"Art is not a mirror with which to reflect the world; it is a hammer with which to shape it"

Monday, 24 December 2007

Fairytale Of New York

Fairytale Of New York, 1987. Directed by Peter Dougherty.

Uncut! Uncensored!! Inimitable!!!

…and I’m about to run out of memories! ;-)

By the way, have you ever noticed how the opening to this bears an uncanny resemblance to the synth opening of U2’s Where The Streets Have No Name? Anyway…

Happy Christmas!!!

One and All!!!

Stop The Cavalry

Stop The Cavalry, 1980. Director: Unknown.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Our House

Our House, 1982. Directed by Dave Robinson.

Two more promos that ‘meant something to me’… even though I can’t really recall what. Isn’t that the way with memories? I forget.

Two from The Nutty Boys, always guaranteed to brighten the day. Madness produced the first two albums that I used for ‘promotional purposes’… a friend leant me copies of what, at the time, we thought were Complete Madness and something called ‘Cairo East’, although now looks like the second may actually have been Absolutely with a missing outer sleeve!

The strange thing about Madness, in hindsight, is how out of time they seem. The music does seem to have a strange elegiac quality to it and there’s often a sadness to it all; a yearning for an already missing past. It Must Be Love: jokey promo which still manages to wring the heart-strings… how did they manage that? I suspect it might have been something called talent. Our House: possibly their best song coupled with their best promo. Again all that jokiness is undercut by the melancholy string sections. The promo seems to be harking back to the days of the Boultings, Carry On and Ealing and not with modern ‘mocking irony’ but with seemingly genuine affection; is filled with joie de vivre and musters more humour than most sitcoms can these days (by the way, has anybody else noticed how much the new St. Trinian’s film looks more than passingly like Spiceworld?). The line ‘she’s the one they’re going to miss in lots of ways’ brings a lump to the throat every time I hear it now: you never know what really matters until it’s gone…

It Must Be Love

It Must Be Love, 1981. Directed by Chris Gabrin.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Like A Prayer

Like A Prayer, 1989. Directed by Mary Lambert.

So classic there’s nothing much that needs to be added… so I won’t… Ha! Out-manoeuvred you again! I didn’t have house-room for Madonna until a few years back so I must have been more drawn to the promo than the song: nifty story, beautiful image making (so much so they’ve become a cliché) and a heady mix of steamy sensuality and fervent religiosity… made a major impact on my blank little mind and I loved the religious imagery. I think it was the whole image system that really caught my magpie eye. My only major quibble is the framing device that didn’t tend to get shown way back when, but it works… I guess. Mary Lambert went on to direct Pet Cemetery (sic).

It stirs a memory from somewhere of a million years ago in a different country: while on holiday I once saw one of those ‘Black Madonnas’… I can’t remember where but I’ve narrowed it down to two possibilities Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer or Rocamadour… if the W. is to be believed it may well be the latter. But I’m just not sure. There were fields of lavender around there somewhere as well… looked and smelled wonderful.

…and now I love the song as the well as the promo.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Ashes To Ashes

Ashes To Ashes, 1980. Directed by David Bowie and David Mallet.

Not sure how to introduce this bunch of random weird but that’s never stopped me before…

I sometimes wonder what made me interested in film and the visual arts in the first place. I tend to get a bit irritated when I see some of these interviews where a big name chappy says ‘when I saw **** I knew instantly that I had to make films’. I just didn’t have that moment of epiphany or, at least, I don't think I did. I never did have much memory of my earlier years and a close encounter with a Carlton 3000 GSi (wonderful blacked out windows it had) did for quite a lot more. For no readily apparent reason recently I’ve been remembering some of those early visuals that really got me excited and interested in ‘that sort of thing’ and I thought I’d tell you about a couple of those that have come back to me because I can’t think of anything better to harass you with I love you all greatly and feel a deep need to share!

The family didn’t get a VCR until maybe ’90 which was much later than everybody else I knew, and cinema was an expensive treat that happened once in a blue moon, but TV- that was readily available and what seemed to really make an impression on me quite early on were the fledgling and, in hindsight, somewhat rough pop promos.

I didn’t like Bowie until right recently but this promo sank deeply into my psyche. Everything in it seemed designed to be interesting: Harlequin, or was it Pierrot? (Robert Powell anyone?), padded cells, fires burning on beaches (very Shelley), the weird colour shifts (like some wild DW CSO), images within images, the negative images, pseudo-nuns, strange religiose marches, ink black seas breaking on post-apocalyptic shores and bizarre fleshly underground chambers… Watching again reminded me how much of it I’d forgotten and how this seems to sum up a nifty chunk of my inner showreel… the odd thing is, for good or ill, I’m not sure if I commit much, if any, of this stuff to paper! Oh, and I love the large bulldozer probably because it reminds me of the times my Dad would take me down onto various sites and I was able watch all the JCBs and Barber-Greenes in action and, in Winter, the Maggy-Deutz's.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

OK Computer

So what ‘very important thing’ shall I post about today? Global warming? Economic meltdown? Possible timetable for nuclear war? Nah! Let’s go with a post for people like me… idiots!

Or more precisely, this is a post for all those people like me who are normally quite sane and intelligent* but when confronted by technology turn into a particularly stupid two-year old. And so to a modern morality tale... or at least a modern tale with some sort of moral. Or maybe even a moral with some sort of modernity in its tale. Don’t ask me…

Sometimes my head is filled with luminous luxuriant thoughts brimming full of such magnificence and glory that the sun itself could be dimmed by them; of course, mainly my thoughts tend to burble along like a clear mountain stream with a song that sings of cats, music, cats, film, cats, music, cars, music, cats and cats… And, of course, sometimes my head is just filled with a sort of molasses-like drivel that makes no sense to man nor beast.

Of late my laptop slowed to a crawl… taking upwards of five to ten minutes to load a single web page, so I gave up trying, and at one point became so gummed up that it took over an hour to become unstuck again. Now, does my poor beleaguered head tell me to think through things logically and work out how to resolve them amicably for all parties concerned? Or does it tell me to run round the ramparts wailing and gnashing my teeth waving my fist angrily at a vengeful God? Give you a clue: wasn’t the former. Finally, the brain found some semblance of sanity and remembered what I used to do on a semi-regular basis. Before the rot set in.

And here comes the moral for all the technophobes and fellow idiots out there…

Laptops, and presumably other devices, have various things lurking around inside them. These things are sometimes put there to help. There is a thing called ‘Cache’. This needs clearing out on occasion. There is a thing called ‘cookies’. These should be eaten occasionally and the crumbs disposed into the midden. If you have an ‘Ad-aware’… use it. Oh, and properly turning off ‘the machine’ rather than always just shutting the lid for hibernation is a good way of clearing the virtual memory. And lo, when all these things had been accomplished, it was good: the laptop did work wonderfully and, indeed, the internet was not actually broken.

And the moral of the story? Sometimes it’s not just the technology that’s out to get us; sometimes it’s given a more than adequate helping hand by the fool with the opposable thumbs.

Of course, the good thing about all this is that I’ve been able to take a longer than usual break from the screen which has allowed my eyes to settle back to that whole being able to see properly thing.

So, onto other mindless trivia exciting** news. I’ve spent a good deal of the last couple of weeks worrying about the fluffiest of the cats (known variously as Billy or Flib but known to himself only by his own private cat name… the only thing he actually reacts to is the sound of a mousse lid being peeled back- he just can’t spell!). So, Bill Flib came in and settled to doing absolutely nothing for a couple of days having been out scrapping all night… He’d only managed to get a hole carved out of him the size of a marble… no blood but the world’s largest quantity of vile smelling pus. And so a trip to vet to get it looked at and a second trip to the vet because I decided to worry unnecessarily. The vet cleaned the wound with a cotton-bud and the thing went in and under the skin about an inch: watching inanimate objects entering living flash where they didn’t ought is a genuinely bizarre sight. So for a while he was more a pusycat. I was very surprised at how fast this managed to heal up: two weeks to go from gaping wound to mere scab. Staggering!

Other exciting*** non-news: a CD bought on the highly addictive eBay arrived. The Best Of X-Mal Deutschland, apparently pressed in Brazil^ but bought from a nice chap in Poland. Took a grand total of 5 days to arrive which is far faster than most Brits can manage. It’s very good- how’s that for reviewing prowess? And also arriving was a nice 5-disc Stravinsky set (Orchestre de la Suisse Romande conducted by Neeme Järvi) which was a present to me from me. And I’ve gone back to ‘Untitled Conspiracy Thriller’ (UCT) with the intention of making it work properly this time. I’ve gone back to first principles and the entire plot is now on small scraps of paper pinned to a board. Currently, the major problem is the missing last ten minutes: I don’t particularly want to ‘do a Schrader’. This ending issue also seems to have flummoxed those who’ve trodden this road before me. I know these things: I checked.

And in the immortal words of Columbo ‘just one more thing’: does anybody know if the woman in the Bold 3-in-1 advert is the lovely Nicola Bryant, formerly of Doctor Who…?

*You’ve never met me… you can’t contradict!
**Legal note: I’m using the word in the loosest possible meaning of the word.
***Again with the lies!
^Not sure how legitimate this actually is but the quality’s good as are the songs.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Know Your Rights

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
-Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, 1791

When I hear of the latest killing spree, when I see the footage of emergency teams stretchering out bodies, more often than not in the United States, I feel a hollow empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. I find myself shaking my head because I am no longer shocked given the seeming inevitablity of these events. Now, the only thing left to be shocked by is the size of the number preceding the word victims. I’m sure I sound very liberal, limp and wet to almost any American who stumbles across this but I sound liberal, limp and wet in a Britain remarkably spree killing free.

This time in Nebraska a 19 year old man, who I won’t name, shot and killed eight people and injured at least four others. The names of the victims (two customers, six employees)* are Gary Scharf, 48; John McDonald, 65; Angie Shuster, 36; Maggie Webb, 24; Janet Jorgensen, 66; Diane Trent, 53; Gary Joy, 56; Beverly Flynn, 47. Sadly, the killer’s name will be the more remembered; the victims will become a mere footnote to all but their friends and families.

I don’t hold with total bans on firearms: I think the Draconian British ban on certain types of firearms was a knee-jerk reaction to exceptional events and has been ill-advised and unproductive- there is nothing wrong with sensible, well-licenced and regulated gun ownership- ask the British Olympic shooting team. However, I find it hard to fathom what possible reasons there might be for private ownership of an AK-47. The Right to Bear Arms is specifically historically rooted and, sadly, we Brits are in fact to blame for it. Sorry for that. But just once after one of these spree killings I would like to hear a majority in the U.S. or a few Congressmen ask why do we need all these guns? No doubt the old mantra is already being rehearsed: ‘guns don’t kill people, people do’- so why not limit the people allowed to have guns?

The killer’s suicide note apparently stated he wanted to ‘go out in style’: he wanted to be a celebrity and seemingly this was his only way. Celebrity would now appear to have become so idolized and all-important that it no longer matters what dubious achievment attains it or whether you even live to ‘bask’ in it. A prime-time flash of breast, a night-vision filmed internet-displayed blow-job, a live bug menu or an ability to gun down the innocent… apparently anything will do.

Does it help that killers are elevated to a position of ersatz celebrity? Manson, Brady, Hindley, Dahmer, Bundy, Gein, West… we always remember the names of the killer over their victims… even better to be Chapman, Hinckley or Oswald and kill (or try to kill) a celebrity… can’t achieve success by yourself? Ride on the back of someone else’s. Remember ‘Charlie don’t surf’? Hilarious. Seven acts of butchery, a million ‘ironic’ t-shirt sales.**

“Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person.”
-Article 3, Universal Declaration Of Human Rights

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights… Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”
-United States Declaration Of Independence, 1776

...as long as you're the one holding the gun.

*Sourced at Wikipedia.
**And, yes, the line came from Apocalypse Now and referred to ‘Victor Charlie’, VC, Viet-Cong but it’s long since been expropriated.

Saturday, 1 December 2007


“I don’t think there is anything wrong in having a religious conviction… (but) you talk about it in our system and, frankly, people do think you’re a nutter.”
-Tony Blair, The Blair Years, Episode 3

“God doesn’t exist, grow up.” “Those of us who have reached the age of reason and aren’t afraid of the dark would really like all of the god-botherers to stop bothering us, thanks. … I have had it up to here with the lot of you. Fuck off and fuck off now.”
-a recent screenwriting blogger's posting.

Now, before I get started I want to make it absolutely clear that this posting is NOT about whether a God, or Gods, actually exists or whether any particular brand of worshipping in a Theistic system may be preferable over any other. This post is about something else and will mainly consist of questions…

This post was prompted by several events that seem have occurred one on top of the other but primarily by something over at Potdoll’s Palace. I first started reading the Scribosphere (the blogs primarily devoted to screenwriting) in earnest about five months ago, and you’re all jolly nice people by the way^, and I’ve found there’s much wisdom to be found here (I wish I had something constructive to add to it- I only seem to have opinions and questions!). Shortly after this inauspicious arrival there were a number of posts from various people proclaiming their Atheism. This started me thinking about something which I then put to one side and promptly forgot all about. Then the other day at Potdoll’s someone quoted a hymn but immediately qualified it with ‘I’m not a believer’… and it got me thinking again, why the need to make this clear, people quote from Shakespeare and yet nobody qualifies it with ‘I’m not a Shakespearean’ or ‘I’m not an actor’. Why would it so necessary to clarify lack of belief? Then as if to prove a point there appeared the post from which the above quote appeared.*

My exact question on Potdoll’s post was ‘is there anybody out there prepared to admit to being a Believer?’ I didn’t even realise until it was mentioned that I’d used the word ‘admit’: not profess, proclaim, declare or even just mention, but admit as if it was something shameful- people admit crimes, they admit affairs- they admit things they think they should feel guilty about- but should Theistic belief be such a thing?

I’ve been around various branches of the Arts for longer than I care to remember and in all that time I can only recall four Christians who would openly acknowledge their Faith (one tutor and three students- one from Saint Helena, one from South Korea, one from Britain) but I did find a few who were but wouldn’t publicly acknowledge. All the Muslims and Hindus have been comfortable to profess their belief and, intriguingly, the reaction to their beliefs from others has tended to be more favourable as well- I hope it was not from some patronizing paternalistic attitude or from some notion of inherent exoticism. On the other hand, I have found a large number of proud Atheists including at least three tutors who have belittled both belief and believers, in some instants to the face of the above mentioned believers (not as part of reasoned debate but purely from scorn or ridicule).

It is certainly part of the British psyche to avoid talking too much about various things: religion, pay packet size, being good at things, being proud of things, etc. and the British do seem to cringe when they hear others discussing their Faith. So a certain reticence is understandable. The British are good at reticence! Not that I’d want to boast about it! This all raises a series of questions for me in three distinct areas…

Why do so many screenwriters (and artists in general**) seem to have no Theistic beliefs? Why is this view so prevalent in the arts? Is it harder for we artists to acknowledge a Creator given that we ourselves create on a daily basis? Is it because writers are often highly educated and it is known that there are higher levels of Atheism concomitant with higher levels of education. (Although, it should be noted, there are also many educated people who are devout.)

Are people embarrassed to admit a religious faith amidst such vocal Atheism? And is this particularly so in places like the Scribosphere? If even the (ex-) Prime Minister is embarrassed to mention his religious beliefs why would any of the rest of you Scribes find it any easier? Is it easier to admit to drug-taking than a belief system? Could it be that because the Atheists are more highly educated than the Theists that the believers are not capable of the requisite skill for constructive argument and debate and so prefer to remain silent? Could it be that people don’t mention anything because a strident belief might offend other people? For example, this week an invited guest speaker, Cristina Odone, was stopped from giving a sermon in favour of outward religious expression at a church carol service because it might offend any Atheists in the audience.

General Population
The high levels of non-belief amongst writers and artists are more intriguing given the statistics for the general British population. At the last census (2001) four-fifths of the UK profess to some sort of religious faith (of the others, 15.5% stated no religion and 7.3% refused to say: presumably this included all those Jedi Knights!); subsequent surveys in various newspapers from Left and Right seem to show a general 75-85% belief rate for Britain. Is it advantageous or disadvantageous to be out of sync. with the majority view? Does this or should this give carte blanche to the artist to offend at will those who do believe? Does this mean when writing it is harder to justify belief than disbelief? Does this lack of sympathy (or downright hostility) with believers mean that we writers find making fair representations of religious matters and people harder to achieve?***

As Potdoll suggested “maybe writing is getting more popular because less of us believe? Is it another way to 'transcend' death? Is religion more private than it used to be?”

Is it possible that the general lack of contact with death in our daily lives has made thoughts of a hereafter or a higher purpose to life less necessary? Does an absence of faith mirror a sense of betrayal with religion? Have our creative impulses become a replacement for God? Has the potential of our works to survive us become our pathway to immortality? Has our creativity become our way of working through our problems, neuroses and paranoias; our psychiatry, our confession and our salvation?

“Thank you and may your God go with you”
-Dave Allen

^Blatant sucking up, you lovely, lovely people! ;-)
*And was quite swiftly removed as well!
**The one exception would appear to be composers for some reason… Tavener, Macmillan, Glass, etc.
***Watching the last 7 years of Doctors, as I have, would give a good example of this!