The Films I've Watched This Year #14

Film I've just spent the past half an hour trying to remember the film I watched last Sunday night, eventually resorting to glancing through Last.FM to see if whatever it was inspired me to seek out connected music as happened with Drinking Buddies and found I'd been listening to The Swingle Singers that night and then remembered I hadn't watched a film at all but instead had read this month's Sight and Sound Magazine's article about pre-code Hollywood cinema.  I should really have remembered because just afterwards I had one of my periodic existential viewing crises in which I realise I may be watching some films because I feel like I should rather than because I necessarily want to (see previous existential reading crisis for more information) and decided to, well we'll get to that.  The upshot was I deleted almost everything on my Amazon Instant, Netflix and Lovefilm-by-post lists and started again.  I'm tired of just watching films made in the past couple of years ...

Drinking Buddies
Easy A
Gray's Anatomy
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief
Premium Rush
The Last Airbender
Out of Sight

... though the best new film I saw this week was Drinking Buddies and it was released this year so, well, shrugs.  High end mainstream mumblecore from director Joe Swanberg, this stars Olivia Wilde , Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston as a what, love square? cube? set around a brewing factory and the imbibing of its contents.  I throw the term mainstream mumblecore around, but on this occasion the genre lines are especially bleary since it's not doing that much which is different to the average indie comedy drama, but yet it's also arguable that Swanberg isn't not working within his usual creative throughline except with actors people will recognise and that if Olivia Wilde et al weren't in this and it had been shot on 16mm it wouldn't simply be mumblecore.  If this had starred Greta Gerwig and Mark Duplass and been shot ten years ago, it'd be mumblecore plain and simple.  Except what was mumblecore was to begin with other than a handy marketing term, a way of characterising those films to college students and hipsters and hipster college students?

Anyway, so yes, Drinking Buddies.  Well, Drinking Buddies is first and foremost about showing the world that Olivia Wilde can act in films.  She's one of the executive producers and you can see why she'd be attracted because it allows her to simply exist in the frame and have an easy chemistry with her co-stars over longer takes as opposed to her usual film roles which have tended to be in action films where she's lucky is a close up lasts more than a few nanoseconds or House which I've never seen but because it's network genre television I imagine only gave her a very limited box to work in.  On the basis of her work in Drinking Buddies, I'm thinking of catching up (assuming House turns up on one of the streaming services).  She has an instant likeability and her scenes with Johnson (and his amazing beard) are beguiling as another man and woman try to be friends without the sex part getting in the way.

Which isn't to say all paradigms are swerved.  Like When Harry Met Sally, there are periods when the narrative agency, which is mostly with Wilde is handed over to Johnson when their character's friendship runs into difficulties.  Similarly it's a rare occasion when Anna Kendrick hides her light under a bushel, plays the slightly mousy other woman.  But unlike, pertinently, What to Expect When You're Expecting, the characters are so damn likeable, the scenario so damn interesting, with Ron Livingston about as full on as Ron Livingston tends be these days, that you are able to sort of ignore it.  Largely improvised, there are moments when you wonder if Swanberg simply let the camera keep rolling at the end of the take and a glance at the outtake reel shows that's pretty much what he did in places with Johnson and Wilde and Kendrick unable to keep a straight face and making each other giggle just as their characters do in the actual film.  Marvellous.

The other two main strands this week have been the continuation of #soderberghwatch which we'll, well ok, I'll talk about in a minute and working my way through all the films the Youtube channel Cinema Sins has covered in their Everything Wrong With... videos so I can get all of the jokes which is what led me to finally seeing Carrie and sitting through Benjamin Sniddlegrass and the Cauldron of Penguins and Racist Cartoon Adaptation #534.  At first glance both films have the remit of trying to be the new Harry Potter, and as with that franchise and to be fair Buffy The Vampire Slayer, we have the same character structure of "the one" helped by her two best friends, a boy who's most comic relief and strong willed girl.  Not just Buffy.  Even Sherlock's arguably adopted it in recent years and it's even come and gone in Doctor Who.  Rory and Amy especially, though Jamie and Zoe before that.  Interestingly, this doesn't quite map onto the Vladimir Prop's morphology of the folk tale.  The characters are there, but the structure isn't quite.

At first glance these films both seems to be doing much the same thing, exploring ancient mythology through the eyes of children or young adults.  The difference is one's better than expected and the other makes you feel sorry for Dev Patel who clearly thought he was signing up for the new Star Wars.  Is it worth rehearsing again the litany of problems The Last Airbender has?  The Honest Movie Trailer pretty much does the job, but there's a general sense of a creative failure even before filming began with a director, actors and massed ranks of the crew trying to make the best of it.  A lot of the problems are there in the script, with poor character introductions, inconsistent plotting and a general sense that someone at some stage should have  at least glanced at a synopsis of Vladimir Prop's morphology of the folk tale.  Most of the time it simply looks like the CG budget was drastically cut leading to whole action sequences being reduced to the minimum of shots and effects needed to tell what story there is.  Awful.  Awful.  Awful.

In contrast, Percy Jackson's not half as bad as its reputation suggests.  It is Harry Potter with Greek mythology, but there's an almost metafictional understanding of itself that somehow makes it work.  It's essentially an ITV version of Potter which makes the Ron Weasley character a sexual deviant with goats hooves, the Hermione character a warrior whose actress Alexandra Daddario will be an ideal Wonder Woman in about ten years when DC inevitably reboot and in Logan Lerman a central screen presence who's more immediately likeable than Daniel Radcliffe which is unfair of course because he's here fully formed whereas part of the charm of the Harry Potter series is in seeing these younger actors learning their trade.  The story's hogwash, a meaningless quest for marbles or some such, but it's really difficult to not like a film which has Piers Brosnan as centaur with the horses legs and everything and the brass balls to have Steve Coogan apparently playing Alan Partridge playing Hades.  The sequel is already in my Lovefilm queue.

Also better than expected is Premium Rush, the little actioner that could.  Unusually for an experimental Joseph Gordon Levitt starrer, Rotten Tomatoes thinks it's fresh, and I do to.  Set amongst bicycle couriers in New York, it has in its DNA the likes of Run Lola Run and The French Connection as JGL has to deliver a package and is chased across half of the city for it by Michael Shannon in full on Warner Bros cartoon mode.  Joe's character's called Wilee just in case we missed the point.  Despite the less than subtle flashback structure, this is an old fashioned actioner with a series of ticking clocks but importantly about a very small story that not about saving the world but offering a single character the chance at a new one.  If Shannon had been allowed this level of wacky as General Zod, that film would have been twice as amusing as he spends most of this cursing out of the corner of his mouth, his eyes boggling with rage as he's unable to make his car attempt any of the tricks Gordon Levitt's cyclist is capable of.

On then to watching all of Steven Soderbergh's films in order.  Though reputation suggests otherwise, Soderbergh's wilderness years only really amounted to two films.  The Underneath did moderate business for what it was, but the underlying point was that the director's auteur gene wasn't being flexed.  He's recently said of his early King of the Hill that it's "too beautiful" but arguably it's also anomalous.  None of his films until this point particularly feel like the work of a single director and you could suspect that Soderbergh was concerned that he'd end up as a bit of a journeyman producing a series of well respected and sometimes classic films but without a particular directorial voice.  John Boorman in other words (not that he's ever said that).  Michael Apted.  One of those figures.  He'd end up being the Sex, Lies guy for the rest of his life apparently capable of creative risks but stymied by the work he can get funded unable to get the more interesting material into production, so stuck as the genre guy.  John Dahl.

So he makes Schizopolis.  This is creatively important for two reasons.  (1)  It shows that he's willing to return to square one if necessary and make a low budget indie few people might want to see and (2)  that he's willing to keep doing that until he has full creative control.  In truth, though bits of it are very funny, especially the language games in the domestic scenes, large sections of it are unwatchable in much the same way as most sketch anthology films are, notably Python.  If Soderbergh had turned this out instead of Sex, Lies quite simply he'd have a career making art films which would only be shown in the kind of c-list festivals which have a catering budget that can stretch, just about, to pretzels.  Yet, as a creative document it's a marvel as rather like Radcliffe et al in the Potters, we see Soderbergh learning his craft from scratch, what film is capable of and stylistically it's one of the first of his films which genuinely feels like one of his films (helped obviously by the fact he's in almost every shot).

So be makes Gray's Anatomy.  This is creatively important for two reasons.  (1)  It shows that he's willing to return to square one if necessary and make a low budget indie a few people might want to see and (2)  that he's willing to keep doing that until he has full creative control.  In truth, though bits of it are very funny, especially the section about Gray visiting the psychic surgeon, large sections of it are unwatchable in much the same way as most monologue films are, notably The Telephone.  If Soderbergh had turned this out instead of Sex, Lies quite simply he'd have a career directing the kind of off broadway theatre reviewed in c-list free sheets and which have a PR catering budget that can, just about, stretch to Quavers.  Yet, as a creative document it's a marvel as rather like Olivia Wilde in Drinking Buddies, we see Soderbergh relearning his craft from scratch, what film is capable of and stylistically it's one of the first of his films which genuinely feels like one of his films (even though Spalding Gray is in every shot).

That Out of Sight is his next film is some creative step up, especially since it's arguably the best film of his career.  Except, there's nothing in here which he hasn't already done before.  The golden colour palette in the Florida scenes is pure King of the Kill contrasted with the Detroit scenes which borrow their look from The Underneath.  But it's in the use of hand held camera and editing that we seeing the fruition of experiments begun in Schizopolis, especially the use of changes in time frame.  The real miracle are the performances as we can see George Clooney's later career mapped out in front of him as a bona fide movie star as it had in no films previously and Jennifer Lopez turns in a career best performance.  It's unfair but the trajectory from this to What To Expect shows a career path heading in the opposite direction to that which it should.  The rot set in with The Cell and creatively at least her acting career never recovered.  If only she'd allowed her character to become the Elmore Leonard equivalent of Charters and Coldicot or some such.  That would have been fuuun.

"Tom was in the vehicle on a low-loader."

Film Joke all you want about the title of Locke, Steven Knight's car film with Tom Hardy ("What he lives? Was it time travel? How did he get off the island?") but the production process sounds intensely interesting. Here's a short interview with Knight about it from Little White Lies:
"LWLies: We understand you shot the film 16 times and edited it together from those takes?

Knight: Yeah. Normally when you make a film there's a good reason not to do the obvious, it can be a very frustrating process. With this, having a certain level of control, I almost wanted to do it in a very naive way. The story of a man's journey and his life unravelling is there, so in practical terms what I did was put the rest of the cast into a hotel conference room, near to the motorway, opened the phone line to the car. Tom was in the vehicle on a low-loader. I would be cueing the calls in sequence, and we shot the film from beginning to end, all the way through, 16 times. We were basically shooting whole films in sequence."
Production wise this doesn't sound as problematic as Mike Figgis's Timecode in which essentially this was done four times simultaneously and without any breaks in filming and with a massive cast. But Locke seems like it will have less artifice, is edited to look like more standard fare, and that's probably the more interesting process in terms of dealing with the material. How can you tell which take to use if the takes are half an hour long?

The Song of the Shirt

Film Just in case you have the time, at Tate Liverpool next Tuesday, Laura "The Gaze" Mulvey is leading a day long seminar about radical filmmaking.
"Join us for a day of films and discussions.

"Made at the height of the radical 1970s, The Song of the Shirt (1979) is a poetic black and white feature film about women, sexuality, politics, music, early photography and fashion. Set in 1840s Spitalfields, London, the film looks at both the romance and the fearful class hysteria that surrounded the thousands of women who arrived in the city to work in the clothing industry. The film combines past and contemporary images to portray the radical potential of these women and their age.

"The screening is followed by a seminar focusing on the question: What insights can this radical filmmaking – both style and practice – offer the new digital generation of artists and filmmakers?"
Booking details and schedule are here.

The Feeling Listless Soundtrack 1.0:

Composed by Ira Newborn.
[Soundtrack unavailable] [still]

Music  There are two Starbucks in Liverpool City Centre. The first one to open serves the business quarter. The newest is on the border between a main shopping precinct and the pub and club land. It took up shop in the empty shell of one of the newer wave of bars in Liverpool City Centre - the kind which was too good to stay open too long. It was barely open a year. But the staff were friendly, they let people wear jeans and they had big couches - the only downside being the price (so not that far from being a Starbucks anyway then). There was also a lovely balcony window from which you could watch the shenanigans at the even trendier bar across the street. What really did mark it out from most other venues was that rather than offering the musical entertainment of the pub band, it allowed artists to display work on its walls. And so this was the place - my hook or crook - but more likely stealth I went to my last private view.

I remember the first art private view I ever attended. It was during a month's work experience at an art gallery and I'd been asked along to see what they were like as part of my education. I didn't really know what to expect. Actually - I expected lots of people standing around talking about the art and wondering about the universe. What I actually found was lots of people standing around drinking wine and talking about the last private view they went to. Looking around the exhibition, I didn't exactly fall to my knees and have an epiphany. Polished stone has never been one of my favourite art materials - so being dragged around room after room of the stuff I began to have flashbacks to boring visits to MFI as a child (or was it B&Q).

Eventually the moment arrived when I would be introduced to the artist. Now I had met artists before - the inspiring type of artists who work for their soul - this guy (who will remain nameless) seemed a touch - affected (something I've since realised most artists are). We shake hands and he looks down on me and asks me what I think of his exhibition. For some reason something twigged inside me. At the time, I didn't know really know what sycophancy was, but I could tell that this was the kind of reaction which had been visited on him most of his life. And somewhere in the back of my mind I decided that I wasn't going to go with the flow (believe me I never have). So I look up at him, this self-made God-like figure and say:
'To be honest I don't really like it.'
Suddenly there is silence in the group. Some embarrassed grins. A snigger. He looks a back at me - surprise obvious. And the bastard got me. He had a response.
'Well have you looked properly?'
'I think so.' I answer, squirming slightly at my lack of an actual plan.
'Well I think you should come and have proper look - perhaps in your lunch hour.' Trigger cocked. Bang. In other words - I don't have a lunch hour - we artists work as the mood takes us.

My private view experiences since then have been mixed. But I think they all are except for all but a select few. Which brings us back to that opening at that trendy bar.

I was given an invite by a friend, and since there was a bar, decided that at least I'd have a choice of drink. It turned out, this time the work amounted to three paintings and a screensaver projected on a wall. And I walk in and look around it dawns on me that these aren't my people. I don't know completely what it was, as I can usually work in any given situation, but I'd entered a room full of people just looking at each other. Glancing at their beer. Looking back at each other. Sip of beer.

I like talk. I like chatter. Admittedly, a few arty types are talking and the token goths are looking bored because (quite rightly) they refuse to pay these prices. I buy a beer and begin the long dark stand to oblivion. I buy another beer. I look around and decide to take the bull by the horns. Two girls are sitting rictus-like on a three seater couch.
I approach with a 'I don't know anyone here who are you . . .'
They look up nervously.
'Erm . . . I'm Sally.' Pipes up the brunette.
'Julie.' Mumbles the blonde.
By now I'm sitting down - and I realise that I've lost the power of speech. Creeking moments go by.
'Do you know the artist?' I ask.
'No.' says Sally.
'No.' says Julie. They got the tickets from a friend.
'I know what that's like.' I say just that little bit to loud.
I think it was Julie who glared at me first. Oh well, I think, all is not lost yet. And the exchange continues (me first):
'What do you do?'
'We're students.'
'What do you do?'
'Hispanic Studies.' (mental rictus - what the hell was I going to do with that - 'Isn't that Jennifer Lopez doing well for herself?' - I think not.)
'Second year?'
'How can you tell?' (Oh don't you know I know all and see all. My mystical Hex powers are infinite)
'You have that world weary look.' (Yes, that's what I actually said, but come on - I was desperate. So desperate, the whole mystic powers schtick has my back up).
So then we sit there. Julie nervously comments on the how she likes the décor. I ask her if she could live with it at home. She carries on talking but suddenly I'm in the Seinfeld mumbling episode, nodding along without a clue what she's saying. Sally leaves. Julie says she'll stick around and keep me company. We sit some more. I start to blabber about a friend whose got minimalist décor in his flat. She seems vaguely interested. I continue. There is no friend of course. I stole him from an interior design programme from about six months ago. Another friend arrives wondering who the hell I am. She starts getting interested about this none conversation I'm having about this fictional friend. My hands get clammy. Finally they ask me what I do. There is a brief exchange about an exhibition I thought was dull but they thought was 'Top'. Then I use my sucker punch secret weapon:
'I'm a writer. I write.'
They both perk up, and ask 'Had anything produced?'
'Not yet.'
I don't think I've seen a droop in interest as quick before. Within moments they're at the bar desperately trying cocktails.
I get up and leave.

The moral being if you've got to one of these things, take a friend, that way, if you're going to be boring, you can be boring together [Originally written over a decade ago.]

[Commentary:  Much of the above did indeed happen at the trendy bar which was once stationed in the position Starbucks on Bold Street is now standing.  It was the late nineties, when I also wrote this piece which first appeared on the website that existed before this one (full story here).  The earlier private view anecdote is true too.  No I still won't reveal the artist.  Given that I was an employee of the place where and when this happened, however unversed I was about the whole thing, it was unprofessional, something I agonised about later.  No, neither am I proud about reducing people to their sub-cultures or hair colour.  In all ways, I don't come across at all well in the text above, do I?  But do I ever?

When I put this famous track from Ferris Bueller into the original track listing, I didn't have any idea that it was a cover of a Smiths song, which is why it's simply listed as "Museum".  Having listened to the 500 Days of Summer soundtrack somewhat I've been put right on the source.  When I say "I don't do guitar bands", I've never done guitar bands.  When Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want was out I was ten and listening to Five Star and between S/A/W and Debbie Gibson tunes (and shit) never really did catch up.  Even as I write this I'm listening to the Lorde album.  Sorry.]

Then a phone rings.

Art In association with FACT Liverpool's Science Fiction: New Death exhibition, The Zone, the post-apocalyptic wilderness featured in Andrei Tarkovsky's film Stalker has been recreated at Bidston Moss. There are tours, but the places are limited or on days when I'm not available. C James Fagan has been though and writes for The Double Negative about the experience:
"The first stage of the journey, one that has some claim to reality, sees a liminal landscape of industrial estates and retail parks slip by and I find myself at a meeting place. Though there’s no clear indication that it is a meeting place — no A board, no hand written sign. Maybe I imagined this, conjured it up, fell into a slipstream of make believe.

"I’m at the right place. A small group of people are greeted, regulations explained, and another stage begins. A stage that feels like the one that preceded it; normal, almost tedious, and not what I was expected. As we pause at an underground station, our ‘leader,’ or The Visitor, hands members of the group tabards which proclaim individual professions. These will identify us.

"Only it’s not me, it’s someone else: an ‘Insectary Technician’. As this group undertakes another stage of the journey, I wonder if the only way to cope with these competing narratives is to become fiction myself. To be a simulation."

Veronica Mars UK release. DVD only. Sigh.

Film Finally:

Here we have a UK release on dvd for Veronica Mars. Instead of bothering with individual season releases, Warners have produced this complete boxed set which also includes the film.  Notice the reassuring BBFC classification symbols.  It's an amazingly reasonable £27.50 at Amazon.  But before I clicked "add to basket" I thought -- I was expecting a blu-ray release.  Also, what if I just want the film?  What then.  Oh, my:

In the age of HD, Veronica Mars is only being granted a dvd release.  Amazon's not showing a UK release for a blu-ray.  There is a US import available (or at least on the database) but its not multi-region.  I've emailed their PR department to see if something's amiss.  Of course if there is indeed a blu-ray, we're still being shafted because we'll have to buy the film twice - with the television series and then as a separate entity if we want it in HD.  As ever the UK fans are getting the sticky end of the stick.

Updated 16/04/2013 I've had a reply from Warners PR:
"Thank you for your email, we do not have any plans to release any of the Veronica Mars content on Blu-ray. It is just being released on DVD.

"Hope that’s helpful."
Sigh. I've replied with the "Why?" question.

“Where God Sat . . . ”

Geography In 1961, LIFE Magazine embarked on an epic photo story which would attempt to encompass the whole of the American North West. Now they've opened up the archive to show us some of the images not originally utilised. They're spectacular and importantly don't deny the existence of humanity which can be a tendency in landscape photography. But the archive's current editor has a few problems with the original headline:
"But the phrase “Where God Sat . . . ” still feels a little weird. Would God, in anyone’s conception of an omnipotent being, really be seated while creating a landscape as vast, dramatic and humbling as the Tetons. Or Mount Rainier. Or the Oregon coast? Wouldn’t a Supreme Being feel compelled, by the very nature of the occasion, to stand while in the process of bringing forth such beauty?"
In other words:

"I'm in a room..."

TV Now that Buzzfeed own the web, they can pretty much post about what they like, and here they like the early 1990s Channel 4 gameshow The Crystal Maze and its many awful contestants. If you think the frustrating horror of the contestants in Pointless's final round who thought Cate Blanchett was Tilda Swinton and offered their answers accordingly was bad, how about:
"After successfully navigating a mirrored maze on his hands and knees, this spectacularly dim contestant touched the crystal’s reflection instead of picking it up. He then patted himself on the back, decided that was all he was supposed to do and retreated, leaving the maze without it. Wow."
Apart from the many animated gifs including the DOG from FTN, the Flextech Television Network which was on Freeview for three years from launch and home to The Crystal Maze reruns on an unending loop and ex-contestants and their relatives turning up in the comments, there's a link to this history of The Crystal Maze in outtakes in which we hear what the people in the gallery thought of the efforts of the contestants:

"Right, send in the three year old child."

The Principia of Natalie Dormer.

The Principia of Natalie Dormer from Chris Floyd on Vimeo.

[via @brokenbottleboy] [Thanks Mic!]

"Basically, I rule."

Theatre The audience at last Thursday night's presentation of A Raisin in the Sun on Broadway starring Denzel "Denzel" Washington and Sophie "Liz 10" Okonedo were in for a surprise:
"A white tent had been erected outside the theatre, and audience members were whisked through metal detectors and wanded. Inside, recordings of Hansberry played on a loop, and the Langston Hughes poem from which the play takes its title was illuminated on a scrim: “What happens to a dream deferred? / Does it dry up / like a raisin in the sun?” By 8:12 P.M., there were eight conspicuously empty seats off the center-right aisle, four in Row D and four in Row E. (I was in Row F, on the other side.) A woman announced over the speaker: “Ladies and gentlemen, out of respect for the actors please take your seats so the show can begin.” The lights went down, and the door to the street swung open. A stream of people, including the President, the First Lady (in black), and Valerie Jarrett, snaked through to the back of the house and then down the aisle. Ignoring the announcer’s pleas, the audience leaped to its feet—this usually happens at the end of the show—and camera flashes twinkled in the darkened theatre. The Obamas shook some hands and took their seats."

Suffragette hits Parliament.

Film Principle photography on Suffragette continues on apace. There's been plenty of pap shots on a certain website but because I'd never link to that website, plus you know stuff, I haven't bothered to mention their many shots of Carey Mulligan in a hat holding a cup of coffee.

 The BBC have covered the film's historic appearance at the Parliament, the first commercial filming at the Palace of Westminster ever. The news piece has an old school Film programme vibe:
The Houses of Parliament are for the first time being used as a set for a commercial film, as shooting for Suffragette takes place.

Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham Carter have been joined by hundreds of extras playing protesters in the forthcoming movie.

Scenes were shot in the central lobby and a committee room, after MPs agreed it was a good way to contribute to the cost of running Parliament.

Tim Muffett reports.
The negotiations for this were presumably fascinating. Did Parliament want to see the script? Would they had done it for a television piece?

Gag Reel? Gag Reel?

Film Trawling through old emails this morning, I found the activation confirmation for my original Screen Select account sent 28/2/2014. As Review 2004 records, the first three discs I received were Chain Reaction, The Gingerbread Man and Fallen Angels: Professional Man with The 400 Blows, Les Enfants Du Paradis and A Bout De Souffle soon afterwards and so it goes. There's not much more to be said about this that you don't already know about how the access to film in general has changed radically in the ten years since and how apart from the MARVEL films because of spoilers and the odd special case here and there because of spectacle (Gravity), I barely go to the cinema any more, but paradoxically feel like I have a much richer filmic experience.

When I do receive a disc through the post, most of the time about the only extra I bother with is the gag reel. Often these unguarded moments tell you more about the filmmaking process than the documentaries designed for that purpose and certainly about the personalities on set and who's giving a performance and whose playing themselves. This example for Clones is typical, especially the exchange between Natalie Portman and Lucas in which she's giggling through her disbelief in what he's forcing her to do in the name of an action sequence which, as has become legendary, was shot in pick-ups because it was felt there was a lack of something, something in that part of the film. No wonder she thought the whole thing was a set up. She seems like she's joking, but there's also one of those significant pauses ...

The Films I've Watched This Year #13

Film If this list looks short, it's because it's been an odd week for one reason of another and I'm writing this a day early and before the evening's entertainment, Drinking Buddies, which I presume I'll talk about next time if it's any good. Film related news this week is that the long awaited update has been made to the Amazon Instant Lovefilm Video stream UK on the Sony BD player to something which ignores the rubbishy onboard software and offers something which is more akin to Netflix of the iPlayer. The picture quality has improved too; it's not as clear as Netflix or even the iPlayer but still a hell of a lot better than the S-VHS quality of the previous incarnation. Missing from this week's list is Creative Process: Norman McLaren, a documentary about the Scottish-Canadian filmmaker which I left about an hour in because it somehow managed to make a fascinating subject boring through a lack of coherence and poor structuring.

Inside Llewyn Davis
Still Crazy
Breath In
We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks
The Call
Warm Bodies

Where to begin. At the top, I suppose, with my film of the week for a change. Inside Llewyn Davis is a bit of an atypical Coen brothers film in that sight unseen I'm not sure you could finger the Coens for it. Perhaps because they're utilising a different cinematographer than usual, Bruno Delbonnel in for Roger Deakins, there's less of a sense of artifice, greater reality, which is odd, because Delbonnel's CV which includes working with Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Tim Burton is all about artifice.  But in capturing the folk scene in 1961 New York, in the gap between Woodie Guthrie and Bob Dylan, there's a very rich sense of place, of everything being lived in, importantly of the film almost having fallen through time having originated in the 1970s in the era of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. Delbonnel's key image, the cover of Bob Dylan's The Freewheelin', sweats through every pour.

The Coens are the kind of directors for whom half of the job is done when selecting the cast.  But this is an occasion when a star emerges and there's Oscar Isaacs suddenly burning, after a string of relatively faceless supporting roles (with the possible exceptions of  in Robin Hood and Sucker Punch) hoofing around with the charm of the young Pacinos, Goulds and Hoffmans, owning the screen, out compelling even John Goodman in the scenes when Goodman should be in ascendancy.  Not only can he sing, but his adeptness in physical comedy has elements of Tati, especially in the cat scenes.  Seriously, this is one of those occasions, like Renner in The Hurt Locker when we're in the presence of a star of the old school and want to see everything else they do.  Presumably Kevin Feige already has him on speed dial to play Steve Strange.  Actually, that would be *amazing*.

But the whole thing is delightful.  There's Justin Timberlake who's also fast become an acting favourite happy to fade into the background as the more successful mirror to Isaac's character's hopelessness.  Carey Mulligan sings!  Notice how she and Michelle Williams are quite neatly both managing to have a career in roles which they must both surely be considered for, though it's true that Mulligan just has the edge at the moment.  Hopefully they can continue and unlike Renee Zellwegger and Joey Lauren Adams they don't end up cancelling each other out.  Plus the music is glorious and it's well worth tracking down the Inside Inside Llewyn Davis documentary for the footage of the pre-recording sessions which look like they were a collaborative hoot (though the music in the film was recorded live).  About the only criticism is that it ends.

Monday night brought a Felicity Jones double bill, Like Crazy then Breathe In both in collaboration with Drake Doremus.  The first, a long distance romance drama co-starring Anton Yelchin is lovely as lovers try to stay connected with the Atlantic ocean and immigration rules standing between them.  Doremus's unpredictable, visually poetic style and editing which seems like its throwing together all of cinema histories techniques fits with the story, in which couple isn't ever sure when and if they'll see each other or if they'll ever properly be together, snatching moments when they can get them.  Like Inside Llewyn Davis it just finishes perhaps unresolved, but it's at a point when the outcome couldn't really be anything else.  It's also a bit of an artifact because it has J-Law a year on from Winter's Bone but just on the cusp of fame as the other women, something which threatens to retrospectively unbalance the thing because like Oscar Isaacs she's so utterly charming.

Everything that's right with Like Crazy is horribly wrong in Breathe In.  The tricks with the mis-en-scene are very, very similar, as is the golden colour pallette and the performances are just as improvisational but in seeking to obviously produce something more mechanically mainstream accessible, Doremus gets lost in the material and as the film heads into the second half its as embarrassingly cliched as a daytime soap opera.  This time Jones plays a visiting exchange student in music teacher Guy Pearce's midlife crisis and troubled household and from the moment he claps eyes on her Chopin rehearsal pieces we know that it's not the only thing he's going to be clapping his eyes on.  From then on, every beat of the ensuing affair is guessable, the logical narrative agency goes bankrupt and if the writer/director's intention is to show the repetitious blandness of these things then he succeeds, even if the film's almost impossible to watch because of it.

The Call has had universally poor reviews and enjoys a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 43% but plenty of those reviews seem to be about offering an opinion on what the film doesn't do, rather what it does, of not fulfilling expectations.  Pre-publicity, trailers and the like, suggest this is a thriller in which Halle Berry's 9/11 call handler will save a girl from abduction from the safety of her desk in the "hive", and although that's the central set piece, because just showing that would be filmed theatre, the whole story is opened out to show the world beyond the desk and so the main criticisms of the piece which also ignores the central psychological through line of Berry's character bare little scrutiny.  I enjoyed this a lot, though I will agree that final half hour probably only really makes sense if you've spent the past week or so watching BBC's Luther.  Especially the ending.  Wow.

I entirely missed the central conceit of Warm Bodies until Nicholas Hoult's zombie R was grunting under Teresa Palmer's human Julie's balcony.  A zomromcom which is unafraid to pay homage to its predecessors, especially Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland, there are also also elements in the dream sequences which feel like the some of the Malick-lite noodling of Like Crazy, though obviously the middle class family there weren't under the threat of the apocalypse (though Alex River Song Kingston would have been more than capable obviously).  Part of me wishes the whole thing had stayed at the same pitch as the plane scene.  When this become an action film it's slightly less compelling though you can understand that like similar efforts it feels like it has various genre imperatives to fulfill.  But the ending is sweet and there's a welcome supporting role for Damsel in Distress's Analeigh Tipton.

"We will all go together when we go..."

Music Tom Lehrer was and still is one of my favourite writer musicians, because of the songs and also because at a definitive point he stopped, he said, I'm done with that. If only more artists in various fields did that. If only when Lily Allen (for example) said after two albums, that's enough, she'd stuck to it.

For no particular reason Buzzfeed's Buzzread long form section now have lengthy profile of Lehrer who also has a healthy approach to answering the author's questions:
“You seem to have devoted so much thought to the questions you ask that you should perhaps just write what you think is the truth, even if it’s just speculation, which — judging by today’s commentators on TV — is the easiest and therefore the most common form of punditry. I neither support nor encourage your efforts, but I shall not try to thwart them,” he wrote. And he was true to his word. He didn’t respond to a second letter, nor to a fact-checking email sent to his AOL email address; his email handle includes a phrase along the line of “living legend.” When we stopped by his Sparks Street house on a cold night in February, a light was on and a Prius was in the driveway, but nobody answered the door and Lehrer wrote that he had left town for California. (One underrated classic: “Hannukah in Santa Monica.”)

The Feeling Listless Soundtrack 1.0:
The Old Apartment.

Written by Ed Robertson & Steven Page
[from: 'WBCN Naked Too', Wicked Disc, 1998]

Music Leeds was much as I left it. If anything it's become even more of a student city, everything seemingly geared towards a particular age group. As anyone who's returned to a place they once lived after years of distance will know it's difficult not to look objectively. Around every corner is a distant memory, even in the most benign of places: the statue which had a traffic cone on it's head during my first week of university which I walked past with Sharon during the first walk back to halls from town; outside The Merrion Centre where I met Rosie that last time; the old library doorway I sat in eating fish and chips when I didn't want to go back to my lodges during my second year; the telephone box I would go to cry in when I was home sick; the museum I first saw Georgina Starr and went to my first private view; the cinema which was the only place which seemed to make sense to me much of the time. There are places which have gone: the second hand bookshop where you had to leave any bags behind the counter while you look around; the coffee shop in the city centre I would go to every Wednesday as treat because I could buy a cheese and ham baguette for 95p; the market stall were I bought the belt I still wear now to keep up my jeans; the Wendy's where I ate a square burger during my first ever movie binge ('Babe', 'Sabrina', 'The American President'); that other place where I fell in love. [Originally posted 30th October 2001]

[Commentary:  The first lazy appropriation of blog material.  The original post is here.  I'd return to Leeds again two years later to visit all my old student houses.  In 2008, that blog post was found online by some people who lived in one of the houses ten years after I did.  In 2009, I sort of visited them again in 2009 thanks to the magic of Google Street View.  Part of my thinks about going back again now, but then I wonder what the point would be twenty years after I was a fresher.  It'll either be exactly the same or different, but it'll be nothing like these memories.  Perhaps if there was someone there for me to visit, talk about these old times which somehow feel still so present in the memory, but university being what it is, we gathered from across the country then returned to our own cities.  There was a moment, a brief moment, when I considered staying in Leeds, I suppose you always do when you're a student and you become embedded, but I suspected I'd spend the duration trying to continue to live the student days or as would have been my case lived them "better".  That was the mistake I made when I did become a student again in 2005 wanting to have the student experience but entirely "failing" again due to living in a completely different city.  Returning to my post-graduate student digs would be easy if I wanted to.  I'm sitting in them typing this.  Nothing has changed.  Much.

The video above has though.  Not being able to find the original track online, this other live version is from ten years later.]

Liverpool Biennial 2014: Press Launch.

Art Here we go again. It’s 1:15pm on the 8th April (2014) as I write having just returned from the press conference announcing the goodies in this year’s Liverpool Biennial (2014) (barring lunch and an interesting time with Inside Inside Llewyn Davis, the making of the Coen Brothers film). We’re embargoed, asked not to report what we’ve seen anywhere until tomorrow morning. Or this morning since you’re reading it now. Blogging is a bit complex under these circumstances. The whole point of blogging is that it’s immediate, post and it’s there but here I am in the past writing something which you’re not reading until right now.

But it’s fair. It makes sense. There’s a similar launch in London tomorrow, or today, at about the time this is posted (phew) for the capital centric journalists which are what stop the Biennial from being a simply a local event into something national or international and the PR department has a tricky balancing act between wanting to tell us locals about what’s occurring, will be occurring, whilst also wanting to make sure the whole thing doesn’t feel stale to whichever correspondent is sent by The Guardian or the BBC. As I said to someone I like to think is a friend today, I do love all of this, the cloak and dagger, the mystery, the feeling of being in the loop on something.

We were asked to gather at the Hope Street Hotel, the rather nice boutique (is it boutique?) inn opposite the Philharmonic Hall on, well Hope Street, obviously, with the explanation that after that we’d be taken to a secret venue. There were some familiar faces in the crowd and breakfast, coffee and croissant, neither of which I availed myself of, the former because I’d already stored up on coffee before leaving home and could just feel the caffeine buzz starting, the latter because of my ongoing, hernia-inspired attempt to become a thin person (which is still going well by the way, though its true the weight loss does slow down after a time).

Not before too long we were led up onto street level, the plot thickening with every step. Where were we going? Not too far hopefully because it was a deceptively chilly morning and sure enough, and this is the first of the headlines which I’m sadly burying in the middle of this paragraph (yet given away with the above illustration) because I have no idea of how to structure text, we were quickly ushered into the Trade Union Centre on Hardman Street, sometimes called the old Blind School and which is to be the main exhibition space for this year’s festival and I think you’ll agree, a magnificent choice.

Everyone wanted to go off and explore immediately but we were quickly led into a large room on the ground floor which had been set up with plasma screen, chairs and tables ready for the press conference. After talking a seat at the front, I thought about the benefits this venue will have. With its central location in comparison to the Cunard Building, it immediately creates a visiting structure for Biennial visitors, who can be introduced the festival here then walk to FACT, down Wood Street to the Blue Coat then on to the Tate and the Open Eye and whatever else is in the public realm in between.

The press conference, then. Sally Tallant the Director of the Biennial offered some statistics about the success of the festival over the years then Mai Abu ElDahab and Anthony Huberman outlined what’s to come. As you read, professional journalists are seeing the light at the end of the embargo and the new Biennial website itself should have gone live so there’s little point in my repeating what’s there, not least because I tried desperately not to pay too much attention myself. There’s always a balance at these things between wanting to have some idea of what we can look forward to and destroying the surprises.

The overall title of this year’s Biennial is “A Needle Walks Into A Haystack” which isn’t quite as snappy as some of the one word designations of previous festivals but has a much clearer direction of intellectual traffic perhaps than last time. As the press booklet explains, “overall the Biennial exhibition reflects on how artists disrupt the realms of habits and habitats, reconfiguring objects, images, representations and activities that constitute their immediate surroundings”. Now arguably that could describe all art, indeed all culture, but it has an atmosphere of specificity which will provide a decent context for the work that visitors will be seeing.

The other big change this year is the timing. The whole show is opening on the 5th July to coincide with the International Festival for Business and during the main tourist season which might bump up visitor numbers. But cleverly, because students and young people are also its mainstay, after the main launch in the Summer, there’s to be a secondary launch in September when there’ll be a performance weekend of some sort as part of the programme and a whole bunch of other stuff will open like Bloomberg New Contemporaries (which is moving into the horse shoe gallery at World Museum Liverpool which seems like a good fit).

Of the festival components that have been announced arguably the most exciting is the exhibition of and about Whistler at the Bluecoat. I genuinely gasped when this was revealed, because it’s such an unexpected joy. There wasn’t much detail as to who will be coming (presumably not his mother) but given the general lack of exhibitions of non-permanent collecton pre-1900 work in Liverpool, the appearance of someone who nevertheless helped creat the context of modern contemporary art at this festival is just, well, it just rocks. Part of the exhibition will apparently recreate his famous Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room, with the birds and the heaps of gold.

Presumably we’ll talk some more about that and the implications the choice of Whistler has in relation to the main Biennial theme when the show opens though its appearance somewhat throws off my plan to focus on just the art of the moving image at this year’s Biennial. After watching lots of Shakespeare in 2012 and Doctor Who in 2013, this year as you will have seen I’ve been stepping up my film watching and contemporary films at that, so I thought it would give my some kind of focus to at least try to watch as much of the film & video art at the festival this year and report back on my findings here.

An example would be Sharon Lockhart, who’s being brought to FACT with back catalogue, new productions and a film programme. Her work (excerpts of which are on her website) blur the line between still life photography, non-narrative documentary and I think slow cinema. Hopefully selected items will be Lunch Break and Goshogaoka, both of which are essentially a oner or string of extended takes scrutinising a single subject and people in space in a similar way to Abbas Kiarostami’s 00s work, Godfrey (Koyaanisqatsi) Reggio or Ron (Baraka) Fricke or indeed the dawn of silent cinema.

After that we were allowed to see some of the venue, now owned by the Hope Street Hotel and due to be renovated by them but who’ve delaying their work for the duration of the Biennial not unlike John Moores University at the old postal sorting office last time. The thought of that venue on the bus ride home made me realised that there wasn’t any talk at the press conference of Cityscapes, the festival within a festival it housed and the undoubted highlight of the 2012 Biennial, in which other cities created their own exhibitions for us.  Not everything has been announced yet so perhaps it is still happening. I hope so.

Never, ever. Ever.

Music The announcement of Kate Bush's live tour caused a bit of a stir on social networks the other week. I decided, since I only have a cd of Hounds of Love and a cassette of The Whole Story in the house and haven't listened to either recently that I'd let other people buy tickets. Oh, did I think again when I read this.

To save you clicking, the All Saints are touring.

Wow. That's well, that's quite something. Where do I buy tickets, are they on in Liverpool?  Yes, they are. At the Echo Arena. There's a nice photo with an Appleton wearing a Women Woman t-shirt and a biography and everything:

"ALL SAINTS Natalie & Nicole Appleton, Melanie Blatt & Shaznay Lewis. Together they became one of the most successful pop groups of the 1990s, with two multi-platinum albums, and record sales in excess of 12 million worldwide. Their debut album, ‘All Saints’ went 5x platinum and produced 3 number-one singles, including the double BRIT award-winning ‘Never Ever’ that ended up selling over 1.2 million copies."

But of course, the rough runs with the smooth and they're amongst a line-up which includes Atomic Kitten, East 17, Big Brovaz, Jenny Berggren from Ace of Base and Let Loose. In other words, they'll probably have time to do Never Never, Lady Marmalade, I Know Where It's At and probably Pure Shores and I'm not sure that's worth £44+booking fees (how much?) and having to sit through all the other acts.

Essentially, the problem here is there's a horse-shoe nebula sized cosmic incident between the audience for the Saints and the rest of the acts.  Atomic Kitten's not even the Jenny Frost line-up.  As the chart website notes of Berggren, "nope, she’s not the moody-looking blonde lead singer, that’s her older sister Linn".  Let Loose.  Mutya Keisha Siobhan would have been ideal.  Perhaps a solo turn from Sporty Spice.  Not this lot.  Sigh.  Next time around then?

Existentially Speaking.

Life We are all this vending machine.

The Phantom Making Of.

Film Originally produced for the dvd release, this making The Phantom Menace is about ten times more entertaining than the film that resulted from all this. Ewan picks out his lightsaber. Ahmed Best and Natalie Portman shooting the breeze in the desert. Steven Spielberg meeting a battle droid. Rick McCallum saying "Greaaatttt."  No one telling George Lucas to just stop and think about what he's doing.

The Films I've Watched This Year #12

Film Anyway, so yes I went to the cinema this week to FACT Liverpool, where Captain America: The Winter Soldier was perfectly screened digitally in 2D (apart from an initial volume problem with the sound) on the main screen (unlike this Cineworld preview of Raid 2 where it looks like everything went wrong). Decent audience too. Mostly silent apart from the odd paper rattle and cap twisting and the couple behind me only chatted once that I noticed when the thing happened and they were presumably discussing the thing, which to be fair I did myself during the credits. As always happens with MARVEL films, there were a couple of audience members who left before the first post credits sequence, some more who stopped when they realised there was more happening and then about three of us who waited through to the end for the throw forward to Cap 3.  About the only grumble was the price, £8, which when you consider that it'll be available to own at roughly that price plus bus fare is pretty steep.

The other news was that after Lovefilm sent me the same disc again, and much as I enjoyed In This World ... I was expecting something else, when I was called back by Amazon, I was served by someone from Lovefilm's original staff who had the ability to tell me now their service ability had changed and was able to talk through three ongoing problems.  Used to be if a title like Beauty & The Beast had been in "high priority" for months they could send it out as a special dispatch.  Not any more.  The advisor was a bit frustrated by this, as well he might, though as I've found out working in call centres when there's been a system changeover, it's often the case that the new system is actually worse than what went before and not always because you're used to working in a different way.

What To Expect When You're Expecting
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The Family
Le Week-End
The Underneath
Only God Forgives
Runner Runner

Bijou week again this week thanks to spending Monday night in the company of a slightly bonkers production of Purcell's King Arthur from the Saltzburg Festival in 2004, which was essentially Monty Python's Flying Opera, including at one stage most of the chorus dressed as penguins.  But every minute of that was more entertaining and original than What To Expect When You're Expecting, in which a bunch of very good performers many of whom we've loved in other productions ask us to hate them.  A film about pregnancy written by women but inevitably directed by a bloke, it's the kind of film in which said pregnancies and so forth are generally presented from the men's perspective and it's about the men's reservations about becoming a father and which horrifically puts the one female character whose pregnancy experience is to the fore throughout most of the film in jeopardy so that her husband has all the narrative agency at the end in a way which makes the Emma Thompson storyline in Love Actually look about as emotionally manipulative as a Robert Bresson film.

When I was writing about hyperlink films for my dissertation in the mid-noughties, and trying to decide if they were a genre or narrative technique, I didn't really have an answer.  Now that these films have followed the usual cycle process and reached the nadir of simply become a way of having romances with dozens of stars (see also Valentine's Day and New Year Eve), I suspect they might have been a genre after all.  Used to be in the likes of Short Cuts, Magnolia or even Crash, the connections were thematically interesting and surprising.  Now they're so loose that a character will turn up at a place at the end they have no business being and justify as such by saying they're another character's "cousin".  The kind of cousin who'll invite themselves to a hospital but wasn't on the guest list for the baby shower.  The poster's especially weird.  Only two of the women in the heavily photoshopped top section actually meet and only one of the blokes in the bottom section is connected to them in any way.

Welcome to the third paragraph.  I don't think I'm giving anything away when I say that Cheryl Cole appears playing herself as a judge on a Dancing With Stars knock-off.  She plays herself badly.  Rebel Wilson is in there too in a secondary role and is forced mangle the few jokes she has through a Texan accent.  Astonishingly one of the credit screenwriters also wrote the novel of Whip It and the screenplay it was based on.  The other wrote the Lohan/Curtis Freaky Friday and the book for the stage version of Legally Blonde.  It feels inconceivable that their hands would be on the godawful golf kart chase sequence or anything in the "I can't believe it's not Richard Curtis" Jennifer Lopez adoption storyline.  But infuriatingly there are some sweet bits.  The chunk about Anna Kendrick's one night stand pregnancy, in other words the least serviced storyline, feels like it could be a whole film and she has some real chemistry with Chase Crawford.  When they're on screen it becomes a different, more rooted production.  Everything else is horrible, horrible.

I've probably said everything I need to about Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but given the clamour for a Black Widow film now, the release of the trailer for Luc Besson's Lucy starring Scarlett Johansson was especially well timed.  The Family is Besson's entirely unheralded piece from a couple of years ago, so much so I didn't know it was a Besson film until I saw his credit.  Arguably the third item in a loose assassin trilogy with Nikita and Leon, The Family looks at their job from the perspective of the prey, in this case Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer and some kids in witness protection in Normandy having sold out their mob family to the feds.  Executive Produced by Martin Scorsese and somewhat spoofing Goodfellas in the same way that The Freshman riffed on The Godfather, it's genuinely funny and a little bit subversive in testing exactly what characters are capable of while maintaining our sympathy.  Perhaps I was being sympathetic after seeing WTEWYE, but the 29% on Rotten Tomatoes is unbelievably harsh.

Only God Forgives is also about family though I didn't enjoy it half as much.  Of course, given that it's a hour and half art piece dedicated to Alejandro Jodorowsky, in which the director Nicolas Winding Refn offers a fairly convention revenge thriller in a series of lushly illustrated tableau and the audience is offered simultaneously a visual technicolour feast and horrific dismemberments perhaps enjoyment in the traditional, visceral sense isn't the point.  For all the five star reviews and whatnot, it's a piece to be admired, I suppose, but it's fair to say that within about half an hour I realised I was bored and an hour in I paused the blu-ray to go the toilet and make a cup of tea readying myself for the final half hour neither of which are normal behaviour.  I was uninvolved, observing rather than participating, none of which can be said for Jodorowsky's work, Refn's previous films or the kinds of art films I usually adore.  It wants to resonate in the same way as something like Last Year at Marianbad, but these films thrive on layering extraordinary images on purposeful obfuscation.

There's none of that here, almost as though having secured financing and these actors, the production team bollocked out on just how much of the typically mainstream audience they wanted to capture.  So on the one hand the film is Sight and Sound coverbait but on the other Empire is happy to carry a few pages and an interview with Kristen Scott Thomas.  She's magnificent by the way, almost unrecognisable behind a wiry figure and long peroxide hair, but with inexpressive saucer like eyes and mask-like face, only bursting with anger when she attempts to understand how her son has managed to develop a moral conscience.  Bangkok has also rarely been this beautifully portrayed, cinematographer Larry Smith's wide angle lense capturing in astonishing detail of the urban landscape.  Perhaps the project would have been better served by being presented as a series of large print colour photographs filling an art gallery, though that obviously would deny us the few wince inducing moments of the local policeman going about his bloody business.

After a longish gap, I'm also back to watching all of Steven Soderbergh's films in order which leads me to The Underneath which was the experience which led to him entering the "wilderness" for a few years.  Going in I knew he hadn't been happy with it, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a something which is of a piece with his other work, with mono-colour filters, experimental editing and time structure and glib dialogue.  The performances are good and if in places it could seem like someone trying to direct Blood Simple in the style of a Soderbergh film, it's certain more emotionally evolved than Only God Forgives which is arguably trying to do something similar.  Wanting to find out exactly what problem Soderbergh has with his work, I inevitably went online and found this interview with Criterion in which he explains where he was during the making of the film and why he then went off and made Schizopolis, but subtly doesn't explain why he was in that place:

Though that is part of a much longer interview for the blu-ray edition so it's possible there's more to it than that. The only other comment I found after a cursory search was:

"Well, ultimately (The Underneath) was kind of a mess. I didn't quite unlock it or figure it out. Some things about it are interesting, but others are...if there's a successful element to The Underneath it was finding a way to use color in the same way that noir films used to use black and white. That was the one part of the movie that worked. Everything else about the movie I can't defend. It was a failed experiment, but a good experiment to attempt. The results of that experiment were necessary in making (Out of Sight). They can't all be gems. It's a process." [Venice Magazine, July 1998]

Perhaps it was the lack of control, of feeling part of a machine. It's probably a coincidence but the film was financed by Gramacy, who also funded Kevin Smith's Mallrats in a similar period and which led that filmmaker to go off and make something cheaper under which they had much more control in Chasing Amy.

But my favourite non-action adventure, shared universe comic book superhero film of the week has been Le Week-End about an elderly couple spending their wedding anniversary in Paris revisiting some their old haunts and generally getting on each other's nerves.  Scripted by Hanif Kureishi and directed by Roger Michell, the elderly couple are played by Jim Broadbent and Lindsey Duncan who give the impression of having been married for decades and about ready for retirement.  As they wander around Paris, you could imagine that this will be Celine and Jesse from that series in a few decades, especially when later the film takes the thematic leap into talking about the generational disappointment that the collective potential of society in the 60s and 70s when everything seem possible became narrowed by short term greed in the 80s, with depth of thought replaced by surface understanding and how that impacts on the connective tissue of a marriage where one of the participants is a failed academic.

The indie spirited flipside of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel it's unafraid to show what really happens when you go on holiday,  like throwing financial caution to the wind and spending an hour trying to gauge the quality of prospective restaurants based on the menus attached to the outside, constant unapologetic referencing of the French New Wave especially Bande à part and the sudden unheralded arrival of Jeff Goldblum playing Jess Goldblum in that way that only Jeff Goldblum can play as Broadbent's old college friend coincidentally living in Paris with a gorgeous pregnant wife in a way that only a Jeff Goldblum character might.  As Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park wanders through, you do wonder, how is this film managing this?  Jeff Goldblum in this should be about as incongruous as Michael Caine flying a giant bee in Journey 2, yet it works, works, works.  As amazing scene tumbles after amazing scene leading a beguiling climax, I was reminded of just why I love cinema. Again.

10 PRINT "BASIC is 50!"
20 GOTO 10

Technology BBC Basic was about the only language I've ever been able to understand. Sample quote: "The college students would bring their dates to the computer centre..."

Scoring “the sentinel of liberty”.

Film One of the impulses when listening to scores to action blockbusters is to assume there's a certain amount of technical mechanism about them, that a composer simply has to make things very LOUD or very quiet depending on the pacing of the story or editing.

 But as this interview Henry Jackman who worked on Captain America: The Winter Soldier demonstrates there can be a high level of artistry and wrestling with the moral and thematic elements of the characters:
"Exactly, you know, the phrase “the sentinel of liberty,” which sounds cheesy to us because we now live in such a morally complex world. In any modern political scenario it’s almost impossible to figure out who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy. And that’s sort of what the film’s about. It’s a lot easier when you set Captain America in the context of the Second World War, it’s very easy and morally unambiguous to have the Nazis as the bad guys because what Hitler was up to was unquestionably bad and needed to be stopped, whereas the environment that Captain America finds himself in this film is way more nuanced, and that’s one of the reasons he struggles."
That's why it's always such a shame when critics dismiss franchise films out of hand.

The Feeling Listless Soundtrack 1.0:
Theme from Grandstand.

Music [Originally written twelve years ago.] I got a video recorder very late in the game. Our family was never an early adopter - mostly for financial reasons. When we finally did get a video it was a hand-me-down from someone who'd bought a new one. I didn't get a computer until late either. So until my Acorn Electron arrived, if I was looking for entertainment on a Saturday I'd end up watching television. Swap Shop in the morning, followed by Wrestling on ITV at lunchtime (big fan of Big Daddy). I didn't like Dickie Davis moustache so rather than 'World of Sport' I'd be over on BBC 1 watching Grandstand. This was when football was still shown live, and so I was able to follow my team 'Everton' for much of the Eighties. And so for much of the Eighties I'd hear this theme tune.

At the time, popular TV themes would be put out as singles, which would necessitate their lengthening by another minute or so. Many took the 'Doctor Who' approach of repeating much of the tune over again. Some however, passed the time with what sounds like completely unrelated solo in the middle. So we have here something which sounds like a brass band at a Soccer match and then for no apparent reason, Brian May (or someone) appears in the middle to do an extremely seventies guitar solo. I'm surprised someone hasn't already stuck a drum beat behind this and released it into the clubs …

[Commentary: Track two. No idea. The missing story above is that the night we were given the VHS video recorder we travelled out to the Asda in Hunts Cross from Speke to buy a blank video upon which we recorded Starcrossed, the James Spader starring TV movie which was broadcast as part of a sci-fi season on what was then the still relatively fledgling Channel 4. With the novelty of being able to watch a film over and over again whenever we liked, Starcrossed became the film of choice for weeks which means I have half of it imprinted on my brain, especially the scene in the diner where Spader introduces his alien friend to the concept of a greasy spoon. This was before he began on the road to character roles, by the way. Not that any of this has anything to do with Grandstand.]

Paul McGann launches LJMU's Merseyside at War website.

"dim-witted, lazy misogynistic"

Film This rocks. The Daily Dot's Gavia Baker-Whitelaw parses the dim-witted, lazy misogynistic perception of Scarlet Johansson's Black Widow by so-called professional film reviews:
"Honestly, this kind of catsuit-focused review says more about the reviewer than the film itself. Apparently the mere concept of Scarlett Johansson in a tight outfit is so dazzlingly erotic that it bypasses some male reviewers’ conscious minds and causes them to ignore everything she says and does for the rest of the movie. The result is a series of reviews from highly respected film critics who, given the opportunity to describe each Avenger in a single sentence, replace Black Widow’s summary with the announcement, “I AM A HETEROSEXUAL MAN AND SCARLETT JOHANSSON’S BOOBS ARE AWESOME.”
The list of people mentioned in the article is scary: well respected film reviewers whose work I've even quoted in academia. Part of the problem is that half of them don't consider the MARVEL films worthy of serious discussion. As far as they're concerned, because they're light action films and based on a comic book they only really deserve their light comedic touch which inevitably leads to lowest common denominator sewage as described here and oddly those same writers fall over themselves to venerate Johansson's performance in what they consider to be serious films like Her or Under the Skin.

Rebecca Romijn-Stamos's mink throw.

Commerce How to sell furniture to celebrities. Author Peter Mountford describes the months he spent working at an LA furniture in the mid-noughties:
"Bridget Fonda, who had married film composer Danny Elfman and had stopped appearing in movies, shopped there compulsively. I have vivid memories of loading cumbersome decorative pots into the trunk of Elfman’s Maserati. Zach de La Rocha, the former frontman of Rage Against the Machine, apparently had a lot of time on his hands, too, because he drove his cool Mercedes over all the time and drank coffee at the cafe attached to the store by himself. He looked desperately bored and was always alone. Nicole Richie was not alone when she came to the cafe, nor was Kevin Costner. Victoria Beckham wore her sunglasses indoors, throughout lunch. David Schwimmer came a few times, alone, and was precisely as bitter and patronizing as you’d expect him to be. Gary Oldman was completely banal, just a middle-aged man shopping for furniture with his impossibly gorgeous 20-something lady friend."

More on the Dahlberg revelations.

TV After yesterday's discussion of the Dahlberg revelations (still trying to keep you spoiler free), I discovered (via io9) there was a previous occasion when the MARVEL universe crossed over with television. Guiding Light was a US soap opera which was broadcast from 1952 until 2009, preceded by a 15-year broadcast on radio and in 2006 ran a storyline in which one of the characters gained superpowers which continued in the comics themselves albeit for eight pages. Comic Book Resources had a set visit. Inevitably the whole thing now floats around on YouTube.

We Need To Talk About Steve Rogers.

Film Or more accurately I do. I was going to wait until the weekend, but the whole thing is still fresh in my mind's eye. So if you are planning on watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier at any time in your life and frankly why wouldn't you, it's a very strong entry in an epic superhero franchise, then stay away. I'll even put a Scarlett Johannson song, or Scarlett Johansson singing a cover version of a Tom Waits song in between this and the next block of text so your eyes can look away.

Removed: article.

Information This article has been removed because it was launched earlier when I had a strop on. The Guardian's G2 feed is back up. The main film RSS feed seems to carry all of the content. Global All's still broken though.

Revisiting "The West Wing"

TV Saved for later, this Q&A at the Institute of Politics of Harvard University:"The West Wing's Bradley Whitford ("Josh Lyman") joined moderator Lawrence O'Donnell, MSNBC host and former writer and executive producer of The West Wing, for a panel discussion on the making of the popular political drama. They were joined by Janel Maloney ("Donna Moss") via video conference and Richard Schiff ("Toby Ziegler") via telephone."

"Spasm! Spasm! Oh, God, here it comes... lactose intolerance!"

Film This BFI celebration of the Eiffel Tower on the occasion of its 125th birthday misses one of my favourite of its appearances in film, in Lawrence Kasdan's French Kiss in which Meg Ryan during her imperious phase and Kevin Kline with an outrageous French accent chase around Paris for reasons too complicated to describe here as is typical of a caper film.

One of Meg's character strands is that she hates Paris and because of that, the obligatory view, of the Eiffel Tower, eludes her, even though we the audience are constantly seeing it, behind her in street scenes or in reflections.  Like a ghostly presence it stalks her and we know as soon as she sees it, the romance and beauty of the place will finally engulf her.

Sadly, I can't find any relevant clips online so you'll just have to go and watch it. Here's Kevin Kline singing La Mer from the soundtrack instead. Oh for the mid-90s when a film like this would still be green-lit:


Film 360 Degrees of Historical Immersion, or how to make a narrative film for a circular screen:
"If the audience can look anywhere, how do we force them to see what we want them to see? Can an audience follow a narrative this way? How do you tell a story visually without a frame? There was a time when I did not know the answers to these questions. That time has passed.

"I recently finished Post Production on a 360 degree film for The Civil War Museum in Kenosha, WI. Produced by BPI and entitled "Seeing the Elephant" (a term Civil War soldiers used to describe the experience of battle) the 11-minute show was created to honor all the men from the Mid-Western states who fought for the North during the Civil War.

"The story follows three men and their experiences in the Union Army - the endless monotony of marching and training and waiting punctuated by the horrors of battle. In "Seeing The Elephant," the 360 degree theater is not simply a novelty; it is another tool to completely immerse the audience in the story and the world. Hopefully, they leave with at least a small idea of what it was like to be in the middle of a Civil War-era battle."
Cinerama gets its other 180 degrees.

Letters from America Lost and Found.

Radio Back in 2012, Paddy O'Connell presenter of BBC Four's Broadcasting House put out an appeal for any listeners who may have missing radio recordings at home which led to a man in Newquay contacting the programme to explain that he had many hundreds of old episodes of Alistair Cooke's Letter To America. Here's the audio of Paddy visiting the man with a list and discovering that many, many of the episodes missing from the archive were sitting in an attic.

Now it turns out, he wasn't the only one and a dairy farmer also had many hours of episodes in his shed which he only unearthed because of an impending government inspection and the need for a clearout, and collectively it's led to 650 lost episodes having been restored to the BBC archive.

They're in the process of being cleaned up and there's a voluminous post about the work here which will be of some interest to those of us who miss the extensive articles the Doctor Who restoration team used to produce about their achievements.  Sony’s Soundforge 10 in case you're wondering.  No sign of Mark Ayres.

The whole lot should be on the BBC website some time this year but highlights have already been posted, yet I think I'm going to wait.  With so much of the past soon to be restored, the marvel will be in hearing the epic sweep of history.  Makes you wonder what else other people have lying around...

Brian Cox meets Brian Cox.

People Actor Brian Cox meets Professor Brian Cox. After having been mistaken for one another for years, even to the point of apparently being invited to events when the other was expected, the two Brian Coxes hadn't previously met. Now here they are bumping into one another live on camera at the Empire Film Awards (on YouTube).

Liverpool Hopkins Waltz.

Music As The High Definitive explains: "On November 7, 1964, Sir Anthony Hopkins composed a waltz in the green room of the Liverpool Playhouse. In the video above, he hears it performed for the first time in public by world-renowned violinist and conductor André Rieu at the Belvedere."

Who's Bossktume?

Film Sometimes Recycled Movie Costumes unearths some real treasures:
"This space suit was first seen in the 1966 episode of Doctor Who, entitled The Tenth Planet on Earl Cameron as Glyn Williams. [...] The exact same costume does, however, appear in the 1980 film Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back on Alan Harris as the Trandoshan bounty hunter Bossk."
You all presumably already knew this, of course. The photographic evidence is undeniable.