Blank Space Links.

Yes, Prime Minister: Still true to life after 30 years?
"Perhaps the biggest challenge for Sir Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, the creators of the series, was making Hacker's elevation to Number 10 credible. Lynn told me: "There have been a large number of barely competent prime ministers and Hacker joins that rogue's gallery". Eddington, though, was thrilled."

Alanis Morissette: from queen of alt rock to Guardian advice columnist:
"The musician and actor is moving on. She talks about marriage, what gets her angry, what isn’t ironic – and answering readers’ questions for Guardian Weekend magazine."

BFI: The Home Front.
"Sandbags and searchlights, firefighters battling blazing streets; trains packed with departing children or servicemen... film has given us some of our most enduring images of war."

‘The Force Awakens’ set records, but that doesn’t mean it will change Hollywood:
"... while money talks, I think it’s important to be cautious before declaring that Rey and “The Force Awakens” will change everything. And even if they do, “The Force Awakens” illustrates just how far Hollywood still has to go to shed the assumption that its core customers are men who only want to see men on screen."

The New York Public Library's Remarkable New Digital Collection:
"A new online trove contains more than 187,000 maps, postcards, etchings, engravings, photographs, prints, illustrations, and more—all on the web, and freely available for anyone to use."

The Girl Who Was The ’90s: Mayim Bialik And Her TV Family Reflect On 25 Years Of ‘Blossom’:
"Before she would become a role model and fashion icon for teenage girls all over America, Blossom Russo was just a kid sister and a secondary character. Blossom creator Don Reo’s original vision for a coming of age sitcom revolved around a teenage boy named Richie, with an older brother named Anthony and a kid sister named Blossom, being raised by a single dad. But since there were already several series focusing on teenage boys at the time, including The Wonder Years, an NBC executive named Leslie Lurie offered Reo a suggestion: “Why don’t you make it about the girl?”"

How to Cultivate the Art of Serendipity:
"DO some people have a special talent for serendipity? And if so, why?"

Baftas 2016: Who will win.

Film And now for the annual trawl through the list of Bafta nominations suggesting which films I hope will win.. As every I've only seen about three of the nominees but let's have a go anyway.

Best film
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
The Revenant

No Mad Max: Fury Road or The Martian.  The fuck.  In which case Carol because even though I haven't seen any of these films, its the only one which isn't about men being men and having male stories about being men.

Outstanding British film
45 Years
The Danish Girl
Ex Machina
The Lobster

Ex Machina despite Domhnall Gleeson and having attended The Lobster in an actual cinema.  The problem I had with The Lobster was that like a Monty Python sketch it was a great idea without any idea of how to end it but unlike a Monty Python sketch couldn't have Graham Chapman turn up at the end dressed as a Major or some such.

Outstanding debut by British writer, director or producer
Alex Garland (director, Ex Machina)
Debbie Tucker Green (writer/director, Second Coming)
Naji Abu Nowar (writer/director, Theeb), Rupert Lloyd (producer, Theeb)
Sean McAllister (director/producer, A Syrian Love Story), Elhum Shakerifar (producer, A Syrian Love Story)
Stephen Fingleton (writer/director, The Survivalist)

Ex Machina.  I haven't even heard of two of those films.

Best film not in the English language
The Assassin
Force Majeure
Wild Tales

Wild Tales because it's rare that an anthology film gains this sort of notoriety.  Although I liked how Timbuktu managed to work within rather than patronise its subject.

Best documentary
Cartel Land
He Named Me Malala
Listen to Me Marlon


Best animated film
Inside Out
Shaun the Sheep the Movie

Shaun the Sheep the Movie.  I haven't seen the other two.

Best director

Adam McKay, The Big Short
Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies
Todd Haynes, Carol
Ridley Scott, The Martian
Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, The Revenant

The Martian, which might have been my favourite film of last year which wasn't Mad Max, Star Wars or Advantageous.  Or Jurassic World.  Or Ant-Man.

Best original screenplay
Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina
The Hateful Eight
Inside Out

Ex Machina.  Although they'll probably tediously give it to Tarantino because he's Tarantino.

Best adapted screenplay

The Big Short
Steve Jobs

Not seen any of them.  Steve Jobs?  Sorkin didn't know what to do at the end of The Newsroom but I don't see why we should hold this against him,

Best actor
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Matt Damon, The Martian
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs

Matt Daemon (as apparently Sky News spelled it this morning) (so mote it be).

Best actress
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Brie Larson, Room
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Maggie Smith, The Lady in the Van
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Cate Blanchett, Carol (though it'll probably be Maggie Smith). No Charlize Theron for Mad Max? The fuck?   Notice Alicia Vikander is nominated here AND in best supporting actress category for Ex Machina.  When was the last time that happened?

Best supporting actor

Benicio del Toro, Sicario
Christian Bale, The Big Short
Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

Idris Elba, partly because, it has to be said, it's for a film which is experimenting with the release schedule of films and so therefore shaking up the business.  Not that I've seen it yet.  Still too busy watching Preston Sturges films and the like. #1001films

Best supporting actress
Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Julie Walters, Brooklyn
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
Rooney Mara, Carol

Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina.  Imagine if she won both.

Best original music
Bridge of Spies
The Hateful Eight
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  Even though the music in the trailer which makes me cry isn't from John Williams's score.

Best cinematography
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

Mad Max: Fury Road.

Best editing
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

Mad Max: Fury Road should win.

Best production design
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Surprisingly tough actually.  Don't know.  Mad Max.

Best costume design

The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max if only because it was even nominated in this category.

Best make-up and hair
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

Max Max.  Even though half the characters were bald, there was a lot of tattoos.

Best sound
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Ben Burtt, still doing his thing.  It's a credit to JJ Abrams actually that he returned to Burtt to do the Star Wars: The Force Awakens sound design, knowing that he was the most experience and to Burtt for turning up even though he wasn't also editing it this time.

Best special visual effects
Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Wow, a category in which I've seen all five films.  Ex Machina.  Although all five did superbly innovative work.

EE Rising Star (voted for by the public)
Bel Powley
Brie Larson
Dakota Johnson
John Boyega
Taron Egerton

Brie Larson although it's a tad unfair given that her first screen credit was in 1998.  Plus John Boyega.  Frankly you could have filled with this with the cast of Star Wars and no one would have minded.

Doom Coalition 1.

Audio The Eighth Doctor's third chronological audio era continues (there now being four thanks to the Time War). Although there's a new umbrella title, the Doom Coalition is very much of a piece with Dark Eyes at least in continuity terms with Liv Chenka continuing as companion and the Doctor still wearing his Weta-created leather jacket, highlighted by both the cover and a moment when we actually hear it crackle as he puts it on. I like to imagine Paul McGann actually wearing the thing in the studio during the recording to get into character. Tonally there is a slight shift with Eighth in much brighter, adventurous mood in a way which is analogous to Capaldi's first two television series and there's a genuine sense of wanting to return to something of the earlier eras with a more stand alone approach to the narrative with each of the episodes apparently deliberately paying homage to a style of Who story, the Gallifreyan conspiracy, alien invasion, celebrity historical and revolution.

The Eleven.

Die Hard on Gallifrey. It's a notably odd choice to dive straight back into manic Time Lords after Dark Eyes, but The Eleven is a significantly different enough creation for the deja vu to be minimal and there's some bold storytelling choices right up front designed to surprise the listener as should always be the case. It is a pleasure to hear the Eighth Doctor close to being his old self again, the "with Charley" man of the lighter, funnier touch without the overwhelming darkness and McGann is enjoying playing the complexity. It's also fun to hear Nicola Walker slipping into playing Liv as the more standard companion role with less of her tragedy, embracing the adventure.  Big Finish have begun to link the continuities in earnest with reference here to the "Omega Arsenal" also home to The Moment from The Day of the Doctor.  There's only one or two obvious things I'd want to criticise or the very least question but I'll reserve judgement until I've heard the whole story.  Just in case.

The Red Lady.

Hello Helen! Straight into an old school Eighth Doctor jape which wouldn't have been out of place in any of his earlier eras, with lots of funny business related to bluffing his way into museums and confidences in order to investigate the presence of the titular presence in numerous artifacts. Having had my various issues with Dark Eyes in its later series, Doom Coalition is setting out its stall as being closer to the television iteration with an umbrellas story thrumming away in the background linking episodes with their internal narrative motor. There's a genuine attempt to seek a different, lighter tone for the Eighth Doctor, bring him back to earlier values. Helen's in the mould of Liz Shaw or Anji Kapoor. She doesn't really need to travel in the TARDIS, she's a professional woman, a translator of old texts, in her own right, albeit having to deal with the sexism of 60s academia (one scene is purposefully teeth chewing in that regard). It'll be interesting as the series unfolds to see if the Doctor had an ulterior motive in choosing her.

The Galileo Trap

One of the elements of the Doctor's life which the Moffat era of the television series has been keen to explore is the idea of him essentially being friends with prominent intelligent people across history with them being entirely aware of who he is and how he might appear to them in different ways, notably in the case of Churchill.  Here we have Galileo, played with fiery irony by John Woodvine, knowing the Doctor well enough as to want to warn him not to visit him in this era.  But this being Doctor Who, we know that their previous meeting was with the Time Lord in his first incarnation during The Empire of Glass and though it's entirely possibly to grasp the structure of their friendship, the Eighth not being the man he was expecting, having read that novel or heard the audiobook inevitably deepens the listening experience.  One of my disappointments about The Shakespeare Code will always be that it was too early in the revival's emergence to make the most of their history.

The Satanic Mill

Who is Edward Collier, the author of The Satanic Mill?  The TARDIS Databank has scant information and googling his name reveals the Dutch painter, the English Buccanear and a Guardian cif profile for a musician.  I'm just curious because it's unusual for Big Finish to give such a prestigious slot to a first timer and then for them to produce something which captures the Eighth Doctor's temperament so well and also pointedly seems to be referencing the classic series in how it splits the Doctor from his companions who independently discover an exploited world and decide to overthrow it, with the latter then threatened with death unless the former does something against the grain.  As finales go, it feels like more of a pause, with a hint to some greater adversary than The Eleven who has something more disastrous than the destruction of time itself in mind.  Is the upcoming 2017 (2017!) Time War boxed set going to be the direct sequel to Doom Coalition?

Soup Safari #61: Pea and Ham at Capaldi's Bagel House.

Lunch. £2.15. Unit 1, Norwich House, Rumford St, Liverpool, Merseyside L2 8TA. Phone: 0151 236 6832.

My Favourite Film of 1965.

Film When was the first time you heard the music of The Sound of Music? On the list of cultural artifacts which have just been there, either after the original stage production in 1959, or the ubiquitous film which I'm still astonished to notice was only made nine years before I was born which in modern terms means that the distance between now and the third Star Wars prequel is longer.  In those terms The Matrix is ancient history.  Just when I think I'm keeping up with the modern world and its things, I'm reminded of just how old I am in relative terms.

Anyway, the film was not the first time I heard this music.  The first time I heard this music was on a vinyl recording released by Music for Pleasure in 1967 starring Anne Rogers and Patricia Routledge, the details for which you can see on Discogs. Goodness knows where it came from though I suspect it was amongst the records my parents bought before I was born and which I was allowed to explore from a very early age and played on the portable record player my Dad was given for Christmas as a child himself (which was something along these lines but even older and bought in Woolworths).

Find above Routledge's version of Climb Ev'ry Mountain from that very disc and it sounds every bit as rich as I remember it, aided by the crackle of the original vinyl making it sound like it's of the past in a way a digitally remastered version simply wouldn't.  Just as I find the whole concept of releasing new music, designed for digital, on analogue a bit strange, music originally designed for analogue, never, ever does sound right on CD, unless, as I've heard sometimes, the original tape masters of a thing have been lost and the record has been master from the vinyl, crackle intact.

My first viewing of the film would have been coloured by the fact that none of the songs sounded quite right, at least to me, the concept of there being different versions, of stage and on film, not quite graspable yet.  The BBC Genome reminds us the premiere was on Christmas Day in 1978 which would have been much too soon for me to have noticed so perhaps it was one of the later candidates the film becoming a near annual fixture, broadcasting the BBC on New Year's Day this year (which I ignored admittedly in favour of the superb live version on ITV).

Eventually, this LP having receded into the past, the so called "right" version now is the film and it's Julie Andrews I hear or as is the case with this song Peggy Wood which means if I was to revisit this Music For Pleasure recording my relationship to it would be in reverse, approaching it as the "wrong" version.  But now I'm attuned to the idea that singers have different voices, orchestras have different approaches and that none of them are necessarily wrong.  It's all a matter of taste.  Nevertheless, it's still the film version I return to if I'm in the mood for "Do-Re-Mi".

A Viewing Order for
The Hobbit.

Film Yesterday was the anniversary of the birth of JRR Tolkien and having just this afternoon completed watching the appendices on the extended version of The Hobbit's The Battle of the Five Armies have decided, mainly out of curiosity at the production schedule, to put all of the extra features in some kind of viewing order should anyone want to visit these extras in such a way as to experience the entire production process.

As with the original The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit was filmed all in one go, or at least one eighteen months principal photography and another three months of "pick-ups" which amounted to shooting a whole extra film's worth of footage as the project was extended from two to three films, much to the chagrin of the sorts of people who don't like very long films.  I very much enjoy very long films and could have done with each of these being at least another hour if not more.

The following will not be an accurate portrayal of the actual order the films were shot.  It's obvious from looking at the documentaries that some sequences were shooting simultaneously by different crews with actors shifting between.  In constructing the list, where possible, I've put documentaries with conflicting date labels in the release order of the films, which also means it won't seem too odd when they purposefully don't show footage for anything which hadn't been released at the time.

Even without revisiting the documentaries themselves, listing the dates together like this offers some idea of the production challenges of these films in terms of planning and knowing what footage for which film can be captured when and how much of the production occurred on the fly due to the limited pre-production time.  The appendices are pleasingly honest about how Peter Jackson was really against it after having taken the films over and was often very lost indeed.

To be thorough, we must begin with ...

The Films

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Extended Edition)

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug (Extended Edition)

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Extended Edition)

The Commentaries

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Extended Edition)

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug (Extended Edition)

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Extended Edition)

Production Appendices

UJ1: Opening

DS1: Opening

FA1: Opening

UJ1: The Journey Back to Middle-Earth


UJ1: Riddles in the Dark: Gollum's Cave (March 2011)

UJ1: An Unexpected Party: Bag End (March-April 2011)

UJ1: Roast Mutton: Trollshaws Forest (April-May 2011)

UJ1: Bastion of the Greenwood: Rhosgobel (May 2011)

FA1: In The Dungeons of the Necromancer: Dol Guldur (May 2011)

UJ1: A Short Rest: Rivendell & London (May & July 2011)

DS1: Business of the State: The Master's Chambers (August 2011)

FA1: Fire and Water: Attack on Lake Town (August 2011 / April 2012)

DS1: Shelter on the Long Lake: Bard's House (September 2011)

DS1: The Woodland Realm (September 2011)

UJ1: Over Hill ...: The Misty Mountains (September-October 2011)

DS1: Flies and Spiders (September-October 2011)

UJ1: ... Under Hill: Goblin Town (October 2011)

UJ1: The Forest Ledge (October-November 2011)

UJ1: Return to Hobbiton (October-November 2011)

DS1: Queer Lodgings: Beorn's House (November 2011/March 2012)

UJ1: The Epic of Scene 88: Strath Taieri (November-December 2011)

FA1: Under the Shadow of the Mountain: Rock & Pillar Range (November 2011)

DS1: Down the Swift Dark Stream: The Forest River (December 2011)

FA1: In the Wake of the Dragon: Lake Pukaki (December 2011)


DS1: A Warm Welcome: Lake-town (February 2012)

DS1: On the Doorstep: The Lonely Mountain (February 2012)

DS1: Inside Information (March 2012)

UJ1: The Battle of Moria: Azanulbizar (April-May 2012)

DS1: Barrels Out of Bond: The Elven Sluice (May-June 2012)

FA1: The Gathering of the Clouds: Erebor (May-June 2012)

UJ1: Edge of the Wilderland: Pick-ups and the Carrock (July 2012)

FA1: Many Partings: End of Principal Photography (June-July 2012)

UJ1: Home is Behind, the World Ahead

DS1: ... Into The Fire


DS1: A Chance Meeting (May 2013)

FA1: The Clouds Burst: Dale (June 2013)

FA1: A Last Desperate Stand (June 2013)

DS1: Erebor Rekindled: The Dwarf-Forges (July 2013)

FA1: Out from the Gate: Erebor Pick-ups (July 2013)

FA1: The Last Stage (July 26th, 2013)

Pre and Post Production Appendices

UJ2: The Company of Thorin
UJ2: Mr. Baggins: The 14th Member
UJ2: Durin's Folk: Creating the Dwarves

DS2: Summoning Smaug: Last of the Fire-Drakes
DS2: The Last and First Dragon
DS2: Conversation with Smaug
DS2: Into the Dragon's Lair

FA2: Beneath The Thunder: Forging a Battle of Five Armies
FA2: A Master Plan, Long in the Making
FA2: On the Front Lines of a Virtual Battlefield
FA2: Turning the Tide

The Peoples and Denizens of Middle-earth

UJ2: The Stone Trolls
UJ2: Radagast the Brown
UJ2: Goblins
UJ2: Azog the Defiler

DS2: Beorn: The Shape-Shifter
DS2: The Spawn of Ungoliant
DS2: The Men of Lake-town

FA2: Tauriel: Daughter of the Forest
FA2: Thranduil: The King of Wood and Stone
FA2: Dain Ironfoot: Lord of the Iron Hills

FA2: Realms of the Third Age

UJ2: Hobbiton
UJ2: Rhosgobel
UJ2: Rivendell
UJ2: The Misty Mountains
UJ2: Goblin Town

DS2: Beorn's House
DS2: Mirkwood Forest
DS2: The Woodland Realm
DS2: Lake-town

FA2: Dale: City of Men
FA2: Dol Guldur: The Hill of Sorcery
FA2: Erebor: The Lonely Mountain


UJ2: The Songs of Middle Earth

DS2: The Music of The Hobbit
DS2: Overture: Music of the Wilderland
DS2: 1st Movement: The World of Men
DS2: 2nd Movement: The Halls of Erebor

Bonus Features

FA2: Butt-Numb-A-Thon 2011 Greeting (B)
FA2: "Rivers of Gold" Music Video (B)
FA2: The Real Adam Brown (B)

FA2: Andrew Lesnie Remembered


FA2: Farewell, Friends


Social Media As ever I haven't made any new year's resolutions, mainly because if you're the kind of person like me who wants to keep them there's the work involved and if you're also the kind of person like me who tends to become depressed and guilty when they can't keep promises, especially to themselves, well that leads to depression. And guilt.

Nevertheless, I have decided to try and experiment.

When Twitter increased the number of potential feeds one can follow to five thousands, my first reaction was to merrily begin following organisational feeds, institutions, film studios, museums and media feeds. Dozens and dozens and dozens of media feeds.

Which broke it.

By which I mean, the humanity of Twitter, the magic which is supposed to make it something other than a repetitive RSS feed, stopped, at least for me as I opened up the iPad app or Tweetdeck and ended up with wave upon wave of "content" and often repeated "content" from the many sources.

Plus there are the accounts which spend their time not presenting anything much in the way of news but instead simply retweet praise for hours and hours and hours as though that's of interest to someone who's already convinced themselves enough that they like a thing to follow a Twitter feed about that thing.

Here's the experiment.

For the next year, I'm going to attempt, as much as possible, only to follow accounts written by a human in their own name, hopefully (though not essentially) with a photograph of themselves.

I have an exception list. The main BBC News feed, the main Guardian feed, BBC Weather, Merseytravel, Liverpool Echo, that sort of thing.

Other than that, I'm returning to email lists and RSS for everything else.

Instead of following a media outlet's feed for example, I'm following the feeds of the individual journalists or if there's a lot of them, the people I've heard of. Usually they're all listed on the given account. If they're not, well ...

Having processed on this for a few days, it's already working. Twitter feels once again like the place it was at the beginning, a celestial cocktail party, conversation and reaction uninterrupted by some film feed tweeting some link bait for the fifth time that day. In other words, the only advertising which tends to pop up is Twitter's own sponsored content.

I'll keep you posted. Or tweeted.