Saturday, April 24, 2010

Twenty Twenty-Ten Vision

Twenty years ago today, as part of the thirty–fifth mission in the Space Shuttle program, the crew of Discovery deployed the Hubble Space Telescope in a 380 statute mile orbit. Because nothing succeeds as planned, once operational, the initial images revealed that the telescope had a serious flaw with its optical system due to the primary mirror having been ground incorrectly. Too flat around the edge by 2.2 microns, the flaw created a severe spherical aberration.

Although the HST could still carry out its observations, it wasn’t until December 7th, 1993, during their almost seven–hour fourth spacewalk to upgrade the telescope that the mission specialists of the shuttle Endeavor installed COSTAR, the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement system, to correct the bleary-eyed primary mirror. Since then the images regularly sent back have been utterly astonishing.

To celebrate Hubble’s twentieth anniversary, NASA, ESA and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore have released a new photograph detailing a portion of the Carina Nebula. Even more astonishing than the classic “Pillars of Creation” image from fifteen years ago that revealed stars forming in the Eagle Nebula, this latest image shows towers of cool hydrogen laced with dust, three light–years–tall, rising from the wall of the nebula. Eaten away by the brilliant light from nearby stars, the pillar of gas and dust is also being pushed apart from within as infant stars buried deep inside fire off the jets of gas streaming from the towering peaks.

For more information visit the Hubble site. In the meantime, Happy Anniversary Hubble, you magnificent bastard!

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Idiots Have Landed

I should have suspected that Clash of the Titans was going to be an absolute fetid pile of dog toffee the moment it kicked off with a dreadfully lumpen prologue. Explaining in far too much detail who the key Gods were, and preparing the way for the eventual coming of the Kraken, it laid all the cards out on the table in such a crass way that I wondered if, before donning the useless 3D glasses, I was meant to have driven a stiletto through my frontal lobe.

Of course that might be an unfair assertion because I had a Latin master at prep school who would ease us into the week by setting aside the declensions and their cases and instead spending the Monday morning lesson teaching us about Roman History. So from an early age I knew about the Gods and their mythology, and subsequently their Greek counterparts. Soon after an introduction to the Norse myths came simply from reading issues of Marvel Comics’ The Mighty Thor. Whether most kids get that kind of introduction today is another matter. With so many distractions and the little feckers running riot most teachers have enough trouble trying to instil the three Rs without complicating the basic curriculum.

So there’s nothing wrong with a brief introduction per se. Disney’s Hercules – which covered some of the same territory and had an infinitely better Hades, voiced by James Woods, as opposed to Ralph Fiennes taking a big cheque to wear a bad wig – set the stage with The Muses introducing the characters in their song and dance number. But at least that opening was there from the get go. I neither know nor care if Clash of the Titans had a troubled production but on screen, as it stumbled through a seriously fractured narrative, the prologue seemed like the product of a radical re–edit, similar to The Golden Compass, whose introduction spelt out so much about the parallel universes connected by dust, the witches, Gyptians, alethiometer and the Magisterium that it seemed pointless to carry on.

Since a mainstream film’s structure has long been in the hands of the twerpy young Angelenos that make up preview audiences as much as the filmmakers, I wonder if detailed prologues are going to become a regular fixture for future releases. I mention this because last week I was staggered to read a blog post from a resident of LA who had watched The Eagle Has Landed and hadn’t been able to make sense of it. Released here and in the US in 1977, John Sturges’ adaptation of Jack Higgin’s novel featured German paratroopers being dropped into Norfolk with orders to kidnap Winston Churchill and deliver him to Berlin. It’s basically Ealing Studios’ Went the Day Well? – itself based on Graham Greene’s short story, The Lieutenant Died Last – but with a more clearly defined objective.

This girl’s issues with the film were actually twofold. The casting of American, British and European actors as German characters threw her to begin with, especially since Robert Duvall (wearing what she described as a “stereotypical German uniform”) spoke with a very clear German accent while “another guy” dressed in an unfamiliar uniform, which she believed was a German naval uniform, spoke with “a very distinct British accent”. So when they discussed kidnapping Churchill her confusion of the differing accents led her to think the British guy was a spy. It got even more confusing when Michael Caine eventually appeared on screen, speaking in “some kind of hybrid accent and wearing a completely different unfamiliar uniform”, and “saving Jews from concentration camps”. To confound her even more, “[t]hen Donald Sutherland shows up and speaks with an Irish accent. But he’s actually playing an Irishman.”

Given that The Eagle Has Landed is regarding as a classic Boy’s Own wartime adventure yarn, and not exactly particularly taxing on the brain, my initial response was to simply laugh like a drain at the sheer depth of stupidity on display and forget it as best I could. But one thing that still rankled was her mistakenly labelling all the German characters as “Nazis”, so after digging out the DVD, which had come free with one of the nationals some time back, and watching it again to refresh my memory, I tried my best to put her right.

The way I saw it, the ignorance of youth was to blame for her confusion rather than the production, especially when it came to not knowing that not everyone in Germany during the Second World War, either in the services or simply civilians, was a member of National Socialist German Workers’ Party, or that in the armed services there was a difference between the regular Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS – with the former not always seeing eye–to–eye with the latter. Many of the war movies made during the 1960s and 70s, such as The Guns of Navarone, would show tensions between the high-ranking regular army officers and the token member of the SS, and The Eagle Has Landed was no different, actually using that divide as a plot point.

Still she did recognize the regular officer’s uniform Duvall’s Oberst Radl and the other guy – who was in fact Sir Anthony Quayle – was indeed wearing a naval uniform. Though how he was dressed might not have been as familiar, the fact that he was continually addressed as “Herr admiral” might have been a bit of a give away. In the same vein, Michael Caine’s Kurt Steiner and his men were established as decorated paratroops before they make an appearance and travelling through Poland, obviously on the way back from Russia, were outfitted in reversible winter uniforms. Even if each of the main characters was wearing something entirely different, all were decorated with the Iron Cross or Knight’s Cross and there were enough insignias on display to make the point that they were all German.

As for the accents, it always seems to be an unwritten rule in these films of such daring–do that English actors would usually just add a slight Germanic lilt to their voice if they were playing one of the beastly Hun. It didn’t always work, and in The Eagle Has Landed Michael Caine’s mangled pronunciation of Berchtesgaden is always good for a giggle, but that’s the way it goes. Since it was also commonplace to have at least one or two American stars to help sell it to American audiences, those actors tended to elicit a much stronger affectation to disguise their own native accent. One thing Robert Duvall’s accent has going for it is that it doesn’t have anything like the formal, and occasionally distracting, pronunciation used in his portrayal of Dr Watson in the Nicholas Meyer–scripted The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, made in the same year.

And as for a Canadian playing an Irishman with an Irish accent, there’s little else to be said about that. But I did wonder if she had the same problems watching the more recent Valkyrie, which had any number of Brits playing German officers and Tom Cruise starting out in the light–sand coloured uniform of the Afrika Korps. Leaving the BFI Southbank last Friday, I mentioned this to a couple of the people in attendance as we stopped for a quick drink before I headed on toward Piccadilly to meet up with the Persian Princess who had been attending an event at BAFTA, and their immediate response once they finished laughing was, this poor girl better not see Where Eagles Dare then. That would put her in a whole world of brain hurt.

So I sent a response, which duly appeared in the comments followed by her reply that it was “all well and good but [filmmakers] cannot possibly expect [their] audience to know that much about any era if [they] want them to enjoy a film. I shouldn't have to study before I go see a movie.” One of her other grievances had been that “the beginning of the film was so talky. They keep naming characters who aren’t in the scene so when we finally meet those characters I’m not sure – is this the guy they were talking about? Is he German too?”

Aside from Churchill, I thought the only character who is really talked up ahead of their entrance in The Eagle Has Landed is Caine’s Oberst Kurt Steiner. But watching the opening ten or fifteen minutes of the film again Radl and his aide and Quayle’s Admiral Canaris, name–check Hitler; Himmler (who makes a brief appearance onscreen, played with a weasel–like intensity by Donald Pleasence); Goebbels; Mussolini; Göring and Karl Jung (and it would be doubtful we would see him taking up arms). I know it’s sixty–five years now since the end of the Second World War, but aren’t those names, and most of their faces, still familiar?

How soon will it be before producers and directors making any kind of period film have to bolt on an explanatory prologue because a clueless younger audience simply can’t get the gist of what’s going on? If this girl doesn’t know, then she doesn’t know and it’s not her fault. Although the most alarming aspect about her having difficulty in following this particular plot is that while trying to make it as a screenwriter she has a day job as a teacher. So if we have to suffer the ongoing infantilization of cinema, maybe the first thing to do is blame it all on the schools.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Restraining Order

Of all the movies being released this year, one of the few I was really looking forward to seeing was the remake of Clash of the Titans. I’d grown up being solidly entertained by Ray Harryhausen’s astonishing stop–motion animation, and to this day still find myself entertained by the likes of Jason and the Argonauts and the trio of Sinbad movies, but there was always something about the 1981 original, sadly his last film as special visual effects creator, that made me not bother to revisit it after the initial theatrical release.

It certainly wasn’t the animation that was at fault, rather the pratfalls and whistling of that mechanical owl, Bubo, had bugged me all the way through. Blue screen rather than back projection was employed, showing the joins that the new technology brought with it, and the lighting of the scenes that would have the animated creatures inserted into them later on in post–production made the live action look soft and far beyond a second generation copy. Maybe it was simply an age thing as, being in my mid–teens at the time it arrived in cinemas, I was far more critical in my younger days. Although watching it again just recently I was far more forgiving of most of those early criticisms, except of course for the damned owl.

The remake appealed because, since we seem to be in an age where every big movie is almost required to ram computer generated imagery down our throats, classic mythological creatures would be a darn sight better than what usually gets served up. In the different drafts of the script that have been floating around over the last year or so, Tiamat’s appearance in the Great Hall of the Basilica of Joppa is decribed:

Tiamat, Queen of the Deep, floats forward, parting a sea of cowering celebrants. The folds of her liquid cloak billow to the sound of SURGING TIDES. All eyes follow her. Perseus sees his first Olympian.


Tiamat tears off her cloak, which scatters to a fine mist. THE GODDESS STANDS NAKED. The skin of her luscious body glaws with the frigid bioluminescence of a deep sea creature. Swirling fins in lieu of hair. Sublime and terrifying.


Clouds of blank sea–ink swirl and swallow Tiamat, then implode. Tiamat is gone.

And that was before it even got to the Stygian Witches, Medusa, and the Kraken. If animators with only a fraction of Harryhausen’s talent could be employed to create the roster of characters, the end result might have been well worth watching compared to brainless robots bashing the cogs off each other, buildings coming down around the insignificant lead actors, and the load of old bollocks that took place on Pandora. When the teaser was released it actually looked quite promising. But then the second, longer trailer arrived, which started to sow doubts, until finally the damning reviews came, including ones from people whose opinions I respected.

I was happy to write it off like many other movies I was initially eager to see but soon gave up on, but come Friday I found I had some hours spare during the day. A meeting at the BFI Southbank to discuss the feasibility of a future project, originally scheduled for mid–afternoon, had been pushed back to almost the end of the working day. Though the switch had come well in advance, rather than at the last minute, I’d done everything I needed to do and still headed off into town earlier, stopping at the local multiplex on the way in. If I had any sense I would have stumped up to see The Ghost instead.

You can pray that what appears on the page will find its way to the screen, but on this occasion the Gods certainly weren’t listening. The shooting script had changed dramatically, with the final draft obviously written by someone who mainly worked in crayon. And who the hell decided to cast a right plum who had even less charisma than the already charisma–free Harry Hamlin in the role of Perseus? Then there was the treatment of the Gods. Still, at least there were Gods involved, unlike Troy, which eradicated all reference to the deities in Wolfgang Petersen’s worthless adaptation of Homer’s Iliad.

Whereas in the earlier Charles H. Schneer/Ray Harryhausen productions had the occupants of Mount Olympus milling around when they weren’t meddling with the fates of men, here the Gods were placed on weird podiums like they were contestants on some bland game show. Having previously portrayed Sir Gawain in John Boorman’s Excalibur, and from the look of it still wearing more or less the same suit of armour, Liam Neeson appeared to be more perturbed that, while he had moved up in the ranks and taken charge, some bastard had snuck in and stolen his Round Table.

I suppose these grievances could have been put aside if the creature effects had been half decent. Amongst the two hours of frenetic nonsense there were a couple of decent scenes – one near the beginning where the harpies coalesce into Hades, and then later there were a few nice moments with Medusa slithering effortlessly through the ruins of her lair – but everything else simply paled by comparison to the original. The scorpions formed from the spilt blood of Calibos may have been far bigger than before but they certainly weren’t better, and though the original Kraken may have looked like a cross between a steroid Creature from the Black Lagoon and the Ymir from 20 Million Miles to Earth, it still had more personality than the indistinct collection of tentacles and teeth that rose up in the new version.

Trying to make sense of what I had seen – and days later still wondering what the hell happened to Liam Cunningham’s character – I can’t understand how such an epic story turned into an epic fail. How could they get it so horribly wrong? There were certainly issues with the narrative – and especially how the story was set up, which is perhaps best left for another time – but surely the real problem with Clash of the Titans was down to the ham–handed direction that wildly swung between lacklustre and frenetic, and the equally schizophrenic quality of the effects work.

If Clash of the Titans initially appealed to me it was because with only the one Medusa, one Pegasus, one Kraken, along with the trio of scorpions, the film wasn’t going to be awash with thousands of computer–generated individuals zipping around the frame simply to make up for the lack of character and plot. Of course this also meant that one failing of Clash of the Titans was that there was only the one Medusa, one Pegasus, one Kraken, along with the trio of scorpions. With those creatures the sole focus of their particular scenes the animation had to be top notch, and for the last two creations it sorely wasn’t.

Back when I was young and (even more) foolish, I’d line–tested some animation for Dick Williams. Stepping back and watching the results, I’d made some comment about the character zipping across the screen looking just great. Dick had put me straight by explaining that a fast–moving character was easy. The hard work when into one that was moving at a slow and serene pace. While some of that was evident with Medusa, the damn scorpions looked like the animators who had been manipulated in the computer never once bothered to study the actual arachnids’ motion beforehand.

Whether this below par animation had something to do with it or not, the whole muddled scorpion sequence that failed to establish where anyone was at any given time looked like it had been sliced together by a four–year–old with advanced ADHD. In fact the direction overall was generally awful, and the distinct lack of film grammar only made any kind of sense when I later discovered that the maroon in charge behind the camera had previously inflicted upon the world The Incredible Hulk – a retched load of nonsense whose only saving grace was that it was slightly less retched than Ang Lee’s earlier Hulk.

With more and more technology available, it’s become more and more apparent that there are film directors out there who shouldn’t be allowed to get their grubby little mitts until they can prove their worth by making movies that don’t rely of spunking bone–headed CGI nonsense all over the screen. Luckily there are some directors who use limited amounts of computer imagery in the service of the story without making a song and dance about it, but as for the rest, they should be rounded up and herded into an empty underground bunker with the words SHOW RESTRAINT painted on every wall. Only when it sinks in and they finally get it will they be allowed out to go about their business.

Back in the 1980s I was really taken by Tim Burton’s early films like Pee–Wee’s Big Adventure and Beetlejuice. In fact I saw the Pee–Wee Herman movie twice in previews before it went on general release, and now that I think about it the second time around was my very first date with The One That Got Away. Once his talent was embraced by the major studios and given bigger films with bigger budgets it all went to hell. It was easy to see coming. Having started out as a junior animator at Disney, it was evident Burton was far more interested in kooky characters and quirky production design rather than niggling things like a serviceable plot. While the outrageous stop–frame animation of those earlier projects had a certain charm to them, once he bought into the computer technology employed in the making of Mars Attacks! there was no holding him back.

The same can be said for James Cameron. Smug beyond belief about all the new technology he has had a hand in directing, it still can’t disguise the fact that his best film is still Aliens. Avatar may have won the Academy Award for Best Achievement in Visual Effects – and, bizarrely, Best Achievement in Cinematography, which had to be the most public pity fuck in human history – but Ripley in the powerloader suit, angrily trading blows with the Queen Alien, was far better than the climactic standoff between Quaritch in his ridiculous ampsuit and the Giacometti smurf.

That’s not to say the props should henceforth come out of the Blue Peter studio, having been cobbled together from empty washing–up liquid bottles, the cardboard tubes from toilet rolls and a couple of coat–hangers, all held together with sticky tape and string. But less money and practical effects require filmmakers to be more creative rather than simply kicking back and let the pixels take the strain. Pissing around with motion–capture animation may have been all fun and games to Robert Zemeckis but when his films, with their freakish character designs, didn’t bring home the bacon Disney pulled the plug on ImageMovers Digital, with its eventual closure putting 450 people out on the street.

Maybe a tighter lease and a couple of zeros knocked off the end of the studio cheque will make a number of once decent directors stop acting like kids that have run riot in a sweet shop, scarfing down everything they could get their hands on and having a massive sugar rush that sends them batshit crazy, and get their act together. Although if the scenario took place I wouldn’t doubt Burton, Cameron and Roland Emmerich – whose films are about as entertaining as being cracked in the face with a breeze–block – would end up starving to death in that bunker while everyone else learns a valuable lesson.

And when that’s sorted out we can turn our attention to this bullshit retro–3D process. Gussied up after the fact like an ingénue thrusting her new implants in our faces to get herself noticed, instead of 3D it should be labelled 33DD, with the audience appearing as the biggest tits of all for paying the extra to get an eyeful of the unnecessary enhancement. Before leaving home I’d been rooting around at home for a clip–on bunny tail – which is a whole other story in itself – and found a number of the eye masks Virgin Atlantic give out to passengers who want to sleep through the long–haul flight. Frankly I wish I had taken one of those along with me on Friday afternoon instead.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Short And Sweet

Just as my abject fury over intrusive computer generated imagery bollixing up mainstream modern cinema is reaching critical mass, along comes Patrick Jean’s short Pixels to take it down below the red line. Obviously it won’t last, but for the moment, enjoy.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Back From The Brink

Up until Thursday it felt like the joke was on me. There have been brief bouts of insomnia to contend with in the past but nothing this sustained. Though I never quite reached the point of making homemade soap with an imaginary friend, by the beginning of this last week I felt like I had accidentally ingested a horse tranquillizer by mistake.

Hoping against hope that the switch to British Summer Time would help me snap out of it, there was no such luck and I’d still be up to watch the black of night fade to an indigo blush. If I was lucky I’d get a few, almost uninterrupted hours sleep during the night, but those instances became increasingly rare. Instead I’d manage a brief catnap either late morning or early afternoon and spend the rest of the time in a wearisome daze. As debilitating as that was, at least it was fortunate I currently had the recently delivered containers of material to sort through.

While it’s more convenient nowadays to obtain information from the internet – although it then takes time to cross–check facts from a number of independent and accredited sources to guarantee it’s validity – there’s nothing better than poring over actual documents and clippings, carefully sifting through them all to find out which are useful and which are not. One of the best discoveries, although peripheral to what I’m working on, was a bound cardboard folder entitled ORIENT LINE RECORDS OF A VOYAGE. Held inside its canvas pocket were various articles pertaining to a Mediterranean cruise, from 23rd May to 9th June, 1930, onboard the SS Orion.

The contents included the PASSENGER LIST and GENERAL INFORMATION FOR PASSENGERS with its powder blue cover, the dinner menu for 3rd June and the luncheon menu from five days later, and the programme for CINEMA IN THE BALLROOM AT 9.15PM (for passengers from First Service only). There was also the printed LIST OF PRIZEWINNERS from the numerous sports and entertainment events that took place over the course of the cruise, including Chalking the Pig’s Eye, Bird Guessing Competition, Tipping the Life–Buoy and the Cigarette Race.

Obviously these various cards and booklets could have been scanned and uploaded as pdf files to be read just as easily. But almost eighty years old now and somewhat mottled with age and worn around the edges, it was just fascinating to careful lay them out on the desk for careful examination. Also given to each of the passengers was THE LANDSMAN’S LEXICON, a 32-page booklet intended to “help to add to the pleasure of a voyage by Orient Line”. Along with sections on Ships of the Past and Navigation, the latter half of the booklet was taken up with a Nautical Glossary.

On the last page was a list of “old seafaring expressions [that] still lurk unrecognized in our language”. Included there, which I didn’t know the origin of, were:

The “devil to pay”

To paint or tar the “devil”, an inaccessible plank on the ship’s side; cf. “between the devil and the deep blue sea.”


Very smart boys who were employed in “nipping” the cable to another rope connected to the capstan when the anchor was being weighed.


Upwind, and therefore difficult for a sailing ship to approach.

I’m sure it would have been more intriguing if I hadn’t been so zoned out going through it all. Maybe I’ll go back to it sometime next week. I wondered how long this mental state was going to go on. Come April Fool’s Day I was scheduled to meet up again with our delectable Persian Princess and was hoping I’d be able to string a sentence together at the very least. I also had to make the effort of suggesting where we could meet up and then where to go rather than leave it all to her, otherwise it would look like I couldn’t be bothered.

So that meant trying to remember which pubs I used to frequent back in the days when I was a young scamp. Giving it a couple of minutes thought I was floundering badly and had to turn to the Good Pub Guide’s website. Picking a central region of town and then scanning through the customer comments of the higher–rated establishments listed, there appeared to be a clear division between the sexes and what they were looking for on their night out. The women who responded would paint a wonderful picture, praising the pub’s atmosphere, the pleasant demeanour of the staff and the fact that their drinks hadn’t been spiked with whatever date–rape drug was circulating. Everything would appear perfect until, with a final brush stroke, they would daub, “But the toilets are an absolute disgrace!”

The men, however, didn’t seem to give a fig if the Gents smelt like a mackerel fisherman’s gusset on a hot summer afternoon at sea. Most were simply aggrieved that there hadn’t been a pint of Garibaldi’s Peculiar Winkle available at the pumps. Instead they had to settle on supping from a glass of Old Barnaby’s Hairless Muskrat and grumble about how it reminded them of the time their ailing donkey was given a Worcestershire sauce enema, and frankly that won’t do at all. In those instances, finding sick on the stairs seemed to be something of a bonus. Neither helped.

So we chose a central location with a number of decent pubs in mind. Of course with the Easter Weekend bearing down on us the working week had come to an early end so most were packed full to the gunwhales, with SRO if you were very lucky. At least my suggestions were. The Persian Princess knew where she was going and soon we were settled in a relatively quiet banquette. Meeting up with the usual crowd on those few occasions, a couple of the characters refuse to sit. It may be that they imbibe so much they fret whether they’ll ever get up again. In those situations it’s easy to step outside for a quick gasper, whereas in this instance the rulings of the Health Nazis put us in a bind.

To spark up we had to move on, puffing away on the trek between watering holes. There was every danger that would leave as two sotted ruins come the end of the night. Luckily we ended up on a balcony overlooking Covent Garden’s Piazza, in a pub that, since my first days at The Esteemed School of Art, I had always thought of as being jammed with obnoxious, braying poltroons. But obviously they had moved on, so we stayed. After skipping off again for something to eat, we ended up alternating between Underground platforms, heading in different directions and seeing whose train would come first.

After all this, once again getting the last bus north from Marylebone, I fell into bed and slept for a good seven hours. Waking up on Good Friday I figured this might just be a fluke, but then the next night and the next night and last night I’d retire for a decent sleep. I figured my head was already getting back onto its natural plane after watching the first couple of minutes of the final series of Ashes to Ashes and yelling, “Utter bullshit!” at the television. Since then, taking it relatively easy over the holiday weekend, I got to catch up on the second series of Simon Russell Beale’s Sacred Music and watch the new episodes of Wallander now that I was able to pay attention to the subtitles.

Other than that it was a case of looking back over the last few weeks and see what I’d missed. With all the continuing ails in the world, one of the biggest brouhahas seems to have been the BBC’s decision to appoint Claudia Winkleman as the new host of the Film programme. Criticizing her for not having the proper critical credentials and being too lightweight doesn’t seem to hold water because, quite frankly, that never stopped the outgoing incumbent. Frankly I would have been happy with a sock puppet or even one of the firemen from Trumpton if it meant getting that witless ass–clown off the television screens.

I’m not saying that she’s the very best choice. At a push my vote would be to rehire Barry Norman, and that’s not simply biased toward the fact that I’m still in possession of my Film 80 tee shirt, even though it’s now a few sizes too small. The news of having young Winkleman in the chair didn’t seem to be that big an affront to so many sensibilities once the BBC quickly pointed out the show’s format was going to change, bringing in industry experts and studio guests. Hopefully they will include appearances from the reviewers everyone expected to get her job in the first place, leading to a discussion of a new release’s merits to give a more reasoned judgement, rather than relying on just the opinion of a sole presenter.

Still, with newspaper and magazine reviews, along with trailers and any number of film clips readily available on the internet, what is the value of a television programme based around film reviews (and the odd location report or painfully short feature)? To keep the Film programme relevant they’ll have to do more than simply replace the presenter. But at least getting rid of a prancing popinjay who goes easy on his industry “mates” is a start.