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

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Channel Zero #8

Well, I hope you’ll forgive my not posting for a little while but as you know I managed to do my thumb in. Having popped it back in place and tried to continue as normal I wrote some long emails to various people and various notes and things and discovered something rather important…. I shouldn’t have done. While typing itself hasn’t been that bad, using the mouse has just been aggravating things to the nth degree. In the end I came to the conclusion it was best to not use mouses (ha!), keyboards and anything else that might be making the recovery slower than it did ought. The weird thing is that I can’t recall the last time I did a finger like this taking this long to recover after being popped back in… then again I was younger and it was the left hand any way- so I wasn’t using it nearly so much. Mind you I can’t bend that finger properly and at least my thumb is currently still bending properly. Stupid human body- if I was a skink I’d have regrown my thumb by now!

So, all this time away from laptops, blogs and so on has given me plenty of time to ponder deeper more meaningful things… like why cheese is a bit nasty. That was a lie by the way… there is no why… cheese just is nasty. Unless involved in an ongoing pizza interface scenario…

Actually, more importantly, I finally found my spine and submitted my story synopsis to the inimitable Lucy and she pointed out some pretty useful and important things which I am now trying to fix. She was, of course, too polite to actually write in her notes ‘you have made a rookie mistake you pillock!’ but she would have been right to do so! So, I’ve been trying to sort out this problem. It’s proving difficult because, while there are immediate solutions, I can’t help thinking that I have to find the one that I can live with. It would be easier if I could grasp a pen or pencil properly as well and just get on and scrawl my thoughts down quickly. Anyway, we learn from our mistakes, not our successes. And anyway, that’s why we do the sensible thing and use readers rather than asking our pets to give our stuff the quick once over. It’s also why I write story synopsises rather than just plunging into scripts. Why rewrite 110 pages when you could sort out the problems in rewriting just 8?

Muscle Of The Week (for MJ)…
The right ventricle… essential for all your sanguinary needs!

Music Of The Week
Just to mark me out as massively behind the times I nominate…

2004, The Grey Video. Directed by Ramon & Pedro.

“Encore” from The Grey Album by Dangermouse. (Click this link for the full story.) What you basically get is my favourite Beatles LP providing backing tracks for the words of my favourite collaborator on Rihanna’s Umbrella under the auspices of my favourite Gorillaz producer… I’ve only just found the ‘virtual album’ because for a long while EMI were too successful in removing it from the Interweb. Whether it should have been counted by so many critics’ as ‘best album of the year’ is another matter when 2004 turned up new albums from Bj√∂rk, PJ Harvey, Leonard Cohen, The Killers’ Hot Fuss and Miss Kittin’s solo debut. I suspect there was an element of ‘I’ve got something that you don’t have’ to the decision. Anyway, this isn’t the best track from the album but it is the only official unofficial promo video for this deeply unofficial album. Visuals ‘sampled’ from A Hard Day’s Night- previously directed by the criminally neglected Richard Lester who was also responsible for Help!, How I Won The War, Robin & Marian, the great The Bed-Sitting Room, the brilliant The Knack and the perennially enjoyable Three and Four Musketeers. There is no getting away from the fact that those Musketeer films have to be some of the most purely enjoyable films ever made…

Bonus Music

Manic Street Preachers’ Door To The River (Live at Cardiff Homecoming, 18/11/02)

Something rather nice I found a few weeks ago. I was going to keep it to myself but that would be mean! Don’t know much about the provenance… except it looks like a TV broadcast and is a very rare public performance of this particular track here augmented by string orchestra.

Now for “television, the drug of the nation… breeding ignorance and feeding radiation…” possibly…

BBC1: 11.40 pm: Below: a rather unnerving supernatural thriller set on a WWII submarine. Written and directed by that David Twohy…

Film4: 1.10 am: Dog Altogether and Shane’s World: award-winning short films from Paddy Considine and Shane Meadows.

BBC1: 8.00 pm: The Passion: First part of a week-long version of what’s been called the Soap Opera version of The Passion story… hoorah, more soap!

BBC3: 9.00 pm: Gavin & Stacey: Series 2. Television Of The Week Two episodes back to back.

BBC1: 9.00 pm: The Last Enemy: Finale of the sleeper. (Why the Radio Times’ reviewer finds this so difficult to understand is beyond me- I would prefer it to be harder going.)

ITV: 11.15 pm: South Bank Show: Revolution 68: a revisiting of the anti-Vietnam Grovesnor Square protests; their context and consequences.

C4: 8.00 pm: Dispatches: Iraq- The Betrayal

C4: 9.00 pm: Battle For Haditha: Nick Broomfield’s would-be-controversial drama based on the true story of an Iraq War massacre perpetrated by US Marines. Broomfield’s film-making tends to be deeply biased (I wouldn’t know in this particular case) but at least he’s a film-maker who actually believes in something. And that’s something to be valued in these times.(Followed by a documentary on the same subject on More 4.)

BBC4: 9.00 pm: Auntie’s War On Smut: documentary starting the BBC Curse Of Comedy season.

BBC4: 9.00 pm: The Curse Of Steptoe: Drama of the creation of Steptoe & Son. Anybody that caught the Channel 4 documentary on the same subject should know how melancholy, and compelling, the story of Corbett and Brambell is.

BBC4: 11.05 pm: Mark Lawson Talks To Galton & Simpson

BBC1: 9.00 pm: Ashes To Ashes

Good Friday
BBC1: 2.10 pm: A Grand Day Out: Wallace & Gromit... what more could anybody want?

BBC4: 7.00 pm: Mozart Requiem in D Minor: Mozart’s masterful, moving final work. The performance edition is not noted.

BBC4: 8.00 pm: Sacred Music: Part 1 of 4. The story of the development of Church music starting with the origins of polyphony.

BBC2: 10.30 pm: The Assassination Of Richard Nixon: based on true story film for which history has already provided the spoilers!

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Can’t Take My 'Eyes' Off You!

The great thing about driving places is it gives a little time to clear the mind- in the past I’ve sorted out my plot flaws, mentally sketched scenes and whole spines while its been just me, the music and the open road. And so it was as I returned from the triumphant premiere of Jason Arnopp and Dan Turner’s short film ‘Look At Me’. Jason and Dan have produced a fine film, an achievement and, hopefully, this will be the first of many premieres for them and certainly bodes well for their feature A.S.K. (whatever it might stand for!). Hopefully waves of pride are still sweeping through them and they’re still allowing themselves a bask in their success.

I’m always happy when I get back near my patch of country; when I see the foothills of the Welsh mountains start to rise in the one distance and the Malverns in the other. But, this time, as I got out of the jams and drove over the Cotteswolds, sun spilling under the lowering cloud, windswept fields bathed in gold… a mellow sense settled and I recalled Gore Vidal’s saying ‘that every time a friend of mine succeeds a little piece of me dies’. What a total fool! When the good guys succeed I couldn’t be happier!!!

* * * Congratulations once more to Jason and Dan! * * *

Channel Zero #7

Well, what a week… everything suddenly found itself exciting about four months ahead of projections. Much has been done, films have been seen, journeys have been made, people have been met, A Pitch In Time was finally entered, comments have been read and lovely people have spoken!

Right, a post… Though I reckon I’ll be trying to be a little shorter due to yet another really stoopid injury. I cannot understate how grateful I am to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Yahweh, Jehovah, Jove or any other Supreme Being for my not catching colds, flu, plague, whatever especially given my propensity for rendering myself all daddaky via the medium of the perilous everyday object. On Monday I managed to dislocate the top joint of my right thumb and that was just plain annoying… the reason is so embarrassingly banal that I’ll not go into it- instead we’ll assume I was wrestling wild bears, thank you very much. Anywhen, a little ice, cold water and patience and in it popped… and all I’m left with is the sort of minor sort of throb shown when cartoon characters hit their thumbs with hammers. Currently, I’m lacquered in Ibuleve. I'm thinking of selling the format to Channel 4: I'd be calling it 'Relocation, Relocation, Relocation'. The good news is that its affected neither of my typing fingers; the bad news is that the only thing that’s previously set me above the cats was my opposable thumb but now they just sit around me laughing uncontrollably! Bastards. :)

Finally, this week, at the last minute I decided I really ought to put in something for the Screenwriters Festivals ‘A Pitch In Time’ thing… a couple of Pitches went in about eleven on the Friday night. They’re not particularly brilliant due to the last minute nature but in the end if you don’t try you can’t fail! More seriously, I think there are issues: in the seriously unlikely event that I should get through to the shortlist there would be the whole getting up on stage thing and that would be a little unsettling. And I know that audience: they’ll be well armed… tomatoes, cabbages… spanners… grenades… they claim they only have them for research but what else are they meant to do with them afterwards?

Misreading of the week: “Expert shoplifters” on the back of a van outside of Oxford… that’s just blatant thought I. Er, not really when they’re actually “Expert shopfitters”!

Music Of The Week…

…well it’s just a single solitary track without a video… but what a track! The video’s just some rather obvious pictures that have been added for instructional purposes. It’s been being given away with this last weeks NME (without irritating annnouncer at the end)… and what is this wondrous track… the Manics’ cover version of Umbrella, that’s right the Rihanna song. And it works damn well. Simply because they took it seriously.

Short and sweet: the Panorama on bottled water proved what I suspected… that bottled water is inherently pointless and evil… possibly. And the vanguard brand from the 70’s has to be possibly the vilest drink since the dawn of time. The stuff in the tap’s fine by me. With a rather more tenuous connexion… while the Daily Mail may be the epitome of evil, worse even than Hitler (*joke*), their campaign against plastic bags can only be applauded and welcomed- which will save some turtles, whales, seals and birds from horrible deaths. The Mail, after all, speaks both to and for one of the only groups that this Government cares about now: the so-called Middle England… the only other group they care about more is the super-rich especially if they have non-dom status! And you’ll never stop them from eating turtles!

My suspicions about The Last Enemy have been proved correct: the pace has picked up dramatically, there’s more tension and the increased presence of Robert Carlyle has injected much needed energy. Ashes To Ashes has seemingly bedded in and I’ve managed to put Life On Mars from my mind while watching… I assume that this can only indicate it’s acquired a life and identity of its own. The Neutron bomb conspiracy episode proved a bit of a cracker. The increasingly creepy presence and activities (watching over the sleeping Alex, creeping into her room, etc.) of the Pierrot is starting to worry me about a possible future direction that they may be heading with it: I sincerely hope my fears aren’t well-founded.

…and fair play to Kenneth Branagh, Mark Kermode and Miramax for showing the ‘missing’ Danny Boyle film, Alien Love Triangle at La Charrete, Gorseinon. Genuinely touching.

TV or not TV? That is a question…*

Well, Film4 is showing two weeks, solid, of British films so that’s a good starter. They will be giving a chance to lucky digital viewers to sample some of the best British (and in some cases all-time) films including the original caper The League Of Gentlemen, Local Hero, Withnail & I and a brace of Powell & Pressburger masterpieces A Matter Of Life And Death and Black Narcissus.

BBC2: 9.30 pm: Gavin & Stacey: the entire first series of this fine comedy series back-to-back. If you’ve not seen this then, to be honest, you must live under a rock; if you watched it and hated it then clearly you hate television… maybe… or just have different taste… which just happens to be wrong! Hmm! Gavin & Stacey really is wonderful stuff relying on a set of clear human characters involved in situations which are all to familiar; beautifully written and acted and entirely lacking in that maliciousness that often afflicts comedy. (Available here and here so now you have no excuses.)

BBC4: 10.00 pm: Sweet Smell Of Success: Alexander Mackendrick’s cyanide love-letter to the New York scene.

BBC2: 9.00 pm: The Last Enemy

BBC2: 8.30 pm: A Good Woman: Filmed Oscar Wilde play…

BBC1: 9.00 pm: Life In Cold Blood: Part 5: last chance to see…

Film4: 11.05 pm: Dog Altogether: Paddy Considine’s recent Bafta-winning short film.

Film4: 1.05 am: Shane’s World: Three short films by Shane Meadows.

BBC2: 9.00 pm: Horizon: Are We Alone In The Universe?

Film4: 9.00 pm: Oliver Twist: the new 2005 Polanski-Harwood version.

BBC2: 11.20 pm: Mad Men: the big new series of the week…

BBC3: 10.40 pm: Mrs In-Betweeny: is this going to leave the audience dumbstruck for the all the right or the wrong reasons?

More4: 9.00 pm: This Is Civilisation: New arts documentary series.

Film4: 7.00 pm: A Matter Of Life And Death: Quite simply one of the finest films ever made by some of the finest film-makers ever made: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

BBC1: 9.00 pm: Ashes To Ashes: of course…

BBC2: 9.00 pm: That Mitchell And Webb Look: turns out Thursdays can be funny!

BBC2: 11.20 pm: Ideal: Exhibit B: the third series transplanted surgically from BBC3…

Film4: 7.00 pm: Black Narcissus: another masterpiece from Powell And Pressburger.

BBC2: 9.00 pm: Last Orders: the documentary starting the BBC’s ‘White Season’.

BBC4: 10.00 pm: Motor City’s Burning: Detroit From Motown To The Stooges

BBC2: 12.35 pm: Doomwatch: the film from the BBC series.

*Quite possibly said by an actress to a bishop or vice versa… we can only wait until the Fake Sheikh exposes this entanglement!