Friday, November 27, 2009

Rubbish blogger and thoughts in editing TV for different broadcast markets

I'm trying to ignore that I still don't feel fabulous, though at least I have now completed two full weeks - assuming I make it through this afternoon! - without completely falling over.

I've had a brief fainting fit at work (relieved by quick purchase of a sugar and lemon pancake) and was barfaliciously ick after tea the other night. Meh. I need to get better quick: I'm running out of weeks.*

Anyway, having responded to Persephone's positive enjoyment of Collision, I thought I'd repost and expand on some of the points I made there.

**SPOILER NOTE: If you haven't yet seen the drama, it may wise to avoid these discussions.**

But empathies on the sometimes shoddy editing practices; that ALWAYS really concerns me regarding dramas moving countries for broadcast and I do think its a problem. Rather like word limits for essays (sorry, I have my work hat on), they're obviously important but it can feel like you're making something fit the limitations of format rather than allowing it to breathe its natural shape/structure. Personally, I think if another country wants something originally made/broadcast elsewhere they should as much as possible adapt to accommodate it - rather than hacking about to make it fit their quirky schedule structure.

And that POV applies just as much for imports TO the UK as it does for exports from the UK to elsewhere. Respect the makers structure! they made it that length for a reason!

there probably are examples, but I'd be amazed if it was so extensive in happening in print fiction as it does in TV ("sorry, we decided to chop chapters 4-6 and edited the ending accordingly because we haven't got room for those characters in the X pages we need this book to fit in for our US edition" GRRRRRRRRR)

I think the point I wanted to convey is that TV seems particularly prone to being messed about with, and apart from perhaps the chronological version of the Godfather parts 1 and 2 that used to air on TV (combining in chronological order the events from the two films), I can't think of any examples where such editing/restructuring has a purpose or even vaguely positive impact on the material.

Am I right in my thinking regarding literature? Are there precedents for cutting sections, scenes, plotlines when a text is republished in another country? (I'm trying not to think about more straightforward censorship issues about why texts may change from country to country, but maybe that is relevant in the example of Collision as Persephone suggests that it was perhaps the refugee storyline that suffered in editing).

I'm going to try and press myself to not launch into yet another tirade about aspect ratios as I know its a topic I can easily get worked up about, but as my comment quoted above hints, respecting the original version is surely important? If a country or broadcaster likes a piece so much that they want to broadcast it, why would they want to broadcast as different from the original?

Or am I getting irked about a minor issue? Are such editorial cuts much less crucial than I am attributing? Are they likely to just be very minor seconds worth of edits to cumulatively add up to enough of a reduction to fit the time schedule? (That actually seems like a lot of complex work for relatively little reward? it probably is easier to cut whole character/plot/storylines than fiddling at the seconds... *sigh*)

Anyway, I'd be interested in your thoughts...

*I mean running out of weeks efore Xmas and the hols: that wasn't intended to be a life length notice (unless someone somewhere knows something I don't)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cultural highlights: Shooglenifty and The Caucasian Chalk Circle

After a ropey few weeks, and inspired by the dark delights of Doctor Who at the weekend, it's been quite a culturally active week.

Firstly we had Shooglenifty at Nottingham's Lakeside venue. After a typically hesitant audience start, the band soon persuaded the audience to dance with abandon and it was a delight to see such a mixed age audience respond so vibrantly. That Angus R Grant though is a bit of a card though: strutting and posing on the stage with his fiddle as a hirsute lothario.

Then last night I finally got to see the Shared Experience production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle, currently on at Nottingham Playhouse. Neil and I had been scheduled to attend the opening night a few weeks ago, but ill health meant Neil went on his own. Determined I should see this excellent production, he booked for us to go again and this time I was well enough. I was so glad not to have missed it, as the show is a real treat: moving, funny, scathing and wonderfully staged. In particular, reviewers are fully justified in giving praise to the wonderful Matti Houghton in the central role of Grusha. But this ensemble piece should not be underestimated: everything about it - the staging, the music and all the performances - are really superb. If the first half is stark then the second is increasingly humorous, albeit in a typically scabrous Brechtian manner. And by including local people in the chorus for each different run of the play, there is a real sense of community involvement to the production.

(And a note too that it took me til the second act to process why I kept getting a fleeting recognition buzz from the woman playing the Governor's wife. Eventually I suddenly heard her voice in my head in a different context and I realised she'd played the role of Leah in Lawless Heart. She's also very good.)

If you get chance to see it in London next week (Unicorn Theatre 24-29 Nov), then do go as it is well worth seeing.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

TV Review: Doctor Who - The Waters of Mars: without spoilers / with spoilers

Last week would have been a real treat if I hadn't been poorly: Collision across 5 nights with lovely Douglas Henshall, a cello concert, a weekend away in Stratford with friend Helen Lisette, and topped off nicely with a dose of old-fashioned Doctor Who with David Tennant.

Still, all appreciated, including that last treat on Sunday night.

Spoiler free comments
Others have already added their remarks to the newspaper reviews etc: Medium Rob gave it a thumbs up, as have Stuart Ian Burns and Frank Collins over at Behind the Sofa (the two who are most inclined to be excitedly positively in their analysis and delight of current DW episodes).

For me, I liked that we got a rather successful echo of a Troughton-esque 'Base Under Siege' storyline, but with the added bonus of a brilliantly strong central female character. There was lots of running around - padding for the episode or homage to days of yore? - and even a 'cute' robot (I'd say WALL-E should sue but really it should be the designers from Short Circuit taking up the lawsuits). Since I utterly HEART Lindsay Duncan, she was of course awesome, taking the Doctor to task appropriately and with measure. Was the water scary enough? Yeah, and watching the Confidential afterwards it was interesting how smiling made it work better on every level. *Shudder*

Did the Doctor have quite enough to do? There was some loitering, but he more than made up for it by the last 15 mins. We're getting ready to say bye-bye to the Tenth Doctor and I'm already in pieces at the thought of what's to come.

Spoilers ahead










Spoiler alert!!!!!!
Scary, scary water monsters took second fiddle to the big darkness of the episode. Namely, Ten realising the significance of being 'Last of the Time Lords'. Who says he must be subject to the laws of time? The Time Lords, surely. 'And that's me' he thinks. And my word, on that realisation Ten lost the plot didn't he? Fantastic acting by Tennant as he tweaked the nuances of saying the same phrases he often uses - 'come on!' and 'I'm good' - and made them chilling and unnerving and scarily arrogant. Sidelined for much of the early part of the story - trying to pull himself away from the doomed Bowie Base and crew but not quite able to do so - he ends up ripping apart everything he has previously told himself he cannot, must not do. Definitely no one to hold him back; Adelaide Brooke hasn't enough personal history with him to do that. The Doctor saves the day and we feel cold and scared because we know it's just WRONG.

Is he even rid of all that 'Time Lord Victorious' power-rush when he tries to outrun the cloister-bell at the end? Never mind the knocking....

And the trailer. Blonde Master / evil skeleton Master? Rusty unable to leave the Noble family narrative alone. All manner of doom. Here's to January!

TV review: Collision reviews - first without spoilers, then scroll for spoilers

Spoiler-free comments
Collision had very distinguished cast, led by lovely Douglas Henshall (John Tolin), and with fine work as well from the likes of Paul McGann (Richard Reeves) and Lucy Griffiths (Jane Tarrant). With multiple storylines centred on a crash, tracking back and forth from before the crash to the event itself and then its aftermath and the investigation, it was of course a very British take on the Oscar-scooping film, Crash. I rather liked that film, but acknowledge its weaknesses and that it was very unpopular for winning the Best Picture Oscar over Brokeback Mountain.

Perhaps my liking of 'Crash' and my love of Dougie's performances meant I was more inclined to go with the narrative structure of this 5-part ITV drama (aired in other countries in two parts). With Horowitz in the driving seat - I've recently been watching some of his earlier work on Poirot - there were plenty of twists and turns, but I'm not sure how convincing it was in the end. Still, Cloud watched it with me quite eagerly, was keen enough to do a double-back on the ITV catch-up on Thursday when we missed the start due to having been out at a cello concert, and watched the finale in my absence. So that has to be worth something.

Personally, episodes 3 and 4 were the high points, but with one of the central storylines wrapped up by the end of ep4, there was a certain degree of anti-climax to ep5.

Anyone watching the show since it first aired a few weeks ago outside the UK (and that includes US viewers who get it on PBS Masterpiece Contemporary) will doubtless note that one core element of the plot from the ending would have made MUCH more sense had the drama been screened in Spring 2009 as originally scheduled*. That alone had me groaning slightly at the ending. But the explanation for the crash...? Sigh.

*I do try to not rant on about distribution issues, but there is something wrong about a UK developed drama starring UK actors not airing in the UK first (though I'd personally be happier with worldwide airing on simultaneous dates as much as is feasible).

My overall reaction: good. Not excellent, as 'Place of Execution' had been (or even 'Whitechapel') but a solid narrative that kept me watching to follow each storyline to its conclusion, even if some were more satisfactorily concluded than others.












Things I liked:
Dougie and his performance - nicely nuanced, though the relationships with both Ann (Kate 'WHAAAAT?!' Ashfield) and his daughter Jodie (Jo Woodcock - excellent performance from her) were a bit sketchy. Not having Jodie reappear in ep5 after the intense conversation with her father seemed odd. Felt the punch to the drunk driver when he forgave Tolin was very 'true' as a reaction as was Tolin's eventual remorse and moving on.

Lucy Griffiths getting on the train - hurrah. McGann may have been playing a fantasist shit but he gave her the inspiration to try to reach her dreams. As Jane tearfully tried to convince the hapless Dave, they wanted different things: in many respects it wasn't even really about handsome Richard whisking her off her feet with his riches and fancy opportunities. She was already not happy before the crash, bulldozed by circumstances into marriage, so it was nice to think she had a chance of breaking free.

Zoe Telford as Sandra Rampton the snooty wife taking no shit from the dodgy garage-based people-smugglers - contrasted with poor Naomi's attempts to get them to talk to her about her husband. Am convinced that Mrs Rampton knew full well the crash driver brother-in-law Danny would not be going further than the scrap yard.

The refugee Tsegga (Cornelius Macarthy) - scathingly noting his English language skills to those transporting him to England.

The Christine/Brian Edwards storyline with the obnoxious mother-in-law (respectively Jan Francis, Phil Davis, and Sylvia Sims) - I was fine with this until ep5 when there was a virtually word for word replay of dialogue from the previous episode (unless I was mistaking a flashback for a new scene). And that annoyed me so much.

Things I disliked:
Tolin ditching the 'journalist' to his fate - it felt somewhat out of kilter that despite 'Taylor' using Karen (and therefore leading to her death), Tolin would willfully leave him be killed.

The wasp ending - oh pur-lease! I get this was about randomness, the small things in life that have big rippling effects, but really. And tho I'll watch it again I'm pretty sure the presence of wasps wasn't there in 'casual' scenes until ep5 which feels like a tag-on for the narrative explanation. UPDATE: apparently there were wasps. I am Ms unobservant.

The heavy-handed 'misdirection' on the Sidney Morris/Norris story - it was actually a nice twist they had (would have been even better if they'd screened in Spring as planned before Star Trek came out) but my God, could they have laden on the paedophile misdirection story any thicker?

Dropping the black characters' crash story first - not racist, just disappointing to see it dismissed first of all the storylines. Just about compensated by the intelligent refugee engineer Tsegga, though it would have been better to see his wife Naomi get some justice from the people smugglers come-uppance.

Would I have watched this without the ever-compelling Douglas Henshall in a key role? Possibly, but also possibly not. There was enough to keep us watching anyway, but I'm not sure if we would have been quite so interested in watching from the start without his performance to pull us in. And if we hadn't watched the first ep, I doubt we would have involved ourselves in the rest. Worthwhile, but perhaps adding up to less than the sum of its parts.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Reviews to come

Sorry. Been ill. Still not fabulous.

Bah humbug.

So, reviews to come on Collision and Doctor Who. Even if I'm feeling rubbish, having such a treat within one week ain't so bad.

Let's hope I recover to full throttle soon. And after all, there's the Hamlet screening in December.... At least I won't be sitting in New Zealand grumbling I've missed seeing it. And the DVD will hopefully be waiting for me on my return.

Just the Specials I'll miss on their initial screening, and at least the DVD boxset looks due to come out early January. Hurrah!.

Friday, November 06, 2009

No voice - now stop laughing all of you!

No voice at all. Had to type to communicate with students. Bonkers.

Doc says not infection - just recommended fluids and voice rest. I teach. Which bit of voice rest does she think is possible in my job?

After one day of being croaky I am now effectively unable to communicate by voice. Lots of hand gestures though!

Wish me recovery.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Twelfth Night: RSC Courtyard Theatre, Stratford Saturday matinee 31 October 2009

Courtesy of the lovely Helen Lisette, Neil and I with Helen headed to Stratford yesterday to see the current RSC production of Twelfth Night. In the wake of having been ill last weekend, hauling myself to work from midweek, and surrendering to the laughter of Mitch Benn on Friday in Nottingham, I was rather running out of steam. However, the prospect of the play and getting to meet lovely Poly G was more than enough to get my energy levels boosted to make the trip (on which note, Poly is just as chic and delightful and Italian Greek* as I had imagined, and it was a real pleasure to finally meet her).

I'd tried, as ever, to stay away from play reviews, but had nevertheless caught a sense of the response to this production of Twelfth Night which seemed to be at best mixed. A colleague from work, a long-standing attendee at RSC Stratford productions, hadn't been best impressed - though her reaction certainly wasn't helped by a dislike of Richard Wilson (even though his character Malvolio makes a very particular contribution to the play, he really can't be called the central character).

So how does this production work? Well, the setting is beautiful - opulent, evocative - and thus Illyria magically conveys its Greece/Turkish/Albania origins. The costumes too, as ever, are delightful - even the 'Joseph-and-his-Technicolour-Dream-Coat' that Miltos Yerolemou as Feste wears works in the context. The music is also entrancing, though perhaps sometimes a little too intrusive: the musical numbers within the play, however, are handled well and with a sensitivity benefiting from a less grand-standing tone of performing from Yerolemou (something which he doesn't consistently manage throughout the play).

Which brings me to the performances. Nancy Carroll as Viola/Cesario is wonderful, and is a stunning twin match for the sweet Sam Alexander as Sebastian (the latter still fondly remembered from his performances in last year's Hamlet and LLL). Alexandra Gilbreath is similarly breathtaking as her Lady Olivia moves from closed off mourning to giddy love, and it is hard not to follow her imaginative leap when Olivia is confronted by the visual delights of the twins: "most wonderful!" The biggest shame is that I really didn't feel Count Orsino (as played by Jo Stone-Fewings) was that big a deal: he seemed a bit 'meh' in terms of any real passionate pursuit of Lady Olivia, and too bland to justify true appeal to Viola. But maybe that's more to do with my limited familiarity with the play - perhaps he's meant to be rather pointless.

Elsewhere, Pamela Nomvete makes the role of Maria neatly spikey and sparky, yet also misguided in her edge of malevolence conducting the downfall of Malvolio. The comedic contributions of Richard McCabe and James Fleet as Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek respectively are as light as they should be, with appropriately suitable shades of darkness and dim-wittedness also respectively. How were Belch's farts done? I really don't want to know... and Fleet really needs to be on his game to nonchalantly place himself in exactly the right spot to not be concussed by a tree.

But I felt less certain about the aforementioned Yerolemou as the Fool: he's clearly massively talented, stature being no inhibitor to graceful movement, sharp physical or verbal comedy or to possessing an incredible voice. But the pacing of Feste's humour sometimes felt too rushed/manic: I know that without familiarity, Elizabethean wit can by-pass modern audiences but I did sometimes wonder if I had just missed something in the direction or delivery of certain lines.

Moreover, whilst Wilson is indeed a fine actor, but I can't help but feel that his Malvolio is just a little too old and Wilson's physique does not lend itself, as perhaps other actors may be fortunate in managing to convey, an inner youthfulness set free when made to be so foolish in love. The ludicrousness of Malvolio's hoodwinked passion is not just that his dour demeanor is replaced by an uncomfortable and unfamiliar use of smiling but that some longing is released by the possibility that the Lady Olivia loves him, and that this possibility is enough to drive him to acts against the grain of his previous tone of behaviour. Though Malvolio indeed cuts a tragic furious figure by the end, I wasn't quite convinced of the journey his character had undergone. And that felt like a slight disappointment. (I also couldn't help but think of the eloquent way Wilson played Eddie Clockerty and his simultaneous tolerance and loathing towards the cantankerous Janice Toner [Kate Murphy] in Tutti Frutti, though that may be apropos of little).

But, overall, this was a really great way to spend an afternoon. I'm slowly clocking up Shakespeare productions (I'm planning to see Winter's Tale when they bring the production back next year, and the new productions of Romeo & Juliet and Anthony and Cleopatra, plus Morte D'Arthur if I can), so it was rather exciting to get another under my belt. And it was good to see another comedy -- Julius Caesar may be good, but it's not known for its laughs and Neil especially was glad on an autumnal day to get some giggles in place.

Anyway, Twelfth Night currently runs at Stratford until 21 November before hitting London from pre-Xmas until late February 2010.

*Clearly my European identification abilities are currently scrambled along with my vocal system. ARGH!