Thursday, January 31, 2008

Read And Right

Awake again last night, well into the early hours, which was a real pisser. Pacing about, this time I figured, forget the bursts of audio-visual stimuli from the BBC iPlayer – there was the chance after all that I could accidentally find myself watching sodding Lark Rise To Candleford or something just as odious. Instead it was time to sort myself out with a book that would help send me off to sleep.

Of course this course of action comes with its own set of problems. Choosing a thriller would be a bad idea. If I took anything by Dennis Lehane or Lee Child off the shelf there would be the possibility I’d still be reading as the first glow of morning light began to seep across the rooftops to the rousing chirrups of the dawn chorus.

Slightly more off-centre thrillers, like Douglas E. Winter’s Run and God is a Bullet by Boston Teran, which I can highly recommended, were books I just wasn’t in the mood for. And it only seemed like a short while ago that I’d read Robert Wilson’s A Small Death in Lisbon, tempting as it was. Instead, deciding it was best to stick with something familiar, I drifted over to the non-fiction bookshelves.

Obviously, at some point, I’m going to get around to reading Gitta Sereny’s Albert Speer: His Battle With Truth and A Bright Shining Lie by Neil Sheehan, but not right now. Instead, wedged between Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition by Ed Regis and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring I found the perfect answer.

The Right Stuff was the result of Tom Wolfe asking himself the question, “What is it that makes a man willing to sit up on top of an enormous Roman candle, such as a Redstone, Atlas, Titan, or Saturn rocket, and wait for someone to light the fuse?” I’m sure that’s something we’ve all asked ourselves in the past. Wolfe, however, went and did something about it.

It’s been a while since I last read the book. Certainly after Philip Kaufman’s film came out, probably after I had a copy on VHS but not since I snapped it up on DVD. It’s important to make that distinction because now that I catch the film on a semi-regular basis, reading the source material has become a whole new experience.

Wolfe took the material from all his interviews – starting with the astronauts gathered to watch the launch of Apollo 17, to the ”many people, pilots and non-pilots, who were intimately involved in the beginning of the era of manned rocket flight in America” – and produced a book virtually bereft of straight attributed quotes. In writing the screenplay, Kaufman had to take the poetic prose and turn it into dialogue, apportioning it to the characters.

So that Wolfe’s...

There was an emergency meeting (what emergency?) of government, military, and aircraft industry leaders to discuss the possibility of getting a man into space before the Russians. Suddenly there was no longer time for orderly progress. To put an X-15B or an X-20 into orbit, with an Edwards rocket pilot aboard, would require rockets that were still three or four years away from delivery. So a so-called quick and dirty approach was seized upon. Using available rockets such as the Redstone (70,000 pounds of thrust) and the just-developed Atlas (367,000 pounds of thrust), they would try to launch not a flying ship but a pod, a container, a capsule, with a man in it. The man would not be a pilot; he would be a human cannonball, He would not be able to alter the course of the capsule in the slightest. The capsule would go up like a cannonball and come down like a cannonball, splashing into the ocean, with a parachute to slow it down and spare the life of the human specimen inside.

becomes, in an early draft of Kaufman’s script...

We learn from our failures, no? Might I suggest what I call my quick and dirty approach? By using available rockets such as the Redstone and our just-developed Atlas we will launch a pod...

A pod?

A container. A capsule. We will be in full control of this pod which will go up... like a cannonball... and come down like a cannonball, splashing down in the ocean with a parachute to slow it down and spare the life of the specimen inside.


No, specimen!

What kind of specimen?

A tough one. Responsive to orders. I had in mind a jimp.

A jimp? What in hell is a jimp?

A jimp? A jimpanzee, Senator! An ape!

Kaufman may have played fast and loose with the facts to create a strong narrative thread, and certainly took every opportunity to poke fun at NASA and the US government. But he got Wolfe’s suggestion that the American strategy to get a man into space seemed solely to recover from what was an embarrassing Cold War public relations fiasco.

Kaufman also clearly understood Wolfe’s assertion that the test pilots were the real heroes and possessors of “the right stuff”. That still included the seven astronauts selected for the Mercury programme as they strove to me more than just a “redundant component” on the sub-orbital and orbital flights.

The other thing you get from the book is that, originally hired to write the film’s screenplay, William Goldman was a complete and utter cock to think that he could simply ditch Yeager and go with Mercury. Kaufman knew Chuck Yeager was absolutely vital. Wolfe certainly did. The book may not begin with Yeager but it ends with his later career. It was Wolfe’s magnificent introduction of Yeager that sold me the first time I read the book:

Yeager had started out as the equivalent, in the Second World War, of the legendary Frank Luke of the 27th Aero Squadron in the First. Which is to say, he was the boondocker, the boy from the back country, with only a high-school education, no credentials, no cachet or polish of any sort, who took off the feed-store overalls and put on a uniform and climbed into an airplane and lit up the skies over Europe.

After hostilities ceased he was sent to Muroc Field (later renamed Edwards Air Force Base) in the high desert of California, the Mount Olympus for test pilots. There he climbed aboard the Bell X-1 and punched a hole in the sky. How can you not mythologize figures like this?

Anyone interested in comparing screenplays adapted from another medium with the source material should check out Tom Wolfe’s book and Philip Kaufman’s film. Kaufman, by the way, wasn’t even nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 1984 Academy Awards.

I was hoping that tonight I’ll get a good seven hours sleep. I think that instead I might still be reading.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Image Is Everything

The Jungle Book may have been the first film that I was ever taken to see at the cinema, but it was Live And Let Die that made the most impact in my childhood and the years that followed. Trips to “the pictures” were infrequent before I hit my teens and, for a brief stretch of time, we were settled in one place.

Before that, and certainly before the years living deep in the countryside, our hometowns simply didn’t have a cinema. Closest was further along the coast, where there was The Savoy (the respectable one) and The Royale (known to pretty much everyone as “The Fleapit”). Of course, with only one screen apiece there weren’t always kiddie-friendly movies on offer every week.

In the years that followed The Jungle Book (which must have either been re-released or seriously taken its own sweet time to make it out to the sticks) came the kind of decidedly average films that spilled out in the early 1970s. During that time the most memorable experiences were seeing Where Eagles Dare, which I was taken back to see a second time, along with, during one summer presumably, seeing Disney’s Pinocchio on a Sunday afternoon and The Poseidon Adventure the very next day. Then came James Bond.

It wasn’t just the thrills and spills that did it for me. Maybe it was because we had arrived early, or, since it was a new release we had to wait in a queue to get in. Whatever the reason, the delay meant that standing outside I got to take in the glory of Robert E. McGinnis’s artwork.

That’s pretty something for an eight-year-old standing in a queue under overcast skies. Artwork like that introduces you to a whole other world of possibilities.

At that age I had no comprehension of release dates. New films were simply advertised in the local papers and would invariably turn up. That was all that mattered. If I remember rightly, they would even mention, in a smaller point size naturally, what would be coming the week after as well.

Back then, before the proliferation of media or media-obsessed outlets, the poster was pretty much the chief advertisement for every upcoming film. The cinema foyers would line up posters for the forthcoming attractions, each vying for the audience’s time and attention. The posters sold the films.

In the years that followed I’d be entranced by the work of John Alvin, Drew Struzan, Richard Amsel and Bob Peak. Later on I would discover the poster art of the great Saul Bass, even though I already knew the name from numerous film title sequences (another thing I was starting to pay attention to).

Nowadays posters aren’t as interesting. They’re pictures of the stars, or artless composites of photographs put together by some little spud with a working knowledge of Photoshop. We know what the films are already about, so what’s the point?

One thing does puzzle me though. Back in the 1980s, when compact discs began to replace vinyl, CDs kept the original record cover art but just made it smaller. Obviously, given the credits striped in, film posters would need some form of adaptation when reduced in size. That said, I still can’t figure why so many DVD covers are just so spectacularly fucking awful, particularly when it comes to the studios’ back catalogues.

These were the films that actually had good poster art when they were originally released thirty, forty or fifty years ago. A couple of years ago 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment came up with their Studio Classics range, while last year Paramount released a series called Paramount Originals, which used original poster artwork for the DVD cover. Both series were devoid of extras, which perhaps points towards the problem.

With so many DVD special editions and ultimate editions and collector’s editions coming out in succession, each release obviously needed new artwork, much like authors’ novels being reprinted with new releases. With original film artwork varying with different international poster campaigns, surely they could find something better than letting some talentless cock-knob lose at the computer.

One of the worst examples has to be the two-disc Star Wars trilogy DVDs comprising of the original theatrical version – new to shiny disc – and the special editions from the late 1990s. Maybe the earlier special editions’ boxset used the posters familiar for each film for their individual covers. That still doesn’t go towards excusing the utter fucking abominations used for the two-disc release.

What kind of brainless cunt decided that it would be a really good idea to take the famous poster illustrated by Tom William Chantrell to promote Star Wars’ international release and reproduce it – badly – as a photo collage? A couple of months back I stood in HMV considering buying the two-disc DVDs of both Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, but ultimately rejected getting them because the covers were so goddamn awful.

Of course in the end it’s really the film that matters, which meant I also didn’t pick them up because they’re pretty much childish nonsense that I’m way too old for. The same can’t be said for Chinatown.

A bona fide masterpiece, I hadn’t bought Chinatown on DVD simply because for so long the only disc available featured the film and fuck all else. Now however, a Special Collector’s Edition has been released by Paramount Home Entertainment (UK) that includes three documentaries, in total close to an hour in their running time, featuring contributions from Roman Polanski, Robert Towne, Jack Nicholson and Robert Evans.

Unfortunately the earlier bog-standard disc had already used an adapted version of the original film poster. Which meant that something new had to be produced for the Special Collector’s Edition of Chinatown that would equal Jim Pearsall’s glorious original artwork. At least you’d think that’s what they would try to aim for given a film of such stature and wide regard.

So, how the merry hell did they end up with this?

Was the work assigned to a special needs class? It looks like someone ran a used tampon through the photocopier! If this was the best they could come up with, how utterly absymal were the other options?

More importantly, without any knowledge of the film in question, would that cover entice you to watch it?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Watch And Yearn

My sleep patterns have been wildly erratic of late. On the one had it’s been a real pain in the ass, on the other it has given me a chance to cosy up to the BBC’s iPlayer .

Reading keeps me awake so rather than pace about the apartment on the nights I’m unable to get my head down, instead I’ve been catching up on programmes I’ve missed over the past weeks. Some were good, some bad. When I was at a loss for what to watch, there was always, thankfully, an episode of QI.

Whether because it was late at night or that I wasn’t that choosy, I found myself watching shows that ordinarily I probably wouldn’t see like the Paul Morley-fronted documentary Pop! What is it Good For? It may have had good intentions but rapidly descended into the most spectacular pretentious twaddle I’d seen in hours, though not before Morley revealed his interesting theory that all great pop songs are great if you can imagine them being sung by Elvis.

The Horizon episode, How To Kill a Human Being was a remarkable investigation by Michael Portillo into the science of execution. Checking out the pros and cons of lethal injection, hanging, the gas chamber and the electric chair, the former Conservative MP went looking for a humane and painless way for the state to kill criminals sentenced to death.

The result - inducing hypoxia through inert gases may allow prisoners to die peacefully, in a state of complete euphoria – certainly was a way that least resembles murder. Once he had an answer, Portillo seemed taken aback that not everyone agreed with the possible practice. There were still people who, believing in “an eye for an eye,” want the killers to suffer as they leave this world.

By midweek I had pretty much given up with the television schedule, knowing that any programme on the BBC channels could be watched another time. Wonderland: The Secret Life of Norman Wisdom Aged 92 ¾ certainly benefited from being able to pause and walk away from for a couple minutes. I was never really a great fan of Norman Wisdom. He always came across as someone who craved attention and even now, in his dotage, was seen reaching for a microphone like it was a crack pipe. Every chance he got, he’d warble that sodding Don’t laugh at me ‘cause I’m a fool song from 1953’s Trouble in Store.

Now middle-aged, the children wanted to known for who they were, rather than as Norman Wisdom’s son and daughter. When their father’s full-time carer decided to retire and the kids had to find a way to look after their ailing father, initially the daughter came across as rather a hardened old bitch, putting the well being of her dog over that of her father’s. After nearly thirty minutes in the company of Wisdom, I was surprised she hadn’t trained the dog to attack.

Whether it was the onset of dementia or whether he was just lost in the ego of his own celebrity, the final scenes of the documentary were the most telling. Standing outside the school with his daughter-in-law, waiting to collect his grandson, Wisdom waved at all the parents driving in to pick up their kids. “Do you know these people?” the daughter-in-law asked. “No, but they know me,” he replied. In the end it worked out. Wisdom went into a care home where he had a captive audience while his children got the rest of their lives back.

Documentaries and insomnia aside, the iPlayer had allowed me to catch the final episode of Sense and Sensibility, which had clashed with The Best of Top Gear the night of its actual transmission. Then I watched The Best of Top Gear again because it was piss funny with Clarkson, Hamster and Captain Slow trying to drive across the Channel to France in their homemade amphibious cars, The Hamster trying out motorhome racing, and Clarkson twatting around in the Peel P-50, which has to be the funniest damn thing from last year.

There’s also Doctor Who repeats which seem to be a staple of BBC3's listless schedule. One night – or more specifically, in the hours of the morning – I watched the second part of the story about Daleks in 1930s New York. God, it was awful. Now I have the opportunity to see the new series of Torchwood twenty-four hours a day. Given how juvenile and darn right pathetic the first run was, I doubt I’ll succumb. In fact, I’d rather get a gob job from a girl with a mouthful of razor blades and broken glass, which, I guess, pretty much makes it clear where I stand.

Of course while the iPlayer lets people download shows and store them on computer for up to 30 days, I can only watch the programmes, streamed online, during their allotted seven-day post-transmission window. The reason being, the file sharing and digital rights management technology the BBC use is so far only compatible with Windows XP and Vista.

At least the streaming option makes it better than Channel 4’s 4oD which pretty much says, if you’re using Mac OS X, fuck you! Actually, it just tells me ‘Sorry 4oD is not available on this platform’ but that’s not really very Channel 4. Of course I’d much prefer to miss the programme completely that trade in the Mac for a piece-of-shit PC with Microsoft software.

So that just leaves me with the BBC. Although, for a program that isn’t wholly compatible with Apple computers, doesn’t it seems a bit rich of them to call it iPlayer? Anyway, I'm back off to bed.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

On The Way

The new year typically brings a new television season filled with all manner of programmes clamouring for the audience’s attention after the bloated indulgences bulking up the Christmas schedules. Naturally, as with everything, it’s a typically hit and miss affair.

Too often the repetitious trailers can be off-putting, well before the programme airs, by tiresomely piling on all manner of flash, bang and codswallop, like shaking brightly coloured baubles in a baby’s face. Then there are shows that place the importance of story and character above spectacle...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Storming The Beach

After three weeks off the gaspers, now that the cough and cold have abated, I was surprised to discover my sense of smell had suddenly returned. This would be a gift if I was living on the coast or rolling countryside. Here, in London - not so good.

We’re still many months away from a potential stifling hot summer, where everything gets a little gamey and ripe, and so far I haven’t come across a dead guy covered in urine, but with the bursts of torrential rain, a journey on crowded public transport is suddenly like being smothered by an old dog that rolled in something on the way back from a long walk in the driving rain.

Bad as that is, nothing could compare to the noxious odours coming from the first offerings of the new television season. I haven’t been watching much of anything, certainly nothing on ITV, so I don’t know if the channel had been hyping the shit out of the double shot of Moving Wallpaper and Echo Beach.

It may have looked inviting on paper – Moving Wallpaper a half-hour sitcom about the making of Echo Beach, the half-hour soap opera that follows immediately after it in the schedules. Like a lot of things, between the idea and the execution it went arse over tit. In practise, the two shows were the typical steaming pile of dog toffee from a screwed pooch.

Moving Wallpaper was supposed to be a sitcom, except it was spectacularly unfunny. Echo Beach played like a horrendously poor drama. I don’t watch soap operas, but it doesn’t mean I’m not aware of them. Foreign shows in this category may be different so perhaps there were a whole lot of references I was missing, but I don’t remember soaps having extended helicopter shots and indie music blasting on the soundtrack.

Of course, that may not be the point. Is Echo Beach supposed to be a pastiche of a soap? It certainly wasn’t a parody in the vein of Victoria Wood's Acorn Antiques, with its flubbed lines and dodgy sets. Watching the first episode, rather than grin at the references laid down by the episode of Moving Wallpaper before it, I wondered what a viewer flicking channels and unaware of the postmodern, nudge-nudge, wink-wink dual-show connection would make of it.

The biggest offender though was Moving Wallpaper, which was just fucking dreadful. Jennifer Saunder’s sitcom The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle, set behind-the-scenes of a daytime talk show, was so spectacularly atrocious that I didn’t think the depths could be plumbed any further. Moving Wallpaper may have been filled with in-joke references, but they weren’t jokes.

The out-going producer pathetically head-butting a framed photo of Michael Grade? Nope. The in-coming producer spending the design budget having a wet room installed in his office? Nope. Writing stories aimed at categories of the British Soap Awards. Nope. Susie Amy, appearing as “herself”, offering the megalomaniacal producer a blowjob to get herself a line of dialogue on the show only for him to mishear it as “snowjob”? Fucking hell no! Twenty-two minutes without one goddamn laugh has to be some kind of record for a sitcom.

It would be hopelessly unfair to compare Moving Wallpaper to the likes of 30 Rock or The Larry Sanders Show, although the storyline in episode two about the useless PA circulating copies of the show’s budget and staff salaries amongst the staff was played up better in a 1996, fifth season episode of The Larry Sanders Show. Even Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was a whole lot funnier and that was ostensibly a drama. Put it up against the BBC's Extras and Moving Wallpaper appears so woefully thin it’s virtually transparent. In fact, as shows about putting on shows go, even The Muppet Show towers head and shoulders above it.

If writers are supposed to write about they know, the opening episodes could only have been scripted by people completely new to the medium and hopelessly out of their depth.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Big Red Is Back!

Having said that unnecessary sequels bug the hell out of me, there are always exceptions.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Magic Goes Away

Ex-sex is not always a particularly good idea. My first time was with The One That Got Away. We had a great night together, reconnecting after so many years. I entertained thoughts of us getting back together. She sent me an invitation to her impending wedding.

The second time was well over a decade later – which goes to show that there are some lessons I simply don’t learn. This time it was with the LA animator. Two thrusts in, I realised it was a bad idea, which put me in an awkward position.

The reason for these admissions is the reason I can’t get it up for the upcoming Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. In much the same vein, so many years have gone by, with so much water passing under the bridge since the last encounter, that in all probability the magic will have gone away.

Raiders of the Lost Ark was “Pret-ty, pret-ty, pret-ty, good,” as Larry David would say, ably riffing on the old Republic Pictures serials and finding the perfect balance between cliffhanging thrills and spills and laugh-out-loud gags. Of course once it makes money that opens the door for sequels/further adventures, trying to do the same but different, attempting to capture that same initial excitement and exuberance for an audience already wise to the characters and potential situations.

Listening to the tales producer Bob Watts used to regale us with on the making of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom during the production of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, apparently they had a much better time filming it than the audience had watching it. The “prequel” sequel was far too shouty and dark. Sadistic on one hand, cloying on the other, if not outright racist in places, Temple of Doom was certainly patronising to different cultures.

Compared to the powerful Ark of the Covenant from the first film, the Shankara Stones in Temple of Doom were frankly just rubbish. Trying to regain some of the Biblical mysticism from the first film, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade may have centred on the grail quest but ultimately rested on the stunt casting of Sean Connery and relied too heavily on slapstick. Last Crusade also had to contend with some of the most appalling un-special effects work from Industrial Light and Magic.

While it may not have come close to matching the initial adventure, Last Crusade at least had the very good sense to sign off with the traditional serial ending, with the reconciled adventurers riding off into the sunset. So why bring it all back nineteen years later? After Bourne and a revitalised Bond, what will the generation born after Raiders of the Lost Ark first appeared on cinema screens make of it all? For those of us who did catch it the first time around, do we want to see a grey-haired Harrison Ford creek and groan through the expectant set pieces?

Last summer we had John McClane resurface after a twelve year absence with Die Hard 4.0 (or Live Free or Die Hard depending on which territory you lived in). Though it had its moments as an action film – driving a car up into a helicopter, for instance, or the sequence with the SUV in the elevator shaft –as a Die Hard film it didn’t exactly cut it.

Die Hard had a great concept: A New York cop locked in the top floors of an LA office building with a bunch of terrorists. The lone fly in the ointment concept was so good that it inspired, amongst many films, the only Steven Seagal film I can stomach to watch – Under Siege. Although when he says, “I’m just a cook!” I still reply, “No mate, you’re just a cock!”

Part of the appeal of Die Hard was that, aside from what was going on separately outside, the hero and villains only had a couple of floors, air ducts, and the roof to run, hide and fight in, making the sense of confinement integral to the story. Which meant that with Die Hard 2: Die Harder set at Dulles airport, Die Hard With a Vengeance sending John McClane around New York City then up the Hudson River Valley to Canada, and the fourth film played out around the middle section of the Eastern Seaboard, the impact of each successive film was lessened as the playground grew in size, until it left the wisecracking hero cracking wise and surviving more and more absurd stunts.

Change the name of the protagonist from John McClane and the sequels could easily have been your average action movies written for someone else. It came as no surprise that Die Hard With a Vengeance started life as a Lethal Weapon sequel, especially since McClane pulls Martin Riggs’ trick of dislocating his shoulder to escape being tied to the explosives.

Did we really need another Die Hard film? Back in 1998 the fourth Lethal Weapon film was a tired, unwelcome addition, only put into production by Warner Brothers to plug the gap in their summer schedule once Superman Lives and I Am Legend, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, ground to a halt and were put into turnaround.

The studio decision meant that the film had to go into production without a final script. Director Richard Donner was reported to have said, “I am confident I will have a finished script by the end of principal photography.” By the time Lethal Weapon IV appeared on screen, Riggs, who had started out psychotic and nihilistic in the first movie, was softened and domesticated, falling back on easy laughs around old-fashioned stunts.

Still, at least the Lethal Weapon series got as far as a fourth film before the audience tired of it. Looking back over the last decade or so, there are far too many good films whose memories are sullied by startlingly bad sequels filled with the kind of indulgence and excess that only success can bring.

While The Matrix and Pirates of the Caribbean are perfect examples, the worst offender by far has to be The Mummy Returns. Ignoring the wonderful goofy charm and Boy’s Own daring-do adventure of the original, instead it proved that bigger doesn’t mean better by favouring a tortuous story that amounted to absolutely nothing combined with possibly the worst special effects sequences ever.

Seven years on, we now have The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor to look forward to. While Brendan Fraser and John Hannah remain onboard, the rest of the cast and crew are new and the action relocates from Egypt to China. Whether it will be able to recapture the spirit of the original remains to be seen.

Whereas Kingdom of the Crystal Skull takes place nineteen years later on screen, setting the action in 1957, one thing Tomb of the Dragon Emperor has going for it is that the story kicks off fourteen years after The Mummy Returns, allowing O’Connell and Evelyn’s son to be a twentysomething adventurer rather than the whining little brat from before.

Perhaps perversely, the one sequel to appear long after the first film that I really like is nowhere near a match on the original. Then again, the film in question is The Two Jakes and the near flawless Chinatown was always going to be a hard act to follow, especially without any contributions from Roman Polanski.

In Robert Towne’s dark history of Los Angeles, Chinatown was concerned with water, The Two Jakes with oil. If everything had gone to plan, a third film, set in the 1950s, would have revolved around a conspiracy involving the city’s transportation system - although Who Framed Roger Rabbit ultimately beat then to the punch on that one.

With Richard Farnsworth’s Earl Rawley nowhere near as monstrous as Noah Cross and given relatively little screen time, the conspiracy remains on the periphery. Instead The Two Jakes shifts into a tale of living with past regrets. On that level it works even if directing and acting, Nicholson hopelessly bungles the all-important last line of the film.

For all its faults, The Two Jakes remains a far better proposition than The Godfather: Part III, released the same year. As a wholly unnecessary sequel that one just blew. Along with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor comes another Rambo and another Terminator. Necessary? Really?

My third and final experience of ex-sex came pretty much after the relationship folded. Adamant that we weren’t seeing each other anymore, the out-of-town lawyer used to pop round on weekends to see how I was doing. Once here she’d decide to take a bath and then, when she was naked in the tub, ask for a cup of tea. After a while I had to ask her to stop turning up on my doorstep because she was doing my head in.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Holiday's End

Already the New Year seems to be going by way too fast. Yesterday afternoon the Delightful LA Actress called to hook up before heading back home, the holiday almost over. Rather than head in and quickly grab some sushi before they scooted off to the theatre that evening, I opted for breakfast at the hotel this morning, even if it meant an early start to get there in time.

The girls were still packing and then, when they finally surfaced, headed out for bagels instead, giving us more time to talk. Over coffee and eggs we chatted about her roles in a couple of upcoming independents, her run-ins with producers who decided that arbitrarily ditching scenes still to be shot was a way to stick to their shooting schedule. I mentioned a few ideas for scripts I’d been doodling with and then we discussed the nature of happiness for a little while and had a good laugh about it.

By the time we were done the DLAA’s daughter and friend were ready to spend their last few hours in London spending the last of their money. We escorted them to the department stores and then sat back and watched as the minutes ticked by. In that time it gave me the opportunity to find out what she looks for in scripts and discovered why, as a viewer, she couldn’t connect with The Sopranos. On the way back to the hotel I mentioned the Iowa caucuses and didn’t get any of the answers I expected.

As the car taking them to Heathrow pulled up and I carried the bags out, I realised that, with all the shopping for the teens, we hadn’t had a chance to go to a bookstore and shop for each other. She needs to come back soon. Especially since not long after their plane took off for LAX it started bucketing down here. There was also something she mentioned about a producer or production company having money in place to make some short films and were looking for scripts. I guess I really should have paid more attention to that part.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

That Sinking Feeling

There’s always the chance that some good things may come from bad situations. Christmas in Devon may have sucked big time, but it meant that I missed the Doctor Who episode.

Actually, that’s not strictly true. Thankfully back from my sister’s on the day, I flipped on the set and caught a couple of minutes. It looked a little bit cheap and a lot of stupid. And allowed little stunt-cast-Kylie to prove that she still can’t act. I switched it off.

There didn’t seem to be a point to carry on watching it. I could have, and then spewed on about just how fucking awful it most probably was. But why make the day worse, right?

I’d started getting riled once the first trailers showed that the Titanic that crashes into the TARDIS wasn’t the White Star Line’s RMS Titanic, built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast. Instead of the passenger liner that set sail from Southampton on April 10th, 1912 on her maiden voyage to New York, it was a spaceship in the shape of the Titanic.

Maybe there was a decent explanation somewhere in the show as to why the spaceship was in the form of the Titanic – though frankly even I doubt it. As soon as the first brief clip appeared on television, all I could think of was Douglas Adams’ Spaceship Titanic.

So already it began with a stolen idea. Then came the indication that it was a disaster movie in the vein of The Poseidon Adventure in space. Would it really be too much trouble for Russell T. Davies to try and come up with... oh, maybe an original idea for a change rather than pinch other people’s material?

Then, with the transmission date inching ever nearer, came this article in The Times magazine by Cackling Moron, one of the worst offenders amongst the hacks who furiously wank off over how utterly fucking brilliant Doctor Who is.

Is there a complete blind spot to this programme or do I simply not get it? Yesterday evening I was watching Untitled on DVD, Cameron Crowe’s extended cut of Almost Famous. In one scene, toward the end of the movie, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Lester Bangs says to the young journalist William Miller, regarding the article he has to write on the band Stillwater: “But if you want to be a real friend to them -- Be honest and unmerciful.”

Nobody seems to want to be honest with Doctor Who, let alone unmerciful. The default setting on what comes out of the mouths of the show’s producers is pure, undiluted hyperbole and everyone else appears to go along with it without question.

Obviously the genre magazines suck up with unstoppable fervour because, in all practicality, they need access, or just simply want to be friends and invited to the party. Worse, the more mainstream magazines and broadsheets have joined in to fawn unreservedly rather than cast a critical eye.

Can people really call it the best of British drama and still keep a straight face?