Ravenous 1.

Audio When the Time War series was anounced, it seemed like that was going to be the only new Eighth stories in release - but here we are with Ravenous, the continuation of the mid to late period of his adventures, with some Lucie Miller fill-in material also forthcoming so there's plenty more for my bank balance to scream in pain about for the foreseable future.  For the purposes of full disclosure, I write this having already ploughed through the first three boxes together in about a week, so it's with the hindsight of knowing what's to come.  By design, the series as a whole, although with linking elements is a mix of stand alone and arc episodes rather like one of the latter tv series which means we get to hear the characters within less grim and sometimes rompy settings, which is a refreshing change.

Their Finest Hour

Here's Churchill back, in narrative terms, as a sort of World War II equivalent of the Brigadier, drawing the Doctor into the adventure and providing military support towards the end.  Very much a callback to the pre-Dark Eyes type of story but with a glance towards the tv revival with the focus on the Polish participation in the RAF.  The resolution isn't unlike numerous other Who stories in relation an alien faction going rogue, but to an extent all of that is backgrounded to the pick-up from Victory of the Daleks (and The Doctor Dances) about how despite subduing the extra-terrestrial invaders, the war of a particular time period continues with its own, more conventional tragedies.

How to Make a Killing in Time Travel

Something which has become baked in to Doctor Who over the years is that its antagonists tend to ultimately be pretty bold in getting ahead of their plans often designing them in such a way as to be able to revel in the big reveal when it happens, even to the point continuing to pretend to be doing something else, even in private when their only audience in the viewer, reader or listener.  HTMAKITT celebrates the reluctant antagonist, the kind of whose nefariousness is either by accident or happanstance who then attempt to cover things up even though they're entirely aware of the personal gain.  Stralla Cushing is a perfect example, superbly played by Judith Roddy of as the Doctor himself says, "an enormous brain and a complete idiot."

World of Damnation

Let's just put this out front: the Eleventh is becoming pretty tiresome.  Big Finish are clearly enamoured with the concept and there's no denying the dexterity of Mark Bonner's performance as he skips between the various Doctor-like incarnations,but Doom Coalition pretty much exhausted the potential story value of his psychological problems and yet here he is again.  Admittedly it's to resolve the cliffhanger from the earlier series but that could have been dealt with as a one and out, but instead he's being set up as continuing presence going forward which means another few hours of having to listen to the echoey voice treatment and jokeoids which populate his dialogue.  Sorry gang, but he's the new C'rizz.

Sweet Salvation

The Candyman who features here was apparently the original concept for the character before JNT or whoever decided to go instead with a copyright violation for Paradise Towers.  He's a suitably creepy confection, describing all of his tasty treats with all the relish of an Androgum.  This is meat and potatoes Who, with the Doctor attempting to convince the authorities about a threat and gaining their trust in aiding him to battle it off.  But it's also a Matt Fitton script which forefronts this companions, with Liv in full on warrior mode and Helen under suspicion as to her motives with the Doctor ultimately only trusting her because of her actions.  It's not about who you are, it's about what you do.

The few good things about BoRhap: The Movie.

Film Bohemain Rhapsody is not a good film. The reasons have been rehearsed elsewhere and indeed the key weakness, the editing, for which the usually otherwise very good John Ottman received an Oscar, are covered in this video essay:



BoRhap's Oscar buzz remains a mystery. There were better performances this year and certainly better editing. But I pause at the Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. Ironically, A Quiet Place feels like the more worthy winner, but I appreciate why this might have been chosen.

Much of the time, the prefered option with any musical biopic is to have the actor also do the singing, lipsincing is rarely convincing, especially when a voice is so distinctive that if it emerges from another actor's mouth it just doesn't look right.

That's certainly true of BoRhap, but I can see why the members of the Academy thought the intergration of Freddy's voice into the footage deserved recognition.  Frequently, it appears in the background of scenes or in unexpected moments which feel spontaneous.

But the tour de force is the closing Live Aid sequence when Malek et al, helped by some extraordinary production design, recreate one of the most famous concerts in history, right down to Smith and Jones's introduction thrumbing in the background the band's stage entry.

The following video demonstrates the extent of the performance, directing (whoever that was)and sound technical achievements by comparing the film's version (with interpolations from a BD extra) and the original Live Aid footage. You could argue that the world didn't need a hi-definition remount of Live Aid in letterbox but one exists now and its mesmerising.



Admittedly, the sequence also reminds us of how the film's meta-editing choices fudge one of the film's narrative through lines.  One of the important moments earlier in the film is about the adoption of Radio Ga Ga as an anthem and how as well as showing Queen's collaboration it offers a chance for the audience to become involved.

Including that section of Live Aid as seen above would have provided the emotional apotheosis of that, but for some inexplicable reason we get Hammer to Fall instead, which is a fine song but doesn't have the same resonance within the film's narrative arc (such as it is).

But notice how Malek's imitation of Mercury is near perfect, down to gesture and facial expression almost the entire way through and how well synced they are throughout each song, from air punches to the business with the microphone stand.

Even if the actors playing the rest of the band aren't always in the "right" place on the stage, Malek is, almost to the inch.  Even the video's thumbnail shows the attention detail, right doan to how the singer holds his microphone.

Except of course, all this also does is to demonstrate just how magnetic a personality the real Freddie Mercury was on stage and so how much else in the film does a disservice to him and his story.  But I'll give them the Live Aid sequence, even if the wrong bits are in the film.

You Will Now Have My Influence.

About The notion of an "influencer" gives my hives, but there's always been little doubt that I've appreciated any free stuff sent to me over the years for me to review.  Quite how much that has ever translated into actual sales, I'm not sure, especially there's still at least one company which still sends me unsolicited review copies despite me not even having mentioned their product for at least five years.

Amazon announced their influencer programme earlier in the year and having always wanted to set up a store front for this silly old site, I greedly fed in my Twitter details only to be told that I didn't qualify.  Well of course not.  But last night, I decided to try again, but instead with my @shakespearelogs feed with its three thousand odd followers and, well it worked.

Welcome to the feeling listless shop.

For now I'm theming the various "ideas lists" around elements of the blog.

So here's somewhere you can buy all the Hamlets. 

My favourite films of every year since films began. Where available.

All the Sugababes albums, of course, including both versions of Taller In More Ways.

The next big project will be to create a chronological shop for the Eighth Doctor to mirror this old thingIt currently only has his TV adventure.

The idea is that people buy things and I get a kick back.  I'm not expecting anything at all.  It's just taken me ten years to get the first £25 voucher.  It's still exciting to finally have one of these even if it's inherently pointless, especially if I don't get around to updating this blog more often.  But I've been busily trapped in the bloggers dichotomy.

The List:
Have an email read out on @wittertainment.

Film Oh wow, so this happened.

The Set-up:

Dear Mal and Wash,

Just listened to Mark's review of Serenity in a post viewing, hazy miasma (on Sky Cinema rather than an actual cinema) and although it is not a good film I did want to defend at least the central performances from McConaughey, Hathaway etc

Without spoiling the twist that isn't, my impression is that the actors are playing into the requirements of the film's setting and requires performances which hover between a glossy Hollywood style and something altogether more simplistic.

They're doing what is probably expected of them and giving a pitch perfect version of that even if it has no relation to how normal human beings react, because [spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler and indeed spoiler].

Which isn't to say that it's entirely consistent and the director's other key influence seems to be early 90s erotic thrillers which doesn't make an awful lot of sense given what we learn as the story continues. To say anything else would be too much of a spoiler.

In other words, although this is otherwise a good example of what happens when someone who isn't Christopher Nolan attempts to make a Christopher Nolan film, the Mcconaissance is fully intact as is Hathaway's come back and The Princess Diaries 3 can't come soon enough.

Take care and tinkety-tonkety,

Stuart Ian Burns
Hard fought merit in MA Screen Studies at Manchester University.

The Result:

Well, scroll through to about minute 28 on the podcast.

Yes, that is Simon Mayo reading out the email (including stage directions) and Mark Kermode reacting to it and giving some coherent reasons as to why I'm wrong, or at least being very sympathetic to the performances.

So that happened.  Wow.

5. Have an email read out on @wittertainment.

Night, night.

Life As part of my cognitive behavioral therapy, I've changed my sleep pattern. So I've been going to bed at 10pm and waking at 6am. The knock on effects are plenty more energy, feeling more awake than I have in years and having so much more time to myself.

Two whole hours to get myself together, watch some television, read and have breakfast before work in the morning and sleeping in the post evening film period when I was usually wanting to nod off anyway, too tired to work, essentially clock watching until bedtime.

But more importantly my anxiety has become more manageable and understandable. It's still there and I have had a few wobbles in the past couple of weeks, but I feel more like the version of myself I like to be than I have in ages.

Will this lead me writing more?  Don't know.  I hope so.  Having consciously worked myself out of spending life trying to decide how I'll be blogging about it later rather than enjoying it, to then actually write about it could be viewed as counter-productive ...

The resurgence of Indonesia’s movie industry.

Film Indonesia's filming and presentation industry is booming with new cinemas opening and local productions increasing. Bloomberg reports:
"A sign of the changing lifestyle is tucked away behind Cinema 21’s venerable art deco-style Metropole, which was built when Hollywood itself was going through a golden age. In a low, white building, part of the chain’s Premiere brand, wealthy Jakartans pay 100,000 rupiah ($7.07) each to view the latest blockbusters in cosy theaters that offer waiter service and big, padded armchairs that recline at the touch of a button."
Why does this matter?

Because if cinemas are to survive, presentation has to be improved. The seating and projection of films in the average UK multiplex is dreadful, especially considering the considerable price being charged. With the lowering windows between theatrical and digital releases, large screens simply aren't enough.

There's much to be learnt from the Indonesian model.

Patient Zero is now an Oscar Winner.

Film Despite blotting its copy book by effectively having Driving Miss Daisy beat Spike Lee again (not that Spike was nominated in the best picture category in that year even though he should), last night's Oscars was an utterly thrilling piece of television. Without a host, it focused more closely on the films themselves rather than having to awkwardly entertain the audience with extra-curricular activities. But more than that, with the odd exception, the award winners were a diverse cross section of artists representing an incredibly high standard of film making. That a MARVEL film now has three academy awards and in the areas it most excelled at is historic.

Of course the best moment for some of us who've been watching television comedy and drama for the past twenty years is Olivia Colman's win.  Numberwang's Olivia Colman, Look Around You's Pam Bachelor, Green Wing's Harriet Schulenburg, Twenty Twelve's Sally, Rev's Alex, Peep Show's Sophie, Broadchurch's Ellie and yes, Doctor Who's Patient Zero.  She apparently made her television debut in 1995 as a contestant on the Win or Weep section of Channel 4's The Word and now she's an Oscar winner and I couldn't be happier because its an example of the working inside the system and how the unlikeliest of outcomes is always still possible. 

Anyway, let's see how I did.

BEST PICTURE
Like: "Roma"
Will: "A Star Is Born"
Did: "Green Book"

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Like: Marina de Tavira, "Roma"
Will: Amy Adams, "Vice"
Did: Regina King, "If Beale Street Could Talk"

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Like: Richard E. Grant, "Can You Ever Forgive Me"
Will: Sam Elliott, "A Star Is Born"
Did: Mahershala Ali, "Green Book"

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Like: "Roma"
Will: "Roma"
Did: "Roma"

ORIGINAL SONG
Like: "When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings" - "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs"
Will: "Shallow" - "A Star Is Born"
Did: "Shallow" - "A Star Is Born"

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Like: "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse"
Will: "Isle of Dogs"
Did: "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse"

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Like: "BlacKkKlansman"
Will: "BlacKkKlansman"
Did: "BlacKkKlansman"

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Like: "Roma"
Will: "The Favourite"
Did: "Green Book"

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Like: Olivia Colman, "The Favourite"
Will: Glenn Close, "The Wife"
Did: Olivia Colman, "The Favourite"

DIRECTOR
Like: Alfonso Cuarón, "Roma"
Will: Adam McKay, "Vice"
Did: Alfonso Cuarón, "Roma"

PRODUCTION DESIGN
Like: "Black Panther"
Will: "Black Panther"
Did: "Black Panther"

CINEMATOGRAPHY
Like: "Roma"
Will: "Roma"
Did: "Roma"

COSTUME DESIGN
Like: "Black Panther"
Will: "The Favourite"
Did: "Black Panther"

SOUND EDITING
Like: "A Quiet Place"
Will: "Bohemian Rhapsody"
Did: "Bohemian Rhapsody"

SOUND MIXING
Like: "Black Panther"
Will: "Bohemian Rhapsody"
Did: "Bohemian Rhapsody"

ORIGINAL SCORE
Like: "Black Panther"
Will: "Black Panther"
Did: "Black Panther"

VISUAL EFFECTS
Like: "Avengers: Infinity War"
Will: "Ready Player One"
Did: "First Man"

Not a bad tally.  Of the categories I paid attention to, even if I didn't guess that it would win, at least I suggested that I'd like it too.  But in years to come, when the ceremony itself becomes a faded memory and it just exists as this list, people will ponder about some of the choices as the reputation of some of these films grow just as other recede.

Who are the Sugababes?

Music Amelle guest presented something called Access All Areas on Fubar Radio and the Sugababes inevitably became part of the discussion. There is some new information:

(1) Things were fractious when Keisha left and it sounds as though there's still an undercurrent of something. They met eighteen months ago and had a nice conversation about the old times, and apologies were swapped, but they're still not friends. Lord knows what happened here then. But she is still mates with Heidi.

(2) "She doesn't have the name." "Who doesn't have the name?" "Keisha. She doesn't have the name. We have it still."

(3) The final three members are apparently in discussion for a European tour, where they still have a following. This year or next year.

(4) "There are so many different scenarios. Like after a tour we then maybe do a tv show to pick a new group of Sugababes."

Fucks sake, this is ridiculous.

Anyway, Amelle doesn't seem too keen on much of it. But she did joke about having all six of them together on stage which as you know I've been clamoring for, working through the various iterations.

The podcast ends on About You Now, which is apparently Amelle's favourite, so here's a recording of three people on a stage singing the same song in completely different realities at the same time:

Jeff Bezon: The Original Hero (amazon.com)



Commerce The first section of Heroes.com concerns what the author calls "Internet Tycoons: The network-centric visionaries" which she says are about "grand ideas that shape future business models". It's primarily an exploration of the key figures online from about 1994 until the publication date of the book in 2000 and as we'll see only a few of them survived in the roles they had then.  That's what makes this book such a fascinating snapshot - throwing phrases like visionary around in the time before Google entered the mainstream.

As you can see it begins with the big kahuna, Jeffrey Preston Bezos, Time Magazine's person of the year in 1999, even then with a wealth of £4.87m and in charge of what was, even then, the largest book retailer online.  His entry/interview is exactly as you'd imagine, with much talk of a customer-centric experience but with a slightly cautionary tone that it wasn't quite working yet.  This was still the period when the company was perpetually in the red, with £350m in losses in 1999.  Rather like Spotify later, I used to will them to go into profit just so they could stick around.

In 1995, there were three internet connected PC with a web browser in the two main libraries at Leeds Metropolitan University and you had to book them specially for an hour at a time and its during one of those sessions I first looked at Amazon and the variety of books available with their US covers of the kinds of what were for a Liverpool student in Leeds probably quite marginal topics and far too expensive in shipping terms for me to buy right then.  So I didn't look at the site again until around the time this book was published.

My first purchases were in October 2000.  A copy of the Miller's Collectables Guide of that year as a Christmas present for my Dad and Doctor Who - The Troughton Years on VHS.  I think - the ability to see your order history seems to be down at the moment.  Here's how the front page of the .co.uk version of the website looked at just that moment:



Few things say turn of the century culture more than Buffy, The X-Files, The Blair Witch Project and the All Saints album, Saints and Sinners. Notice that this was still mostly a dial-up era in the UK, so there's still plenty of white space and few graphics. The top selling DVD is Gladiator and the book is The Beatles Anthology.

But notice in the options at the bottom EZshops, which was a separate section back then but would be later integrated in the main search results as secondary sellers and an auction section which was Amazon's short lived attempt to be eBay.  Here's the .com version:



Notice how everything is dumped in together chart wise, that Happy Potter was already in the ascendancy, and that the big new release in books is a nine hundred page history book. In case you're wondering, this is George Lucas in Love. In the days before YouTube, short films would be made commercially available on VHS, even eight minutes shorts like this. Apparently is outsold The Phantom Menace one day.  Sonny.

The Wikipedia's pretty comprehensive on Jeffrey's subsequent career and we all know how we feel about him as a person, such is his ubiquity.  Little perhaps, could the fresh faced, fleece snuggling Princetonite smiling in these pages imagine that within twenty years he would have made an enemy of the POTUS and be writing an open letter to the publishers of the National Enquirer which includes a description of the racy photographs in their position which they're threatening to publish.

Amazon itself has become an existential threat to the high street and it's possible to argue that some chains have closed as a direct result of people buying their nick-nacks online rather than in shops.  Book stores are making a come back apparently, as are record emporiums selling vinyl so it seems as though the businesses which provide items and an experience which Amazon can't replicate will survive, but there'll be a lot of pain in between.

For completion sake, here's how the front page of .com looks to me now:



The front page changes depending on user experience and interests now.  It's detected I live in the UK, hence the notice that they ship worldwide.  Graphics heavy it assumes the user knows that they sell everything so doesn't feel the need to include that information in tabs across the top.  But I do miss the more curated front page - it suggests to the user some things they might not necessarily have heard of in a way which, ironically since its designed for that, an algorithm can't manage.  If I've bought one fridge, I don't need to see twelve suggestions for others I might like.

Whatever happened to the dotcom Heroes?



History It's now twenty years since we first installed an internet connection at home. A dial-up 56k "Surftime" package from BT only available at evenings and weekends, it cost about as much as the fibre connection we have now and would take twenty minutes to download an mp3. But as way into the world and increasing my quality of life it was incalculable.  Although I'd had access to the web since university in 1993, the ability read news and blogs and do everything else in my own bedroom was incalculably cool.  If anything the web feels smaller now, habit leads us to view the whole thing through a Twitter or Facebook feed and the variety of innovation feels limited.

About a year later on the other side of the millennium, Louise Praddow's "HEROES.COM: the names and faces behind the dot com era" was published.    One of numerous books released about the web at that time, it's a fascinating survey of what were considered the most prominent websites of the era and the entrepreneurs staking their livelihood (or that of their investors) in the new frontier through the medium of interviews alongside the smiling faces of their subjects.  Or as Praddow characterises them in the acknowledgements, "the individuals who are shaping the future [...] changing the way we work and play, braking away from the corporate rules of the past".

Two decades on, how does this version of the web measure up to what we have today?  How many of these pioneers survived the bust, either as individuals or their websites and what are they doing now?  Did any of them forsake the web and become an artisanal baker or survivalist sheep farmer?  The purpose of this new blog project is to have a look at each of these interviews, wallow in the nostalgia and then see what happened next.  Twenty years has been a long time online, so it'll be interesting to see how many of these innovators became the establishment and the extent to which they've truly guided how the web and internet "are" as a "thing".


It seems only fair that we begin with the author(s).  The Foreword is written by Paul Taylor, who as his Linked-In indicates was for many years a technology journalist at the FT apart from during a two year window in 2000-2002 (around the publication of the book) when he co-founded the451.com whose first appearance on the Wayback Machine is this placeholder website in May 2000:

By June 2000 it had begun publication:



Sadly none of the news stories seem to have been captured by the Wayback Machine.  But already we're at the apex of turn of the millennium website styling.  WAP was the forerunner of the "mobile" version of websites we have today, but ironically the main website here is what would be considered the mobile version now.  the451.com is already confidently predicting the end of paper, with its name and the idea that they're "lighting a fire under conventional technology news".

By 2003, the site had gone from being overtly newsy to providing "an analyst firm providing insight and commentary in the technology" and is still in business, even if it's no longer giving its analysis away for free and obscures the origin of its name through cool-blue colour scheme.



As per his Linked-In profile, Taylor would continue at the FT until 2014 when he'd jump ship to SAP, a technology market intelligence firm which would seem to be one of 451's competitors.  How many of the individuals named in this book will be revealed as having a similar career path?



The book's author Louise Proddow began her career as a marketing communications manager for Toshiba (1991-1993) before moving to Sun Microsystems in 1994 where she remained until 2005 as Global Director Strategic Programs & Marcoms Campaigns which she mentions in the acknowledgements to this book as a way of explaining how she was able to contact this variety of people.  In the same period, she wrote from Guardian columns here and here which can be seen as forerunners to the book, especially the introduction.

As she says on her Linked-In, she went from there to Nokia, as Head of Marketing, thence to Dell, before in 2011 becoming the founder of Tweak Marketing and then taking a career swerve in Rejuvage an "anti-aging" website.  Here she is introducing the company on YouTube:



After twenty years, Praddow has gone on to create just the sort of start-up that she surveyed, as you'll see, in her 2000 book.  The future just happened.

Audrey for very Liddell.

Books At the beginning of the year I wrote about how combining an Amazon Kindle purchase with its "narration" means you can buy audiobooks at a fraction of the cost.

Here's a classic example:

Keris notices that the Busy Philips autobiograph This Will Only Hurt A Little is just 99p on Kindle today.

But the added Audible narration is just £2.99. So you can get the digital book and audio combined for £3.98, which is £34.48 if you bought them separately.

Yes, I bought them.  I regret nothing.



Adorable.

Resolutions: Update.

Life About a month ago, I posted a list of my new year's resolutions. Let's see how guilty I should be feeling.

I want to be healthier and lose weight.

- No chocolate
- No sweets
- No biscuits
- No cake
- No bread
- No cheese
- In fact as little dairy as possible
- Eat more fruit and veg
- Eat smaller portions
- More exercise


Yes, broken them all. Last a week or two and then the temptation was too great and the hunger became to interfere with my anxiety. This stuff is hard, especially with my lifestyle. That said, I've only been having a can of soup each day which has to be a good thing, right?

I want to be more respectful to food.

- No sauces or condiments unless they're integral to the dish.

Kept to this, oddly, even to the point of not having gravy on roasted meat. All sorts of flavours suddenly revealed for better or worse.

I want to keep my film collection static.

- Do not buy any new or second hand region 2/B dvds or blu-rays this year unless they're MCU, Doctor Who, Star Wars or Network releases or Shakespeare.

Kept to this too.

I want to reduce my Big Finish backlog to zero.

- Listen to Big Finish during the walk to and from work.

And this. Almost at the end of my backlog of Tom related audios.

I want to keep my book collection static.

- No more new books unless they're Doctor Who TARGET novelisations or on audio.

I have bought the Kindle version of All The President's Men, but since I already had the paperback waiting to be read, I decided that was allowed especially for 99p.

Embrace the whole of the Sugababes.

- Listen through the albums and re-appraise Sweet 7.

Not yet. But I look forward to the day.

The Doctor is now an Oscar Nominee.



Film Plenty of actors with guest appearances in Doctor Who have been nominated and even won an Oscar, and although Peter Capaldi's short film, Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life won an academy award, Richard E Grant's nod in the Best Actor category is the first time someone who's played the main character in the franchise has found himself in amongst the top ticket. Grant's played the Doctor twice - in Curse of the Fatal Death as one of Rowan Atkinson's successors and later in Scream of the Shalka, the official continuation of the Doctors adventures for the five minutes before Russell T Davies ignited the revival.

Before any of you suggest neither are canonical, at this point the idea of canonicity in Doctor Who is pretty redundant.  But if you really must, there's enough leeway in the 'verse thanks to alternate reality stories interacting with the primeverse, whatever that means, that the Atkinson Doctor, the Shalka Doctor, Peter Cushing and any of the other fragments are just as legitimate as the person we more usually recognise as the Doctor.  So for the purposes of making history, Richard E Grant is the first Doctor to become nominated for their acting.

With all of that sorted out, here are my serious predictions for the night. What I'd like to win and what will win. I've skipped categories when I haven't a clue.

BEST PICTURE
Like: "Roma"
Will: "A Star Is Born"

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Like: Marina de Tavira, "Roma"
Will: Amy Adams, "Vice"

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Like: Richard E. Grant, "Can You Ever Forgive Me"
Will: Sam Elliott, "A Star Is Born"

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Like: "Roma"
Will: "Roma"

ORIGINAL SONG
Like: "When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings" - "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs"
Will: "Shallow" - "A Star Is Born"

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Like: "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse"
Will: "Isle of Dogs"

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Like: "BlacKkKlansman"
Will: "BlacLlansman"

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Like: "Roma"
Will: "The Favourite"

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Like: Olivia Colman, "The Favourite"
Will: Glenn Close, "The Wife"

DIRECTOR
Like: Alfonso Cuarón, "Roma"
Will: Adam McKay, "Vice"

PRODUCTION DESIGN
Like: "Black Panther"
Will: "Black Panther"

CINEMATOGRAPHY
Like: "Roma"
Will: "Roma"

COSTUME DESIGN
Like: "Black Panther"
Will: "The Favourite"

SOUND EDITING
Like: "A Quiet Place"
Will: "Bohemian Rhapsody"

SOUND MIXING
Like: "Black Panther"
Will: "Bohemian Rhapsody"

ORIGINAL SCORE
Like: "Black Panther"
Will: "Black Panther"

VISUAL EFFECTS
Like: "Avengers: Infinity War"
Will: "Ready Player One"

Stairs.

Life Yesterday in London I spent a lot of time walking up stairs. There were the stairs in shops, in Muji and Foyles and tube stations. There were the steps around the National Gallery up to the Van Dyke room and back again at the end of the day.  Then there were the some six hundred stairs to the top of the dome of St Paul's Cathedral and six hundred back down again.

Rather than spending my Christmas money this year on the usual mix of appliances and something to play on them, I've decided to pay the entry fee into places which I might not otherwise be able to justify the expense.  St Paul's Cathedral's costs in and around twenty pounds to get in which seems like an awful lot when there's already an amazing cathedral or two in my own city.

It's worth every penny.  Having visited Europe, the architect Chris Wren took the demolition of the Norman church which stood in its place previously in the great fire, to bring what amounts to a European-style edifice to our capital city, a massive dome topped structure which also oddly feels quite intimate and between the crypt and the tower offers far too much to see in one day.

After lunch (an only ok cheese role in the cafe) and with an hour to fill until a guided tour, I simply decided to look at the place and with the baroque paintings in the main dome and the golden mosaics across the walls, I realised the best way to do that was from the floor.  So lay down in the middle of the dome and simply looked.  Here's what I saw:



I was just keying up to take another photo which didn't chop off the side windows when I was told by a invigilator that photography was not allowed inside the cathedral.  I asked if it was ok that I was on the floor and she said it was fine but that I might want to move when the lunchtime service was about to begin.   I was a foot away from a lectern which she'd just put in place.

The tour was an incredibly dense history lesson not just of the cathedral but the various luminaries memorialised and buried there.  The crypt is essentially where all of the local historical celebrities not in Westerminster Abbey are buried.  In one corner, it's possible to find yourself standing on the graves of Turner, Leighton, Holman Hunt. Moore and Reynolds.

Then it was time to visit the top of the cathedral.  There's a pain barrier when hunting up that many steps in a confined space.  The tendency is to attack them quick at the beginning, with gasping and heartache pretty soon afterwards.  Then there's the pain barrier, then there's the moment after the pain barrier and then there's simply getting it done.

But it was well worth it.  Here's me and my big nose, at the top, on the Golden Gallery looking out across London:



And here are some of the things I was looking at:









St Pauls is 111m high or 365 feet. Wren purposefully built the cathedral so it would be the same height as all the days in the year. From up there it seemed like the highest I've ever stood out side of a plane, but the Eiffel Tower is just under three time taller, so that's still my personal record.  Nevertheless, like the interior of the cathedral, there so much to see, not enough time to see them. 

But I'll try.

Fingertip.

Life  Despite having every intention of writing here this week, my ability to type has been seriously curtailed due to being unable to use the forefinger on my right hand, the digit I use for pretty much everything.

Last Saturday I received a new mandolin grater and in my glee to try it out, didn't consider the hazards of slicing through a tomato and accidentally removed the skin from the top of my finger.

Blood everywhere, general panic.

So for a week, my pinky has been dosing pain whenever I've accidentally prodded it against anything. 

But the body has incredible healing properties and now it's all closed up and I'm just waiting for the top layer of the skin to sort itself out.

Although I'd be lying if for a few moments right at the beginning, I didn't think it was as bad as this person went through.

Picard again. Picardigan.

TV One of the most fascinating elements of watching all of Star Trek in stardate chronological order the other year was realising that Star Trek: Nemesis isn't the final filmed work on the "prime" Trekverse. That goes instead to the first of the Kelvin Star Trek films and the few seconds just before Spock enters the anomaly which leads to him ending up in the past of the branching reality caused by the emergence of the Romulan ship and destruction of the Kelvin.

Not any more.  News was that the Picard series would be set many years after his time on the Enterprise, but in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the current Trek overseer Alex Kurtzman clarifies that it'll chart his course after the destruction of Romulus in that same film and the catastrophic effect it has to that part of the galaxy.  When Kurtzman et al have said the past that they're about finding gaps within the established canon, they really weren't joking.

In the run up to the release of the film, IDW published Countdown, a prequel comic which explained in long form the events mentioned in the Kelvin Trek the origins of Nero and how Picard and a reconstituted Data were involved in Spock's mission.  The film's co-writer Roberto Orci says that it's canonical unless a future film contradicts it.  Let's see if the new Picard series will and the extent to which is refers to the events of the film from the Primeverse side.

Here's my best guess.  Picard's been acting as an ambassador between the Federation and what's left of the Romulan Empire continuing Spock's efforts dating back to, as the article explains, the Unification two-parter but that something else huge happens which throws the whole business into disarray.  The mandate appears to be to not simply do more TNG but with different people so it has has a different flavour.  How exciting.

Resolutions.



Life For years new years resolutions have been something other people break and so your writer has tended to avoid them. Already plagued by guilt for no particular reason, the last thing someone like me requires is something to actually feel guilty about. But 2019 feels different, the end of a decade, transitional. Since I'm unlikely to make any big life decisions any time soon, unless they're forced up on me, I've decided to make a list of items, of small things I'd like to do and create a set of rules which will help guide me there.

Some of them are frivolous. Some of them are about saving money. Some of them about about changing me. But it feels prudent to type them up here, in public, or as public as this blog is these days, so that there's less incentive for me not to follow them. Then at the close of the year, I can look back at them and see how many I was able to adhere to. The statements are pointedly self-centered and first person and probably has a tone closer to a manifesto or set of commandments. That can't be helped and neither can the fact you'll probably think me a lunatic. You'd be half right.

I want to be healthier and lose weight.

- No chocolate
- No sweets
- No biscuits
- No cake
- No bread
- No cheese
- In fact as little dairy as possible
- Eat more fruit and veg
- Eat smaller portions
- More exercise

[As it says. I've indulged a bit recently and for various reasons been snacking between meals. I do not want to re-consume the five stone lost during my pre-op crash diet in 2013 but equally I don't want to have another crash diet. I've tried but it just fucks with my anxiety. I'll take this gentler approach instead and see where it takes me.]

I want to be more respectful to food.

- No sauces or condiments unless they're integral to the dish.

[No gravy or cheese sauce or pickles or ketchup or horseradish or any of that.  As one chef said on social media the other day, I'm paraphrase and I don't remember who, there's nothing worse than cooking a beef burger to perfection, sourced using some of the best meat available and then having the customer smother it in cheap ketchup that kills the flavour.]

I want to keep my film collection static.

- Do not buy any new or second hand region 2/B dvds or blu-rays this year unless they're MCU, Doctor Who, Star Wars or Network releases or Shakespeare.

[Even after a clear out of off-air dvd-r recordings with what is now shocking picture quality, I still have a couple of thousand films in my collection and with the various streaming services and Cinema Paradiso, it's morally and financially untenable for me to keep adding to them which is all too tempting now the price of dvds has crashed in charity shops and at CEX.  The caveats are mostly obvious.  Network don't licence their films to CP so its worth grabbing them if they're cheap.  I'd also say that region one dvds are excluded, especially if its a film which hasn't been theatrically released here.  I'm trying to reduce the fodder.]

I want to reduce my Big Finish backlog to zero.

- Listen to Big Finish during the walk to and from work.

[All of those £2.99 digital purchases add up.  I'm also behind with the McGanns which is unforgivable.]

I want to keep my book collection static.

- No more new books unless they're Doctor Who TARGET novelisations or on audio.

[After having a sort out this afternoon, I now have about eighth shelves worth of books to read and precious little time to catch up on them.  So yes, cold turkey on buying the printed word.  TARGETs are excluded because I'm collecting them ready for a project.  Since I don't have enough time to sit down and read books too often, I'll try to listen to them instead.  Once I've caught up on Big Finish, I have all seventy-two hours of Stephen Fry narrating Sherlock Holmes to keep me busy.]

Embrace the whole of the Sugababes.

- Listen through the albums and re-appraise Sweet 7.

[After years of having a purists approach to the Sugababes, I was listening to About You Now from the Change album and realised that I've been rather foolish in demoting anything recorded after Siobhan left.  Although there'll be nothing to replace the sweet, soul sound of the original line up, every album after is filled with absolute bangers, and the group didn't reach number one until Freak Like Me anyway.  If you love something, you have to embrace all of it and so just as the Shalka Doctor is as valid as the Third, so Get Sexy should sit right along with Run For Cover.] 

If I think of anything else, I'll add them here.

Doctor Um?



TV Here we are then at the close of another year of Doctor Who. If you've been following my reviews over the past few months, you'll know that having enjoyed this past series, I've sometimes sounded a bit forced. Partly its because after having been writing these amateur texts for the past thirteen years it's becoming increasingly difficult to find a new way of expressing myself and sometimes having to force myself to have an opinion even if it's a shrug emoji.

But there's also been something niggling at the back of my nod about why this hasn't quite gelled sometimes in a way that was obvious even in the odd episode of the otherwise horrendous series eight.  During series eight, I grokked pretty quickly what I didn't like about its portrayal of the Doctor, but with series eleven, because I've been genuinely positive overall about the thing, it isn't until now I've been able to articulate what isn't quite working.

Some caveats.  The following is not a blame game or anger for the sake of it directed at anyone in the cast or indeed the writers.  There's obviously a particular approach which has been taken with the series, so some of this probably due to personal taste.  Everything which follows comes from a place of love.  It's a bit like those moments when The Daily Show with Jon Stewart would do a piece about Obama when they thought something had gone amiss.

The nub of the problem is this.  Much of what we understand about the Thirteenth Doctor is from Jodie's portrayal.  If you try to dispassionately listen the text she's been given and the character she's playing it's largely in the realm of the so-called generic Doctor who often turns up in spin-off fiction when a writer, usually someone who isn't a fan, tells the story of a kind of quirky magician who really doesn't have a relationship to the incarnation which is supposed to striding across the pages.

The most obvious examples of this can be found in Eighth Doctor material either from the period in the novels when his character was only just in the process of formation amongst writers who only had the TV Movie as their source material, or in later years when those who don't seem to be steeped his deep multi-media history have been commissioned to write a story for him.  Alex Scarrow's Spore is a decent example of this.

Now I appreciate that to some extent as Terrance Dicks has said, the Doctor doesn't change and its about what the actors bring to it, and Jodie brings a tremendous amount.  But every version of the Doctor, even in the writing, has a specific interior life or set of behaviors which the audience can relish or not and this shifts over time depending on the writers (the Tom of season twelve is a very different figure to Tom in season eighteen).

But there are numerous choices which are working against her, which stop her burning as brightly as she should, which take the edge off her individuality, which stop us from becoming entirely involved with her story.  Essentially this boils down to the companions and lack of returning elements outside of the core premise related stuff which can't not be part of the adventures.  There's a reason why the Third Doctor was given his TARDIS back so soon.

Initially I enjoyed having multiple companions in the TARDIS, the fam, because it allows for multiple points of view on a story from varying experiences.  They're all compelling characters well played, even taking into account how underwritten Yaz so often is.  Even in the two episodes which are notionally supposed to be about her and her family, the story material shifts pretty sharply to other concerns.

On the one hand can you can compare this to the original TARDIS team and gang who accompanied the Fifth Doctor.  Except stories were told across a far longer duration which meant that there was plenty of time to service all the characters for the most part (poor Nyssa) and give the Doctor a fair shake of the action.  Plus having more companions increased the storyline's direct connection to the Doctor and increased the stakes.

The problem with having this many characters in a much smaller episode duration is that its rare that every character has something meaningful to do and also that the number of supporting characters decreases which potentially lessens the sense of place.  Again this isn't true of all stories - the historical pieces in particular are very well drawn.  But watch how many subplots are between companions rather than a companion and a day player.

The knock on effect of this is to give the Doctor less to do.  Notice how often the story elements which are usually the Doctor's responsibility are handed off to the other characters reducing her "moments of charm".  Graham is utilised as the voice of experience even though she's at least a couple of millennia older than him.  On numerous occasions Yaz or Ryan are off investigating whilst the Doctor is stuck in a room somewhere doing science or investigation.

It's only when Jodie is alone and interacting with a stranger, usually an antagonist, that she really glows because she's finally allowed to be the focus of the scene, its not about the other characters reacting to her behaviour.  The Dalek in Resolution.  The Frog in It Takes You Away.  Finding and entering the TARDIS for the first time in The Ghost Monument.  Finally she's granted a close up of more than a couple of seconds that isn't about her pulling a face.

Quite often the direction of the scenes leads to plenty of reverse of shots of the companion's reacting to whatever the Doctor is doing which is seen in glimpses rather than staying on her work.  On one hand this means that when the camera does stop and really looks at her she's captivating, but it also leads to becoming almost an afterthought within the blocking of some scenes when she should be the star attraction.

Unlike Star Trek, Doctor Who is not an ensemble show.  For the most part.  Although at times the companion has offered the audience's viewpoint into the adventure, the Doctor should always be the centre of attention and the stories should always be within his orbit, because otherwise what's the point?  The least successful stories are always those in which a ton of action occurs across multiple scenes and then the Doctor arrives and fixes things.  The Time Lord should be in the thick of it.

If I had a preference, it would be for the series to continue with Yaz as the main companion - Graham and Ryan feel like their story's been told.  Their story arc is ultimately disconnected from the Doctor and often feels like Chibbers returning to a place of safety because he's otherwise overwhelmed by the business of writing Doctor Who.  It should be the Doctor who steps up and offers the healing wisdom, be the fixed voice of calm not just tossing out insults.

The grand gesture in series eleven was that none of the episodes would feature a returning monster in order to give a new audience a jumping in point and they don't feel like they have to have a Doctor Who fan site on hand to understand any of it.  For the most part, giving Thirteenth her own adversaries works well even if, again because of the sheer amount of regular cast members, these antagonists only really exist in relation to the TARDIS team's reaction to them.

Except its usually returning elements which help to define a new incarnation and one of the more exciting results of having a different actor in the role is in seeing how they embrace these kisses to the past.  This also includes how a new production team absorbs them into the new way of doing this things and how they'll bring their own version of what has already been established.  The Cybermen are in a constant state of flux.

Sometimes a companion is carried over.  Third and Fourth both had very different relationships with Sarah Jane, just as Eleventh and Twelfth both approach Clara in a completely different manner.  As well as reformatting the series, having UNIT in the Third Doctor's first story offered a glimpse into the dandy's opinion of the military in comparison to the clown.  Chibbers apparently doesn't want us to see how Thirteenth, Kate and the Osgoods would react to one another.

But monsters are equally important.  Again with the Cybermen, but notice how it allows Second in Tomb to enunciate just how different his approach to intervention is to his predecessor.  When RTD reintroduced the Daleks in 2005, he did it half way through the series because it offered the chance for another wave of publicity and arguably the Ninth Doctor didn't really come into his own until he was staring down the lens of his mortal enemy.

Imagine if Resolution had been broadcast mid-series with a heavy publicity campaign telling us the Daleks were back but not quite as we remember them.  People would tune in out of curiosity to see if the relaunch was better than the iDaleks and also to see how Jodie's Doctor dealt with their return.  Much as happened back then, they would have seen her in a stand off against her foe in some of her strongest moments so far.

Like I said, all of this comes from a position of love and it has to be said I do love the Thirteenth Doctor.  I just wish she was given more to do, narratively treated better.  She should be the centre of attention but as I also said Chibbers seems more comfortable writing other things almost as though he's so afraid of cocking up this awesome responsibility.  So he's presenting story arcs which could be an element of any series which just happen to be playing across the TARDIS's travels.

Making the show now seems like its become a real ordeal between having to deal with potentially international buyers, licensees and tons of scrutiny from all sides, fans to media.  Plus, in cutting the duration of the series down by two more episodes, there's even less chance to catch lightening in a bottle or articulating what it is that you're trying to achieve.  Let's see if lessons have been learnt when series twelve is broadcast.  Whenever that might be.

Buying Audible audiobooks on the cheap.

Books Or rather, cheaper.

I noticed this over Christmas when buying some of the 99p offers. They'd include the ability to add narration so that the reader and swap between text on screen and having the book read to them - which turns out to be the actual, complete audio book.

Here's an example.

The Kindle version of Doctor Who: The Day She Saved the Doctor: Four Stories from the TARDIS is currently £3.49.

You can currently add Audible narration to your purchase for just £2.99 which is £6.48.

The audiobook alone is £12.24 outside of an Audible subscription. So that's a saving of £5.76.

Obviously the savings vary. The current no 1 in the Kindle chart is The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson at £9.99. Extra audible narration read by the likes of Dennis Quaid (who played Clinton himself in The Special Relationship) is £7.99, so £17.98. The audiobook is
£19.24 so about £2.50 cheaper.

These audio books all appear in the Audible app and downloadable.

Obviously, whether you want to spend that much money on something you don't physically own is up to you but that's true of all legal digital media.