Posts from 28th March 2005

Mar 05


Blog 7Post a comment • 333 views

with apologies to, um, everyone really…

All pets are quite useless according to Terry Nutkins
Petra 1962 to 1977
Freda the Tortoise 1963 to 1979
Get Down Shep! 1971 to 1987 RIP
The Littlest Hobo 1958 to 1985
Jack and Jill, Maggie and Jim, Willow, Kari and Oke
Gentle Ben 1967 to 1969
Flipper 1964 to 1968
Skippy, Mr Ed only 21
Free Willy
Champion the Wonder Horse 1955 to 1956 RIP
All dead, yet still alive
In endless time, endless pet art

Masters of their arts
Gordon The Gopher 1988 to 1994
Air Bud 1, Air Bud 2, Air Bud 3
Mungo and Midge 1969 to ’70
Goldie, Goldie’s Baby
Bonnie 1986 to 2001
Most Valuable Primate 1999 to ’04
All the Cats on You’ve Been Framed, RIP
Clarence the Cross-eyed Lion 1966 to 1969
Garfield ’78 to ’04
Trigger, Silver, Roly, Mr. Mistoffelees
Elsa the Lion 1959 to 1964
Tarka the Otter 1919 to 1924
One Man and his Dog 1976 to 1999
Lassie, Snowy, Eddie RIP
All dead, yet still alive
In endless time, endless pet art

Rin Tin Tin 1954 to 1959
Freeway 1979 to 1984
Greyfriars Bobby 1858 to 1872
Digby, the biggest dog in the world, Black Beauty
Ethel’s Little Willy 1984 to 1992
K9, Snowball 1, Scooby Doo, Scrappy Doo, Walt Disney’s
Incredible Journey RIP
All dead, yet still alive
In endless time, endless pet art

a form of electricity we know nothing of

Do You SeePost a comment • 304 views

a form of electricity we know nothing of

i. the van
my family lived in a tiny flat crammed inside a roomy educational institution far out in the country: until i wz five (1965), the only transport was the staff van (actually there were two, white bedford vans, for taking students to relevant marshes or mountains or woods, or just to and from the station at start and finish of their course); and until i wz seven (1967) the only TV wz downstairs in the staffroom… which means that the first DR WHO scene i remember i must have seen down in the staffroom. i remember it bcz it featured a white bedford van, being driven by a rebel, with the doctor’s grand-daughter susan, being chased through a wood by the huge, looming dalek flying saucer — at the last possible moment they jump out and hide in rhododendrons as the van is blasted to nothing… when a staff-member went shopping in the van, i often got to ride along, strapped into the vast three-person passenger seat: in summer we drove with the doors slid open, and i watched the roadwise flashing by between my feet. it wz all very grown-up and exciting, and i wd eye the sky slyly also, alert to be first to spot the flying saucer and calculating how much time we’d need to leap free and skitter to the safety of the rhododendrons (in Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD, the film version of the original tv series, the van is NOT a white bedford van sadly)

(like this except white)

ii. dreams of the blitz
the backdrop to Invasion Earth is a bomb-shattered London, a notion probably more powerful to the young (and not so young) adults involved with the film than we quite take account of, moaning a bit complacently after the fact about the clumsiness and inattention and plain lack of RESPECT the movie shows for the “idea of dr who” blah blah: after all, some reaches of london still lay bomb-shattered into the late 70s… what seems to have worked into the heads of at least sme of the actors is the following question: HOW WOULD BRITONS HAVE REACTED IF THE NAZIES HAD INVADED AND TAKEN OVER? yes yes a fierce indomitable patriotic resistance movement, this goes without saying: but of course the meatier invention happens in the area of collaboration and treachery, and the two best characters are loyal to no one but themselves, committed to their own survival above all, and thus – as played – unreadably ambiguous: the great Philip Madoc’s leather-coated spiv, sinister and unflappably amused, and Sheila Steafel’s “Young Woman”, who works with her mum near the dalek mining project mending clothes for their slaves, and turns Susan and the rebel in for food: so far so standard-issue desperate, but as the dalek leads them away, she suddenly grins and giggles: “They wanted to go to the Dalek mines anyway!” And here for a moment well into a film w/o many emotional surprises to speak of, you feel yrself far far out on the ice of human behaviour, spinning and slipping uncontrollably, confronted with something frightening and true and unaccountable…

iii. the dalek in the thames
daleks were a bit unavoidable in the mid-60s if you were a kid, and i honestly don’t remember when i first saw them (possibly an episode of Dr Duck and the Duck-Leks, in Titch and Kwackers) or what i thought of them (i also remember a cousin having a large and intricate dalek-shaped bath-sponge, which i STILL covet): what’s fun abt the dalek emerging from the thames is that it DOES fuck a little bit w.yr expectation, at least if you’d been paying attention in the earlier movie – they travel by static electricity (“of a form we don’t understand”) hence IN the river is NOT where they’re likely to be lurking… not that this movie ever rises to any such sinister playfulness again,. at least at directorial/designated WhoFoe level. Cushing tamps down his cute goofiness, becoming merely boring, an onlooker in his own adventure until the frankly idiotic ending: but here, momentarily, as the dalek rises from the waters, he is dumb-struck and out of his depth and at most a hapless catalyst. It’s abominably realised but it’s the deepest reading, all the same.

ALL of dr who is abt the swirling together of times past and times future to illuminate time present, and the adventures time present (= US, his companions) have discovering what their perspective is on these futures and these pasts. So far so obvious i guess. The vast wrinkle in all this that the story also now extrudes back into its OWN considerable real-time past (and presumably forward into a distant-ish future, too). Cushing “explains” matters to Cribbins thus: “you see, time is the fourth dimension and space is the fifth!” A prophetic bit of script-writer carelessness: this Dr doesn’t have a CLUE (but that’s perhaps as it should be). I always parsed it thus: TARDIS = T&(RDIS) but i think it’s actually (T&RD)IS. The “relative dimensions” being other kinds of TIME: space (as it happens) can look after itself…

I have never really liked Howard Jacobson as a journalist or pundit

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 324 views

I have never really liked Howard Jacobson as a journalist or pundit, but I always quite like his books: in an undemanding comic way (which is very high praise). I have not read many, though one of my strongest geographical prejudices is straight of of Redback which I read when I was 17. In it the lead comes from Warrington, and describes the place as being equidistant between Manchester and Liverpool and all the worst attributes of both. Not knowing Liverpool or Manchester should have rendered this description meaningless to me. Nevertheless the context seemed to get across all that is self-critical about our home towns. They are never as good as the nearest big town, they are always second best. As a Borehamwood boy I had London-envy and Elstree hatred, so loved this piece of writing.

The youthful scenes are what remain of Redback in my head. The Mighty Walzer, a Mancunian ping-pong coming of age comedy, sticks resolutely to this period. Which initially was strange as it seemed that this was to be the story of a life. Instead the book suggests that life is over by eighteen: the period up to this age getting three hundred pages whilst after gets eighty (mainly reminiscing). It shows the growth of a shy boy into a demon table-tennis player and sexual predator: whilst also telling the story of post-war Jews in Manchester. It almost seems entirely closed to the non-Jewish audience, except it stems from the grand tradition of Jewish comic literature that invites you in to laugh and sympathise. And here are all the stereotypes, the tiny matrichal grandmother, the strong women, the sexually perverse son. But talking stereotypes, I have never seen this story, this kind of comic unravelling, set in the UK. Its an American stereotype, and so while many of the tropes are familiar, the setting (and the ping-pong) isn’t. So perhaps it was a story I could have constructed in my head, two parts Woody Allen, one part Coronation Street. But its better that a decent writer did it for me.

Life Is A Miracle = Life Is Bloody Loud

Do You SeePost a comment • 296 views

Life Is A Miracle = Life Is Bloody Loud. There is nothing meaningful in this Bosnia/Serbian satire that is not also accompanied by a cacophonous Wurlitzer soundtrack, a bit of the ultra-violence and some farting. Initially this is rather refreshingly energetic, but relentless energy soon wears you down and at one hundred and sixty minutes this is enough energy to power all of former Yugoslavia.

What also does not help is that this is actually two films stuck together. The first hour is a de facto musical, where the unhappy family are rooting for their son to get called up for a national football team whilst finally finishing the railway the husband works on. And then suddenly, the war starts, the son is conscripted, the opera singer wife legs it and we are thrust into a Romeo & Juliet situation between the husband and an attractive prisoner of war. The second half is much better than the first, possibly because it is a plot that is almost impossible to fuck up. That and the removal of most of the intensely annoying characters from the first half (namely the opera singing wife who seems to be constantly channelling all five of the Three Stooges). Unnervingly domestically violent in places, Life Is A Miracle is nevertheless terrifically entertaining in these latter stages: if your stamina holds out.

It is an interesting break from standard cinematic convention nevertheless which follows Emil Kustarica’s previous films Underground and Black Cat, White Cat. Hi-energy screwball farce is just plain difficult to do well, and no matter how well it is done here there is too much of it. Shave off the first hour with its football match and party set pieces and you have a much smaller, much more focussed ultra-loud screwball farce. It has been a while since I have been so exhausted in a cinema (well, Casshern, but that is a different kind of exhaustion).

TV Diary: everything I watched on 27/3/05

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TV Diary: everything I watched on 27/3/05

Traffic: another one where I hadn’t realised there were subtitles (what is it with American films where not everyone speaks American?). I’m at the computer doing stuff, and can barely read them from here (at least 15′ away). I like the cast a lot, but I suspect my interest in the drug trade is too minuscule to really love this. It kind of drifted past me.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: second ever episode. I had forgotten the roundness of her face in these early shows. It’s pretty straightforward undead action at this stage. I’m slightly surprised that I liked it so much from the start, as bar the odd good line there wasn’t so much to it at this point.

CSI NY: better than Miami, in that I find the star far more tolerable, but he’s no Grissom. I think the CSI franchise may be the best directed regular series TV shows that I have ever seen, spectacular, atmospheric and imaginative. Lots of good acting and thinking too, though there is only the central investigator in each series who isn’t rather underwritten.

Legend of Earthsea: The TV guide I read described this as being in the tradition of Harry Potter, which is interesting phrasing. Obviously it does have a certain amount in common, with the apprentice wizard and several of its details, but it’s set in a fantasy world, not a fantasy offshoot of ours, and is a much more serious and mature piece of work in many ways, if that matters. This is a classy adaptation, and pretty satisfying.

Batman: Mystery Of The Batwoman: for me, this movie-length cartoon is is far superior to any of the live action films – I think I would include ALL superhero movies in that, not just Batman ones. It sets up a mystery, gives us clues and suspects and detective work, and comes up with a surprising answer. There is plenty of good action and a terrific climax, and it looks great, but it also deals with quite complex and interesting moral matters and relationships. It’s the kind of story a good comic might take 20 or 30 issues to tell. Tremendous.

Joey: I always liked Friends, which is obviously what started me watching this, but this is highly lame. Joey worked well with someone given sharp lines, like Chandler, but the smart one here is a geek without great wit, which doesn’t work the same way at all. This is a better than average episode, by virtue of giving Joey an emotional involvement with a woman.

Help: For those who don’t know, this is Chris Langham as a psychologist, and Paul Whitehouse playing a vast range of patients. It’s easy to forget that all the dozens of patients are the same actor – even when thinking of it, it’s sometimes hard to believe. It’s mostly about that brilliant acting performance, but it’s also very cleverly and wittily written in places. I love it.