Oh Fant4stic.

Film Fantastic Four trailer, oh sorry Fant4stic trailer (eye roll), in "not as shit as we were expecting" shocker. It's not Chronicle 2 apparently, with little evidence of a "found footage" aesthetic but about the only thing which would indicate this is a FF film is The Thing. There's a clear attempt to keep this as separate as possible in tone to the MCU but one of the elements the original two rubbish attempts got right were the aesthetic (mostly) and the humour (almost).  But as we always remind ourselves, The Phantom Menace trailer made that look like the best film ever so its entirely possible this could be false advertising.  Still more interested in the Ant-Man film though.

Winston Churchill’s funeral in HD on BBC Parliament.

TV This Friday, BBC Parliament will be broadcasting the state funeral of Churchill from the original archive film masters. At the About the BBC blog, James Rowland, Senior Media Manager, BBC Archives describes the restoration process:
"While planning the project the BBC Archives team discovered that a section from the funeral footage, reportedly featuring two buglers inside St Paul’s Cathedral playing The Last Post followed by Reveille, was missing from a transfer that had been made from the print of the original film many years ago. When the team checked the original film they found, to their relief, the missing section of approximately 3 minutes and 35 seconds was safely preserved on the original film. Up until the Eighties it was relatively common, although not permitted, for users of the Archive to physically cut sections out of the film to use in their programmes with urgent deadlines such as current affairs and we think that’s what may have occurred with the print of the funeral which was later transferred to tape and added to the archive holdings."
BBC Parliament isn't in HD on Freeview yet, but fortunately this will be on the iPlayer afterwards which should be.

"Le professeur Moriarty chez Sherlock Holmes."

Film William Gillette: Five ways he transformed how Sherlock Holmes looks and talks:
"A 1916 silent movie featuring Sherlock Holmes - long presumed lost - is due to have its premiere in Paris. It stars a man who changed the way we see Conan Doyle's famous sleuth forever."
This is the silent which was discovered towards the end of last year. The short clip behind the link is mesmerising and also feels like like we're watching the real Holmes going about his business.

Ariane Sherine interviews Charlie Brooker.

TV Sherine and Brooker are old friends and colleagues so the conversation enters some surprisingly personal areas:
"We met when we were both working in television. I was a jobbing episode writer on £12,000 a year; when Charlie was with me, he was generous to the extent that he wouldn’t even let me pay for bus tickets, and bought me self-help books when I was struggling with anxiety and depression. On meeting him in 2005, I had just escaped an abusive relationship which culminated in violence during pregnancy. Charlie was friendly and kind and safe, and though he alone couldn’t restore my faith in people (that would take years), he made me realise that though there were people in the world who would try to hurt me, there were also those who would try and help."

Happy Burns Night! (from one of them).

The Pre-Gap. Etc.

Music The Guardian's Jude Rogers lifts the groove on hidden tracks:
"CDs allowed the inclusion of a song in the “pregap” – the space before track one, only accessible by pressing rewind (interestingly, this still cannot be read by computers while uploading tracks today). Ash put their debut single, Jack Names the Planets, in this space on their album 1977; Super Furry Animals put pregap tracks on 1997’s Guerrilla and the 1998 compilation Out Spaced; and Unkle, the James Lavelle/DJ Shadow outfit, inserted a track teeming with samples of their influences on 1998’s influential Psyence Fiction – it would have been difficult to get clearance to use all these pieces."
The wikipedia has a list of albums with tracks hidden in the pregap.

"The truth is much more mundane"

About Suw Charman-Anderson debunks five social media myths:
"The idea of the “digital native” is a pervasive one, telling us that young people somehow innately understand technology whilst older people are social media dullards incapable of truly understanding how it works. This idea is nonsense. The truth is much more mundane: Technological capability, interest and access varies as much amongst young people as it does amongst older people. And whilst young tech users may relate to their technology differently, that’s doesn’t mean that they have developed a deeper or more comprehensive understanding than older users."


TV Even with the odd sporadic bit of Shakespeare and the odd piece on BBC Arts and the iPlayer, theatre continues to be a no show on television even in adaptation. Back in 2007 (crumbs) I wrote this opinion piece arguing for more of it to coincide with a Pinter production on More4. This Pinter production:


Monday, February 26, 2007 by Stuart Ian Burns

The speech given by the announcer heralding More4′s presentation of Harold Pinter’s play Celebration couldn’t have been more disheartening. Beforehand, in one of their conversational station idents, star Michael Gambon had described how he loved Pinter’s work because of the deep subtext. That he liked the fact the characters never said what they really meant. That there were “two miles of other thoughts” underneath.

Then the man from More4 delivered his warning: “And you can enjoy those layers of thought right now on More4 as Michael Gambon amongst many others delivers a very thought-provoking and at times challenging script. Expect strong language from the start and throughout for …” In other words, there’s some swearing and stuff. Has commercial broadcasting now reached the point that when something more substantial than the norm is dropped into primetime, it has to effectively warn the viewer that they’re going to need to use their intelligence?

The play took place in a single setting, a restaurant, and for much of its duration cut back and forth between the inhabitants of two tables. In the first Lambert (Michael Gambon) and Julie (Penelope Wilton) were celebrating their wedding anniversary with his brother Matt (James Bolam) and her sister Prue (Julia McKenzie) who were also married to each other. At the second table, Russell (Colin Firth) is discussing his future with his wife Suki (Janie Dee).

Periodically they were interrupted by the staff of the restaurant, the owner Richard (James Fox), his assistant (Sophie Okonedo) and a waiter (Stephen Rea) who appeared to be afflicted with a false memory syndrome which meant that depending upon their topic of conversation, be it TS Elliot or the Hollywood Studio system, he would describe to the patrons the various random famous people grandfather was apparently acquainted with.

The subtext highlighted by Gambon was evident throughout, as for all their airs and graces, the three couples lacked some fundamentals of civilization and used their words sharply as weapons to cut each other to shreds. Though Suki was obviously trying to boost her husband’s confidence, she still found time to tell him he lacked a clear personality. Meanwhile, just as Julie remembered how she and Lambert met on the top of deck of a bus, he undercut her reminiscence by describing a walk he took with a very pretty girl by a stream. Unctuous characters all – the old men were apparently gangsters and Russell was a banker who at one point describes himself as a psychopath.

But even though the dialogue was often very funny, it needed a genial cast to keep the audience interested – and that’s exactly what it got here. Presenting the work with such a stellar line-up gave it a real sense of occasion with Gambon and particularly Firth clearly enjoying the chance to speak lines a cut above the fare they will have become used to recently in film. Rea was touchingly humble, but the best turn was probably from Janie Dee who conveyed a life spent fighting to become something more than a secretary with just a few looks.

The entire production was a perfect demonstration of how well theatre plays can work on television. Filmed on location in the ravishing atmosphere of The Aster Bar & Grill in London, it still retained a certain theatricality in its staging but, possibly because this production originated for television, displayed a rare intimacy. It was somewhat like BBC3′s strange early reality TV experiment Diners, in which the viewer eavesdropped on the chat of the likes of Roland Rivron and Paul Ross while they were having their dinner; here the viewer could almost be sitting at each table possibly getting pissed on the wine.

One of the reasons sometimes given by commercial broadcasters when discussing the appearance of theatre on television is that it’s difficult to know were to put the ad-breaks. Shakespeare is fine because there are acts – but what of the likes of Pinter who generally, as with Celebration, sets everything in one space in a single scene? Potentially the biggest pleasure of this piece was that More4 decided to broadcast it without any interruption, allowing Pinter’s writing to breath. More please, 4.

Celebration is not available to watch on 4od.  For some reason.

Carrie Gracie on her first year in China.

Journalism China editor on a journey to reveal:
"For a self-confessed 'China obsessive', the role of the BBC's first China editor might have seemed like a dream job for Carrie Gracie. But the former News Channel presenter and Beijing bureau chief didn't exactly rush to apply when the post was first advertised last spring. In fact it took her until autumn 2013 to decide that she couldn't let this opportunity go by."

How do you cope?

Life Enough, enough now.

Well, no, actually there's never enough. I doesn't end ever. It just keeps going and going and going and, you get the idea, and it doesn't end and at this point will never end.

It's all become a bit overwhelming now and I don't know what to do about it.

I refer of course to everything, the everything in this case being everything. On the internet.

After years of dial-up and mobile internet with all of their relative limitations, last year, as you know, we finally received unlimited broadband internet and after years of dial-up and mobile internet with all of their relative limitations and knowing that I would, I've fallen all in my addictive personality pouring through the cracks. The devices. The services.

It's overwhelming and I've now reached the stage where I don't know what to do about it.

My Twitter legend says that I'm "Intensely interested in everything" and that's the problem. Apart from some sport, I really am. Always have been but it's now become especially acute.

Now that personality trait has come up against everything available. (Almost) everything. Whole avenues for that interest to go to. All of those films. All of that music. All of the books. Plus the infinite, infinite media. Articles, articles, articles.

That's just what's available to me right now across the various tabs I have open in Chrome, across Twitter and my RSS reader (which also happens to be gmail).

Then there are the backlogs, the hundreds of videos playlisted in Youtube, the links stored in Pocket or favourited in Twitter. Oh and whatever's been sent to Kindle. Plus all of those are part of another channel or website filled with other presumably equally interesting articles and in my mind I can see networks and trees of just stuff which all seems like it could be interesting, entertaining or educational.

All of which ignores everything in the real world I have sitting around the house waiting to be read/watched/listened to. Or broadcast on television. Or on the radio. Then available on catch-up.

I finally downloaded the Comixology app the other day. Just the free comics would take a solid week to read.

Here's another example. At the moment I've started watching my way through Alias again after having bought the boxed set in an HMV sale two years ago. I'm really enjoying it. But eight episodes in and I find myself wondering if I should be watching American Horror Story instead. Or House. Or ...

As you can imagine The Internet Archive is my intellectual and emotional Death Star.

So I have to ask...

How do you cope?

Plus on top of all this how do you find time to watch linear television? RTD's many series Cucumber, Banana and Tofu began this week. Two solid hours of programming a week for however many weeks. The reviews and word of mouth have been very good. But then I look at the pile of blu-rays I have unwatched, all of the content on the Netflix, the iPlayer, all the videos I've suggested I might "watch later" on Youtube and, well, everything else and I think do I want to? Do I need to?

Again I ask...

How do you cope?

My guess is I need to limit myself.  Try going back to my core interests.  But even core interests like Elizabethan theatre or film are endless, near infinite avenues to be pursued.  Plus its called limiting for a reason.  This Emily Gould piece about writing her first novel looks interesting, just as everything on Medium tends to look interesting.  But it's also really, really long, at least a half hour commitment.  Wouldn't that half hour be just as productively spent starting to read the introduction to the Oxford edition of Paradise Lost I was given at Christmas but is unread so far, or yesterday's long read in in The Guardian about Yakov Smirnoff or any one of the hundreds of pieces which sit unread in Pocket?

How do you cope?

I know what I potentially should do.  Scorch earth.  Delete all the bookmarks, the saved until laters, begin with a clean slate.  If I haven't read or watched or listened to something yet, I will never, it doesn't matter if I haven't seen that interview with DP/30 interview with costume designer Sandy Powell about The Young Victoria.  Or any of the many hundreds of interviews in the DP/30 channel.  But I want to.  I really, really want to.

How do you cope?

Please do tell.

"No studio would make a movie like this one at all"

Film Focus is key to the most subtly powerful moment in All The President’s Men:
"All The President’s Men tells the story of the Watergate investigation in ways that scarcely seem fathomable from today’s perspective. Most notably, the movie runs nearly two and a half hours, yet ends before Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) crack the case—in fact, it concludes on a note of defeat, immediately after they make a huge mistake that sets back their efforts enormously. No studio nowadays would even consider trusting the audience to know that a movie’s heroes will be vindicated at a later date. (No studio would make a movie like this one at all, arguably, but that’s a separate issue. The closest contemporary equivalent is Zodiac, and that’s at least punctuated by murders.)"


Film Nine years since its original release, eight years since I imported a copy from Sweden and reviewed it on the blog, five years since I watched it as part of my Woody Allen project and about a month or so since it saw it as part of #garaiwatch, Woody Allen's film Scoop is finally enjoying a UK dvd release on the 9th February (as spotted by Vodzilla).

Amazon have it for £10.25 which seems a bit steep now for the customary vanilla edition though it's a minor miracle that it even exists at all since it didn't receive a theatrical release (no matter what the IMDb says) and only seen two TV broadcasts late at night on the BBC.  An imported edition on blu-ray is also available for the same price.  I think it's Italian.

Any good?  I'll refer you to the reviews above.  It's not vintage Woody and it's certainly not Midnight in Paris, but for my money its the best of his British films and certainly worth seeing to spot all the cameos as high end character actors turning up for one line or as glorified background artists just so they can say they've been in a Woody Allen film.

My Favourite Film of 2012.

Film By 2012, I'd pretty much said goodbye to visiting the cinema on a regular basis.

Too costly, too many idiots in the audience, trusting the cinema with decent projection, and in the case of Picturehouse at FACT, toilets on a different floor to the screens leading to a mad, dangerous rush down concrete stairs if caught short in the middle of a film.

There were and still are exceptions and mainly these have to do with spoilers.

As we discussed the other day, I'm about as spoilerphobic as it's possible to be but luckily most films whose narratives aren't scaffolded by twists.

But some are and it's these films which tend to lead me back to the cinema.

Most of the time now that's MARVEL releases. Wasn't always like this. I watched the whole of phase one on blu-ray via Lovefilm. But SHIELD's narrative enmashing with the theatrical releases has meant I've needed to see them so as not to spoil the television series or vis-versa. Lord knows what happened for people who didn't see Captain America: The First Avenger before the television version.

The other kind are those which people are talking about a lot.

Cabin In The Woods was one of those.

Despite having sat on a shelf for a few years waiting for release, it was pretty clearly, pretty early that everything in the design of the pre-publicity was about making the sure the audience thought they were going to see one kind of film but end up with another.

Arguably it's the first time the poster was itself a spoiler, though cleverly you wouldn't realise just how much until you'd seen the film.

Which means I ended up in screen three of Picturehouse at FACT on the day it opened and was indeed caught short in the middle of the film so had to make the mad, dangerous rush down concrete stairs to the toilets on a different floor.

The experience was, well, average. Sitting on the front row because what used to be my usual seat was taken, I had to deal with that screen's acute problem of having the illumination from the Emergency Exit sign throwing itself across the bottom half of the right hand side of the screen ruining the blacks. Perhaps this has been fixed since.

Cabin in the Woods is Cabin in the Woods. If you've seen it you'll nod along sagely and agree that the once proposed sequel should never be spoken of again.

If you haven't I'm not about to spoil it for you, especially if you've managed to get this far.

That's why the title bar selection is as bland as bland could be.

Now it's time for you to start taking bets on 2011's choice...

The Flood (The Complete Eighth Doctor Comic Strips Volume Four).

Comics This is it then, the final selection of comics barring cameos and whatever plans US licensees Titan have for future publications. My copy of this graphic novel has the first page torn out. It was bought at the Barnardo's charity shop at the bottom of Church Road in Liverpool (near Penny Lane) for one pounds and I've always wondered how this wanton act of vandalism occurred. If you're at all interested in catching up yourself, all four are due to be reprinted I believe but they're still available at various prices on Amazon and if you're a recent convert and interested in the history of the show, look no further.  Big Finish rightly receives a lot of credit for influencing the past nearly ten years (ten years!) of stories, but its impossible not to read something like The Flood and watch the franchise being re-engineered for modern audiences in front of your eyes in comic art and speech bubbles.

Where Nobody Knows Your Name

Just the sort of story which the spin-off universe excels at because it can’t properly be justified in a television series with just thirteen episodes and a budget, this is a moment for the Doctor to stop for a moment and reflect on what it is that he does. Closing Time is the nearest equivalent perhaps, but that also shoehorned in a Cyberman threat, whereas this is just about the Doctor talking through his problems with a kindly innkeeper. At this distance, this surprise won’t resonate with everyone, but as writer Scott Grey mentions in his notes at the point when this appeared, fandom was a pretty closed shop in which all back references made sense without much coaching. Ironically the strip was published at the end of April 2003, at about the moment when announcement was about to come which would change everything.

The Nightmare Game

Being an only child and not having many interested friends, unlike the writers of this I wasn’t really exposed growing up to anything which wasn’t bought for me which generally consisted of odd issues of Spider-Man, Whizzer and Chips and whatever remained comics with the titles cut off the front covers were sold on Speke Market. Which is why until I read the notes for this I didn’t realise that there were more football comics than Roy of the Rovers so entirely missed most of the subtleties inherent in what’s being achieved (or not Hickman and Roberts are still unhappy about the third part). Still it’s good to see the franchise taking a rare retro-nostalgic visit to its own period of production pre-Cold War with a story which feels more like a precursor to Life on Mars. Plus the Doctor’s wearing a recreational fez on the first page!

The Power of Thoueris

Another one shot which feels like a pre-cursor to Doctor Who Adventures in which the Doctor already knows full well what the threat is as soon as it appears to that it can be dispatched within a few pages. It’s notable how structurally, despite the lack of pages, there’s still a need for a one-off companion, that even within the comic, the Doctor doesn’t simply use thought bubbles to convey information. But this also allows Scott Grey to stray into the show’s typical territory of portraying “god” as little more than aliens tumbling into Earth’s history at inopportune moments and he was well aware of the parallels with Pyramids of Mars even changing the name of the antagonist so as not to create inconsistencies within the mythology of the franchise (something Who doesn’t often care that much about).

The Curious Tale of Spring-Heeled Jack

Superb. Spoilers ahead so you’d best stop reading now I don’t have room for the usual textual buffer shenanigans. The companion twist got me, even in graphic novel form and is roughly what I assumed Clara would be. You could see how unsuspecting readers of the strip in 2003 might have assumed that the writers were developing a new companion for the Doctor, someone not unlike Charley, the TARDIS scene cementing the thought and I’d entirely forgotten it what with there being twelve whole years since I originally read this. Knowing the future doesn’t stop its potency either. Everything about CTofSHJ looks forward to the Paternoster Gang stories, right down to leaving a devilish defender at work in Victorian London, though that’s probably more to do with a Penny Dreadfuls and Doyle as joint sources than direct influence.

The Land of Happy Endings

During the wilderness years and beyond, plenty of ink was expended trying to rationalise the TV Comic strips within the mythology perhaps because they’re so beloved by old fans. The New Adventures suggested Dr Who was a creation of the Land of Fiction and here’s the comic strip with its theory that he’s having the adventures the Doctor dreams of having in comparison to the horrible reality of what he otherwise lives. Personally I’ve taken the same approach with them as everything else. You don’t need to explain them. Within the “mythology” they happened to a version of the Doctor in some version of the time stream, just as there’s been a human Dr Who too who looks like Peter Cushing. At a certain point he called himself Dr Who and had grandkids. Then "reality" changed and he didn’t.

Bad Blood

The fake-out story seems to have been used in all three spin-off media but not quite in the same way as here, where a story at first appears to be another one of the stand alones, in this case a celebrity historical about Sitting Bull and Custer and werewolves (a pitch which almost writes itself) as had been prevalent recently before dropping a dollop of the overall arc in towards the end of the second part. What’s impressive is that the script then doesn’t sideline either of the historical figures, making them central to the story and indeed somewhat the moment when Destrii is handed a first glimpse at redemption. This is of course in contrast to Let’s Kill Hitler which would later sideline its historical figure, the one which even features in the title, entirely on purpose, in a cupboard, just to be funny.

Sins of the Father

Because every fantasy franchise at some point ends up with a story called Sins of the Father. The difficult penultimate story doesn’t feel that way at all, which as I discovered with the novel To The Slaughter seems to an element of this format, the sense of being part of a continuing adventure even when a section of it is ending. The introduction of Destrii is problematic in these circumstances though. Rather like Ensign Ro in Star Trek and a dozen characters in The West Wing, a lot of energy is expended integrating her into the TARDIS crew even though she’ll ultimately only appear in one more story, albeit one which is ten episodes long and quite important in the development of the franchise ongoing. Perhaps at some point Big Finish could offer us a further adventure in audio form?

The Flood

Reader, I just sobbed. I was listening to the 50th Anniversary compilation while reading and wouldn’t you know but Murray’s Song of Freedom turned up during the final few pages and I was hit with a wave of emotion, remember what it was like to read these final pages in 2005 on the eve of the show returning to television, the sadness of Eighth’s tenure ending mixed the revolution in the air and well yes, there we are. When writing here in 2013 about the commercially heroic decision not to include the regeneration, little did I realise how important that would end up being in at the 50th when the War Doctor emerged. Because we know that if a regeneration for eighth to ninth had been shown in the comic, sanction by RTD, Moffat is too much of a fan to contradict it. Bye then Eighth, for now. I'll hear you again in Mary’s Story.

What is a spoiler?

Film Charlie "@ultraculture" Lynne's new documentary about 90s/00s teen films Beyond Clueless is in release. There's a trailer for it above. Lynne's given this interview to The Double Negative about it.

I'm really quite interested in seeing it, but reticent. Because of spoilers.

We've discussed spoilers before but my own approach to them has become increasingly hard line, which is difficult in our media saturated, blah, blah, publicity, blah world.

Essentially, since it's good to keep a barometer of these things, here's the point I've reached.

A spoiler is anything about a film. Pretty much. Yes, anything about a film.

Since it's entirely impossible not to know something about a film before watching it, I have to relent slightly.

My optimal state right now is that I'm happy to know the title, some of the stars, perhaps the director and whatever's on the poster. Oh and I may have heard Kermode's review months before but forgotten everything he said other than if he was positive. Oh and did it win an award?

If it's a mega franchise, the teaser trailer is just about fine because it's a disjointed group of images, a teaser, if you will.

Nothing beyond that if I can help it.

Here's why.

Over the years I've read dozens of articles and a few books about the experience of attending film festivals.  Each and every one of them talks about the excitement of sitting down in front of a film on what may be its first appearance in front of an audience.  Unless its been previewed, or shown to friends of the artists if its a small budget piece, that audience are the first eyes to see those images, the first ears to hear those sounds.

More often than not the film-goer in question will know little about what they're seeing.  The title, some of the stars, perhaps the director and whatever's on the poster.  Unlike the audience it may eventually see, that film-goer hasn't experienced the media saturated, blah, blah, publicity, blah world to come.  There might be some buzz but nothing much else.

I want that.  I love that.

It's also a backlash to what happened during my film degree all those years ago when many a film was spoilt by some piece of film criticism because in order to talk about a film you have to talk about the whole thing.

Also against the number of occasions in which I've absorbed the media saturated, blah, blah, publicity, blah world of a film which in the end became somewhat beside the point and ultimately a bit disappointing and empty.

So I avoid the full trailers.  And interviews unless they're print and I can skim.  Whole sections of Empire and Sight & Sound magazine go unread for months, especially the reviews. Oh hold on, add a star rating to the above list.  I'll glance at those at least.

As few preconceived notions as I can have before I watch a film, the better.

It's brilliant.

Of course I have my own prejudices and it doesn't mean I'll watch anything.  You can tell a surprising amount from a poster, for example if it's an Adam Sandler film in which he's trying to be funny rather than droll or if it looks like a "harrowing portrayal" of something.

Last night I Netflixed Draft Day, Kevin Costner's return to the sport film.  I knew it was about American Football and he was in it because that was what was on the poster and I remembered seeing his photograph on the review in Empire.

Even though I couldn't really follow the plot because there was little interest in hand holding anyone who doesn't already understand the vagaries of choosing a Quarterback for the NFL, I thoroughly enjoyed myself because the whole thing was a complete surprise including other cast members.  I even applauded when one of them appeared.

Like I said, it's brilliant

Which brings us back to Beyond Clueless.

The problem with Beyond Clueless is that it's a film about films and in order to talk about a film you have to talk about the whole thing which means there are bound to be films in there I haven't seen which will have the plot explained which is too much information.

My first reaction was to look at the IMDb to see if Lynne and his associates had uploaded a list of the films mentioned with a view to catching up with the films I haven't seen before watching the documentary.

They have and there's a lot of them.

Except in glancing at the list, I'm getting to see the films Lynne talks about in Beyond Clueless.  In other words, I'm spoiling Beyond Clueless's potential surprises by looking at a list of the films he mentions.

Which is a pickle.

Do I ...

(a)  Watch Beyond Clueless and hope to god that it doesn't spoil too many unseen films in the process


(b)  Watch all the films I haven't seen in this list and hope to god that it doesn't spoil Beyond Clueless in the process

No idea.  In the end I expect it'll be

(c)  Begin watching Beyond Clueless when it arrives on dvd or tv or wherever and shut it off at the first sign of trouble then go and watch some of the films on the list anyway.

Apart from American Pie Presents Band Camp which sounds rubbish.

Reader, I Married Him.

TV Another Off The Telly uplift.

Reader, I Married Him

Tuesday, September 19, 2006 by Stuart Ian Burns

One of the criticisms of the documentaries that accompanied the BBC’s Big Read event was that, in places, the autobiography of the celebrity advocates overshadowed the books they were championing. Reader, I Married Him takes a similar approach to an entire literary genre, the romantic novel, but finds a much clearer middle ground as Daisy Goodwin attempts to convince the viewer the books she loves are worthy of attention without resorting to reconstructions of desolate nights in student bedsits or dressing up in bodices.

Goodwin is a beguiling presenter; although previously seen on screen most prominently fronting the Essential Poems series (linking films of celebrities acting out verses), she’s perhaps best known as a poet and in the television industry as a producer or editor of the British version of The Apprentice and Channel 4 property shows such as Grand Designs and Property Ladder. Like Sarah Beeny, she has the rare ability of keeping the audience’s attention without resorting to shouting – her low, slightly sensuous delivery perfectly gauged considering the subject matter.

Her interview style is infectious, reacting to answers in a pleasingly natural way, the best moments occurring when Goodwin genuinely appears to be learning something new about her subject at the same time as her audience (bringing to mind Michael Wood or Mark Moskowitz, director of the seminal film about discovering books, The Stone Reader). Her giggling during Jilly Cooper’s revelations regarding the difficulty in writing sex scenes as she knocks on in age being one treasure. She also seems to have a genuinely open mind – whilst visiting the Mills & Boon offices there is real surprise in discovering the steamy content of the books, who the readership is and how much they’re prepared to pay for their fix. Attending a writing class, she tries her hand at penning a “typical” passage from one of these novels and is self deprecating about the results, the flirty young woman meeting the shepherd.

As Joanna Trollope, Erica James and Celia Breyfield offered their opinions, some of which were oddly defensive (“I don’t write romantic novels,” said Breyfield in this documentary about romantic fiction), none really captured the essence of why the genre is so popular past the expected “it’s a bit of escapism”. The public squirming at a lurid sex scene during an author’s reading was hardly balanced out by a critic explaining that Catherine Cookson was pleased she’d treated one of her books as a serious piece of literature.

More refreshingly, the documentary attempted to treat all of this fiction on a level playing field, giving as much attention to those Mills & Boon as the classics. Two fans were seen enthusing over boxes full of books, salivating and giggling as they read the cover blurbs and the variety of different stories and product lines were revealed. This was perhaps the most interesting revelation to anyone who assumed these things were all the same.

If there was a problem, it was that even though the documentary had been billed as a passionate argument for romantic fiction, and although there was certainly much conviction, it lacked a through narrative and couldn’t quite decide the audience it was aiming for – someone in the apparent 40% of people who are already in the readership, or doubters who see a pink cover on the shelves and buy the latest football biography instead. By attempting to find a middle ground the programme lacked focus. Whilst the former will no doubt be excited to be able to put faces to the names of the authors whose novels are stacked high on supermarket shelves, the latter (of which I count myself) were left to wonder why such work had garnered a large readership in the first place.

The primary omission was in regard to the content of the books, the nuts and bolts of what to expect from the genre. Whilst the second and third programmes will concentrate on the romantic hero and heroine, this opening edition was long on experts and readers expressing the emotions and feelings they glean from the novels, but short on mentions of particular characters or situations. This might have been an editorial decision because of the sheer size of the genre, but some pointers on what to expect might have been useful. There were fragments; in one section there was some talk of how romance has crossed over into crime fiction or is smuggled into war novels.

But for something that was supposed to be challenging the received expectation of what the plotlines in these novels are about, the non-40% will still be left with the girl meets boy, complication, boy falls for girl model, when the few tantalising tidbits that did creep through suggested stories that are far more complicated than that.

Precious little could be found on the history of the genre. Although the popularity of Mills & Boon amongst war widows during the 1920s was expanded upon, the roots of the stories and key early texts could only be glimpsed on book jackets in passing. The title of the series wasn’t even explained – a web search reveals it’s from Jane Eyre, something fans might be aware of but confused this layman. Hopefully this will be extrapolated upon in future episodes.

There were also disappointing lurches into conventionality and cliché – the clip from Little Britain to help illustrate who Barbara Cartland was when a perfectly good and revealing interview between the author and Melvyn Bragg seemed to tell that story perfectly well. The first reading crept up from Bridget Jones’s Diary, which was inevitably followed up with a clip from the film; and oh look lots of extracts too from the Andrew Davies television adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (oddly crosscut with comments from Deborah Moggach, credited as screenwriter for the recent Working Title film version).

Another niggle was an apparent two tier approach to contributions. Whilst writers and journalists, actors and screenwriters or “the names” appeared in full screen, members of the public, the life models and students were given a tinier amount of screen space with a giant black border around them as though their opinion was less important.

One of the more bizarre passages involved Goodwin taking a science test to see if romantic fiction could actively calm her during two stressful days at work. On each day she took a saliva sample before and after an hour of either work or sitting back and reading a novel and these were later taken to a university laboratory to see if on the second day her stress hormones had decreased. Without warning, the viewers suddenly found themselves in an episode of Horizon and Goodwin’s voiceover descended into a stream of technobabble during one of the only moments when she actually seemed slightly unsure of what she was saying – and inevitably neither did we.

Unsurprisingly, the test proved that yes, indeed reading romantic fiction during that hour did show that her stress was reduced – although the likelihood of this was increased because she revealed that she’d actually fallen asleep! Problematically however, the science wasn’t questioned and although this was no doubt supposed to be a bit of fun, it had the effect of derailing the proceedings, and this viewer wondered if the same result might have happened if Goodwin had been reading any kind of fiction, simply because she wasn’t y’know, working and in fact having a break. The contribution from a psychoanalyst didn’t really seem to give too many answers either.

The programme was far more comfortable and perhaps most engaging in the section dealing with the marketing of the books. Time was spent at a jacket meeting at Harper Collins as the experts discussed, for the benefit of the cameras, the relative merits of cover ideas and how they change depending upon the author and the market. This was juxtaposed with a reader assessing covers in a branch of Waterstones, pulling books off the shelves and explaining how certain visuals such as the colour red and a beach will attract her rather than a colour photo of the author grinning out from the dust jacket.

We learned that Tesco say that on average a sleeve must attract a potential reader in three to five seconds which demonstrates why author names and titles in big lettering and simple, symbolic pictures are currently in vogue. Headline Books are rebranding the (out of copyright) works of Jane Austen with such covers and accompanying blurbs that highlight the romance (two Asda checkout workers were shown reading these and trying to guess the author), something that Moggach described as vulgar but as the Headline spokesman explained most current editions look like academic textbooks (well apart from the film tie-ins) and if they bring the classics to a new audience that can only be a good thing – something Goodwin appeared to agree with.

Despite the niggles, this was still a very appealing documentary even if by the closing moments the non-40% might not be entirely convinced to drop their “books about guns” and try something with a female point-of-view. One of the inherent problems with this type of programme is that the thesis is stretched out over a number of weeks and episodes and there needs to be enough to hook the viewer in until the end. But admittedly, on this occasion with Goodwin as a guide most of the work was done. Perhaps, however, it would have been better to concentrate more on enthusing about the key titles, particularly the modern classics of the genre, rather than shoehorning in so many gimmicks.

Ten More Links and a Video.

6 things you don’t understand about feminism that you should probably learn before writing about feminism:
"Why oh why do so many American liberal media platforms insist on publishing articles about feminism by people who are totally clueless about feminism? There are so, so many feminists who know what feminism is, it seems unnecessary. There are also hundreds of books and resources that you could simply, you know, read if you were interested in writing about feminism with any accuracy whatsoever. But why bother learning about what you are writing about when you can just make it up as you go along! Especially when you know your fellow American liberals are eager to take in any and all ideas that support their lazy disinterest in challenging the status quo or memememeME! worldview."

Speaking While Female:
"YEARS ago, while producing the hit TV series “The Shield,” Glen Mazzara noticed that two young female writers were quiet during story meetings. He pulled them aside and encouraged them to speak up more. Watch what happens when we do, they replied. Almost every time they started to speak, they were interrupted or shot down before finishing their pitch. When one had a good idea, a male writer would jump in and run with it before she could complete her thought. Sadly, their experience is not unusual.

Help us create a directory of the UK’s recorded sound collections:
"Sound recordings help us to understand the world around us. They document the UK’s creative endeavours, preserve key moments in history, capture personal memories, and give a sense of local and regional identity. But the nation’s sound collections are under threat, both from physical degradation and the disappearance of the technologies that support them. To understand the risks facing the UK’s sound collections and to map the scale of the problem, the British Library is initiating a project to collect information about our recorded heritage, to create a directory of sound collections in the UK. By telling us what you have, you can help us plan for their preservation for future generations."

How Old VHS Tapes Helped Save Early Web Design:
"Conventional wisdom has it that anything published online can never be truly erased. People petition governments for the "right to be forgotten"—to have personal information and images permanently removed from the Internet. But look for a screenshot or image from a page of the very early web, and you'll find it almost impossible to locate. Prominent technologist Andy Baio, who runs the site Waxy.org, where he promotes tech ephemera and news, has discovered an unlikely portal to an era that has all but disappeared from today's Internet, and quite nearly from the human record: VHS tapes. With these tapes, now viewable on YouTube, comes a critical look into a period that set the stage for the massive design and technological changes society has undergone over the past 20 years."

The year of post-it-notes and mindfulness:
"For a nethead and digerati like myself, 2014 was a year of ironies."

The World's Oldest First-Grader Is Honored By A Google Doodle:
"The Google doodle for Kenya today shows a white-haired man at a table in a primary school, earnestly writing a classroom exercise. The kids behind him grin as if to say, "He is kind of old to be a first-grader.""

If Hermione Were The Main Character In “Harry Potter”:
"Hermione Granger and the Goddamn Patriarchy."

Video Games and the Curse of Retro:
"Video games are more prone than other media to obsolescence. With each new generation of hardware and software, scores of titles are made unplayable. Music has suffered similarly, of course: vinyl morphed into cassette into CD into digital audio. But music, like films and books, is easily transferred to new formats. Video games, which rely not only on audiovisual reproduction but also on a computer’s ability to understand and execute their coded rules and instructions, require more profound reconstruction. Without a strong commercial incentive to maintain their back catalogues, many publishers allow games to drift into extinction."

Google Translate Now Rewrites Foreign Signs Before Your Eyes:
"Google's Translate app is already pretty neat, allowing your to snap photographs and have them converted into one of 36 languages. Now, though, you can point your camera at a sign or menu and see the translation in real time."

Why Star Trek: Voyager Meant The World To Me:
"Twenty years ago today, Star Trek: Voyager premiered. Of the five live-action Star Trek series, Voyager is not the best. If you were ranking them, Voyager and Enterprise would probably duke it out for last place. But none of that matters, because Star Trek: Voyager meant everything to me as a child."

Oblivion (The Complete Eighth Doctor Comic Strips Volume Three).

Comics The DWM strip made the change to colour superbly well, still able to provide moody imagery when required but also allowing for bright technicolour leading to a change in the shading of the Doctor's jacket from green to blue (which seemed like a huge decision which just shows how conservative the Eighth Doctor era was) and real expression in Izzy/Destrii's gills. This graphic novel also includes the short piece Character Assassination, drawn for a special issue about the Master but since it's about the Delgado model I'm saving that for when I finally try and catch up on my Third Doctor backlog. Yes, I'm the kind of fan who has piles of stories for particular incarnations unread or unheard.


Of everything there is to focus on in the story (the Doctor’s new jacket, Izzy’s new body), I’m slightly obsessed with the TARDIS interior. Although the general look is similar to the TV Movie, the focus is on a library which is I think how it's portrayed in the novels and is much the case in the tv series. There’s also that massively scenic element of opening up the ceiling to reveal the exterior view something which must have been considered for television too but perhaps would never quite look right. Plus there’s the fairy tale element of having the door acting as a portal into another world and has that quality from both directions. It’s a moment which tends to be cut from the strips for reasons of brevity, and sometimes, as here, it’s sadly missed.

Beautiful Freak

Having Izzy change species is really bold storytelling and for the first time in the comics, the story arc is much more about character than story. The Doctor’s big speech about changing shape is just how you would expect him to try to deal with the situation but of course he’s dead wrong and Izzy throws it back at him just as she should. She’s not just isolated from her body now, she’s isolated from her entire life and doesn’t even know how her body reacts to anything, even how to breath. The scenes were she attempts to regain some of her identity by wearing the clothes she originally wore when she joined the TARDIS are meant to seem hopeful, but really they’re chilling. At this point we’re meant to believe Destrii isn’t returning with her real body but even with hindsight, this is extremely effective.

The Way of the Flesh

Four years before The Unquiet Dead, here’s a surprise celebrity historical which also backgrounds mortality albeit in a way which is utilised in a way which is closer to Army of Ghosts in terms of how it effects the local population. In keeping with the television series, we have the idea of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera with just enough accuracy for the purposes of the story, the former, thanks to her own condition, a way helping Izzy come to terms with her predicament ready for the next story in which it becomes vitally important. Reading this reminds me to watch the two biopics again at some point, Frida and The Cradle Will Rock, though it’s Salma Hayek and Alfred Molina’s voices from the former which spoke the dialogue in my head when reading this rather than Corina Katt Ayala and Ruben Blades from the latter.

Children of the Revolution

The strip that’s famous enough to inspire a merchandising gift set though kids won’t really be able to do a re-enactment until the inevitable waterproof Kroll hand puppet emerges. Of all these strips, barring the Izzy the Fish business, this is one of the few of these strips that could be filmed as is on television give or take a few budgetary trims. The idea of good Daleks has of course been visited a few times since, notably Into The Dalek, but also in Marjorie Blackman’s novella The Ripple Effect. Unlike pretty much every other occasion, the Doctor doesn’t immediately assume it’s a ruse and doesn’t attempt to reveal their “true” colours ala Victory of the Daleks. The notion of Daleks as religious beings would also later be developed in the Russell T Davies era as well as the notion of the Doctor as “saviour”.

Me and My Shadow

Another “Dalek Cutaway” this time to explain to potential new readers who Fey Truscott-Sade is to new readers as well as explaining to old ones why she hasn’t killed Hitler yet or some such. We’re told and we’ve seen in various narratives that the Time Lords aren’t the only beings in the Whoniverse with access to the technology. Although stories have been told about them and others manipulating history (see the Databank) even in Let's Kill Hitler there’s not much prospect of it. In the final exchange between Fey and Threshold, the latter reminds the former that Adolf is part of a nexus in history which is why she can’t go vigilante on him. But it’s interesting that we’ve never had a story about the Doctor saving Hitler as a young man from some other freelancer in order to save future history.


For all my griping about Capaldi’s callousness last year, the Eighth Doctor, largely due to his multi-media development across many years, could be pretty acerbic himself especially when his friends were in danger. Even knowing whom it’s directed it and why, when he says, “Wake up, Destrii. I care about keeping Izzy’s body intact, the girl currently wearing is can rot” it feels especially dark, especially since John Ross’s artwork magnifies the lines on his face and then cuts to a close-up of her finally appreciating the magnitude of what she’s done.  The story ends on a line which would become famous in the Eleventh Doctor era, the sentiment magpied for The Hungry Earth.  The monsters are scared of him.


Bye then Izzy. Something, now Sinclair’s departure is one of the most heartfelt in the show’s history not and least and also because of the reveal that she’s the first LGBT assistant in the show’s history. In the notes, writer Scott Grey explains that this had been decided right at the start as part of the development of the character but hadn’t really been worked into any of the stories because, as I suspect, how could you do that in the DWM strip without it seeming crass and exploitative? It’s only in her concluding chapter that it begins to make sense and her final kiss with Fey a poignant and logical conclusion to the narrative. Russell T Davies apparently contacted them with his admiration and quite right too. It’s an occasion when Who's comics demonstrate their ability to be as moving as any other artform.

Oscar's Predilections.

Film Having been reading Doctor Who comics all morning and shopping at Asda, I entirely forgot about the Oscar nominations. Watching the announcement via YouTube led to an enjoyable moment when a microphone two of the producers of the coverage discussed when to turn off the feed, "We don't want a situation like last year..." Whatever happened then. I've slept and eaten some cheese since then. Either way the only thing anyone is talking about on Twitter is Dick Poop and The Lego Movie.

Best Picture

American Sniper
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything

Of course, though given previous experience, and I do keep saying this, it'll probably go to something relatively conventional with a decent lead performance.

Best Director

Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

But if it wasn't there, Wes Anderson. That goes for Best Picture too. I wouldn't be entirely unhappy if Budapest won both either.

Best Actor

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Because Cumberbatch.

Best Actress

Marion Cotillard, One Day, Two Nights
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Because Jones. Felicity "Chalet Girl" Jones is now an Oscar nominee. Though Pike is a close second.

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Laura Dern, Wild
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Emma Stone, Birdman
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Although we're reminded by anyone who watches soap operas that actors there have had to sustain characters across many years, the technical feat of doing that convincingly and invisible across over a decade within a few days here and there can't be disregarded. There is an argument that they're playing versions of themselves, but Hawke's characterisation is very distinct when seen in comparison to Jesse.

Best Original Screenplay

Birdman, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr., Armando Bo
Boyhood, Richard Linklater
Foxcatcher, E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman
The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness
Nightcrawler, Dan Gilroy

Admittedly to an extent these awards should be handed to Boyhood for the sheer endurance of the effort, but in relation to screenplay, creating a coherent story across that time taking into account changes in casting and location has to be acknowledged.

Best Adapted Screenplay

American Sniper, Jason Hall
The Imitation Game, Graham Moore
Inherent Vice, Paul Thomas Anderson
The Theory of Everything, Anthony McCarten
Whiplash, Damien Chazelle

Shrugs. Haven#t seen any of these. Cumberbatch rule applied.

Best Foreign Language Film

Ida (Poland)
Leviathan (Russia)
Tangerines (Estonia)
Timbuktu (Mauritania)
Wild Tales (Argentina)

Was One Day, Two Nights not submitted? I haven't seen that yet either but it seems like a real Oscar type film. Odd.

Best Documentary Feature

Finding Vivian Maier
Last Days in Vietnam
The Salt of the Earth

That's what I presume will win - its the least controversial of the choices,

Best Animated Feature

Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

See here. Other than that I'm applying the MARVEL rule. Other than Boyhood, the most important film of last year was relegated to the craft categories.

Best Original Song

“Everything Is Awesome,” The LEGO Movie
“Glory,” Selma
“Grateful,” Beyond the Lights
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me
“Lost Stars,” Begin Again

Consolation prize. Sniff.

Best Original Score

The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Mr. Turner
The Theory of Everything

Though having two Desplat nominated scores means it'll go to something else due to split voting.

Best Film Editing

American Sniper
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game

In your face, The Baftas. The multiple aspect ratios of Budapest should give us pause though.

Best Cinematography

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Mr. Turner


Best Costume Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Inherent Vice
Into the Woods
Mr. Turner

Because it's the one I've seen. Disney vs Disney here too.

Best Production Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Into the Woods
Mr. Turner

See above.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Guardians of the Galaxy

Because it's the most important film of last year. Expect Budpest will get it though.

Best Visual Effects

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
X-Men: Days of Future Past

Dawn will probably win it though. At a certain point the Oscars are going to have to start looking at mocapping in general and as an artform. In this category we're comparing the creation of a performance with crashing a spaceship into a city. They're not the same thing.

Best Sound Editing

American Sniper
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies


Best Sound Mixing

American Sniper

No idea. Should have seen it at the cinema. Didn't. I've left the Short Films off. I know my place.

Let's talk about The Lego Movie and the Oscars.


Don't read this if you haven't seen it yet.

Seriously, don't.

Here's what the Oscars says in relation to the eligibility of an animated film:

"An animated feature film is defined as a motion picture with a running time of more than 40 minutes, in which movement and characters’ performances are created using a frame-by-frame technique. Motion capture by itself is not an animation technique. In addition, a significant number of the major characters must be animated, and animation must figure in no less than 75 percent of the picture’s running time."

The running time of the film is 83 minutes.

 My guess is the live action elements towards the end rendered it ineligible for a nomination (we could time those minutes I suppose and see) or failing that Oscar voters assumed it was ineligible and simply didn't vote for it.

Or decided that it was simply an eighty minute long toy commercial and didn't vote for it on that basis.

Simple as that.

Still, it was exciting for the three minutes when we thought it might be up for Best Picture.  I'll post the nominations in a minute or two.

My Favourite Film of 2013.

Film  Gravity was a surprise.

The process of Christmas shopping every year is different.

Some years, like this year, everything seems to fall into place, the perfect items tumble off the shelves and through the letter box (or rather carefully handed over at the doorstep) and there little stress and no worry.

2013 was not like this.  In 2013, I didn't have a clue.

Which is why I ended up on Renshaw Street looking for Christmas presents one afternoon late into 2013.

I didn't find anything and I especially didn't find anything for my parents.

Dejected and doubting myself it didn't take too long to realise that I needed to take a step back.  To breath.

So despite having decided I wouldn't end up seeing Gravity at the cinema, I went to see Gravity at the cinema.

I surprised myself with a film.

In Screen One at Picturehouse at FACT in Liverpool.

Thank goodness.

Sitting on the row was a good choice especially since FACT's screen runs from floor to ceiling and as Sandra Bullock tumbled and rolled through her computer generated space, I felt my stomach repeating the gesture right the way through, my heart pumping, my mouth wide open, forgetting all my Christmas present buying troubles.

Not even the burk directly behind me with the massive bag of crisps who only seemed to munch during the all important moments of silence really distracted me.

I turned around now and then to give him my trademark glare but he was clearly in the group of people who just didn't seem to get Gravity, that its slight characterisation and relatively simple story are a slave to the visual and ride.  He sighed.  He fidgeted.  He continued munching.

But I was with Sandra in her space suit breathing and breathing and breathing some more even when she shouldn't, even when I couldn't.

Then as it reached its conclusion, my arms wrapped around myself, watching one of the most powerful, moving shots in cinema history, I grinned.  As director Alfonso Cuaron's credit appeared I raised my arms in the air.

Presents were bought.  Christmas was fine.  Though I can't credit either to Gravity exactly, I was at least reminded that if you just keep going you'll get there in the end.

Woody Allen's signed with Amazon.

Film You will have read the news but just to record it here for posterity, Woody Allen's signed with Amazon to write and direct a series for them.

"I don't know how I got into this," says in the press release I received about it. "I have no ideas and I'm not sure where to begin."

Well, quite. It's not his first television work of course. That would be, most prominently and least promisingly, his version of Don't Drink The Water starring himself and Michael J Fox for HBO which I reviewed here. Which isn't especially promising.

Does this mean that for the first time in decades there won't be a new film in 2016, breaking an unbroken run of annual releases since Annie Hall in 1977? Or will he manage to fit this in and a theatrical release?

What form will it take?  Will it be one story across multiple episodes or my guess which is some kind of anthology series based on his previous writing (so as to keep it distinctive from the Whit Stillman series).

Presumably they're just throwing some money at him and seeing what he'll come up with.  Either way, it's deeply exciting.

Soup Safari #14: Boston Chicken Chowder at La Soupe du Jour.

Lunch. £3.50 meal deal (including bread with cheese topping and a banana). La Soupe du Jour, 1-3 Dolman's Lane. Warrington, UK. WA1 2ED. Tel: 01925 555 030. Website.

The Company of Friends: Izzy's Story

Audio The oddness of suddenly hearing these characters which have only previously appeared on page is entirely mitigated by just how authentically enthusiastic Jemima Rooper sounds as Izzy and how perfectly writer Alan Barnes gauges the script in capturing her pop culture references. Having this audio version comment on its comic origins is sublime as are the satirical swipes against 2000AD and its ilk, in a story which you can still absolutely imagine having appeared early in the comic’s DWM run (I think I may have listened to it slightly “out of sequence” but with no standard placement and multiple choices online I just ended up picking somewhere at random). Funny also how its conclusion manages to sound like parts of Gallifrey Base commenting on a female Master just a few years later.

The Glorious Dead (The Complete Eighth Doctor Comic Strips Volume Two).

Comics If all of the Eighth Doctor's multi-medium appearances, mimicked the production method of the televisions series in some respect with book editors and audio producers working in a similar way to showrunners, the comics also had just one or two writers across their entire run, Alan Barnes and Scott Gray, developing a unifying style and a very specific idea of how this version of the Doctor and his adventures should be written whilst simultaneously being just as flexible and experimental in the media within which they’re working.  Having jumped in originally halfway through the material in this collection, it's quite the experience to finally read the stories leading up to The Glorious Dead and beyond and understanding what all of those continuity references actually meant.

Happy Deathday

There’s an argument that Doctor Who’s rarely better than when it’s taking the piss out of itself but as writer Scott Gray suggests in his notes this was the main strip’s first attempt at out and out comedy. Predictably, it’s hilarious. As he says, after the TV movie had “flatlined” they were looking for any opportunity to celebrate an anniversary and this was the 35th and so we have eight Doctors and hundreds of monsters appearing across eight pages spoofing both The Five Doctors and Dimensions in Time (and arguably and spectacularly Terrance’s recently published novel The Eighth Doctors). There is a conversation between 4th and 7th about Time Lord allergies which is probably one of the best pieces of dialogue in the franchise’s history and an example of just the sort of fun you can have with this character.

The Fallen

Grace! Having waited a couple of years to bed in, the strip finally does the direct sequel to the TV movie on but harshes the mellow of the reunion by all but removing the romance from the relationship and in a way which doesn’t quite feel in character for Dr Holloway – though its fair to say that its probably impossible to say properly what is in character considering her limited screen time. Nevertheless it’s easy to admire how Scott Grey is able to turn the odder elements of the TV movie, 8th’s prophesies, the half-human thing to the advantage of the story and how conservative it is that despite the strip has access to the character (something neither the novels or audios have) they don’t use her as the companion. The strip wants to be its own thing so Izzy remains.

Unnatural Born Killers

Kroton! This short piece by Adrian Salmon acts as a kind of “Dalek Cutaway” for future attractions. The graphic novel helpfully reprints the cyberman with a souls first appearances in the then Doctor Who Weekly in which he first discovers he’s different and begins to make human friends and the Salmon strip somewhat continues his story to show that he’s begun to take the fight to races, in this case the Sontarans, who’re threatening what he knows to be his former people. The art is dynamic with great use of blacks to produce something distinctive to the rest of the strips. Of course the notion of expected antagonists, what are usually called monsters, becoming the Doctors and allies and friends would return in the new series with the Paternoster Gang if lacking the melancholia of this man caught between races and worlds.

The Road To Hell

A full on Japangasm with the sort of dense storytelling and heavy exposition you can usually expect from manga. With massive visuals and splash pages and acres of philosophy and alien mythology it’s sometimes difficult to quite follow. It’s noticeable the extent to which Izzy is being utilised to drive the narrative as much as the Doctor and across all of these strips is rarely damselled. Katsuri will clearly return (his condition also looks towards the future treatment of Captain Jack). Even after having been saved he’s clearly unhappy that it means he’ll have to walk in eternity, his honour devalued. As we’ve already seen, the sense of who’s an antagonist/protagonist in these comics is especially fluid. The Doctor had better watch out.

TV Action

Good old TV Action. Of all the Eighth Doctor strips, this is one of those which is often talked about in hushed tones, I believe, the nod of recognition that people were there. I was. I began reading DWM some time during The Road To Hell, perhaps episode three, so felt like a bit of charlatan when suddenly handed a celebration for all the issues I hadn’t read – until I realised I been bought that very first issues. This now doubly nostalgic trip to BBC Television Centre in 1979 is fairly notable for the extent to which it dodges the yewtree in a way that even television documentaries from the late 90s singularly failed to and rendered themselves impossible to rebroadcast. Oh and the Tom Baker bit which is one of the funniest things I’ve read so far on these travels, the quotes all from actual interviews, the total legend.

The Company of Thieves

Kroton! Again! Designed to insert the Cyberman into the TARDIS crew, his first meeting with the Doctor’s noteworthy because it’s a rare cliffhanger in which our sympathy is with an attackee. The Time Lord “kills” Kroton first and so successfully has Scott Grey’s writing made us careful him that see him felled is genuinely worrying, notably also because we know how the Doctor will feel when he realises his mistake. As 8th tussles with pirates over the most powerful weapon in the galaxy, it’s also the first time I’ve really heard Paul McGann convincingly saying his lines and there’s even a moment with which I’m sure I’ve heard repeated between him and Charley as he worries about the TARDIS’s navigation, whispering so as not to heart the time capsule’s feelings.  He’s always doing that, isn't he?

The Glorious Dead

Yes, a single paragraph is entirely inadequate. Once again it’s impossible not to see resonance with later escapades, notably the conclusion to Capaldi’s first series with its weaponising of death and a emotional Cyberperson sacrificing himself to thwart the Master’s plans (see also the clever misdirection the Time antagonist’s identity). The concept of the Omniversal spectrum just confirms my expectation that all of fiction and reality is Doctor Who (also neatly explaining the TV Action business) and the resulting Peanuts parody is inspired. It’s the first occasion when I’ve cheered on turning the final page and the whole thing took an hour to read, much longer than usual. Only really marred by the slightly odd moment early on when 8th describes Izzy as a “blushing beauty” during some introductions. Oh dear, Doctor.

The Autonomy Bug

For the final strip in black and white, Roger Langridge returns with some absolutely gorgeous cartoon visuals which smuggle a very dark tale about what constitutes identity and whether anyone one person has the right to dictate how another group should live. The whole thing looks like and is structured in the style of a Doctor Who Adventures strip but the storytelling is much more mature (though its true some DWA can be deceptively so too). Scott Grey suggests Cuckoo’s Nest as an influence in his notes but there are moments that recall Who Framed Roger Rabbit in the way that characters who could be simplistic gain depth through action and exposition (see also the novels The Crooked World by Steve Lyons and Paul Magrs’s Sick Building). A really impressive end to the collection.

The teenage version of me just screamed.

Music Old friend Matthew Rudd is now a DJ on Absolute 80s and presents Forgotten 80s and whenever he plays a Debbie Gibson tune he tend to let me know as he did this afternoon:

To which I replied:

To which Debbie Gibson herself replied:

Oh who am I kidding. I screamed, the version of me now. I expect I know what I'll be listening to for the next week.


Another Ten Links and a Video.

How Wes Anderson’s Cinematographer Shot These 9 Great Scenes:
"There are few directors with a visual style as distinctive as Wes Anderson's, and to find out just what goes into his carefully composed shots, you'll want to talk to Robert Yeoman. The 63-year-old cinematographer has shot every one of Anderson's films (save for the stop-motion Fantastic Mr. Fox); though, astoundingly, he's never been nominated for an Academy Award. Still, with The Grand Budapest Hotel in the hunt for multiple Oscar nods next week, what better time to talk to Yeoman about his storied career, using nine of Anderson's most famous scenes and shots as prompts?"

Why Pygmies Aren't Scared By The 'Psycho' Theme:
"In many ways, music and emotion almost seem interchangeable. Try listening to the Star Wars' Cantina Band song without smiling, or to the Psycho soundtrack without feeling a little tense. But what if you had never heard Western music before. Would these songs still make you feel the same way?"

Can’t sleep? How to beat insomnia:
"I don’t remember having trouble sleeping – until my late teens. There was no grand trauma, no “aha” moment to pinpoint when my sleep was disrupted. I just sort of drifted into insomnia. And there I have stayed, on and off, for almost 15 years. It has meant exhausted days and nights stretched out in front of me like the Grand Canyon. I have tried to remedy it over the years, using pills (soft herbal brands and the hard big pharma types), sprays (top picks: lavender and frankincense), a variety of “calming” sounds (including whale, panpipes and white noise) and, of course, the gold-level option of “wishing really hard”."

David Sedaris gives evidence to the Communities and Local Government Committee:
"On 6 January 2015, MPs on the Communities and Local Government Committee took evidence on litter. It was the committee's second evidence session for its inquiry on litter. The inquiry is looking at how significant a problem littering and fly-tipping is, and whether current government policies are adequate, and give local authorities enough autonomy to tackle the problem." [I also posted this to Metafilter.]

A Look at Battersea Park Station:
"At first sight, Battersea Park station appears to be a complete contradiction. It is not exactly pretty at platform level, but has a splendid façade and booking office. It has five platforms, but only one that is really both fit for purpose and useful. It is surprisingly busy despite the lack of any obvious reason for the high demand. It will also likely get much busier when construction begins on the Battersea Power station development or the Northern Line Extension."

An Open Letter to Men On the Subway During Rush Hour:
"I know you like to spread your chests wide, inhaling deeply and filling your lungs with that special patriarchal air that is your birthright. I know you need to place your legs in wide stances to give ample room to your massive testicles, which you have inherited after generations of Darwinism have assured only the largest and best scrotum survive. I know you need to mount your body against the entire center subway pole, claiming your land like Columbus. I get that."

Women, Minority First-Time Directors Face Tough Time Getting Into TV Biz: DGA Study:
"Women and minority episodic TV directors face a “significant hiring disadvantage” getting into the business because of their gender and race, according to a new five-year study by the Directors Guild of America. The report found that only 18% of all first-timers are female, and that only 13% are minorities."

Navigating The Social Mob Of Mistaken Identities On Twitter:
"In May 2010 I joined a startup called Aviary. My first boss was one of the founders of Aviary named Michael S Galpert. Michael’s initials are MSG and as an early tech adopter, he managed to snag @msg when Twitter came out. MSG is also short for Madison Square Garden, and the Twitter mentions go a little nuts when the Knicks’ and Rangers’ seasons pick up. Michael has fun with it, using a hashtag of #wrongmsg when retweeting some of the funny mistakes. @msg was my first understanding of mistaken identity on Twitter."

Great Museums Television:
"GREAT MUSEUMS is an award-winning documentary television series celebrating the world of museums. The series airs coast to coast on public television stations. GREAT MUSEUMS opens the doors of the museum world to millions of Americans through public television, new media and community outreach with the goal of "curating a community of learners." Executive produced by Marc Doyle and Chesney Blankenstein Doyle, the compelling educational series has won more than forty television awards for excellence, including multiple Cine Golden Eagles, Telly Awards, and Aurora Excellence Awards." [YouTube Channel]

The Code: A Declassified and Unbelievable Hostage Rescue Story:
"Colonel Jose Espejo was a man with a problem. As the Colombian army’s communications expert watched the grainy video again, he saw kidnapped soldiers chained up inside barbed-wire pens in a hostage camp deep in the jungle, guarded by armed FARC guerillas. Some had been hostages for more than 10 years, and many suffered from a grim, flesh-eating disease caused by insect bites."

Who will win at the Baftas. 2015.

Film In an attempt to what's become my routine, I was up bright and early to watch the Baftas being streamed on Facebook (for some reason). The best bit was obviously "Benedict Cumberbatch for The Imitation Game" "No!" mostly because it was the only moment in which either of the presenters, Stephen Fry and Sam Claflin went off script. Anyway, here's the usual predictions based on having only seen a couple of the films.


BIRDMAN Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher, James W. Skotchdopole
BOYHOOD Richard Linklater, Cathleen Sutherland
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales, Jeremy Dawson
THE IMITATION GAME Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky, Teddy Schwarzman
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce, Anthony McCarten

Boyhood. Though the appearance of The Grand Budapest Hotel is so many categories is gratifying given that its experimental use of changes in aspect ratio and sheer level of not trying to be an awards film. Plus is came out nearly a year ago which shows just how long the Bafta memory is.

’71 Yann Demange, Angus Lamont, Robin Gutch, Gregory Burke
THE IMITATION GAME Morten Tyldum, Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky, Teddy Schwarzman, Graham Moore
PADDINGTON Paul King, David Heyman
PRIDE Matthew Warchus, David Livingstone, Stephen Beresford
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING James Marsh, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce, Anthony McCarten
UNDER THE SKIN Jonathan Glazer, James Wilson, Nick Wechsler, Walter Campbell

Under The Skin. Though I haven't seen any of the others. For all I know if I'd seen Paddington this sentence would have begun differently. But I'll never forget seeing Scarlett Johannson walking part Primark.


ELAINE CONSTANTINE (Writer/Director) Northern Soul
GREGORY BURKE (Writer), YANN DEMANGE (Director) ’71
HONG KHAOU (Writer/Director) Lilting
PAUL KATIS (Director/Producer), ANDREW DE LOTBINIÈRE (Producer) Kajaki: The True Story

Pass. Pride?


IDA Pawel Pawlikowski, Eric Abraham, Piotr Dzieciol, Ewa Puszczynska
LEVIATHAN Andrey Zvyagintsev, Alexander Rodnyansky, Sergey Melkumov
THE LUNCHBOX Ritesh Batra, Arun Rangachari, Anurag Kashyap, Guneet Monga
TRASH Stephen Daldry, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Kris Thykier
TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne, Denis Freyd

Trash is an interesting choice here. Generally this is thought of as the foreign film category, but Trash was written by Richard Curtis and directed by Stephen Daldry and has Rooney Mara and Martin Sheen in the cast. But's a Brazilian co-production so there it is. Either way the Dardennes will win this.


20 FEET FROM STARDOM Morgan Neville, Caitrin Rogers, Gil Friesen
20,000 DAYS ON EARTH Iain Forsyth, Jane Pollard
FINDING VIVIAN MAIER John Maloof, Charlie Siskel
VIRUNGA Orlando von Einsiedel, Joanna Natasegara

Oooh, oooh, film I've seen. Of course it's an oddity because it won the Oscar for this category last year, insanely beating The Act of Killing which won at the Baftas last year.


BIG HERO 6 Don Hall, Chris Williams
THE BOXTROLLS Anthony Stacchi, Graham Annable
THE LEGO MOVIE Phil Lord, Christopher Miller

MARVEL film (ish) nominated for Bafta. The Lego Movie will win though.


BIRDMAN Alejandro G. Iñárritu
BOYHOOD Richard Linklater
WHIPLASH Damien Chazelle

Boyhood, because why the hell wouldn't it be? As an act of direction, Boyhood is one of the most thrilling examples we've ever seen.


BIRDMAN Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr, Armando Bo
BOYHOOD Richard Linklater
WHIPLASH Damien Chazelle

Again - imagine trying to write and rewrite a coherent screenplay on the fly across a decade.


GONE GIRL Gillian Flynn

Insanely difficult brief produces film everyone seems to adore and from a much loved character. As the Postman Pat film shows, this isn't the easiest thing in the world apparently.


EDDIE REDMAYNE The Theory of Everything
RALPH FIENNES The Grand Budapest Hotel

But only because I've seen it, though its fair to say part of the film's ongoing appeal is this performance.


FELICITY JONES The Theory of Everything

I like all of these actresses, so I've fallen back on the tie-breaker rules and chosen whoever's been in Doctor Who.


J.K. SIMMONS Whiplash

Notice how Hawke and Arquette were submitted for supporting actors even though you could argue that a fair percentage of the emotional weight of the film are carried by the two of them.


KEIRA KNIGHTLEY The Imitation Game
RENE RUSSO Nightcrawler

As above, though let's pause for a moment to enjoy the glow of Emma Stone having been nominated for a Bafta.


BIRDMAN Antonio Sanchez

Under The Skin.


BIRDMAN Emmanuel Lubezki
IDA Lukasz Zal, Ryzsard Lenczewski
INTERSTELLAR Hoyte van Hoytema
MR. TURNER Dick Pope

For being able to sustain Wes Anderson's vision across the various aspect ratios.


BIRDMAN Douglas Crise, Stephen Mirrione
THE IMITATION GAME William Goldenberg

But not Boyhood? Here's an interview with editor Sandra Adair, the editor of "Boyhood" which demonstrates what an insane decision this is. She was there for the whole period of production and worked on it for three or four weeks a year during that period.


BIG EYES Rick Heinrichs, Shane Vieau
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL Adam Stockhausen, Anna Pinnock
THE IMITATION GAME Maria Djurkovic, Tatiana MacDonald
INTERSTELLAR Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis
MR. TURNER Suzie Davies, Charlotte Watts

Clearly, though it's fair to say I haven't seen Interstellar yet so ...


THE IMITATION GAME Sammy Sheldon Differ
INTO THE WOODS Colleen Atwood
MR. TURNER Jacqueline Durran

Clearly, though it's fair to say I haven't seen Into The Woods yet so ...


GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou, David White
INTO THE WOODS Peter Swords King, J. Roy Helland
MR. TURNER Christine Blundell, Lesa Warrener

Hello the craft categories. Hello Guardians of the Galaxy. Clearly should have been nominated for Best Picture, but Bafta tends to be even pretty conservative in these things but the whole thing is a nonsense anyway isn't it etc etc


AMERICAN SNIPER Walt Martin, John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, Alan Robert Murray, Bub Asman
BIRDMAN Thomas Varga, Martin Hernández, Aaron Glascock, Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL Wayne Lemmer, Christopher Scarabosio, Pawel Wdowczak
THE IMITATION GAME John Midgley, Lee Walpole, Stuart Hilliker, Martin Jensen
WHIPLASH Thomas Curley, Ben Wilkins, Craig Mann

The film I've seen rule.


DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Erik Winquist, Daniel Barrett
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Stephane Ceretti, Paul Corbould, Jonathan Fawkner, Nicolas Aithadi
THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, R. Christopher White
INTERSTELLAR Paul Franklin, Scott Fisher, Andrew Lockley
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST Richard Stammers, Anders Langlands, Tim Crosbie, Cameron Waldbauer

They're all worthy and I'm only using my MCU bias here to choose. Presumably it'll actually go to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes for its leap forward in mo-cap.

THE EE RISING STAR AWARD (voted for by the public)


Doctor Who rule for playing the sister of the best companion in the new series. Margot Robbie second for being in my favourite new show in 2011, Pan-Am.