Thursday, September 27, 2007

It's Christmas!

I popped into the M&S Food Hall next door to get something for dinner tonight. Meandering up and down the isles I came to a display of Christmas cakes and Christmas puddings. It’s not even October and they’re on the shelves already!

I mentioned to the lady at the check-out that we were still in British Summer time, and they had Christmas cakes out. “People have been buying them,” she said, before leaning forward and whispering: “the advent calendars came in today.”

A little bit premature, wouldn’t you say?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Knocked Down

Have I lost my sense of humour? I caught Knocked Up over the weekend and didn’t particularly find it all that funny. Sure, there were some good gags, most of which had been shoehorned into the trailer, but apart from the guy’s blunt response to the girl announcing her pregnancy – which I’d already seen - I don’t think I laughed out loud once.

Maybe the film was just too long with too much time spent on establishing character rather than firing off funnies. Maybe I just didn’t get it. But in the past year there have been numerous instances where I’ve slipped a comedy into the DVD player and then ejected the disc after the first ten minutes or so and chosen something entirely different. When it comes to repeat viewing, probably only Groundhog Day and Shaun of the Dead made it through to the end credits.

If I’m in the mood for chuckles I tend to go with TV, by which I mean the Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm boxsets, and The Larry Sanders Show – something with bite that delivers the jokes and doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Am I missing something, or does anyone else feel that a lot of the new comedies just aren’t delivering?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Wronging Rights

Channel 4 screened The Manchurian Candidate last night. That’s a spectacular movie, deftly balancing political satire with a truly nail-biting thriller. The disorienting brainwashing sequence is an absolutely astonishing piece of film-making. Having grown up watching Angela Lansbury play dotty old dears in the likes of Bedknobs and Broomsticks, seeing her as the steely, politically ambitious player was a revelation.

The only problem was, it wasn’t John Frankenheimer’s 1962 Cold War masterpiece but the godawful fuzzy remake directed by Jonathan Demme that just seemed to waste a lot of good acting talent. However topical and relevant they tried to make the script, the remake just lacked the visual flourishes or novelty of the original.

Once again the question of why old films are being remade rears its ugly head. Is it just down to an extended poverty of original ideas? When films like Dragon Wars and Resident Evil: Extinction get made and released that pretty much answers the question right there. Then again are these new films for a new audience?

Either way, it isn’t going to get better. recently posted a list of the movies the studios are prioritising before the impending Writers Guild, Directors Guild, and Screen Actors Guild strikes next year.

Disney has Robert Zemeckis lined up to remake A Christmas Carol – probably using that creepy animation style he’s become so inexplicably attached to.

Sony have Tony Scott set to violently smashcut his way through The Taking of Pelham 123.

Fox has hacks-for-hire Roland Emmerich and Scott Derrikson set to mess on the science fiction classics Fantastic Voyage and The Day The Earth Stood Still respectively.

Over at Universal Robert Rodriguez is going to do the really nasty to Barbarella.

Any one of these would have the average moviegoer of a certain age screaming, “NO! NO! NO!” but it gets worse.

Warner Brothers are planning to remake Robert Aldrich’s The Dirty Dozen.

The director attached is Guy Ritchie.


Friday, September 21, 2007

The Quiet Moments

In the early hours I’d taken a break from the monitors and gone outside to spark up, standing in the still warm night air, looking up at Orion shining down through the breaks in the cloud, taking time to mull things over.

Hours later, once the computer was powered down, I figured there was time to head into Central London and trawl through the bookshops. As a plan it was workable, if I had taken into account the time of day.

I got into town earlier than expected, too early in fact, so breakfast seemed like a good idea: a proper breakfast, which meant finding a proper old caff rather than some gussied up sandwich bar or coffee shop that advertised different coffees or the availability of fucking ciabatta bread.

I very rarely eat a cooked breakfast. In fact I’m probably still recovering from eating at a Denny’s close by Cape Canaveral which stomped hard on my arteries – and that was over eight years ago. Right now I needed the fuel.

It took a while, wandering around the empty streets on the northern fringe of Covent Garden, before I found the right kind of place – where the bacon looks like it came from a pig that didn’t go down without a fight, the accompanying coffee is so damn strong it makes your pubes spike on end, and brickies come in to order a selection of bacon and sausage sandwiches, teas and coffees to go.

Even after that – with the smoking ban no longer affording the luxury of sitting back and nursing the coffee once the last of the egg yolk was mopped up with a round of toast - there was time to kill before the stores opened. I went for a wander. The annexe of The Esteemed School of Art where I served my three-year sentence was pretty much just around the corner. For a long time now it has been an H&M clothes store, but the building remains.

Going to work, going to meetings, or simply joining people for social occasions, the concentration is always on getting from A to B. Without that distraction, with traffic still remarkably light and the first wave of office drones the only real pedestrians, it afforded me the luxury of just taking in the surroundings I rarely paid any attention to.

I ended up in Soho Square, sitting in view of St Patrick's Church, solving The Times sudokus while a gardener wandered around ineffectually blasting a leafblower over the grass, and hoping that I wouldn’t bump into any of the TACs*. With everything else to do, I’m behind on the script and I have doubts. Not that it isn’t good enough, but that, as a character piece, it isn’t different enough from what else is already out there and what has come before.

There’s always the need for new product that the audience can feed on but... how can I put this? I don’t see the point of having your name up on screen just for the hell of it. Anyway, I didn’t get the book I was looking for. Instead I went to an HMV then a Virgin then another HMV before heading home. Each time I was very bad. But it was for reference. Honest.

* Work out the acronym if you want. I really can’t comment.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Weak End

Getting up every morning at five o’clock wasn’t the problem I thought it would be. Reminding myself the night before that I had to be up at five each morning was. Midweek I’d find myself still at the computer, catching the end of Newsnight before realising I should already be in bed.

An hour later, up here on the northern edge of London, the streets remained preternaturally quiet to what I was used to. In the cloudless sky, already tinged with the faintest pre-dawn light, Venus shone hard and bright above the horizon.

The early start was down to a training schedule for a new job. That, coupled with the influx of work from the pharmaceutical companies, means Work Buddy and I have the opportunity to – as he put it – "suck hard on their money cock" and make a relatively obscene amount of hard cash.

Just before taking on the work I turned down the offer to write for this new magazine. The people were nice but their word rate was startlingly pathetic – half what I was getting in the past. Until I’ve properly settled into the work, spare time is probably going to be a luxury. I’m already behind on two projects as it is. I want to write, uninspired magazine articles don’t factor into that equation.

Speaking on frittering away precious time, I spent two hours that I’ll never get back watching Sunshine. Maybe I missed something, but was that it?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Funny How?

After doing so well last week, British Film Forever was back to its usual tricks. Finishing the seven-week run by focusing on British comedy at least the inappropriate narration that has plagued the documentary series occasionally fitting with the subject matter.

For the most part the final episode seemed to be going through the motions before running out of steam. There were some glaring omissions – for instance, the Will Hay films made by Gainsborough Pictures – but it ticked off most of the boxes.

Comedies are always tricksy buggers because not everyone finds the same thing funny. Luckily they didn’t dwell on the long-running Carry On... series or the Norman Wisdom films made by The Rank Organisation, movies that I’ve been able to watch straight-faced since my early teens.

Actually, there is Carry on Screaming! which still makes me smile. The fact that Sid James isn’t in it is probably the reason why. Although Talbot Rothwell’s name always crops us as writer of the series, Norman Huddis wrote the first half-dozen films before he headed over to America to write for TV dramas from The Man from UNCLE to Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and a far better pay cheque.

With far less of the lazy and obvious innuendo and double entendres that the later films relied heavily upon, the series didn’t start off half bad. As for the Wisdom films, with him constantly acting the prat and running about shouting “Mr Grimsdale!” before dolloping on the sentimentality... you have to hand it to the Albanians, they put up with a hell of a lot.

With the end-of-the-pier humour and seaside postcard smut out of the way, Sauce, Satire and Silliness: The Story of British Comedy turned toward more clever fare, which meant paying due reverence to Michael Balcon, who oversaw the run of post-war Ealing Comedies; the Boulting brothers’ marvellous satires, like I’m All Right Jack, that mercilessly jabbed at traditional British institutions; and Launder & Gilliat’s anarchic St Trinian’s films.

Once it reached the 1970s, when nothing good could really be said of the cheap sex comedies and rash of big screen versions of television sitcom favourites, the episode started to run out of steam. George Harrison’s Handmade Films made a significant contribution to British comedy, first by rescuing Monty Python’s Life of Brian after EMI withdrew funding and then producing Bruce Robinson’s Withnail and I.

Since the latter’s humour came from character and situation rather than simply jokes, the programme seemed to show an interminably endless selection of clips to prove it was funny without really contributing to the show. If the film had only been shown at one cinema in London upon release, it must have been the Odeon Haymarket, which was where I caught it in early 1988.

Because the rom-coms from the 1990s onwards had already been covered in the Romance episode, after A Fish Called Wanda and Bill Forsythe’s magical Local Hero, Sauce, Satire and Silliness seemed to be grasping for material. The Full Monty had been showcased in the episode on Social Realism but was dragged out again. It only seemed to be there as a stepping-stone to East is East and Bend it like Beckham, and then the show was over.

Of course the episode wouldn’t have been complete without some serious muckraking. This episode, the easy target was Peter Sellers. Everyone knows Sellers was a bloody monster. Maybe he lost himself so completely in the multiple roles that he simply forgot who he was. The fact remains, Sellers had a remarkable talent that still puts him head and shoulders above the screeching divas that exist for no particular reason nowadays.

Unless she holds a spectacular grudge, having specialised in playing ditzy blondes in Carry On movies, Boulting satires, The Pure Hell of St. Trinian's, and even the Confessions films, I’m sure Liz Fraser had a lot more to say about British comedy that what a difficult bastard Sellers was to work for. Unfortunately those were pretty much the only clips used.

Whether it was bad timing on the part of the schedulers or the programme makers seriously wanted to stick the knife in, 8th September, the day this final episode of British Film Forever was transmitted, was Peter Sellers’ birthday. Had he not died of a heart attack in 1980, he would have been 82 years old. Some celebration...


That didn’t exactly go according to plan. The weekend away was scuppered the moment I had to collect and sign for a package on Saturday morning. Inside were the contracts to sign for Monday, a massive great company handbook to read, along with all manner of forms that had to filled out in advance, and a list of the documentation to take with me.

Ordinarily, this would be easy. In the flat are three four-drawer filing cabinets filled with just about everything relating to my life and work, from the birth certificate and exam certificates to hard copies of script drafts and magazine articles and the published issue. Along with contracts and correspondence from previous companies, and even schedules from all the commercials, there is one cabinet dedicated to various reference on all manner of subjects from before the availability of the internet.

The material requested should have been an absolute doddle to find, especially since there’s a word document on the computer that lists the contents of every drawer of each filing cabinet. The bottom drawer of the middle cabinet should have provided everything I need. Except there was one tiny drawback.

When I moved flat everything had to come out of the cabinets and be boxed up for the journey. Once I was settled here, it took long enough getting five bookcases worth of books and DVDs back on the shelves. With the three cabinets I just stuffed the files back in the drawers with less care and attention.

By yesterday afternoon I had managed to find my school reports and O-level exam question papers rather than the degree certificates. The problem there is, having not cast an eye over them for a long while, I started sifting through them:

Section C

Fig.2 shows a vertical cross section of a Dutch barn 6m wide. The vertical pillars AD and BC, each 5m high, support a roof whose cross section is the circular arc DPC, where P, the mid-point of the arc, is h m above CD. The point O is the centre of the circle of which the arc is a part. Find an expression for the radius OC of the arc in terms of h.

If h = 1m, calculate:

(i) the length of the radius

(ii) the size of the angle COD

(iii) the area of the whole section ABCPD

Section D

An aircraft starting at a point A sets a course due north. Its speed in still air would be 360 km/h, but there is a wind blowing at 50 km/h from a bearing of 280 deg. It flies at a constant height for 2 hours to a point B. Calculate the distance from A to B and the bearing of B from A. (Assume that the velocities of the wind and the aircraft remain constant).

Find an expression? Will WTF do?

Of course if the sodding postman had actually rung the doorbell on Friday when he came to deliver it, and got me to sign there and then rather than stick a card through the letterbox – which I didn’t discover until after the local sorting office was closed for the day – I could have got all this done before the weekend began and been away.

Do I have an expression for that? FORM!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Comfort Films

The new Autumn schedules are almost upon us, ready to fling a whole assortment of new programmes against our television screens. Typically some of it will turn out to be tat, but to make even that seem more appealing the last weeks leading up to their launch has seen some pretty barren schedules.

With close to bugger all on that takes my fancy, I’ve spent the evenings rooting through DVD collection. Because of the depth of the shelves, behind the rows of cases I can see are a second row of DVDs whose titles I’ve more than likely forgotten. The last few nights I’ve happily dug out little gems like the Scott Rosenberg-scripted Beautiful Girls, Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan and Paul Schrader’s Light Sleeper.

Here’s the thing... When people are asked their favourite movies, titles like The Godfather, The Shawshank Redemption and Lawrence of Arabia, along with films of that ilk are usually flagged up. These are all very fine films for the cinematic palate, but there are times when something a little bit lighter is called for.

If, for instance, I need to cheer myself up I’m liable to watch Rocketeer. Looking for more wham bam action and it’ll probably be Where Eagles Dare that gets picked for sheer enjoyment, or possibly The Rock. As comfort films that lack all pretensions, they pretty much work for me. I’m not a fan of dumb American comedies but I do have two Adam Sandler films on the shelves. One is Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love. The other is 50 First Dates. I have to admit, of the two, it’s actually the latter that probably spends more time in the DVD player.

The one film I tend to pick if there are a couple of hours spare and I just want to bring a smile to my face is the Sherlock Holmes spoof Without a Clue, starring Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley. It’s by no means a great film but, with Caine as a bumbling actor hired to impersonate Holmes by Kingsley’s Watson who is the real brains behind the partnership, it’s more than entertaining enough. There are times when that’s all that matters.

So that’s me done for the week. A weekend away beckons – although there is still work involved – and then, starting Monday, a new job. The number of hours and time of day mean that I can still collaborate with Work Buddy on all the pharma material that is coming in and make more money.

I know most bloggers when they’re taking a break tell you to behave and play nice. Well, fuck that. Name your favourite Comfort Film – be honest, we won’t be judgemental – and then get hopped up on monkey glands and trash the place.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Greetings From Earth

I’m terrible at remembering birthdays, either sending cards late or not at all. I knew it was coming up, and was an important one at that. Typically the usual everyday trivialities got in the way.

Hopefully enough people raised a glass and gave it the proper blessing: Happy 30th Birthday Voyager 1!

Launched from Cape Canaveral on September 5, 1977, aboard a Titan-Centaur rocket, Voyager’s primary mission was to conduct up-close studies of Jupiter and Saturn and their larger moons. It’s sister craft Voyager 2 – which had actually been launched two weeks earlier – would also take in the same two planets but then carry on to Uranus and Neptune.

Voyager 1 reached Jupiter in 1979, making its closest approach in early March and completing its encounter a month later. In November of 1980 it completed a flyby of Saturn and started the long journey out of the solar system.

Although Voyager 2 only followed four months behind in its survey of Jupiter, during which time the two craft sent back more that 33,000 photographs along with all the scientific data, it didn’t pass by Saturn until August 1981. Once complete, Voyager 2 used the planet’s enormous gravity fields to slingshot it on to the next stage of its Grand Tour.

In late January 1986, Voyager 2 came within 50,600 miles of the cloudtops of Uranus, radioing back images and scientific data on the planet’s rings, atmosphere and moons. Three years later and just over twelve years after its launch, Voyager 2 encountered Neptune in August of 1989.

After passing over the planet’s north pole at a distance of 3,000 miles it came within 25,000 miles of Triton. Neptune’s largest moon was the last solid body the tiny spacecraft had the opportunity to study before beginning its long journey out of the Solar System.

Once their primary missions were complete, in 1990 the Voyager Interstellar Mission began as the craft started their long through the outer environs of the solar system. On Valentine’s Day of that year the last Voyager image received was, aptly, a portrait of the solar system.

By February 17, 1998, Voyager 1 broke the record set by the earlier Pioneer 10 spacecraft to become the most-distant man-made object in space. In December 2004, the craft entered the solar system’s final frontier. Voyager 1 is currently 9.7 billion miles from the sun and still travelling at a speed of over 38,000 miles per hour, while Voyager 2 is 7.8 billion miles away.

Electrical power and propellant for the attitude control should be sufficient until 2020 by which time both craft will finally lose the ability to send back valuable data. Before then the craft are expected to cross the heliopause, the region where the Sun’s influence wanes, and interstellar space begins. After that they can both sit back and enjoy the ride.

What’s really amazing is that these two spacecraft, each made up of 65,000 individual parts, are still working at a time when more recent missions to chart our neighbouring planets have failed so spectacularly.

Ad astra per aspera. Not always. Belated Happy Birthday!

Rate Of Exchange

So that’s it, summer’s over. Which means, with Atonement on the horizon, we’re done with the summer movies too. Which is no great loss really. The Bourne Ultimatum aside, I was in no rush to see most of what the Hollywood studios projectile pooped onto the screens.

While this summer the US box office takings broke the $4 billion barrier, over at DISContent Bill Cunningham flags up the news from Len Klady at that “movies in theaters are loss leaders.”

Studios make about 16 percent of their revenues from showing films in theaters, about 47 percent from DVD sales and rentals, and the remainder from on-demand and television.

Apparently I’m not the only one who waits for the shiny disc. And the studios sure as shit know it. For a long time I’ve preferred to sit in the comfort of my own home and watch a movie rather than take a seat in a barn. If I want someone talking during the film it’s more likely to be the director on the optional commentary track rather than a bunch of unwashed proles chomping their way through a bucket of popcorn.

When I caught up with Work Buddy and the Governess last week to discuss upcoming projects, while she was in the powder room we got around to the really important things: Had he seen The Bourne Ultimatum? Had I seen Die Hard 4.0? Each answer was a big resounding no.

I love the Die Hard movies. I don’t even mind the pretty useless second one directed by Renny Harlin. But the low certificate of Die Hard 4.0 put me off. I caught Die Hard 2: Die Harder on its opening weekend in New York, back in 1990. When I returned to England, I watched it again with friends and became increasingly aware of the number of f-words fucking Fox had altered on the soundtrack to garner a lower, 15 certificate from the BFCC.

I could understand the fourth movie being trimmed here and there to get that same certificate in the UK, but to be a PG-13 in the US? That didn’t seem right. Then came word of odd dubbing and even odder edits, and the fact that there wasn’t a signature “Yipee-ki-yay motherfucker!” I mean, what the fuck?!

I’ve already blown off over the past months about DVD special editions, extended editions, and various director’s cuts that appear on sale long after the bog standard theatrically-released version first arrived on disc. Some have artistic merit, others seem to be nothing more than a straight cash-in so the studios can dip into the consumers’ deep pockets again.

One further addition to the range of DVDs is the “unrated version” that can pretty much arrive straight on the shelves without any delay. Either they’re a response to restoring cuts the classification boards demanded, or simply putting back material the studio purposefully took out to get a lower certificate and a wider possible audience.

With more goofing around and gross-out humour in the comedies, lashing more nudity, bad language or violence, depending on your pick, “unrated versions” suggest we get to see material that the likes of the BBFC thought would harm our delicate sensibilities. The fact that it gives the studios a chance to sell the film all over again to a potentially different audience and make more money off the back of it is probably just one of those happy coincidences. Sure.

So I mentioned to Work Buddy that the ‘watered down’ cinema version Die Hard 4.0 pretty much meant an inevitable unrated DVD version turning up, which is what I’d be waiting for.

Well, what do you know? This is the Region 1 DVD.

I don’t doubt we’ll get the same opportunity over here. So am I either incredibly prescient or just a total cynical bastard?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Bad And Sinbad

Thank you very bloody much, RMT. The one day this week I have to be at a meeting and the union calls a sodding three-day strike that shuts down virtually all of London Underground.

Even if I got a mainline train in, I wouldn’t be able to get the tube over to where I needed to be. Instead I took two buses there. Wary of how long it would be with the increased traffic, I ended up arriving almost an hour early. Still, it gave me a good chance to write like fury, dependent on the potholes.

To make up for the general aggravation, once home I put my feet up and started working my way through the three-disc DVD boxset of Charles H. Schneer and Ray Harryhausen-produced Sinbad movies: The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.

The stories may be a little bit corny at times and occasionally lack the pace required in today’s movies, but that’s all part of their charm. And they whup the likes of Dreamworks Animation’s lame Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas when it comes to pure imagination.

More importantly there’s the stop-motion animation that brings a gallery of exotic and deadly creatures to life. Audiences may want everything done on a computer these days, but Harryhausen’s painstaking work still astonishes.

A couple of years back, just prior to the release of Peter Jackson’s King Kong, a job Work Buddy and I were doing involved filming a brief interview with Harryhausen. Because of the time restrictions and how the material would be used there was only really time for the most rudimentary questions.

Because he was sitting, to keep his eye level right for the camera, I ended up having to kneel before him. It only seemed right.

Monday, September 03, 2007

What Have We Got To Look Forward To?

As the overripe summer gets dribbles away, dummy mummies queue up in stationary shops for all the back-to-school materials their mouth-breathing spawn will fail to use. After an equally extended dry spell of culture, The Sunday Times helpfully provided, what they consider, the 100 best autumn arts events to get the scent of and wag our tails at.

If you’re too apathetic to get out for the likes of Der Ring des Nibelungen at the Royal Opera House and the RSC's King Lear and The Seagull, Brian Wilson back on tour, Atonement and Ratatouille on the cinema screens along with The Times BFI London Film Festival, or even the reopening of St Pancreas station, The Knowledge on Saturday, also listed the television shows television shows to watch out for.

Aside from what they say, what else is there to look forward to?

The final season of Battlestar Galactica.
The final season of The Wire.
The final season of The Shield.

Then what?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Went The Show Well?

For five weeks, British Film Forever has been an absolute hotchpotch of seemingly random clips, inane talking heads, and bizarre non sequiturs. Suddenly, come the penultimate episode concentrating on the long tradition of British war films, the documentary makers got their act together and got it just right.

As it turned out, the ill-judged snatch narration accompanying the clip from Reach for the Sky was really the sole misstep in what was, for the first time in the series, a well-made and perfectly constructed programme.

The comment that, while Hollywood was built on Westerns, the UK film industry had its foundations in war films seemed apt. From such a large back catalogue, Bullets, Bombs and Bridges: The Story of the British War Film picked an amazing array of relevant examples that, for the most part, steered clear of the whiz, bang, “Come on chaps, we’ve got the Hun on the run!” variety of movies that shot their way towards a happy ending.

Instead it began by creating a logical thread that faultlessly connected the bravery and ingenuity of The Dam Busters to United 93 – the latter a movie I hadn’t pegged as British until I remembered it was produced by Working Title’s Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner – and then ran put together an expert narrative that continued to put the films in context. It was good to see the Crown Film Unit given its due with Humphrey Jennings’ Fires Were Started and Pat Jackson’s Western Approaches.

Having spent time in the Imperial War Museum Archives researching the Royal Air Force Film Production Unit, it was a pity it too wasn’t mentioned, especially since their final production, Journey Together, was written by Terrance Rattigan and the first feature directed by John Boulting. But then you can’t have everything. With a 90-minute running time there’s only room for so much and it was interesting to see the more offbeat choices like Chicken Run joining the POW movies The Wooden Horse and The Colditz Story, and Peter Watkins’ The War Game contrasted with The Bed Sitting Room.

When it came to the talking heads more directors had their say than usual, which was a good thing. Al Murray’s observations may have seemed a little uncomfortable at times, given his xenophobic Pub Landlord persona, but it was inspired to bring in Steve Bell, celebrated political cartoonist for The Guardian, to discuss Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove.

After The Red Shoes was pretty much fobbed off some weeks back, this time Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger got the praise they richly deserved. I know I bang on about them every chance I get, but when you see the originality and artistry they employed to put across what were essentially propaganda pieces, the work looks all the more remarkable.

Whether it was the earlier 49th Parallel or ...One of Our Aircraft is Missing, made to show the resilience of the Dutch when it came to helping downed airmen, that begins with an empty bomber returning across the Channel, or the later The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and A Matter of Life and Death which both leapt off the screen with their colour and vibrancy, the films the pair made during the wartime years can only be described as an astonishing achievement.

I loved the idea that, if ever it came time to change the National Anthem, Eric Coates’ iconic Dam Busters March would be the perfect substitute. (Oddly enough I’ve heard suggestions that America should take up Bill Conti’s Oscar-winning theme for The Right Stuff).

The only question that remained after all was said and done was, why oh why couldn’t the previous episodes in the series have been made with the same due care and attention?

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Lost Weeks End

It’s been a weird couple of months on the writing front. In the time set aside, it gradually slowed to a crawl and then pretty much ground to a halt.

There was work to do – a rewrite after getting notes that nailed the flaws. While new scenes and revisions, including a whole new opening, eventually covered page upon page of foolscap, somehow I couldn’t translate it to the computer. Then work on another project never got beyond scrawls on paper, even though there was already a detailed story treatment.

I could say it was “as if the characters had gone away or simply decided to sit this one out and I couldn’t hear their voices in my head.” Putting it in such a pseudy artsy-fartys way would mean having to douse myself in a piss and petrol cocktail and leap into a raging fire.

Whether it was simply the uncomfortable heat that permeated the summer nights in the city or simply the typical worries of real life intruding, the first couple of sleepless nights turned into prolonged insomnia. Once that kicked in, what writing was done was usually scribbled in the early hours after pacing around the flat, putting down on paper different variations or versions of the same scenes.

Two things helped drag me out of the hopeless pattern: a lot of encouragement from Potdoll who I discussed the story’s plot with in emails, and the Red Planet Competition deadline. Of course, while I may have not physically progressed in writing the script, the story had been rolling around in my head for so long that come Thursday morning, when I sat down to write those first ten pages it was a much easier process.

By late afternoon they were done. Rather than dance around the room as planned, I went out for the evening. Before leaving home I had emailed the pages off to Potdoll, to prove that I had finally got back in front of the computer. And bless her, returning home I found a return email giving me absolutely perfect notes.

After a good night’s sleep, a brief re-write later and it was done. There was even time to streamline the initial ten pages of an existing script, paring the description down and quickening the pace to a degree that, stupid as it sounds, I couldn't read quick enough to keep up. Once done, that went off too.

A weird couple of months, as I said. God, it feels good to be back writing.