Thursday, February 24, 2005

Notification of temporary blog absence: stupidity and crime

My phone - and later I realised my purse - got stolen yesterday, so I'm having a bit of a Josh Lyman moment in terms of managing my state of mind. Being cursed with a brain that is ripe fodder for any person interested in planting false memories, I'm rapidly losing track of what happened and am envisaging in-depth investigation by the police and my phone company that will result in my totally losing my marbles and admitting to the theft of Shergar, the Kennedy assassinations, and being the brains behind the black-oil conspiracy (Not sure if the X-files I watched last night helped or not). Cloud says if I start hearing brass bands, he'll call for help. I'm going to try to avoid putting my hand through any windows ("don't do that") or developing a fear of rectangles. I'm hoping someone will come down the hole and show me a way out...

Bear with me folks, I'm feeling a little fragile...

If I don't post before, I'll see ya'll on Tuesday when I return from having a couple of days off work. No, I'm not being utterly wussy about a minor crime: I had already booked the time off - ostensibly to work on my Chick Flicks essay.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Heaven's Gate: a re-appraisal

Yes, it is long; yes, it sank a studio; yes, by comparison to the magisterial The Deer Hunter, it was an unsuccessful and sometimes exhaustingly meandering narrative.

Does this make Heaven's Gate an irredeemably bad movie?


I saw Heaven's Gate many years ago and happily maintain my opinion that, even in its massacred form, it is a fine and elegiac piece of cinema. For me the single greatest flaw in it is the sound recording: I don't know how much of that can be blamed on Cimino, but the unclear dialogue is perhaps the only thing that really stops this being a better film.

In today's Guardian Geoffrey Macnab makes an ambivalent case for reconsidering the film, on the back of a restored version being screened at the National Film Theatre, London on Sunday. Do note, however, that this restoration - by MGM/United Artists archivist John Kirk - should not be taken as a perfect re-visioning of the film. Partly, this is because the original studio United Artists destroyed much of the 200 hours of footage shot by director Michael Cimino, and consequently there was a limited range of material available to be reintegrated. Furthermore, Kirk was commissioned to the project by studio executive Bingham Ray who lost his job soon after the commission began, thus leaving Kirk largely unsupported within the MGM/UA system. And, unsurprisingly, given the ferocious attacks made on Cimino and his reputation in the wake of the initial dismissal of HG, Cimino himself refused to be involved in the restoration.

In the wake of the original debacle, former head of United Artists, Steven Bach, whose job became untenable due to the severe losses the film incurred, produced a fascinating text entitled Final Cut that chronicled the spiraling and troubled production of HG. (Sadly, this seems to be only available as a remainder/secondhand text). Based on that book, documentary-maker Michael Epstein has put together Final Cut: the Making and Unmaking of Heaven's Gate. Yet this too has suffered from the seemingly never-ending attacks on HG: Macnab reports that MGM have set such exhorbitant costs on using clips from the film for the documentary that Epstein cannot afford to show the film outside the festival circuit. And the planned-for DVD project that would release HG with his documentary has been scrapped.

I think this ongoing dismissal and undermining of HG is rather saddening. And despite all the attacks, what is even more frustrating is that the film IS available in the USA, but not in the UK. My old video tape is rather tired now, but I still treasure it. And any film with the jaw-droppingly gorgeous Isabelle Huppert in it is always worth the price of admission.

Further proof of the hilarity of bad reviews

There much hilarity in the Cloud and Rullsenberg household last night when I took to (attempting) to read aloud Helen Pidd's review of The X-Factor Live. It got zero stars: always a good clue to how entertainingly bad and funny the review will be. Reading a bad review - so funny, it hurts - is one thing; reading it aloud can make the act of bladder control horribly difficult.(*) Treat yourself; try reading it aloud and I defy you not to be whimpering and cringing at the 'spectacle' Pidd describes.
There are few experiences in cultural life that can shake one's faith in the basic good of humanity, but sitting among 10,000 free-willed citizens who have paid £23.50 to watch blood-draining, pulse-stopping karaoke just about does it.

(*) Fret not readers, there were no nasty puddles on the kitchen floor --- though I guess that those addicted to rejuvenation on the advice of beauty therapists/cosmetic surgeons may well have considered me wasteful if I had.

Protecting bloggers across the world

The Committee to Protect Bloggers is currently running a campaign to free two Iranian bloggers jailed for the words they thought and wrote on their blogs. To support the campaign to free Arash Sigarchi and Motjaba Saminejad, check out the CtPB blog. Whilst a dedicated day to campaign focuses attention, the struggle goes on and we must never underestimate how privileged and fragile the freedom to blog can be.
Please write to your government officials, the Iranian officials in your country and to the President and Minister of Justice themselves. There is contact information available here, here and here. Here is a good primer on how to write letters to government officials courtesy of Amnesty International.
Thanks to Cloud, Hak Mao, SIAW and others for this link.

Let the piggy take the stress

Thanks to Helen Lisette for sharing this with me. Just click on the piggy if you feel a little stressed...

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

It was the Cockeney geezer wot done it!

Ha ha ha. Well, that was inevitable. Douglas Henshall playing the bad guy again. Still, it was hilariously fun to hear him singing snippets from Oliver in his Gentlemen's Relish geezer-voice (especially "Reviewing the Situation") and with those eyes and his own accent used for the rest of the production, how could you fail to be charmed...? Okay, so he was the murderous villian at the heart of the piece, but damn he's cute!

Sorry Cloud, the girl can't help it! Thanks for putting up with me!

Miss or Mrs?

Yesterday, Lucy Mangan in the Guardian explored the pitfalls and perils of titles: Miss, Mrs or Ms. It set me thinking about my own experiences.

For many years I have curtly corrected banks, cold-callers, service-industries etc on my identity. I have often been given the option of Miss or Mrs - rarely Ms - and I have usually tried to get them to use Ms (though this is much harder work than it should be). But what has often irked me more than what title to grant me has been the assumption of my name in conjunction with that title. If I am answering the phone at home when they ask for Cloud, they will often assume that I am 'Mrs Cloud' ('Mrs his-name'). This has also been played out on occasions when I have been phoning to arrange a service visit at home, only to be greeted by astonishment that I am not able to be at home whenever they please with no notice (the corollary of this is when I will say my partner could be at home and they then refer to him as 'Mr Rullsenberg'; that is, 'Mr my-name').

I found a way to get around this - though I accept it is not for everyone and I wish there were ways to make the use of Ms more acceptable. I went and completed a PhD (I hasten to add that was not my main reason for doing it). Although I never thought I would use it in that way, there is something very empowering about deflating an irksome twerp who cannot comprehend that I am not 'Mrs his-name' by replying I am "Dr. my-name". Of course, as my doctorate in is the socially useful (!) field of American Cultural Studies, I have to remind myself that ultimately I am going to be hopeless on a plane if the cry goes out "is there a doctor on board?" - unless they want a cultural analysis of a text or painting. But the title of Dr. does still command a swift change of tone and I take these small triumphs where I can, especially if I am not even given the option of Ms (and sometimes they do not even give the option of Miss!)

Of course, this all reminds me of the anecdote about Einstein (?) when someone came by to see 'Dr. Einstein' and his housekeeper informed the visitor that he was "not the kind of doctor who does anybody any good." [Some might say that medical doctors more often fall into that category than they should, but I'll take the limitations of my field on the chin and accept that ultimately my work probably doesn't change anybody's life in the significant daily way that a medical doctor can do].

Monday, February 21, 2005

A run down on the Australian perspective

Casyn over at The Slayer Library gives a good run down of some interesting forthcoming releases both on DVD and television and further highlights the bizarre variations in broadcasting schedules and release dates (what's the excuse in this technological age?)

Still no sign of Carnivale from HBO in the UK, which sounded very worth watching...


Went with Cloud on Saturday to see the excellent Kathy Burke production of Blue/Orange at the Crucible. No run-in with Kathy herself - admit it Mr Cloud, you'd have been grinning as much as me last night if you had - but a fine cast and a very fine and provocative play.

Worth seeing.

Delicious Library: a webtool of my desires

Yesterday Cloud pointed out yet another object of desire for my geekiness. Being a cataloguer of note (books, photocopies, CDs, DVDs etc.), Neil thought that John Naughton's recommendation in The Observer may appeal to me.
I have a neat piece of software with the improbable name of Delicious Library. It enables me to use a webcam as a barcode scanner in order to create a catalogue of all the books and CDs in the house. If you scan a barcode, the program then looks up the book or CD on the Amazon catalogue and automatically fills in its cataloguing details - in real time. Other kinds of services use automated access to Google in the same way.
MOMMA! That is one cool piece of software. Of course, we need the house rewiring, the computer to be upgraded from the one that Noah used, a webcam, and a broadband connection --- but other than that we're ready to go with getting holding of this!


Subtitling Ken Loach

On Saturday, Cloud and I were channel-hopping late and came across Ken Loach's film Sweet Sixteen. Now I'm confused: when we phoned up the BBC to say "hang on, why has this got automatic subtitles?" we were told that this was how the film was made. We were told that the BBC could have taken the subtitles off, but left them on. The implication was that Loach made the film this way.

Excuse me, but I had no problem understanding the dialect (okay, so I have a penchant for Scottish accents, but that's by-the-by). Cloud was astonished at how it made the participants aliens within their own land; indeed, it was at his suggestion that we contacted the BBC. I know that when the film was released in the US it had subtitles - of so often Scottish films do. But closer examination of the information about the film suggests that the English subtitles are an option, not an integral element.

Can anyone clear this up for us? Digital Spy has a good discussion - well, mostly - and has a link to complain to the BBC. Was the film shown as Loach would have intended a UK audience to watch it?

Douglas Henshall: a pleasant surprise

Well, it was unannounced and my usual sources also missed posting on it, but my was that a nice way to end the weekend!

Last night saw the start of the latest two-parter of Dalziel and Pascoe. Now as long-term fans of the show, and as Cloud thinks old Warren Clarke is quite a hero, we were of course neatly settled in to watch it after an interlude of X-files and Angel beforehand.

Credits roll: cue chaos! Pretty much first up after Clarke and Buchanan is the name Douglas Henshall. Gasps from the sofa; fly towards video-recorder; fall over and terrify the cat; struggle to get video on (you switch it on by pressing stop: go figure); phone starts ringing (take a wild - and correct - guess that it is my friend Helen telling me what I am already trying to respond to).

Thankfully I did get the tape going and at a suitable moment I dashed off to phone Helen to say "the video is taping". As always, DH looked as luscious as ever. He's wearing his black three-quarter jacket again: sure he has worn that elsewhere (he has a habit of taking off with/bringing his own wardrobe). It was quite distracting to watch all in all, especially with Cloud chortling at the side of me... particularly uncomfortable whenever his character was being mischievous (which was quite often).

Needless to say, we will be watching again tonight. Comically, all the talk had been of that fact that DH has filmed a role for one of the Midsomer Murders (still unaired) so I had been scouring the schedules for that... and this sneaked through instead!

"Why Kate Moss will never get married..."

Cloud spotted this statement - or something very like it - on the cover of a woman's magazine and promptly responded "because she's a man"!!!

The actual response (he told me, so I think he was doing more than just looking at the cover) was apparantly that her heart was broken by Johnny Depp. He refused to commit and so proved to her that no man could properly commit to marriage...

Now my initial response to this was perhaps the problem was more with KM than with JD, but it turns out that I was wrong in my assumption that he was happily married to sometime actress/singer Vanessa Paradis (star of one of my favourite French films The Girl on the Bridge). Nevertheless, they have been together some while now and have two children. Besides, since when was a marriage certificate proof of committment? Cloud and me - that's 15 years together and, apart from cats, we haven't invoked children to demand committment (I'm not sprogging for anyone!)

Friday, February 18, 2005

Food, glorious food: what to avoid

Top BBC story at the moment is that a number of food stuff from a variety of supermarket chains have been found to contain a cancer-causing dye.

Scare over, the likelihood is that if you're eating lots of these pre-processed foods you're possibly not having the greatest of diets anyway...

Mind you, given that the dye is called Sudan I, this raises the unfortunate spectacle of people not only dying in Sudan but also people at risk from Sudan...

Tax and the same-sex couple

My good friend Rita in the USA forwarded me this article by Lisa Keen from the Boston Globe on the dilemma facing same-sex couples who married under the Massachusetts legislation last year. It is a fine example illustrating the void into which many people fall when faced with bureaucracy.

Cocteau Twins: approval necessary!

Howled with laughter at John's gloriously personal account over at Counago&Spaves of not being into The Cocteau Twins in the 1980s due to their pretentious clientele of fans.

True, true...

I got into them in the very late 1980s/early 1990s, though I had long loved the version by This Mortal Coil - featuring Twins' Liz and Robin - of Tim Buckley's Song to the Siren (TMC album It'll End in Tears, 1984).

However, I guess given John's final line, "But if you liked them before I did, shame on you", I'm still stuffed...

Shame on me it is...

Deed done: booked for Death of a Salesman

Blimey - what have I done?! 27 May 2005, 7.30pm booked to see Brian Dennehy in Death of a Salesman at the Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue...

Helen Lisette and myself already have our booking for Kevin Spacey in The Philadelphia Story for the following day (at least that's a comedy).

That's one heavy cultural weekend!

Eucalyptus project postponed

What a shame...

The forthcoming film planned of Murray Bail's novel Eucalyptus seems to be on hold after some kind of row between the director and the cast. Oh, dear - Rusty what shall we do? Such great hopes were held for this, partly because of the reuniting of director Jocelyn Moorehouse with Russell Crowe (one of his first successes was with the excellent Proof... not to be confused with Proof of Life, which was an entirely different kettle of pisces). Now that very connection appears to have been at the root of the project being dropped.


Ahh, Kathy!

Whilst I was busy doing a dyslexia screening at work today, Cloud was off following up last night's Culture Show - an action to be called here "in pursuit of Kathy".

As he notes in his post, the play Blue/Orange is on at the Sheffield Crucible as directed by Kathy Burke.

Needless to say, when I finished my appointments at work, my mobile was switched back on and promptly beeped a new message: "fancy going to see Blue/Orange?"

How could I resist...?!

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Secular Infidels: a source of provocative and amusing quotations

Courtesy of Counago & Spaves, I couldn't resist providing a link to the Secular Infidels site. As part of their homepage, there is a section entitled Internet Infidels Quotation of the Minute. How could I resist listing something where most of the links have not only a properly documented source - including a page number! - but also author dates of birth and death.

Geek that I am in cataloguing bibliographi information, this HAD to get a mention!

Emoticons for the soul

Being something of a computer ignoramous, I am deeply relieved to find a rather exhaustive list of text-based emoticons (now at last I will know what all those punctuation marks are for!)

Quote for the Day 17 February 2005: Publishing

I found it quite amusing to find that the quote printed in my diary for yesterday/today was Marshall McLuhan's famous line that
"Gutenberg made everybody a reader: Xerox make everybody a publisher"
Obviously, when we are all here blogging furiously through the Internet, McLuhan's pithy comment illustrates that sometimes a remark can lose its significance. The world moves on, but the one-line quotations keep being trotted out: should we lay to rest now outdated quotations?

Moustache twirling bad guys

"Mwah ha ha! I'll get you Jack Turner"

Sorry, random ramblings here, but I had to share an example of the shorthand Cloud and I use to discuss bad buys (it may be on television but all sources of bad guys can count).

It is unlikely that many of you ever caught The Lyon's Den - the USA only aired 6 episodes and although Channel5 broadcast all the filmed episodes they booted it around the late night weekday schedules till nobody cared whethere they had shown them or not. This was Rob Lowe's vehicle following his (somewhat) acrimonious departure from The West Wing and the role of Deputy Communications Director and former lawyer, Sam Seaborn. He played good-guy lawyer, Jack Turner. Now normally it's fairly easy to fill in back story and identify goodguys & badguys... this programme took this to an extreme. The bad guy in LD was just too obviously flagged up with the cartoon identifications often found in wanna-be-oh-so-liberal-dramas: mistress (check), hates liberals (check), over-ambitious (check), scheming with others (check).

Cloud and I decided that he did everything bar twirl his moustache and shout aloud with a swashing blade "I'll get you, Jack Turner"... in fact the nearest other example I could think of was Guy Pearce's performance in the risible The Count of Monte Cristo: that was nearer to pantomine and thigh-slapping! Anyway, all this is by way of noting that whenever we see/hear any utterly over the top bad-guy behaviour, one or both of us with yell "Mwah ha ha..."

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Academy Awards Nominations: my predictions

Right then; in advance of the award ceremony on 27th February, here are my predictions for the Oscars (and some notes on expectations/preferences).

Actor in a Leading Role
Don Cheadle - Hotel Rwanda, Johnny Depp - Finding Neverland, Leonardo DiCaprio - The Aviator, Clint Eastwood - Million Dollar Baby, Jamie Foxx - Ray
I think Foxx will get this, though there may be a split vote with the excellent Don Cheadle. Final choice: Foxx

Actor in a Supporting Role
Alan Alda - The Aviator, Thomas Haden Church - Sideways, Jamie Foxx - Collateral, Morgan Freeman - Million Dollar Baby, Clive Owen - Closer
Clive Owen is the British favourite and Jamie Foxx could lose out on having his own vote split across two roles. Final choice: Owen

Actress in a Leading Role
Annette Bening - Being Julia, Catalina Sandino Moreno - Maria Full Of Grace, Imelda Staunton - Vera Drake, Hilary Swank - Million Dollar Baby, Kate Winslet - Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
I think this is between Swank and Staunton: interestingly the two films have a lot in common and I take this as one of the closest categories. Final choice: Staunton

Actress in a Supporting Role
Cate Blanchett - The Aviator, Laura Linney - Kinsey, Virginia Madsen - Sideways, Sophie Okonedo - Hotel Rwanda, Natalie Portman - Closer
I'd love to see Sophie Okonedo get this, but suspect that the memory of Katherine H. may win out. Final choice: Cate Blachett

Animated Feature Film
The Incredibles, Shark Tale, Shrek 2
No competition in my mind. Final choice: The Incredibles

Art Direction
The Aviator, Finding Neverland , Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events , The Phantom Of The Opera, A Very Long Engagement
Lots if similarly period-driven pieces here. Personally I would say Lemony Snicket. Final choice: The Aviator

The Aviator, House Of Flying Daggers, The Passion Of The Christ, The Phantom Of The Opera, A Very Long Engagement
I think The Aviator could do a sweep of several major awards, partly because others may not pick up favour (what does it say to award Passion with cinematography...?). Final choice: The Aviator

Costume Design
The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events, Ray, Troy
Again, part of the sweep of sentiment for Scorcese. Final choice: The Aviator

The Aviator, Million Dollar Baby, Ray, Sideways, Vera Drake
I stand by my original prediction for the BAFTAs here: sentiment may finally win out for Scorcese. Final choice: The Aviator

Documentary Feature
Born Into Brothels, The Story Of The Weeping Camel, Super Size Me, Tupac: Resurrection, Twist Of Faith
Personal choice would be Super Size Me. But would they do two in a row for opinionated documentary making? Final Choice: The Story of the Weeping Camel

Documentary Short Subject
Autism Is A World, The Children Of Leningradsky, Hardwood, Mighty Times: The Children's March, Sister Rose's Passion
Purely from my standpoint in terms of my work... Final choice: Autism is a World

Film Editing
The Aviator, Collateral, Finding Neverland, Million Dollar Baby, Ray
As my choice for the BAFTAs isn't here, I'm going on a limb for Michael Mann's always wonderfully visually constructed world. Final choice: Collateral

Foreign Language Film
As It Is In Heaven, The Chorus, Downfall, The Sea Inside, Yesterday
Final choice: The Chorus

Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events, The Passion Of The Christ, The Sea Inside
Again, will the Academy be happy voting for make-up work on this topic? It seems odd to think of something as 'frivolous' as Lemony Snicket sitting alongside these choices. Final choice: Lemony Snicket

Music (Score)
Finding Neverland, Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events, The Passion Of The Christ, The Village
I'm sticking with my original choice for the BAFTAs here. Final choice: Finding Neverland

Music (Song)
"Accidentally In Love" - Shrek 2, "Al Otro Lado Del Río" - The Motorcycle Diaries, "Believe" - The Polar Express, "Learn To Be Lonely" - The Phantom Of The Opera, "Look To Your Path (Vois Sur Ton Chemin)" - The Chorus
Inspired by the BAFTA win, however... Final choice: The Motorcycle Diaries

Best Picture
The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Million Dollar Baby, Ray, Sideways
I think this is between The Aviator and Million Dollar Baby. So knowing me it will probably be Ray... Final choice: The Aviator

Short Film (Animated)
Birthday Boy, Gopher Broke, Guard Dog, Lorenzo, Ryan
Sticking with a good bet. Final choice: Birthday Boy

Short Film (Live Action)
Everything In This Country Must, Little Terrorist, 7:35 In The Morning, Two Cars, One Night, Wasp
Final choice: Little Terrorist

Sound Editing
The Incredibles, The Polar Express, Spider-Man 2 Final choice: The Incredibles

Sound Mixing
The Aviator, The Incredibles, The Polar Express, Ray, Spider-Man 2 Final choice: Ray

Visual Effects
Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, I, Robot, Spider-Man 2 By all accounts, it was nonsense but... Final choice: I, Robot

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Before Sunset, Finding Neverland, Million Dollar Baby, The Motorcycle Diaries, Sideways
Though I am baffled by the placing of my personal favourite Before Sunset in this category (it reminds me of the nomination of the other Kauffman for Adaptation!) I think this will be between Sideways - a minor piece, even though I thoroughly enjoyed it - and Million Dollar Baby. Final choice: Million Dollar Baby

Writing (Original Screenplay)
The Aviator, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Hotel Rwanda, The Incredibles, Vera Drake
I think they Vera Drake will get this, even though Eternal Sunshine would be my personal choice. Final choice: Vera Drake (even though the collective creation of a screenplay through rehersal and improvisation would really challenge the usual conceptions of the award).

Cola Trolls, and other textual mistakes

Sorry, have only just recovered from laughter fit... In pursuit of a DVD copy of Tom Cruise's film Collateral, I sent Cloud a text informing him of its price online but in haste typed Colatrol. Cloud subsequently texted back about the "Cola Troll [who] lives under a bridge swigging pop", before adding that he would protect me from the "Cola Troll (the Cruis-ing Fox)". There are almost as many puns in that short exchange as in a Tim Vine stand-up routine...

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

All that glitters is not even BS

BWAH! (My favourite term at the moment!)

John over at Counago&Spaves - about to be added to my bloglist - has written a superb 'bad film' review for the utterly without merit nonsense that is Mariah Carey's Glitter. I have to admit that 'bad film' reviews are always much more enjoyable to read than good ones, partly because there seems to be more fun to be had reading a bad review - whether or not you ever want to see the film.

Emmy awards: Ray Liotta's forthcoming nomination

Well, providing the Emmy voters can retain the memory long enough, I think we can safely say that Ray Liotta's performance as Charlie Metcalf in the ER episode "Time of Death" is going to be getting nominated for a guest starring award come the autumn. [It aired in the UK on Channel 4 last night]. It is a well established cliche of drama Emmy's that breakdowns, disability, addiction and/or a good death are pretty much always going to garner commendation. (Perhaps we deal better with these things in the abstract, in performance, than we do when confronted with the complex and messy reality). Sally Field as Abby's manic depressive mother in ER; Bradley Whitford's post-traumatic shock reaction to music in The West Wing (both winners). Veronica Cartwight as wheelchair-user abductee Cassandra Spender, and Lili Taylor as bolshie blind woman Marty Glenn (both in The X-Files and nominated in 1998). And these are just the examples easily recollected....

Monday, February 14, 2005

BTW: Happy Valentines Day!

Cloud sent a card from the Music Range, with the line "Never met a girl like you before"... however, noting that for some friends it is a case of the beloved 'never writes, never phones', let us all take some refuge in learning some history instead by checking out this...

Kilroy Slick: oily perma-tan man

Bwah! This is awesome.

Thanks to Hak Mao who passed this on...

BAFTAs: or, why I never place bets

A mix of on-target, near-enough and way off-target!

Best actor in a leading role Jamie Foxx for Ray (CORRECT!)
Best actress in a leading role Imelda Staunton for Vera Drake (CORRECT!)
Best actor in a supporting role Clive Owen for Closer (CORRECT!)
Best actress in a supporting role Cate Blanchett for The Aviator (CORRECT!)
Best editing Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (CORRECT!)
Best sound Ray (CORRECT!)
Outstanding British film of the year My Summer of Love (CORRECT!)
Special achievement by a British director, producer or writer in their first feature film Amma Asante, director/ writer of A Way of Life (CORRECT!)
Best original screenplay Charlie Kaufman for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (CORRECT! I got my wish!)
Best Animation Birthday Boy (CORRECT!)

Best film The Aviator (I had Vera Drake)
Best director Mike Leigh for Vera Drake (I had Scorcese: I'll take these two as a near-miss swap)
Best production design The Aviator (I had Finding Neverland - both period dramas? Does that count as close?)
Best make-up and hair The Aviator (close miss? I had Finding Neverland)
Best adapted screenplay Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor for Sideways (I might have selected this myself had I seen it before I made my predictions)

Best cinematography Collateral (I had House of Flying Daggers - spectacularly wrong in both style and substance)
Best costume design Vera Drake (missed that one off my list)
Best achievement in music The Motorcycle Diaries (Not even close: I had Finding Neverland, a totally different type of soundtrack)
Best achievement in visual effects Ray (missed this...)
Best achievement in special visual effects The Day After Tomorrow (again utterly wrong: I had House of Flying Daggers)
Best foreign film The Motorcycle Diaries (clunkingly wrong: I had House of Flying Daggers down for this)
Best short film The Banker (I had Knitting a love song as my choice)

In my defence, I got a fair few of the major awards down well - all the acting categories for example (though I think these were the easiest to predict). I completely over-estimated House of Flying Daggers and Finding Neverland: though I think the latter was probably hard-done by given all the fond comments I have heard about it. Scorcese for the Oscar...? they're a sentimental bunch at the Academy and at least this one isn't driven by bloodshed in the way Gangs of New York was... I'll place my choices online this week and we can compare notes again. Still - remember this folks, I don't place bets myself so will take no responsibility for what actually happens on the day!

Quote of the day 14 Feb 2005: Kafka on books

I think we ought to only read the kind of books which wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we
need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us. This is my belief.
Kafka, 'Letter to Pollack'.

Thanks to the H-Net listing for alerting me to this quote.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Sideways: a belated review

Went to see Sideways on Thursday: I have to say we really enjoyed it. The acting was superb - Paul Giamatti provides echoes of the glorious hangdog performance he gave in American Splendour whilst adding more tenderness to his character - and the script was really well put together. Most of the comments we heard on our way out said how "real" it felt: this for a movie about driving through Californian wine country as a last ditch exploration of male middle-age feedom before marriage for an out-of-work actor. Hardly identifiable stuff for Nottingham's Broadway audience. But somehow it struck a chord: there was such great affection in the portrayals, such raw emotions (un)explored... it was a truly touching film. That it could also use high farce to such great effect was truly admirable - hardly a surprise though when you check the back catalogue of the director and find the marvellous Election on there.

Mind you, one of the most priceless moments came when, following the line about "you don't unerstand my plight," one old dear behind us loudly asked her friend "you don't understand my what?"

Quote of the day 11 Feb 2005: for the Common People

Hvaing to choose just one song for my profile on Normblog was really tough - in fact, all the questions requiring single or selective answers were hard going. Hey, I'm indecisive and moody, whatcha gonna do about it?! Context and need change everything. Anyway, this prompted a correspondence about Common People, and it got the lyrics pumping through my head (again).

One of the things I really love about the song, and why on its release I used to get so cross at radio stations playing the edit version, were some of the sentiments in the second verse:
'Cos everybody hates a tourist,
especially one who thinks it’s all such a laugh
and the chip stains and grease will come out in the bath
You will never understand how it feels to live your life with no meaning or control and with nowhere left to go
I've highlighted that last phrase especially because I so fondly recall the venom with which myself and Maya would spit those lyrics out as we sang along... for us it was heartfelt and real and utterly descriptive of some of the experiences we had lived through.

Sometimes it's worth remembering how acutely another person's words can describe our lives....

Obscure Song No. 2: "As You Turn to Go"

My second in this occasional series is another soft ballad: "As You Turn to Go."

It comes from a record called Hyacinths and Thistles produced by The Sixths, but in truth this is Stephin Merritt gathering together a collection of artistes to deliver yet more of his poignant analyses of love and life. This particular track - the first on the H&T album - is sung by Momus (from Paisley ... what is it about me and Paisley?!) and has one of the most heartbreaking vocals imaginable.

Musically --- well, how many times do you get a zither in modern music? It's also short - less than 2 minutes. But it's brevity enhances its beauty. And lyrically... well, always a sucker for good poetry, for a well-expressed sentiment, I was struck by the words as much as the arrangement of this track.
I know you've had more lovers than Mata Hari,
but you know you're the star of my life story
...and I'm so sorry
I got hold of this track completely on a whim. I had been hearing some random tracks by Stephin Merritt and at the time was struggling to get a copy of 69 Love Songs. So when I found this in my beloved Selectadisc, and saw the magic name of SM, I immediately purchased it: unheard and unheard of before I found it in the Magnetic Fields section of the store. Of course, those who know the H&T album will know the CD booklet features the lyrics in coloured writing, so I'm afraid I did break the cardinal rule of reading song lyrics in advance. When I rushed home and put it on, the track just blew me away and Cloud and I listened to it with eyes glistening and throat drying. The whole album feels like a collection of modern-day torch songs, and if you've ever loved at a distance or saw a loved one walk away, then this will touch your soul.

One day I will be a better blogger...

On the advice of Norm of the Blog - how could I be a wretch when he includes a questionnaire profile of Rullsenberg? - I suggest all bloggers and blog readers link and view this wonder expression on blogging: ah, the times I have tried to do this...
One day they will meet a new post every day, thrilling as the one before.

You know when you've been Snoop Dogged...

Translating our words into 'street-speak', courtesy of the style of Snoop Dog

Go to

Then enter the URL to a site in the text box. Why not try my blog, or your own... the results are amusing if not sometimes bewildering...

Thanks to Casyn at the Slayer Library for passing this on.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Someone's been watching Marathon Man...

... on the direction crew for Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Their chase through Chinatown in the episode screened in the UK last night was a straight lift from the haunting scene in Marathon Man where an elderly woman recognises Christian Szell (Laurence Olivier) and pursues him through the streets of New York's diamond quarter... To inform passers-by of his history, she yells out to all around her "der weisse Engel!"

Still sends chills down my spine, and as an effective scene for presenting a character with an horrific past history, I can't say as I blame the L&O team for applying it to their own narrative.

If nothing else, it's reminded Cloud and me that it's at least a few months since we last watched Marathon Man...

Karl Rove is Josh Lyman

...Scary... The appointment of Rove to the position of Deputy Chief of Staff only suceeds in highlighting the gulf between fact and fiction.

Ah, Josh Lyman ... vulnerable, flawed and argumentative.

Josh Lyman: "I'm just saying that if you were in an accident, I wouldn't stop for a beer."
Donna Moss: "If you were in an accident I wouldn't stop for red lights"

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Darwin Fish

In light of recent comments on the rise of Creationism in the classroom, it can be no bad time to connect you with Evolve Fish. Not all of their stuff is as funny - some are odd, others are a tad offensive (just to warn you) - but overall this is a great site providing a way to challenge in public the theory of Creationism (sorry, but some of their tangled attempts to account for geology and evolution within the period of recorded human activity are bewildering in their desperation to avoid confronting evolution as more than a theory).

Obscure Song No. 1: "Keeping the Weekend Free"

On Monday I suggested the idea of an 'obscure songs poll'... to clarify this what I would like to do is to include as a 'slot' on this blog a regular introduction to an obscure song. With a brief discussion as to why it's good, perhaps why it's obscure (even by my/your own admission), and how you heard it and passed it on.

My first choice is a song called "Keeping the Weekend Free" by a band called Licquorice from their album Listening Cap. It's a cover version of a song by Franklin Bruno and I will confess I haven't heard the original, so if anyone knows how to get hold of it - let me know.

It's a delicate track: simple in it's construction - two verses and a chorus. Two voices: Dan Littleton and Jenny Toomey, with counterpart risings and fallings. A simple melody: just piano and guitar (I think).

The words are just lovely - full of a realist's yearning and lovers' thinking: "whose charges get reversed/all depends on who calls first" and "keeping myself locked up/lettin' the weekend go/waitin' for my parole".

I heard it first on the John Peel show - where else? - in 1995 and was just swept away by it. I tracked it down on the album (secondhand from Selectadisc in Nottingham - certainly my favourite independent record store) and immediately began playing it for my friends whenever they indicated an interest in tender ballads.

BAFTA predictions

Here they are: not based on anything except my opinions, hunches and random thoughts.

Best Film - Vera Drake
Korda award for British Film - My Summer of Love (personally I would like Shaun to win it, but all the critical acclaim suggests that Pawel Pawlikowski will get something, and I think BAFTA may like to give Leigh a big award as the US market may not be able to quite stomach Vera Drake --- though they darn well should)
Foreman award for first British Feature film work - Amma Asante (for being Leigh-like)
Lean award for Direction - Scorcese for The Aviator (because BAFTA wouldn't be BAFTA without at least one absent American award-winner)
Original Screenplay - Gondry for Eternal Sunshine (please!)
Adapted Screenplay - Rivera for The Motorcycle Diaries
Film not in English - House of Flying Daggers

Leading Actor - Jamie Foxx for Ray
Leading Actress - Imelda Staunton for Vera Drake
Supporting Actor - Clive Owen for Closer
Supporting Actress - Cate Blanchett in The Aviator

Asquith award for Film Music - Jan A P Kaczmarek for Finding Neverland
Cinematography - Zhao Xiaoding for House of Flying Daggers
Editing - Valdís Óskarsdóttir for Eternal Sunshine
Production Design - Gemma Jackson for Finding Neverland
Sound - Ray
Special Visual Effects - House of Flying Daggers
Make-Up and Hair - Christine Blundell for Finding Neverland
Short Animation - Birthday Boy
Short Film - Knitting a Love Song

No I will not be betting on anything. I learnt my lesson from my one Grand National bet...

Channel 4 viewers vs. star panel: best videos

Hmm... how does the list compiled by Channel 4 last weekend compare to the list of 20 presented in the Observer a couple of weekends ago and commented on here? As usual, forgetting what was shown by the Ultimate Film list they did last year, Channel 4 first of all limited the selection AND then passed it on to their viewers to decide. Erm... Meatloaf?! 50 Cent?! Some of these choices seem quirky at best; downright bonkers at worst. Christina Aguilera... urgh... I feel dirty in an entirely different way even thinking about that pseudo-pornographic trash.

Still, it was good to see some of the works omitted in the 'musicians' list getting a mention, such as Cry, and the programme itself did at least show a good proportion of many of the works listed. Always good to Talking Heads Once in a Lifetime (even though the line "this is not my beautiful house, this is not my beautiful wife" brings to mind thoughts of bunnies and a certain manic depressive psychiatric Doctor Nash.... ahem). And the comments made about Mr Cash's Hurt - so simple, yet it leaves you sobbing on the floor like a baby - only reinforced how deserving it was of its top place on the musician's list.

Ultimate Films: towards the top

The journey continues:

39 The Towering Inferno 1975 - Like The Wizard of Oz and The Great Escape, this was a staple of bank holiday schedules in my youth
36 Doctor In The House 1954 - Rescued by the endearing naivety of Dirk Bogarde, I feel SLIGHTLY less embarrassed about this being 'seen' than any of the Carry On films... but not by much...
35 The Great Caruso 1951 - Ah, afternoon movies! Reminds me as well of the wonderful song by Everything But the Girl The Night I Heard Caruso Sing from their album Idlewild.
34 The Spy Who Loved Me 1977 - "No body does it better..." Bond films eh? Took my years to work out you didn't need to see them from the start...
33 The Bridge On The River Kwai 1957 - Maybe I am too generationally removed from the historical moment, but I never found this moved me half as much as everyone suggested it should.
32 The Greatest Show On Earth 1952 - DeMille brings to the big screen the Barnum and Bailey circus...
31 E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial 1983 - Even my MUM saw this on a pirate video cassette...

Not Sure
38 Random Harvest 1943 - I know about it, and have seen clips, but I just can't be sure about the whole thing...

40 Fanny By Gaslight 1944 - Nope.
37 Toy Story 2 2000 - Loved the first film but somehow didn't get around to seeing the second...

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

CSI: palette and mood

Sam Wollaston alluded to this in his review of CSI:NY, but I don't think anyone has fully explored how the CSI franchise uses colour to tone its various incarnations.

CSI (Vegas - original and best): neon, stark
CSI: Miami (2nd version): sunny, beach colours; even in the indoor shots, the palette is sunny in tone
CSI: NY (darkness falls): neutral palette, stoney greys and earthy browns, harsh white interiors

In the crossover episode from Miami to NY (Case 63: MIA/NYC Non-Stop), this was even more starkly illustrated. Horatio Caine lit as if bringing the light of Florida to the cityscape; Mac Taylor - so obviously touched by the stark emotions of 9/11 - bleached into grey footage. (The contrast was so great at one point I considered if the cinematographers had adopted colouration of Caine as a focal point: anyone know if this is true?)

Monday, February 07, 2005

Songs you introduce people to: potential poll /collection?

As I don't have THAT many regular viewers, this may be something we come back to at a later point, but inspired by Norm's songpoll, my thoughts turn to all those songs that didn't make his list. The ones where there was only one vote for them. The scarcely heard and relatively unknown songs.

You know the ones I mean: the songs/pieces of music that lay beyond the mainstream. The one (not-a) hit wonders. I do NOT mean bands so obscure that you only know them because you are IN them - though some exceptions can always be made for new music recommendations - but generally rather the material to which you always feel compelled to introduce people. It may be generational: the influences and inspirational music behind something more contemporary --- not necessarily a "this was the real thing" nostalgia, but perhaps part of an expansive musical education ("did you realise...?") It may be a stylistic leap: from certain classical music - melodic, string-based, the score to a film that doesn't exist - to some of the gentler sounds of post-rock. Or it may just be that some music is just too delightful in an unquantifiable way to not be shared: a lyric, a chord sequence, a musical phrase.

I'm going to think on this further and offer some (relatively) obscure materials for consideration. If you want to send me your contributions - limit yourself to FIVE if you can - then maybe we can collate a recommended list that goes beyond "greatest" or "best" and encapsulates the spirit of "you MUST hear this..."

Email me through the contact address in my profile.

Ellen MacArthur: the impact of impersonations

Clare Balding was absolutely right in yesterday's Observer. Ellen MacArthur is both her own worst enemy and an unfortunate and unwitting butt of comedic observation. Yes, the daily diary of her journey does keep her in the public eye (or ears). But the persona regularly ridiculed by the Dead Ringer's star Jan Ravens - it's one of the few impressions I can pull off myself; just ask Mr Cloud - captures the problem of placing herself so squarely in that public gaze. Reporting on the stresses and strains of her journey on an almost continuous basis makes her appear ineffective and her efforts almost accidental. This is a shame, because the navigational, business and technical skills she is using are clearly exceptional. Unfortunately, the image of the panicked, moaning 'little hero' under stress, so deftly captured by Ravens, doesn't do her any favours. I wish I'd blogged this point when I first thought of it - about two weeks ago - as I would then have 'scooped' Balding's comments. But it's a pretty pathetic topic to feel scooped about, so I'm less bothered than maybe I appear...

Stormin' Norm: blogger of note

Awh, bless. Norman Geras - Norm of the Normblog - gets coverage in the British press for his online writings... and they call him OBSCURE?! His use of the word 'sheesh' aside, one really does have to feel for this established writer and academic to find himself described as "obscure": perhaps it is just that to describe any academic as "well-known" or "famous" they must be engaged in polemicism via the medium of Big Brother...?

Friday, February 04, 2005

Da Vinci Code: dumbing down or dumbing up?

Last night I watched Tony Robinson doing a magnificent demolition-job on the stormingly popular novel, The Da Vinci Code.

Before responding to the programme, let me state first off, I really enjoyed this novel. As a long-time fan of the nonsense behind the narrative (ah, Holy Blood & Holy Grail; ah, Renne le Chateaux), I took to this novel at speed and with much delighted enthusiasm. It is a good thriller - sure, it's not the most well-written book in the world, but since when does that stop us enjoying a good yarn? It has a rollickingly action-packed plot - I hardly know anyone who has read it that hasn't read it at speed. And with Fibonacci sequences and ancient practices and symbols to the fore, it is a complexly woven narrative that demands the reader pay attention (even if everything DOES get explained).

So to the programme: the main crux of Robinson's argument was Dan Brown is just plain WRONG. Brown states at the start of his book a series of 'facts': and a much-played clip in the documentary showed Brown on American TV stating that "all the art, the architecture, the secret societies and secret rituals are true". Robinson took great delight in demolishing the 'truth' of these. For example: that the Cathars and the Knights Templar were not as Brown describes them and their history is not as the novel records; that the Grail scarcely exists in any form in literature - cup or blood - until the romantic texts of the medieval period; that Rosslyn Chapel is not full of symbols as the novel interprets them...

Well, that's all well and good BUT, the things themselves - these groups, the art and buildings - they DO exist. And whilst the interpretations may take things too far, I don't think this necessarily contradicts entirely Brown's comment - certainly not within the context of novelistic licence. Yes, The Priory of Sion was almost certainly a CON of the first order. But this leads me to my main point: one that also deals with that other main topic Robinson critiqued, the role of Mary Magdelene.

What The Da Vinci Code does is bring into the popular realm subjects that would otherwise remain off the popular culture agenda: medieval history, theological history, high culture, symbolic language. It may well be that what the novel does - and I have read this criticism on several occasions - is that it makes people feel smarter than they are. That it gives a false sense of intellectualism to people. That instead of doing some 'real' art historical reading/research, instead of taking ideas and critiqueing them, it just lets people dip their feet into false conspiracies.

BUT: in an age where we are constantly told that society isn't interested in high culture, in thinking, in analysis of any sort; when reality television dominates our cultural life; when history is supposedly declining as a subject... isn't there something rather reassuring about human inquisitiveness that makes them pick up a chunky novel that engages with such topics? That leads them into reading other related texts - some maybe NOT as frothy? That inspires them to visit these places, to look and consider what they are seeing? That questions the writing of histories for particular puposes (such as the editing out of the role of Mary Magdelene?) and puts it onto the agenda for thinking about the construction of religion(s)? Isn't this something that deserves consideration, if not praise? I am rather pleased to see/hear people talking about Mary Magdelene with an eye to what the Bible actually says (as opposed to all those artists images we have taken to heart from picture books and children's Bibles) and thinking about the editorial interests in shaping the Bible to what we know it as today. To think about Latin and translation and ancient texts: isn't that a positive?

There was a certain amount of snobbishness running through the mocking tone of Robinson's documentary that made me feel rather uncomfortable. The question is, who or what are we really criticising here?

Normblog song poll results

Normblog has finally managed to wade through the mountainous submissions of songs for his "greatest" list. Go check it out.

NOTE: I screwed up the posting of this item. Bad blogger. This is an amended version. I will try and recall my comments. GRRR.

Comedy continued:Britain & America

Casyn's comments on my previous posting nudged some reminders my way about my taste in comedy. Somehow I managed to miss out acknowledgement of the superb Scrubs - inspiration for the hysterical Green Wing, with the seemingly misanthropic Doctor Cox, who is actually deeply human and loveable. I also missed off the wryly amusing Arrested Development (this suffers from what British viewers call the "Seinfeld syndrome" - where programmes are arbitrarily pushed around the schedules until, surprise, only a hardcore audience remains). Those who know us, of course already know that Seinfeld was a big hit in the Cloud and Rullsenberg household.

Malcolm in the Middle, though I never seemed to be into it quite when everyone else was, has been another provider of mirth and delight: I must confess that I became more of a fan when I found out that Lois (the mother) was played by Jane Kaczmarek - a.ka. Mrs Bradley Whitford. What was not to love about a character given such verve by the woman loved by "Josh Lyman"?! Seriously though, her character - frustrated, anxious, opinionated - was just a joy to watch.

At one point, when we were better off and less stressed, Cloud and I had about two years with digital TV and grew fond of the Paramount Comedy channel. Whatever the ITV equivalent of the "Seinfeld syndrome" is, we saw plenty of examples of works that we knew HAD been purchased by UK terrestrial television but which had never taken off due to poor scheduling. Dharma and Greg - almost the antithesis of 'dark comedy' - was quickly a firm favourite. Becker - one of the few moments when I didn't want to hit Ted Danson - was fantastically misanthropic, but human despite all that [anyone spotting a theme here?] and I loved his umitigated frustration with human stupidity [as Cloud cites: "we have learned to live without it..." --- oh would that more humanity could do so...].

What often frustrates me about some British comedy is its resolute and disastrous desire to keep within the sitcom tradition. And don't even get me started on laughter tracks... I know that some of those identified above include them, but generally I just find them annoying. I'll know if it's funny. I don't need you to tell me...

Thursday, February 03, 2005

British Comedy

Casyn over at The Slayer Library was recently praising British Comedy. Although she identified it as the best of what was on in a desert of limited choices, she selected out Coupling as deserving of comment. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with coarse sexual humour per se, but Coupling - for me at least - often seemed to miss its mark. Farce, the disappointments of life writ at a comedic scale, walks a fine line: too far and I over-identify with the mockery and suffering and disappointment of the characters... and I have to switch off or walk away. It just hurts too much. [Identification of another type - memory - is what stops me enjoying The Office and Peter Kay's Phoenix Nights: I NEVER want to go back, physically or otherwise, to my seven years of office hell or the local 'chicken-in-a-basket' circuit venue of has&never-been variety acts]

Bizarrely, I find darker comedy, and surreal comedy, much more appealing and less emotionally destructive. Taken at face value from descriptions of the lives of its central characters, Black Books would indeed feel depressing and tragic. But its tragedy is what makes it so compelling and so painfully funny to watch (it also has a healthy sense of the surreal which probably tempers some of its darker edge). Spaced and Green Wing, the erratic quality of Smack the Pony, and even Nighty Night and Big Train - neither of which I never managed to watch as often as I would have liked - share this dark edge. Of American TV, only Curb Your Enthusiasm has anything like this dark edge to it - though I do find this PAINFUL to watch and can only deal with one episode at a time. Any other 'dark' American comedies...?

Reading a love-letter via a dictionary

Watching The Rotter's Club last night - which continues to be fabulously moving and hilarious - I was reminded that the need to check a dictionary to understand romantic speech or prose is not confined to fictional narratives. Cloud called me "pulchitrudinous" once, and I took some convincing it wasn't an insult: of course, thanks to the dictionary, I could both understand it as a compliment and challenge its veracity!

Lost time

Cloud lost 13 minutes on his watch a couple of days ago. Since then his watch has kept time just fine. Is this an example of an extended 9 minutes experience? Am about to watch Season 3 again on DVD... maybe Cloud was just predicting the lost hours of our watching tv?

If you ever had difficulty keeping up with what happened in the X-files to who, and when (and, in the case of lost time, how long for), then check out this.

Education and debate: Political Bias in Academe

Bit off topic this, except as part of a Rullsenberg Rants mode, but I thought the discussion about "Political Bias in Academe" currently running through H-Net's H-Amstdy (American Studies) discussion log may interest some of this blog's readers. Follow the messages through the PBiA message headings.

Debates about objectivity and subjectivity in academic discussions are probably as old as academia itself. At least we are free to debate these issues (generally speaking: notwithstanding debates around obtaining tenure - a.ka. any kind of permanent/longer-term full-time post - and the increasing commodification of education).

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Douglas Henshall: Death of a Salesman

Lyric Theatre, London: May 2005 for 6 months.
Brian Dennehy will reprise his Tony-winning performance as Willy Loman, Tony nominee Howard Witt will star as Charley, 2005 Olivier nominee Clare Higgins will star as Willy's wife, and Douglas Henshall and Mark Bazely will play sons Biff and Happy.
I think with Kevin on at the Old Vic, I am going to be spending a fair bit of time in London at the theatre over the next few months!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Green Wing links

Kathryn Flett not only spotted J R-T from Green Wing last week, but also the wonderful Pippa Haywood cropped up in a Robson Green drama - thus creating all kinds of problems with KF taking the drama seriously (personally, the name Robson Green does that for me).

Last night, Look Around You returned for another series. Mark Heap was there... and was that Karl Theobald in there as well? Was Olivia Coleman - harrassed mother "Harriet Schulenberg" with the fuzzy felt - also in there, looking very svelte?

Best video: Hurt

Good to see that snappy visuals are not the sole defining feature of a good video. David Smith in last weekend's Observer wrote:

Enough Britney and Jacko - the cream of the pop industry says the greatest music video of all time was made by a septuagenarian country singer facing his own mortality.
The video for 'Hurt', Johnny Cash's valedictory single recorded just six months before his death, shows a frail and ailing Cash at home, dressed in his usual black outfit, playing guitar and piano, interwoven with past footage of the 'Man in Black' in his heyday.
His posthumous triumph over the teen idols of the MTV generation comes in a poll of 31 pop stars, video directors, agents and journalists commissioned by mobile phone operator 3. The panel included Natasha Bedingfield, Björk, Tim Burgess of the Charlatans, Norman 'Fatboy Slim' Cook, Jamie Cullum, Tom Fletcher of McFly, Avril Lavigne, Mike 'the Streets' Skinner and Amy Winehouse.
The runner-up is the 14-minute horror film-style 1983 video for Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' with pioneering special effects. Third is another chiller, Aphex Twin's 1997 'Come to Daddy', which features a goblin screaming at a pensioner and a gang of children smashing up a London council estate.
Cash recorded 1,500 songs on 45 solo albums and had 14 number one country hits over 50 years. The video for 'Hurt', a cover of a Nine Inch Nails song, forgoes the visual pyrotechnics of its rivals for the simplicity of moody lighting, Christian imagery and shots of the derelict House of Cash Museum. It also features his wife, June Carter Cash, who was to die a few months before her husband.
The director of the top video, Mark Romanek, who also directed the film One Hour Photo , said: 'Johnny's music has always been candid. I didn't want to make a phoney video - I wanted to tell the truth.'
REM singer-songwriter Michael Stipe, who was a member of the judging panel, said it was 'just heartbreaking. Kudos to Mark Romanek for having the audacity and courage to do a video like that. The moment I saw it I thought, "Please don't let this be the last thing we know Johnny Cash for". Yet he made the song his own and the video is just devastating. And beautiful. It touched me in a really big way.'
Paul Rees, editor of Q magazine, said: 'In four minutes it managed the not inconsiderable feat of capturing everything great, mythical and iconoclastic about its subject. It is, too, the only music video to pack a genuine emotional punch.'

The video for 'Just', by Radiohead, came fourth in the poll. Judge Garry Mulholland, a music author and expert, said: 'The film completely overwhelms the song and the band. A man lies on the pavement in New York. When people stop to ask what's wrong, he says he can't tell them because they won't be able to take the truth. After a crowd begs him for this truth, he finally whispers it to the nearest person. The last shot shows everyone in the street lying motionless, rendered catatonic by whatever he said.
It was 'the most intense and mysterious short film I've ever seen,' Mulholland said. [...]

I have added some comments to the list as it appeared in Sunday's paper:

THE TOP 20 MUSIC VIDEOS EVER Voted by pop stars, video directors, agents and journalists
1 Hurt, Johnny Cash, 2003 - beautiful and elegaic, as is described above. The only reason I tolerate multimedia CDs (when you try and play the track through a computer, it automatically flicks up the video).
2 Thriller, Michael Jackson, 1983 - narrative and choreography at its best.
3 Come to Daddy, Aphex Twin, 1997 - just plain scary!
4 Just, Radiohead, 1995 - this "Just"... the combination of subtitles for the unspoken narrative and the pounding insistance of this track make this my favourite Radiohead video.
5 Billie Jean, Michael Jackson, 1983 - nowhere near as visually interesting as Thriller, but the dancing is awesome.
6 Take on Me, A-Ha, 1985 - that twenty years on I still recall with affection the line drawing coming to life says something about the effective innovation of this.
7 Sledgehammer, Peter Gabriel, 1986 - stop/go animation was given a jolt with this work
8 Nothing Compares 2 U, Sinead O'Connor, 1990 - simplicity
9 Sabotage, Beastie Boys, 1994
10 Vogue, Madonna, 1990 - stylish and empty, rather like this song
11 Human Behaviour, Bjork, 1993 - Bjork has a great eye for visuals, and a great ear for sound: wonderful combination.
12 Rio, Duran Duran, 1982 - I know that yacht launched a thousand mediocre pop stars into foreign travel for their videos, but personally I would have gone for the epic, ludicrous and life-threatening "Wild Boys" directed by Russell Mulcahy
13 Two Tribes, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, 1984 - and lo, T-shirts were sold by the lorryload and masks of politicians became popular
14 Coffee + TV, Blur 1999
15 The Hardest Button to Button, The White Stripes, 2003
16 What's My Age Again?, Blink- 182, 1999
17 Ashes to Ashes, David Bowie, 1980 - still my favourite Bowie song
18 Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen, 1975 - mum and I used to turn the sound off and laugh at the video. Sometimes we turned the picture down as well (as you could with old TVs)
19 Praise You, Fatboy Slim, 1999 - ordinary/extraordinary: Spike Jonze is one of the most wonderfully imaginative people to work with video.
20 Another Brick in the Wall, (Part 2) , Pink Floyd, 1979 - what scared people more: the children's enthusiastic singing or the animation?

Interesting that Godley and Creme's once-acclaimed video for Cry, featuring dissolving faces, does not make this list. Nor is there any mention of the always-influential DA Pennebaker footage of Dylan in the alleyway with the cards: see Bob Roberts and the Maxwell tapes adverts, and MANY MANY bands nicking this idea in all seriousness.