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

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Channel Zero #5

This week has been, er, less dull than the last one… my estimates tell me that at this rate the first week of July will be ‘moderately exciting’ which is a good thing and probably means I should steel myself and go to that there Screenwriter’s Festival malarkey.

UCT is proving vexatious: I have become uncertain about the whole premise of the story. Is anybody really interested in a film about ordinary people? Is it original enough? Does it have a single interesting twist in it? Should I kill some characters? I’ve heard it said that most spec-monkeys are scuppered by their sheer arrogance; their ‘I know everything’ attitude… I wish I had that luxury…

So, as UCT hoves ever closer to the inevitable moment when I must finally stop tinkering with the storyline and actually get people to assess where it needs changing, I find myself increasingly thinking of a new story… and, lo, a film shall come unto me and it shall be called ‘Untitled Revenge Thriller’ or URT to its friends. (I’m looking forward to the day I think up ‘Untitled Horror Thriller’- it may feature cows. Think about it people!) URT has a theme and initial premise (although a nifty new kink came to me the other day). It has a couple of characters. It even has a couple of desirable scenes. It may well be a bit violent.

Something I forgot to mention: I heard a programme about new foods on the radio a couple of weeks ago. They were talking to someone from a company in the West Country that has created something along the lines of a marmite biscuit or cracker. The creator of the biscuit gets a royalty on every biscuit sold. It worked out better than being a screenwriter. I never once imagined that there were royalties for food creator-monkeys. Strange thing, life!

Misheard lyric of the week
‘…and it hurts with every cup-cake’ by Robyn. For why?

Music of the week…

A & E, the first single from Goldfrapp’s new album, came along this week. It pretty much throws out the last couple of electro-clash/ electronica/ sleaze albums and finds a new sound for the (sort of) West Country band. To my mind it’s what would come of a mating between Portishead and All About Eve. Maybe. Parts of the vocal line and some of the bass refrain seem quite similar to U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, although with a different rhythm. It all bodes well for the forthcoming LP. It’s a disarmingly sweet song and is possibly the first time that a Goldfrapp song has had genuine warmth and emotion to it. It most calls to mind the feel of another U2 song, Ultraviolet from the Achtung Baby album. Both of them have that 4.30, summer morning feel to them… that moment of cool stillness, in a night when you haven’t wanted to sleep after a sweltering day when you haven’t wanted to do anything, when you’re just sitting and watching the sun start to tint the sky at the edge of your world.

As you’ll probably have noticed by now I have neglected to post the ‘Obligatory Ashes To Ashes Post’. This is because I am a mendacious old sod who doesn’t deliver. Or do I? I am mendacious. Or am I? Is this a lie? Who cares? Personally, I’m still feeling pulled in different directions over the programme.

The Baftas were the usual strange concoction of national pride and embarrassment; it’s as if we want an awards show but feel uncomfortable with notion that we might actually award something to ourselves and have to admit we’re actually quite good at something. I don’t mind that we don’t put on as slick a show as the Americans… it’s the mistakes that give character to a thing. But I wish it was just that bit better such as maybe a better script; a few more genuinely funny jokes. Thankfully Britain won a decent number… What did strike me, from the memorial list, was the number of genuinely talented Cinematographers who died in the last year: Alex Thomson (Branagh’s Hamlet, Alien 3, Excalibur); László Kovács (Easy Rider, Copycat); and last, but by no means, least the immensely talented Freddie Francis (The Innocents, The Elephant Man, The Straight Story). Inevitably, Juno took home the Original Screenplay mask. The strange thing about Juno, a film I’ve not seen yet, is that from all the clips which I have seen I’m not quite sure what the fuss is about. A lot has been made of the authenticity of the teenage dialogue (which may well date the film quite quickly- think The Wild One or Rebel Without A Cause) yet all this praise has come from critics who seem to be in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s. I don’t know whether the dialogue is authentic… it sounds a touch forced to me but that could be because the clips are out of context and not within the flow. And anyway, I presume I’m not really the target audience… British male nearing their dotage, not sure it’s aimed at me… I’m just too square Daddio.

Had to give up on The Art Of Spain which is a shame as it was shaping up to be a good series. BBC4 is now breaking up so badly it might as well not exist… Worryingly, the digital freeview versions of Channel 5 and BBC News 24 are starting to break up as well. Just remember what they told us when they foisted this useless system on us: the picture is superior to analogue and would break down far less.

Television, television, television… to watch or not to watch…

BBC2: 9.30 pm: The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada: I have it on good authority that this is a fine film…

BBC4: 10.00 pm: I Vitelloni: Fellini classic which I won’t be able to watch as it’s on BBC4…

C4: 3.45 am: The Cicerones: a short film from The League Of Gentlemen’s Jeremy Dyson… sort of supernatural-type thing…

ITV1: 11.00 am: Columbo: Ashes To Ashes: While I love Columbo, I wouldn’t normally include it… but this amused me. Gene Hunt meets Columbo perhaps. “Don’t you come ‘ere with that ‘there’s just one more thing’, you American ponce.” I demand Columbo’s Life On Mars…

BBC1: 9.00 pm: The Last Enemy Pt. 1: New conspiracy thriller thing… this is pretty much the big TV of the week. ‘They’ are making comparisons with BBC’s State Of Play: not a good thing because, as a viewer, I found State Of Play pretty poor (as did most of the rest of the viewing public- I believe by the end of this prime-time Sunday night series it was pulling a mere 1.5 million viewers- though the critics raved which may have had more to do with the writer’s name). Another thing that The Last Enemy shares with State Of Play is sheer length: at five 85 minute episodes it is very, very long. That’s seven and a half hours. State Of Play had six hour-long episodes with precious little substance before limping to its vapid and meaningless anti-climax. Can The Last Enemy do any better? Strangely, the BBC’s (again!) The State Within was a damn fine piece of conspiratorial murk and yet was disliked by critics and viewers… although not hated by as many viewers as State Of Play. I was The State Within’s viewer. By the way, I do wonder if the makers know where their title comes from…

“The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death”
-I Corinthians Ch. 15, V. 26.

BBC2: 1.10 am: Limbo: John Sayles drama. I find Sayles somewhat patchy but he’s often interesting at least and that’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharpened stick. It’s also nice to be able to mention an American film-maker who stands by his beliefs and works without Hollywood’s golden city walls.

BBC1: 9.00 pm: Life In Cold Blood: “I was sitting there and the TV started chucking out lizards… what’s your name?” “Mr. Lizard.”

C4: 9.00 pm: The Day Of The Kamikaze: Intriguing sounding documentary…

BBC2: 9.00 pm: Horizon: How To Live To 101: terribly unambitious target when you think about it… given how long people live now, by the time I reach old age I will be expecting no less than 130! If you plot increasing average Western life expectancy on a graph (which I did a couple of years ago when I found the figures) then extrapolate onwards I reckon I should be able live to about 135… see you in the solar-powered jet cars!

More4: 10.00 pm: True Stories: Derek: feature length documentary about Derek Jarman: interesting person, useless film-maker, brilliant garden designer.

BBC1: 9.00 pm: Ashes To Ashes: Funk or funky? Discuss.

BBC2: 9.00 pm: That Mitchell And Webb Look: Can they finally make Thursday’s funny? I expect so.

BBC1: 12.25 am: Revelation: a sort of supernatural thriller… one of those minor films that just has something about it that makes it a touch interesting: possibly the sheer wilful, throw-anything-at-it, eccentric chutzpah of the whole enterprise. This 2001 film from Stuart Urban features an ancient artefact which contains the blood of Christ; genetic cloning; the bloodline of Christ; the eternal feminine and witchy sex rites; and a conspiracy passed down throughout the ages to destroy/ protect the Merovingian line by some of the greatest minds of Western culture including Isaac Newton… sound vaguely familiar?

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