliances in movie theaters, she was trying to make it as a dance-pop singer in the mold of say, Gloria Estefan or Paula Abdul. It’s honestly jarring to listen to some of this, mostly for the shock of hearing Alanis’s trademark howl performing such fluffy, inconsequential material. Luckily, Morissette’s dance-pop stage only lasted one album. Her work turned far more personal with 1995′s Jagged Little Pill, which became one of the most popular albums of the 90s."

Doctor Who blogging: “Death in Heaven”
"Chubby Rain is the hilariously awful movie-within-a-movie in Bowfinger. It’s about an alien invasion in which the aliens hide themselves in the raindrops. Really."

Doctor Who: How was Peter Capaldi's debut series?
"Doctor Who's eighth series reached its finale on Saturday with an hour-long episode that saw Peter Capaldi's Time Lord battling two old foes: The Cybermen and Missy - a female incarnation of his arch-enemy The Master. So what do TV critics make of the Peter Capaldi's tenure as the Twelfth Doctor so far?"

Charity records and the Radio 2 playlist.
"No Man's Land (Green Fields of France) by Joss Stone and Jeff Beck was played at a recent Radio 2 playlist meeting, at which the 11 show producers attending all agreed that, due to the poignancy of the lyrics and the subject matter, the song would be best played closer to Remembrance Day and that "free choice plays" - where shows choose their own tracks to play - would best suit the single. This approach would enable due respect be paid to the song's subject matter and the presenter could then properly showcase it, rather than it just appearing unannounced in a show's running order."

Interstellar is screening in 6 different formats. Here's how to decide which to see it in.
"Perhaps you already caught Interstellar over the weekend. Which format did you see it in?"

$2 Billion and Counting:
"When I hear stories about artists and songwriters who say they’ve seen little or no money from streaming and are naturally angry and frustrated, I’m really frustrated too. The music industry is changing – and we’re proud of our part in that change – but lots of problems that have plagued the industry since its inception continue to exist. As I said, we’ve already paid more than $2 billion in royalties to the music industry and if that money is not flowing to the creative community in a timely and transparent way, that’s a big problem. We will do anything we can to work with the industry to increase transparency, improve speed of payments, and give artists the opportunity to promote themselves and connect with fans – that’s our responsibility as a leader in this industry; and it’s the right thing to do."

11 Clever Uses for Your Old Phone or Tablet:
"As you don't need your old smartphone or tablet to travel around with you any more, you can fix it on a window or in a corner and use it as a home surveillance device or a baby monitor. Plenty of apps are available to cover the software side of the equation: iCamSpy, Presence and Manything are all powerful options that enable you to keep an eye on your property or your kids from somewhere else."

33 Things The Kids Of Today Will Never Understand:
"How you could occasionally find a fiver in your crisps and life would get that little bit better."

Remember Folks, Batgirl Is Smart – But Not *Too* Smart…
"She never even thought to backup her laptop, or store anything on the cloud…"

Brazil's Amazon opera house: 'I've done every job'
"In 1973, Raimundo Pereira do Nascimento, known as "Nonato," walked into the Manaus Opera House with a contract to hang drywall and help with some restoration work."

Art of the Title on Too Many Cooks. Interview with creator:
"I had the idea of doing this for Adult Swim, where I work, but I thought… it’s not going to really carry 11 minutes and so I just sat on it. I told some co-workers about it who told my boss Mike Lazzo at a party and he liked it so he said do it, but he said you’re right, that will only carry you about four minutes and then you’ve got to start zigging and zagging and layering other ideas. You know, right when the audience is starting to get bored or kind of figure out what you’re doing you’ve got to zip them in another direction."

"The only question that still seems to be plaguing people is this: why on earth would ITV commission Dapper Laughs in the first place?"

Sarah Polley, Leslie Feist back domestic abuse doc:
"Khan says she is making the film after having lived for two years with an abusive boyfriend who hurt her every day. Twenty years later, Khan says she bumped into her ex on a street corner and the experience inspired an idea of how to get answers to nagging questions about why he was violent to her, and how to get a film audience into the mind of a serial abuser."

Born before 1985? Then you’re a ‘digital immigrant’:
"2014’s best new music sounds lonely. As a firm believer in the theory that music’s evolution follows the path of technological progress (the Vox distortion pedal begat Hendrix and the face-melting solo, the Linn drum begat the Human League and 80s pop and so on), I had put this down to the fact that artists at the cutting edge these days work alone, by night (music doesn’t pay much, so they all need day jobs), on a laptop or home studio. That’s not a qualitative judgement, by the way. As much new music as ever is excellent – but, I believe, the circumstances of its construction leaves an audible imprint."

Romeo and Juliet Has No Balcony:
"It's perhaps the most famous scene in all of English literature: Juliet stands on her balcony with Romeo in the garden below, star-crossed lovers meeting by moonlight. Colloquially known as "the balcony scene," it contains Romeo and Juliet's most quoted lines, which are so closely associated with the balcony that they're frequently repeated (often incorrectly and in a hammy style) by non-actors who seize upon any real-life balcony, porch, landing, or veranda to reenact the moment. There's only one problem: There is no balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet."

The Problem With the Problems With Serial:
"All of this writing and podcasting is, of course, an interpretive endeavor. The same piece of evidence can mean different things to different writers, can be used to support different claims. (This is the creative work in academic writing, and a big part of why I love my job - seeing young minds learn how to make these moves.) And so, as an author, Koenig definitely colors our understanding of the material. And maybe she’s taking things out of context - who knows! Since I don’t have access to the full tapes and files, I have to trust her."

My Twitter Archive #2

About Last time I delved into my Twitter archive was on the occasion of being able to download your own tweets. Now the company has made the whole archive available to search, it's even easier to look for landmarks, like the first ten replies to my tweets, either because the peopled followed me or I tweeted them first:

(This was still in the period when I was just reposting Facebook updates to Twitter.  Two long months and then...)

(Well the second post on the blog was about the Sugababes so why not?)

(I didn't know it had been this long since I watched I CLAVDIVS. I'd make time now but...)

(Was this something on television?)

(Pole Posssiitttiiioooonnn ... sit back and watch them gooo....)

(I wonder what this was? Pete?)

(Suw had written this piece about email addiction.  She suggests Twitter as an alternative.)

(I think the 2008 election was my favourite election)

(Because this.)
(I was preparing my application for the BBC's recruitment drive for Salford.  Sigh.)

Soup Safari #7:
Thai Green Chicken at Waitrose Cafe.

Lunch. £3.40. Waitrose Cafe, Waitrose, Three Tuns Lane, Formby, Merseyside L37 4AJ. Phone: 01704 873017. Website.

Poor Jen.