Third time lucky? Inside the RSC’s much-delayed Winter’s Tale. The Guardian visits the RSC during production on the re-imagining of this production which didn't make it to the stage last year.  There will be changes - not as much human contact for one thing.  We also have a transmission date and time.  It'll be on BBC Four at 7pm on Sunday 25 April, as part of the BBC’s Lights Up season.  The programme page is up.  Later that night, there'll also be a repeat of Scuffles, Swagger and Shakespeare: The Hidden Story of English unseen since its first and only broadcast in November 2019.

The Arden Research Handbook of Shakespeare and Textual Studies.

Shakespeare   Not having met anyone with the same fannish zeal about Shakespeare as your blogger does, on a par with Doctor Who, films and whatever new album Taylor Swift has released that week, I've no idea if we share the same interests or what's in vogue.  Is it the production history or a connection with a particular playhouse?  Is it the language of the plays, the sheer level of poetry beaming out of every page?  A particular play which seems to contain all of life's answers for better or worse?  Or is it the textual history, the inquiry into how a play's been transmitted, from the hand of Shakespeare and his collaborators, through the first printshops, to successive editors to the Arden Shakespeare currently to hand.  How much what we're reading or watching is by the man himself or a corruption which has inevitably cropped up across the centuries?

It's all of the above, of course it is, at least for me.  But it's the latter on which I'm particularly laser focused, the impossible search for the complete authorial voice, because there's a huge gap between what's generally known about the canon and how much of it was written by Shakespeare and the actually, that at least a dozen or so of the plays in the canon have been filtered through other hands and yet more anonymous plays for which he may have contributed.  Not to mention how mis-readings of manuscripts by weary "hands" in the print shops have led to some lines losing all sense, compounded by subsequent editors trying to rationalise what was originally meant creating yet more misunderstandings.

You can imagine the excitement (yes, excitement) with which I greeted the news of The Arden Research Handbook of Shakespeare and Textual Studies, a guide to current research related to the plays on the page from the book trade within which they originally found publication, through a history of canonical studies to plays are edited and attributed in the modern age.  After seeing the press release from Arden, I put in a request, expecting perhaps a watermarked pdf but a couple of weeks later a hardback academic edition arrived by courier.  Even after all these years, it's still quite thrilling to have a book which would otherwise be on the shelf of an academic library all to myself, especially considering the price.

For the most part, this is a fully accessible read at least for this amateur with a pretty strong working knowledge of the subject.  As the preface explains, this new series of handbooks is designed to "provide researchers and graduate students with both cutting-edge perspectives on perennial questions and authoritative overviews on the history of research" or other words in this case, the state of play for textual studies in 2021.  It's to be used as a companion to material that appear in standard Shakespeare editions, some of which may be reprints of materials originally prepared twenty years ago, if not decades earlier and demonstrate that the discussion continues, that the publication of a play is a comma, not a full stop.

The book is split into four sections.  The introduction and first part set the scenes on textual studies, what they encompass and how they'll be investigated further as the book progresses.  Part Two offers the protein of this protean effort covering Shakespeare's manuscripts, the status of the earliest printed texts, how they fit within the early modern publishing industry, canonical studies and a history of editing from Rowe onwards.  Computerised processes are covered by part three, from algorithmic attribution studies to internet editions of the plays.  The final section offers a chronological publication history, a glossary of key terms, a full bibliography and list of resources.

As expected the key takeaway is that nothing is settled.  Everything I'd read to this point seemed to imply that Shakespeare's identity as hand D on the manuscript copy of Sir Thomas More held at the British Library was boiler-plated but the opening pages of the essay on manuscripts casts doubt on the methodology which has led to that attribution, suggesting that even if they're Shakespeare's words, there's no proof that it's his handwriting.  This logical, if emotionally dispiriting approach pervades the whole book, which lays bare the fallibility of academics and how even with decades of study behind them, that they're more than likely to bend the evidence around a misty-eyed fantasy of this genius and reflect that in their books.

There are two Shakespeares.  There's the working playwright who did well enough in his career to retire to Stratford and leave some money and property to his family on his death and a legendary being who's developed since,  Starting with the promotional material that preceded the collection of plays the publishers of the First Folio had the rights to, this transmogrification continued through Alexander Pope's edition which relegated to footnotes the sections he thought were unworthy of the writer to the proliferation of collected and individual editions in the twentieth century developed by editors with their own mission to find the platonic ideal of these plays either my conflating them together or publishing different versions as separate entities.

Except such things are impossible.  Everything is guesswork.  In his chapter on early printed texts, John Jowett demonstrates by printing them as a list how the single line from 1 Henry IV, "This matcht with other did, my gratious L." as originally printed in the first quarto in 1598 had by the seventh publication in 1632 become "This match with other like, my Gracious Lord," which is more readable to contemporary eyes but changes the underlying sense of what the line means (noting in the endnotes that Q1 itself is a reprint, Q0 only surviving as a few odd pages).  A modern editor has to somehow rationalise these differences and then make these value judgements a thousand times across the whole play.

But as the book demonstrates, as facsimiles of particular editions become much more widely accessible through digitisation, with online databases set up collecting such vagaries as contemporaneous margin notes, editors are no longer just at the mercy of the surviving printing of a play.  There's a much wider context of materials across the theatre and publishing industry of the time which can illuminate how inconsistencies within the text could be as a result of a barely legible original manuscript being worked from because we have the publications and the handwritten papers upon which they were based.  Editing a play may be guesswork, but the process is more educated than its ever been.

All of which leaves me in the condition of looking at an edition of any play with Shakespeare's name on it and thinking "well, yes, possibly".  My assumption is most schools work from a standard edition and certainly when I was at school we were given copies of the Arden 2 to work from.  But I also owned the Penguin editions of both, little appreciating that the texts in each were either subtly or significantly different.  How do university students writing about the plays from a critical perspective navigate this, especially a play like Hamlet and its three versions.  Do they find themselves having to constantly compare and contrast a given characters motives across all three?

But the fact of me asking those questions is the point and why the book succeeds in its aims, to demonstrate that textual studies is much more than whatever end point an editor proposes their new edition to be.  There's no doubt that this will be of use to students who're interested in delving deeper into the texts they're studying but there's enough here to be of interest to a wider audience so I'd certainly recommend you put in a reservation or request at your library to get your eyes on a copy, assuming Arden don't release it in a cheaper paperback format somewhere along the line.  This is important work, at least in the sphere of literature and deserves the widest audience possible.

The Arden Research Handbook of Shakespeare and Textual Studies edited by Lukas Erne is published by Bloomsbury. £117.00 hardback. ISBN: 9781350080645. Review copy supplied.

Inside the world’s first 3D printed house. Linking to this mainly for the images and shape which resemble something from Tatooine which look cool but would only be possible to live in by someone who doesn't own or read too many books, films or want to personalise any element of the structure. There aren't any corners. There's more here about the construction of the building and how the walls can be light, rigid and insulated.
‘Rocky Horror’ played to an empty theater for 54 weeks. Now, audiences return to Portland’s longest-running movie. A projectionist, sometimes alone, sometimes with a friend, visited the location every week and screened the film so as not to destroy the record, a level of commitment I haven't seen since the Small Cinema in Liverpool screened Groundhog Day non-stop for twenty-four hours.
Filming underway of RSC The Winter’s Tale for BBC debut. Short report from the Stratford-Upon-Avon Herald on filming of the postponed production which sounds like it's now being shot in theatre, albeit in a more intimate atmosphere, for broadcast on BBC Four around Shakespeare's birthday.  Kemi-Bo Jacobs from Doctor Who's Hide plays Hermione.
BBC iPlayer has uploaded a collection of Adam Curtis films almost everything he's produced for broadcast on the BBC since 1992 including the short films he created for the various Wipe series.  Every Day is Like Sunday, his documentary about press baron Cecil King is still available elsewhere on the website, along with all the other odds and sods he curated for his blogIt Felt Like A Kiss, the art piece he did in collaboration with Punchdrunk is there too.  The Wikipedia has a filmography should you want to binge it all in chronological order.
But why on earth is an elephant VETOED?  Detective work from @DoctorSimeon on Twitter explaining how a particularly surreal piece of set design from Doctor Who's Dalek Invasion of Earth exists.  Mother of God.
A Report from the After Times. Laurie Penny has moved to Melbourne to be with her partner and after being released from quarantine walked out into a land in which COVID-19 is all but extinct and found herself overwhelmed.  This is my fear. It's over a year since I even set foot in the city centre and at the moment, even ten minutes away by bus, it feels like a dangerous country with a no-visit warning. What will it be like to walk down Bold Street as I used to? Will I be ok when I return to Forbidden Planet or FACT?  When will I feel that it's OK?
Turner's Modern World, an essay by writer and publisher Jenny Uglow looks at the intersection between the painter's work and his interest in science and how the former was influenced by the latter in both subliminal and obvious ways, clouds in skies resembling Faraday's work on magnetism using iron filings, that sort of thing.  The exhibition has now been extended until 12 September at Tate Britain, which already has a mini-museum within a museum dedicated to his work.
Watergate was a 1994 prestige BBC series about the break-in and fall out and the TV Cream Creamguide highlights that it's having it first ever repeat on BBC Four next Wednesday 14th. Here is the programme page which will hopefully flourish with content after the broadcast. Or at least a nice picture. Incidentally, the research archive for the series is available for consultation at the University of London archive. In person.
How New Voting Procedures Created a BAFTAs Diversity Surge in One Year. After the embarassment of all-white shortlists in 2020, the Baftas took a good long look at themselves and implemented numerous changes in order to increase diversity across the board. One of these included "providing every member with a list of films — a mix from across the board — that they had to watch in order to take part in the first round of voting. And these could all be seen on BAFTA View, its new online screening platform." Such things have been compulsory in the likes of the Booker prize and Cannes and you would think it wouldn't have needed for it to be the case that voting members at the Baftas would have needed to have seen examples of the work created by their industry, but there we go.

The Unity Theatre Liverpool has announced its 2021 programme and as well as offering limited in venue seating they're also streaming their programme online on a pay as much as you can basis.  Full programme here.  

Everybody Still Needs a Place to Think.

 TV  The BBC's new annual plan has been released an oh boy do it make some reading for those of us who enjoy the kind of low stakes, lower overhead documentaries about niche subjects BBC Four produces.  Their approach to documentary is to shift towards the more expensive landmark type series like Civilisations, which presumably cover more of the four quadrants are easier to sell in the US.  The upshot of that is BBC Four is going to properly shift to become the "arts and archive" channel originally proposed in 2011 (which I got really excited about here) but became forgotten in the meantime.  To quote the report:

This approach will necessitate a shift away from commissioning a high volume of lower cost programmes on BBC Four, which are less effective at reaching audiences on the channel and on iPlayer. Instead, BBC Four will become the home of the most distinctive content from across the BBC’s archive. It will also remain the home for performance, such as the BBC Proms, BBC Young Dancer and BBC Young Musician. It will continue to showcase arts and music acquisitions and maintain its unique role in partnering with arts institutions (e.g. The Lyric Theatre, Belfast; Opera North; The National Theatre Scotland and The Royal Shakespeare Company ). The proposed changes to BBC Four will build on the channel’s current archive content offer which already comprises 76% of BBC Four’s broadcast hours and 69% of the channel’s broadcast viewing hours.

These are fine words, but there has to be some follow through.  Throwing around lines like "distinctive content from across the BBC's archive" would hopefully include material like the Face to Face interview with Simone Signoret from 1960 and indeed anything made in the previous century that isn't a music programme or sitcom.  

Honestly, I'm mostly fine about all of this.  The BBC's budget has been slashed and it has to justify commissions on the basis of audiences.  If not enough people want to watch an hour long documentary about the gut especially when BBC Radio Four had already covered the same subject four an hour and a quarter without pictures, you can't really argue against that.

Similarly, there's been a *lot* of content duplication in documentaries, much walking and talking across the same ancient monuments by different academics across the years saying roughly the same thing.  If a topic is already adequately covered by an old episode of Chronicle, what's the point in going again if nothing new has been uncovered?

So Britain's Lost Masterpieces doesn't seem long for this world because people prefer Fake or Fortune or something and it doesn't look like we'll get the much needed three part history of black hair presented by Emma Dabiri.  But if the result is a tarted up BBC Two which actually feels like it has a creative direction again and a repeat of Churchill's people, well, fair enough.

That's not just amazng ...

 

Audio That is indeed, FANTASTIC! We live in strange times, but none stranger (ish) than the fact there now exists in the world a Big Finish audio adventure featuring the one living actor who at no point, in any way shape or form, seemed like he would ever play the Doctor again. Having wondered why in the meantime, I've just noticed this 2018 interview which said that his relationship had broken down with Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner and Phil Collinson during the first recording block but he kept to his word that he agreed not to effect the show's reputation and indeed praised RTD in subsequent interviews. 

It also didn't show in his performance, which was impeccable throughout, just as it is in these few snippets which highlight what are sure to be the more manic elements of the recordings. When previous Doctors have returned for the audios, there has always been the brief moment before pressing play on a trailer or full adventure when you wonder if they'll sound "right" or "like themselves", if they'll be able to pick up where they left off and by golly he does.  This is thrilling stuff, helped immeasurably by the visuals and the return of that Deviant Strain font, typos and all.  It’s Saturday night tea time in 2005 all over again!  Sixteen years.

When will these be set?  Rose was famously written (the episode not the person) in such a way as to suggest that he'd only recently regenerated, but this has since been retconned at Big Finish and Davies himself in The Day of the Doctor novelisation to indicate that he did indeed travel for a bit before turning up at the Powell Estate but literally tried to avoid looking at himself because of all the children he thought he'd killed when destroying Gallifrey (having forgotten he did nothing of the sort).  But The Beast of Bablyon suggests he also had whole adventures during the dematerialisation moment at the end of Rose, so it's 50/50.
‘Promising Young Woman’ skips UK theatrical release to debut on Sky Cinema in April. A small but significant update to my post about where all of this year's Oscar nominations are available to watch. Other than The Man Who Sold His Skin in the International film category, Promising Young Woman was the only feature film not to have a UK release date confirmed.  Now it does. But instead of the theatrical release by all accounts it richly deserves, Universal and Focus Features have decided to simply bung it out on NowTV which during the past few months has become the clearing house for what would have been 2020's mid-range release slate (see also The Glorias, Palm Springs and Antebellum).

The Bosch Project is a selection of ultra high definition images of Hieronymus's paintings that offer the ability to zoom in close enough to see brush stokes and individual cracks in the paintwork.  Bosch's scenes often include minute background elements which would be difficult to see with the naked eye even if you're standing right in front of the actual painting.  It's the work of Rob Erdmann of the Rijksmuseum and he's also given a similar treatment to Rembrandt's Night Watch.

Doctor Who's limited edition boxsets are finally being reissued in a more standard amaray packaging starting with seasons 12 and 19, which will be great news for fans who missed out on the original releases and find themselves unable to justify spending some of the outrageously high prices on eBay (this £1200 is an outlier but not uncommon).  Judging by the artwork, these will include a booklet, although the press release indicates this is a basic 12-page affair with disc breakdowns and "selected artwork".

Black Widow is not dead.

Film At this point I remain convinced that in the post credit sequence of the Black Widow, Natasha Romanov is going to wake up at the bottom of the cliff on Vormir wondering how the fuck she's going to get home. I don't see how any other conclusion to that film could be anything other than a downer, especially if its a hit and they're turning it into a trilogy. 

Fortunately for those of us still under the dark shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic and sheltering at home, Disney have announced that it'll be getting a Mulan-style day and date release in July 2021 on Disney+ so that those of us who don't want to return to cinemas (assuming they're open!) can enjoy whilst sat in our own lumpy chair. 

I've long been an advocate of day and date releases, giving us audience members the choice of watching films without having to hike out to a drafty auditorium and deal with people who're treating that space as their lounge. Paying £10 to listen to someone masticate through a box of popcorn before walking just before the credits role is not fun. 

As the pandemic recedes, presumably studios will return to the theatrical model but perhaps with a slightly more relaxed attitude to how it effects the bottom line to release things for home simultaneously. Cinema chains too, who've traditionally owned release windows and such, will be in a slightly weaker position now that they know that to an extent, the studios don't need them as much. 

Back in 2016, Sean "Napster" Parker was pitching "The Screening Room", a DRM heaving special streaming box so consumers could watch films day and date for $50 a pop with revenues flowing back to cinemas, which many of us rolled our eyes at because we already had a pretty decent streaming box already.  Seems like the pandemic has forced studios to realise the same thing.

Immediately, as with Mulan, critics and fans were moaning about Disney+ charging extra for Black Widow as though its some great scheme to steal money out from under people.  I saw one goober indicate that he wouldn't be paying "because it's just a prequel and she's dead already anyway". 

But Disney isn't a charity. They're well within their rights to charge extra for Black Widow and not just throw it up on Disney+ as part of the subscription especially in territories were the cinemas, which would have been its traditional home, are closed.  Including advertising, Disney have sunk at least $300m into this thing and a cut of the subscriptions won't be enough to cover that.

Without the pandemic it would have been in cinemas a year ago and we'd all have it on shiny-disc. They waited a year in the hopes of protecting it as a theatrical experience but that hasn't worked out so they doing the next best thing and charging cinema rates.

Of course, the fairer option would be the Wonder Woman 1984 route of making it available on all the pay-per-stream services outside the Disney+ cordon and give subscribers a discount, but again they don't need to.  The MCU is a big enough brand that people will most certainly come.

Not to mention the old lobster pricing rule. Around a decade ago there was a glut of lobster available to restaurants and very cheap prices. But they kept the prices the same as they were when there was a smaller overhead in order to protect their status as a luxury item. 

I can understand why studios spending hundreds of millions of pounds on films don't want them to become essentially valueless and part of a content farm, as so much of the new material on Netflix has become, mostly uploaded without much hype unless there's some awards potential.

Just to add that I know they are putting some things like Nomadland on the service, but such things have a limited box office spotential by comparison and aren't four quadrant releases and are perfect drivers for the Star section of the service.  Although that is admittedly one film I would have gone to the cinema for.
Ipswich, we have a problem: Space Cadets, the reality show that never left the ground. This wasn't something I watched much at the time. After the seminal 2004 season of Big Brother, I'd given up on reality television, having decided I'd seen the apogee of the form with John Tickle attempting to hack the system from the inside. Plus the premise seemed unintentionally cruel, trying to convince gullible people that they'd gone into space. This Guardian piece shows that even the presenter, Johnny Vaughn had misgivings and actually managed to water down some of the things the producers wanted to do, and made sure the contestants received some compensation for their humiliation.
Talking Stock: Hi-de-Hi’s Opening Titles features some typically specific and totally fascinating research from John Hoare which makes an excellent central point about the gatekeeping of historical footage by some news organisations. Pathe have been quite liberal about uploading their old newsreels online (especially on their YouTube channel), whereas Reuters still consider them to be of commercial use and so haven't been quite as rigorous (although they too have recently made more footage available through the Pathe channel). Incidentally, yes, I'm trying another blog post format, only using the big titles when it's for a much longer piece.

All of the Oscar Nominees in 2021 and where to watch them.

Film  The clue is in the title.  Unlike most years, when the films nominated for Oscars aren't available in the UK for some months afterwards, thanks to the slow apocalypse only Promising Young Woman doesn't yet have a UK release date and the vast majority of everything else is already on the main streaming platforms or will be by the end of April.  So I thought you might like a guide to what's available where.  Anything with an (*) is a short film.


Amazon Prime

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

One Night in Miami

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

Sound of Metal (12th April 2021)

Time


Apple+

Greyhound

Wolfwalkers


Disney+

Burrow *

Mulan

Nomadland (30th April 2021)

The One and Only Ivan

Onward

Soul


iPlayer

The Mole Agent


Netflix

Da 5 Bloods

Crip Camp

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

Hillbilly Elegy

If Anything Happens I Love You *

The Life Ahead

Love and Monsters (14th April 2021)

A Love Song for Latasha *

Mank

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

The Midnight Sky

My Octopus Teacher 

News of the World

Over the Moon

Pieces of a Woman

The Present *

The White Tiger


NowTV

Emma

Promising Young Woman (16th April 2021)

The United States vs Billie Holiday


YouTube

A Concerto Is a Conversation *

Feeling Through *

Collette *


Vimeo Free

Do Not Split *


Rent or Buy Only

Better Days

Judas and the Black Messiah

Pinocchio

Tenet

Minari


Vimeo Rental

The Letter Room *

Yes-People *


Curzon Home Cinema

Quo Vadis, Aida?


Cinema

Another Round (25th June 2021)

The Father (11th June 2021)


Not Currently Available

Genius Loci *

Hunger Ward *

Opera *

The Man Who Sold His Skin

Two Distant Strangers *

White Eye *

Five Things I Liked About The Wandavision finale.

 TV  It's been a while since I've been this excited about seeing an episode of television, but after eight simple weeks of build up, with so many question to be answered about the show, you bet I was sat in front of my television at 8am this morning waiting for the Disney+ upload.  Any-hoo I have some thoughts, so let's fulfil the promise of the title of this blog post.  Spoilers, obviously.

(1)  No Huge Cameo

After weeks of speculation based on some veiled comments in publicity videos, neither Doctor Strange, Mr Fantastic or Magneto wandered in at the last moment to distract us from the big emotional arc of the show.  The appearance of Luke Skywalker at the close of business in The Mandalorian had already been baked into the storyline, whereas a surprise cameo in Wandavision, an even bigger boss than Agatha, perhaps Hayward being revealed to Mephisto in disguise, was not on the agenda here.  He was just some human tool.  Instead, quite rightly, the climax focused on the characters who we'd become attached to over the previous eight episodes, that it truly was Agatha All Along.  

(2)  The Triumph of Intellect and Romance Over Brute Force And Cynicism

Although both Wanda and Vision enjoyed the MCU trope of fighting a mirror enemy who shares their powers, lots of flying in the sky and throwing magic or lasers at one another they both ultimately won their respective competitions by outthinking their opponents, Wanda using the same technique Agatha employed initially to kerb her powers and Vision and White Vision having a meeting of minds which resulted in the latter rekindling his memories of being the former B-4.  The source for the title for this paragraph in case you're wondering.

(3)  Symmetry 

I've already seen criticism which suggests that the show simply becomes another action action fighty fighty thing from its humbler origins, especially from those who liked the earlier funny ones.  But the show actually has a very symmetrical structure, the opening episode filmed completely on a sound stage in front of a studio audience in academy ratio, the finale with all of the tools of big budget filmmaking in a scope setting, a production decision which itself comments on the development of the television as a whole.  

(4)  Evan Peters

Absolutely amazing.  After weeks and weeks of speculation in YouTube videos, on social media, on here, it's revealed the production team have just been fucking with us and that Evan Peters isn't playing the alt.Quicksilver from the FoX-Men but just some random bozo with a euphemistic surname who like everyone else in town has had his identity replaced.  As I've said previously, the MCU is going to want to do its own spin on mutants as and when and acknowledging the existence of the cast from the other franchise would simply draw away from an endeavour which will already be a source of comparisons.  Can you imagine the actor who's going to play Wolverine next?  Damn.

(5)  Consequences

The show acknowledges that although Wanda has somewhat come to terms with the tragedies in her own life and become stronger because of it, she herself has brought pain to others.  Even though Wanda is clearly the protagonist of his series, unlike most of the MCU's heroes, she now finds herself in the ambiguous place of having destroyed even more lives, albeit psychologically.  So although she's allowed to walk away at the end much as she did after Lagos, it's more because she's too powerful to contain at this point having absorbed Agatha's gifts too.  Much like the rest of the MCU  actions have consequences and there are no reset buttons or easy outs.  

I've found a use for motion flow on modern televisions.

TV There's nothing much to this post except to note that a whole new level of verisimilitude can be gained when rewatching the earlier audience-based episodes of Wandavision by ignoring Tom Cruise's advice (and mine usually) and turning on the Motion Flow or Smoothing feature on your modern television and letting it interpolate extra frames making it look like the video tape such shows would originally have been recorded on. Oh and turn down sharpness to zero if you can for added smudginess.

This does of course fall apart when the outside world intrudes and the episodes cross cut between the two formats, not to mention that with so many shows from those earlier periods being remastered for HD anyway due to the way they were shot, your mileage on this may differ anyway.  Perhaps if the show ever reaches a physical format, Disney might make it available on limited edition VHS, with the widescreen scenes panned and scanned or open matt for old times sake.

We Need To Talk About Wanda Maximoff. Spoilers.

Film Sort of. Maybe? The reveal at the end of this week's Wandavision was trending on the Twitter within a few hours and there are already hundreds of blog posts and Youtube videos on the topic. But, goddamit I haven't been this excited since the last big thing which happened in a vertical multimedia conglomerate franchise and sometimes you just have to get your ideas on monitor (no not that one) even if they're tired and unoriginal. You will not see anything interesting here. This might as well be a large space created by some line space html or whatever bloated mess this new editing system on Blogger uses to create gaps in text.  

Spoilers.  Obviously.

As you might expect its about that appearance of Evan Peters as Pietro.  Some of the more mainstream areas of the media are already suggesting that we're seeing the first appearance of the X-Men in the MCU with the implication that they're sticking with the same casting as the Fox films after all and blah blah blah even though it's been pretty well established that when and if the X-Men turn up in the MCU they'll be recast and presumably recharacterised to more tonally fit what that actually means.  Because why would you not?  Why should Kevin Feige and pals be stuck with whoever Matthew Vaughn or Bryan Singer have chosen?

Here's my theory.  Thanks to Disney gobbling up Fox, Disney+ now carries a whole bunch of MARVEL films not set in the MCU including both Fantastic Four and X-Men.  Click on the MARVEL logo and there they are now listed as "Marvel Legacy Movies".  Some casuals might not necessarily know that there's much of a difference between the franchises, but there they are, they exist and in their own way part of MARVEL cinematic history, for better or worse along with whatever Sony and New Line Cinema (now owned by Warners) have made (not to mention the various TV shows).

They could just leave that content out there but again, when the MCU does produce their own version they have to be special in their own way.  One of the problems with both Sony and Fox's approach is in their persistence to recast and reboot, there's been diminishing returns.  In a better structured version of that the X-Men franchise, Days of Future Past would have been the final word, but instead we were given two lesser sequels which couldn't measure up to that masterpiece (especially in its extended form) which only went on to do more damage to the integrity of the franchise.

Instead, with what we've heard about in relation to Spider-Man: Something Something Home and the next Doctor Strange film's title I think Phase Four across media is going to be about establishing these other franchises as part of a multiverse, of making them "count" and Peter Maximoff from the X-Men universe is only going to be the first of numerous cameos and visits to these other worlds which means, much as is the case in the Whoniverse, everything happened.  All of it.  Every adaptation of a MARVEL property from Japanese Spider-Man to The Incredible Hulk.

Yes, yes, Into The Spider-Verse is a great movie and so was the comic it was based on which did pretty much the same thing as I'm proposing and I'm aware of the "why bother?" attitude.  But the philosophy of the MCU is that everything is connected and this whole business feels in keeping with that.  On a business level it's a win-win.  However much Peter is developed in Wandavision, it's a way of pushing viewers towards films they might not previously have thought about catching up on (although I assume the crossover audience between these different franchises has to be pretty big).

Unless all of this is wishful thinking and Aaron Taylor-Johnson hasn't replaced Evan Peters by the end of the next episode, a mistake having been corrected.  Or he simply gets popped away again for being anomalous.  But it doesn't feel like you'd cast Evan Peters and he would agree to do the role if there wasn't some other great narrative afoot.  The pace and presentation of the reveal doesn't stack up.  When a comic book ends with a page size reverse shot of its hero entirely surprised by someone standing on their doorstep, that someone is always of substantive import, not often ignored or side-lined in the following issue.

Something which is also probably irrelevant but I can't stop thinking about is how similarly structured Wandavision and the latterday X-verse films are.  Just as WandaVision's sitcom diegesis is seemingly skipping through the decades from day to day, the X-verse film starting with First Class are each set in a different decade even though its characters barely age.  Despite having been born in the 1950s, Peter Maximoff looks much the same as he does in Days of Future Past as Dark Phoenix, set about twenty years later.  It's handwaved off as something to do with the mutant gene but what if it was as a result of the hex energy seeping into the other reality?

All of which is the paraphernalia of gossamer thin fan theorism but the central point to all of this is that for those of us wondering how the MCU was going to work post Endgame, we can see that we're heading into a series of stories potentially just as ambitious as the first three phases if not more so.  At a certain point this evening, I was so hyped up about this, I began to consider if it might include other Disney properties, if the Doctor Strange film will feature appearances from the Star Wars or live action fairy tale franchises, Stephen doing battle with a Mandalorian or Maleficent.  God, I love this stuff.  More please.

[Updated after episode six]   Gah, now I don't know.  Maybe?  Between Tom Holland saying that neither Toby Maguire or Andrew Garfield are in Spider-Man 3 and the suggestion that Evan Peters is playing a zombie version of the MCU character so his whole casting might actually nothing more than a reference to recasting in sitcoms I'm starting to doubt the whole premise of this blogpost.  

So either something completely wacky is going to happen in the next couple of episodes, or we're heading for something akin to Russell T Davies's time on Doctor Who when we'd all be thinking of some incredibly intricate and complex reason for a thing and it actually turns out to be much, much simpler.

Nevertheless, this doesn't discount the idea that Steve Strange won't turn up at the end of episode eight and on seeing Even Peters and knowing that he's from another reality (with the added bonus of Bandersnatch Cummerbund saying words like "mutant" and "X-Men") realising that something has gone terribly wrong with the multiverse leading into the next Doctor Strange film.

Just an added thought.  The final moments of the introductory film of each MARVEL phases has presented the greater theme of the rest of the phase: Iron Man closed with the start to the formation of the Avengers.  The multiple suits at the close of Iron Man 3 prefigured Ultron's army.  Captain America: Civil War ended with Steve's phone shaped olive branch and they only defeated Thanos when they worked together.

[Updated after the finale]  Huh, huh, huh, huh, she said boner.

Lockdown Links #8



I’ll Tell You a Story…
"Today, we’re going to answer a huge burning question about The Young Ones. No, nothing to do with flash frames, or hidden fifth housemates. This is the really important stuff. Exactly what is the farty neighbour watching on her television in “Cash”, just before she switches over to Andy De La Tour doing a public information film?"

Fatherland: Limited Edition Blu-ray - Notes on an Essay:
From Frank Collins: "Due for release by Indicator on 19 April 2021, this limited edition Blu-Ray of Ken Loach's Fatherland(1986) features my new essay on the film in the booklet that accompanies the first pressing."

Billie Piper: ‘I know about dysfunctional relationships – what it costs to be a woman’:

"After 25 years in the limelight, the actor says she is finally finding her voice as an actor, writer and now director. Does life imitate art?"

Magary: I tested the dumbest PPE of all time - the Rich Guy COVID Helmet:
"The Microclimate Air is the pandemic accessory you do not need."

THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7: Aaron Sorkin samples the menu:
"DB here: Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Aaron Sorkin has carved out a unique position in contemporary Hollywood. If we want to understand craft practice from the position of media poetics—that is, the principles governing form, style, and theme in particular historical circumstances—we can usefully look at him as a powerful example."

What Parler Saw During the Attack on the Capitol:
"As supporters of President Donald Trump took part in a violent riot at the Capitol, users of the social media service Parler posted videos of themselves and others joining the fray. ProPublica reviewed thousands of videos uploaded publicly to the service that were archived by a programmer before Parler was taken offline by its web host. Below is a collection of more than 500 videos that ProPublica determined were taken during the events of Jan. 6 and were relevant and newsworthy. Taken together, they provide one of the most comprehensive records of a dark event in American history through the eyes of those who took part."

Non-geographic postcodes:
"Note that a number of non-geographic postcode sectors are also contained within geographic postcode areas."

San Antonio 10-year-old cashes in on GameStop stocks he was gifted 2 years ago:
"When Jaydyn Carr unwrapped his GameStop shares his mom gifted him for Kwanzaa two years ago, neither mother nor son expected he'd eventually be in the middle of a stock surge."

Lessons from A Pandemic Anniversary:
"It's not just what we know, but how we know it."

Dungeons & Dragons Has an Antisemitism Problem:
"The roleplaying game is one of my favorite things in the world, which makes it all the more disappointing to find coded antisemitic themes throughout."