Monday, 30 April 2018

Meet The Old Boss, Same As The New Boss

So Amber Rudd has finally gone after 'inadvertently misleading' to parliament (that's lying to you and me) and Sajid Javid is her replacement as Home Secretary.

Smug Karl Pilkington roundhead-alike Javid claims he will be a break from the past. But how can you really be a break from the past when your voting record shows you have consistently voted in favour of this disgusting hostile environment agenda? And is a man who called Jewish Labour activist Jon Lansman a 'neo fascist' in the House really the right man for issues relating to immigration?

Javid's move to the post of Home Secretary is a blindingly obvious one from the Tories. Horrified that their inherent racism has come to the fore, they've promoted their pet 'brown face' in an attempt to prove they are anything but racist.

Javid may bang on about how horrified he was by the hostile environment and the terminology itself, and how he felt that, as the son of immigrants, it could have been his own family being asked to leave the country they have contributed so much to, but it's all just lip service and empty platitudes. 

Nothing will change for anyone until the architect of this disgusting intolerable policy, the former Home Secretary Theresa May, is ousted from Number 10 and her whole rancid party is forced into opposition. 

This Thursday (3rd May) is the day of local elections across the country. Please vote for Labour and deal a devastating blow to the Tory government that tells them their days are numbered.

Disco Pigs (2001)

Disco Pigs seems to be something of a Marmite film - you either love it or hate it. Personally I really like it. For the haters, it seems the usual argument of unsympathetic characters is to blame, but if every film had wholly sympathetic characters then a great number of movies would cease to exist - the gangster genre for one. 

Porcine obsessed Irish teenagers Darren, aka Pig, and Sinead, aka Runt, live in their own little bubble and private kingdom. Born on the same day, in the same hospital, and growing up as next-door neighbours, Pig and Runt are positively inseparable; twins but for the different bloodline, they speak in a peculiar short hand, often referring to one another in the third person, spend every minute of the day together and even hold hands at night through a hole they have made in their bedroom walls. However as they both approach their seventeenth birthday, their world is threatened to be torn apart as the thorny issue of sex rears its head. The unpredictable Pig has developed feelings for Runt you see, feelings that he wants to act upon just at the time when Runt begins to wonder if there is more to life than the unnaturally close relationship she shares with him.

Adapted by Enda Walsh from his own award-winning stage play, Disco Pigs features a pair of great lead performances from Cillian Murphy (who had originated the role of Pig on the stage opposite Eileen Walsh as Runt) and Elaine Cassidy. Both stars are obviously beautiful, but crucially both have the necessary acting chops to invest in the pair a sense of character and emotion that makes this a cut above your usual one dimensional doomed teenage love affair flick. Murphy is mercurial, jealous and volatile - routinely terrorising the young shop assistant at the off licence or performing an unexpected version of The Kinks' You Really Got Me to the jeers of the Republican sympathising patrons of an insalubrious social club - whilst Cassidy possesses a great and impressive stillness that neatly counterbalances such manic energy and has an understated flair for making you believe and invest in her character because - and despite the naysayers comments about unsympathetic protagonists  - Runt is actually quite sympathetic; Unlike Pig, it's clear that she has the potential to be saved and a desire to actually join the real world. It's easy to see why Murphy went on to greater things following this, and it's great to see Cassidy returning to our screens more regularly of late too, with a starring role the Channel 4 series No Offence. She's also really good in the film Felicia's Journey from around this time too.

Making her film debut, director Kirsten Sheridan takes Walsh's delinquent self destructive love story and creates a lyrical, magical-realist atmosphere that is quite compellingly immersive and visually eyecatching, which naturally helps to make the material feel less stagebound. Granted it owes a debt to the likes of Danny Boyle perhaps but, unlike a lot of Trainspotting copycats that thrived in the late '90s and early '00s, it can at least be said that this is its own original thing. 

PS the two little kids who played the young Pig and Runt - Charles Bark and Sarah Gallagher - are unutterably cute and do a fine job.

Friday, 27 April 2018

Out On Blue Six: Celebricide

I'm currently having another marathon rewatch of the much missed, excellent Graham Duff sitcom Ideal and am once again astounded by the breadth and scope of the score that runs throughout all seven series. Here's just one much used track from Celebricide - I defy you not to chill listening to this...

Nicely nicely

End Transmission

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Funny Cow (2018)

It would surprise no one to learn that Funny Cow was one of my most anticipated films of this year, but it may surprise people to learn that I only really liked it, rather than loved it and I hope my review might explain why that's the case.

It's a film that is a real labour of love for Tony Pitts and Maxine Peake (pictured above in a particularly tense scene) who spent ten years getting it off the ground. The brutish-seeming Pitts appears on typically snarling, nasty form as Bob, the abusive husband of Peake's eponymous stand up comedian 'Funny Cow' (she's never given an actual name in the film, but is loosely based on Marti Caine), but he's also on scriptwriting duties and his storytelling signposts his real deep sensitivity and heart. Peake is, it should go without saying, utterly brilliant in the lead role. If this was America, people would have really got on to Maxine Peake's brilliance by now, and would no doubt be citing her as the new Meryl Streep or something. But we're not in America, we're in England and Maxine Peake is a rough diamond of the north. In her hands, Funny Cow is vulnerable, smart, sexy, confident, brittle, strong and funny.

The supporting cast is really special too; Alun Armstrong threatens to steal the film completely at times with a really affecting tragicomic turn as the failing and ailing stand up veteran, whilst both Christine Bottomley and Lindsey Coulson cut a pathetic, poignant figure as Funny Cow's mother, both young and old. There are some really fitting cameos from the likes of Stephen Graham and his real life wife Hannah Walters, Diane Morgan, Vic Reeves, Kevin Eldon, John Bishop and - most fittingly of all, given the '70s northern club circuit setting - real comedians from that era in the shape of Bobby Knutt and Duggie Brown. Look out for appearances from singers Richard Hawley, Corinne Bailey Rae and Kevin Rowland too.

I did have a problem with Paddy Considine though. I've long been a fan of the Midlands De Niro, but I do feel his performances have been more miss than hit in recent years. His appearance here as Angus, the intellectual who wins Funny Cow's heart and takes her away from her violent marriage to Bob, is one in which he is caught acting in every frame. I'm leaning towards saying he was miscast but maybe that's because I know that he was a late replacement for Martin Freeman who was originally slated to appear in the role. Then again, Freeman would have just been Freeman and I'm not altogether sure that would have been any better. I appreciate however that Considine is a big name to add to the starry cast and draw audiences in and, in his defence (and Freeman's too I guess given what I've just said), the character isn't as clear cut as he may initially appear on paper. To some extent Angus is just as demanding of Funny Cow and as closed to her as a person in her own right as Bob himself was. It's a tough complex role to pull off and it's just a shame that Considine doesn't manage it.

My other issue was the way the story played out. Pitts' script is a strong one with plenty of empathy and passion, a great ear for northern dialogue and the raw humour of those non-PC days, but as a storyteller he makes too many leaps that presume the audience will join the dots. The film takes a non linear approach to Funny Cow's story which holds a certain tongue in cheek manner too, as evinced by the screen captions of 'a bit later...' and the like. This is just about tolerable for anyone versed in modern cinema but what I'd have really liked to have seen more of is Funny Cow's actual ascent to fame - in reality we see her perform just one good gig, the success of which we must take into context with the glimpses of all the trappings of 1980s fame (all big hair, sports car and posh detached abode) she possesses in various flash-forwards throughout the course of the film.

Pitt's great friend Richard Hawley provides the beautiful soundtrack which easily emulates the kind of score the later kitchen sink, rags-to-riches dramas of the '60s and '70s would have*. Indeed, the evocation of times past is really impressive throughout the film - as a kid who would peep over the dimpled tables drinking lime and lemonade through a straw down the smoke-filled local Labour club, this is a world I was once all too familiar with, one that simply doesn't exist any more.  The production design is just right, knowing that the working class '70s wasn't actually all gaudy colours and fads, it was actually a world of a decaying drabness that belonged from twenty years previously, where a kid holding a red balloon on a string (a nod to Pitts' favourite film, The Red Balloon) was a more common sight on any street corner than a kid on a space hopper.

Ultimately, Funny Cow is an impressive feat for both writer and actor Pitts and Peake, but as a film itself it's not quite reaching the heights it perhaps ought to have. Still, I wouldn't pay it off early for the bingo. It's an act worth seeing, maybe I just had too much expectation for it?

*And here's the beautiful title track from Hawley...

Top of the Top of The Pops

Put out the bunting, take to the streets and cheer for tonight's 1985 edition of Top of the Pops on BBC4 is one fronted by John Peel and Janice Long.

Whilst I'll hazard a guess that no one ever really tuned in to Top of the Pops for the presenters, I like to think it was always a relief to see the topmost of the stable of DJ's, the creme de la creme of the presenting team, front the show. With Peel and Long, you are always in safe hands - two DJ's who were actually in possession of a personality and a sense of humour. Not for them the wince-inducing attempts at chemistry, charisma and wit that so many other Radio 1 DJ's showcased on Top of the Pops.  No, Peel and Long (along with Peel's regular partner Kid Jenson, before her) managed to amuse and entertain you whilst at the same time looking like they may have actually listened to some of the songs they were introducing.

Here's a run down of some of the worst Radio 1 DJ's who graced Top of the Pops from around that time that you're likely to see on BBC4 (ie those who haven't been found guilty of touching up young girls and those who have agreed to have their appearances repeated) To get into the mood, you might want to play Phil Lynott's TOTP theme Yellow Pearl as you read through this chart rundown:

Simon Bates

Was it just me or, when hosting Top of the Pops, did Simon Bates always have the air of a headmaster attempting to put on a genial face when confronted with the end of term school disco? 

Richard Skinner

Apart from his horrible dress sense, I didn't have much of a problem with Skinner until a recent episode where he started making 'wasn't that a load of old weird rubbish?' faces after Bowie's Loving The Alien video. Much later, on his show Sounds of the Suburbs, John Peel revealed that Skinner was going out with Sheena Easton in the '80s. The mind boggles.

Gary Davies

Or 'Ooh Gary Davies' as he was then known on account of his alleged pin up status for Radio 1 listeners. I fail to see it myself. Watch Davies deliver a link on TOTP and see how eerily dead-eyed he is. In a recent episode he disgraced himself by saying that his co-host the black DJ Dixie Peach was the only Radio 1 DJ with a better suntan than his own. There's a lot of those 'did I just hear right?' moments from 1980s TOTP, including one staggering one from last week's repeat provided by....

Steve Wright

I cannot tell you how much I hate this bloke. Here is a man who has been doing the same radio show, in the same slot, day in day out for three decades now with no sign of anyone recognising how irritating and dated it actually is. He must be a freemason, right? But no matter how dreadful Wright is on the radio, it's nothing compared to his irritating presence on TOTP. He seems constantly amused with himself, giggling away and shaking his head whilst co-presenters make their way through links. He has a series of irritating hand gestures that rival Mike 'pointy finger' Read and he has zero taste in music or sense of what makes a good song. Witness his claim that Nik Kershaw's Human Racing is the best single Kershaw made...which actually went on to become his lowest performing single. Or the time he freely admitted in his link to Billy Bragg's seminal Between The Wars had taken him three or four listens to understand. Worst of all was his introduction to Madonna's Get Into The Groove video on last week's repeat in which he called the singer 'everyone's favourite sleazebag' Again, another 'did I just hear right?' moment from '80s TOTP

But the absolute worst TOTP presenter from this period just has to be...

Mike Read

'Nuff said really, right?

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

The Old Dark House (1932)

Whale’s approach to horror was often highly camp and it is this knowing indulgence in the excess of both the horror and the comic that has kept The Old Dark House such a surprisingly fresh and modern experience, when so many of its imitators down the years have flopped, palled or fallen into obscurity. Whale knew that the human desire to be scared, and the collective experience an audience shares in paying to sit in a darkened theatre for the pleasure, was inherently funny and he enjoyed playing towards those parameters – making them laugh one minute, making them jump the next. Sometimes, the laugh could even arise from the scare itself and to that end, The Old Dark House has many deliciously dark comic moments.

See full review at The Geek Show

Sunday, 22 April 2018

RIP Verne Troyer

Verne Troyer, the Mini-Me actor from the Austin Powers series of films, has died at the age of 49.

Troyer who was just 2ft 8in tall as a result of cartilage-hair hypoplasia was born to average-sized parents in Michigan in 1969. He achieved his break in the entertainment industry as a stand-in for the 1994 film Baby's Day Out, which led to roles in Dunston Checks In, Men in Black, and Jingle All The Way before finding pop cultural fame as Dr Evil's miniature clone sidekick in Mike Myers' Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and Austin Powers in Goldmember and as Griphook in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Other films include Terry Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Werner Herzog's My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done and Mike Myers' The Love Guru. Troyer also worked extensively in the UK with the films Keith Lemon: The Film and Convenience, and the reality TV programmes Celebrity Big Brother and Celebrity Wife Swap


Thursday, 19 April 2018

RIP Dale Winton

Really sad to hear down the pub last night that Dale Winton had passed away at the age of 62. Being a teen in the '90s ostensibly revising for GCSE's and occasionally bunking off from school, his morning game show Supermarket Sweep became cult viewing so much so that he even appeared in the supermarket-set video for Sleeper's Inbetweener 

It's important to remember just how much of a well known and well loved figure Winton was in the '90s, fronting many entertainment shows and quizzes on TV. In later years he wasn't on TV as much (seemingly he preferred the radio, hosting Pick of the Pops on Radio 2 for a number of years - though changing tastes may also have had something to do with it) but when he was, such as hosting the National Lottery quiz In It To Win It for example, you were instantly reminded just how much of a safe pair of hands he was. His talent and likeable screen presence will be much missed.


Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Out On Blue Six: Oasis

I love this song and I love this video - mixing Oasis with Lowry was genius...and the animator nailed Liam's Simian stroll!

End Transmission

Monday, 16 April 2018

Esther McVey - Heartless Twunt.

The odious Esther McVey proved once again what a heartless sociopath she is today appearing before Scottish parliament.

She showed how immune she is to the human effects of the Tory's brutal welfare cuts and claimed that the notorious rape clause was a good thing because it helped women to open up about their ordeal.

Take a look here and here. Is it any wonder that the public gallery became so incensed by the noxious shit she was spouting that it had to be cleared twice by officials? 

How this woman was ever allowed back into parliament is beyond me. Oh no wait, they parachuted into her into Tatton, an extremely safe Tory seat vacated by George 'Pencils' Osborne. Good luck trying to get this heartless twunt out now.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Out On Blue Six: Lisa Loeb

End Transmission

Jess Phillips Uses Anti-Semitism As a Means to Stab Corbyn In the Front

Jess Phillips, the Blairite Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley who once vowed she'd stab Corbyn in the front not the back, has been at it again. Taking to Twitter, she deliberately misconstrued the argument Ken Loach made at a Bristol rally for de-selecting MP's who routinely disagree with their leader as an example of Loach being anti-Semitic. 

On the 11th April, Jess tweeted; "Dear Ken, this month I've helped 30+ people have disability benefit reinstated because I have a specialist surgery to help tribunals. I save Daniel Blake's, but yeah because I hate racism I'm the problem. Get rid of me if you want, like some entitled dude who makes demands"

Here's the truth though;

1. Loach wasn't saying that protesting anti-Semitism was wrong. He was saying that using it to attack a leader you have never agreed with is wrong. But this was not adequately reported by the right wing press. Loach subsequently took to Twitter to clarify his position; "re-selecting an MP should not be based on individual incidents but reflect the MP's principles, actions and behaviour over a long period. Being an MP is not a job for life. Candidates should be selected for every election and party members should be able to make a democratic choice"   

2. Loach is being unfairly labelled an anti-Semite when again, like so many this argument is pointing towards, he is actually anti-Israel. I find it laughable that the row surrounding Perdition, the Jim Allen play he was meant to be directing for the Royal Court back in the 80s, has reared its ugly head again. Again, to be anti-Israel does not mean you are anti-Semitic.

3. If politicians like Jess actually got behind their leader perhaps they wouldn't now be having to save these 30+ Daniel Blakes in the first place. If you want the Tories out and the chance to create a better society, stop the in-fighting.

4. Jess Phillips voted for the Tory Welfare Bill that has created these Daniel Blakes in the first place.

5. The protest itself was in breach of party rules and was organised by the opposition ie the Tories. It's worth mentioning though that Corbyn graciously conceded the members right to protest as he rightfully acknowledged anti-Semitism to be abhorrent. 

6. Using this row to score points against the leader devalues the issue, presumes that Corbyn himself is racist or anti-Semitic (when even the protest acknowledged that wasn't the case), and is simply a Trojan horse to try and topple him from power. I'd have more respect for you if I suspected you really did give a toss about racism. Equally, I notice that she couldn't resist the dig about Loach being 'some entitled dude'; Phillips devaluing the gender issue there too. Men who disagree with you aren't chauvinist examples of the patriarchy. They're just people with a different opinion to your own.

7. Jess has taken to twitter to essentially say she's done her job! A true Blairite there, spinning to make herself sound as if she's going the extra mile when she's simply doing what she's paid to do - to serve her constituency. Now, of only she'd do the other stuff she's paid to do, like support the leader and fight for greater equality all round.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Ghost Stories (2017)

Warning: This Post Contains...

I had a kind of unfinished business with Ghost Stories. Back in 2010, when I was dating a girl down south she suggested we go and see the stage play which she had already seen and was enthusing about like mad, claiming she'd never be able to look at a child in a bed in the same way again. What with one thing and another, we didn't go. So I was intrigued and pleased to see that Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman had adapted their play for the big screen.

Does it stand up?

Sadly no, not really.

Dyson and Nyman recreate the portmanteau horrors of old rather well (look out for a tin of pet food bearing the legend 'Tigon') but watching it, I couldn't help but feel a recreation of such a genre was rather redundant. When the original thing is out there,created by such greats as MR James, why bother with something like this - with its added jump scares to appeal to younger audiences? Oh God, there are so many jump scares in this. I imagine they worked really well in the theatre, but in the cinema it just makes it feel like any other hoary old American teen horror. Crucially, Ghost Stories isn't particularly original or particularly scary (though it did impress me by leaving quite a bit to the imagination - the old Nigel Kneale trick) and - given Dyson and Nyman's comedic background - it isn't particularly funny either.

The film also suffered from having a twist that I spotted immediately thanks to a very recognisable actor being unable to immerse himself beneath the latex mask or hide his voice behind a couple of accents accurately enough. Once I'd got that, I started looking out for the clues Dyson and Nyman were laying throughout the film and found them all really easy to spot each time they popped up. There's nothing wrong with that per se, but I just felt the audience was being signposted a bit too clearly, rather than this being an example of filmmakers confident enough in their audience to allow them to find things for themselves.

On the positive side, this is a really fine cast. Andy Nyman is a sympathetic lead investigating the inexplicable events of that have terrorised his co-stars; Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther and Martin Freeman. With his role in the excellent The Death of Stalin and now this, it's really nice to see Whitehouse finally breaking out into the movies and proving what Johnny Depp perhaps said all along, that he's a genuinely good actor. Meanwhile Lawther once again proves that he's a young talent to watch with a very affecting turn, and yes there's  Freeman to bring the audiences in - the film's valuable big name for the US market. It's just a shame the vignettes they're involves in are not on a par with their talents.

There's a great sight gag regarding some classic puppets that will be familiar to anyone in the UK, especially those of us of a certain age. I think that may have been one of the highpoints actually in  this otherwise rather unoriginal ho hum affair that promises far more than it actually delivers.

Hanging on the Telephone

Annette Andre as Jeannie Hopkirk in Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)

RIP Miloš Forman

Very sad to hear that Miloš Forman died yesterday at the age of 86 following a short illness.

For many, the Czech filmmaker will be rightly remembered as a great purely for the classic 1975 movie One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest or for 1984's lavish Amadeus, both films which won him an Oscar for Best Director. But I personally also really loved his early works in his native Czechoslovakia, Loves of a Blonde and The Fireman's Ball, or his incredibly ambitious near-miss Ragtime from 1981, or the inventive Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon from 1999.

He really was a true great of cinema.


Friday, 13 April 2018

Spice World (1997)

If you ever want to see Geri Halliwell and Emma Bunton do their best Brenda Blethyn in Secrets and Lies impression to a bemused Claire Rushbrook, then stick around for the end credits of Spice World. It genuinely happens.

I really miss the '90s and, though I'm aware that in saying that what I may actually mean is I miss my youth (midlife crisis on the horizon and I'm going to crash into that like a motherfucker haha), I do still maintain that there was something special about the '90s. I genuinely don't think a phenomenon (there is no other word) like the Spice Girls could exist now: a group that transcends their target audience to become part of the zeitgeist. Even your granny knew who the Spice Girls were, thanks to Top of the Pops and tabloids. I can't really imagine anyone's granny knowing who Little Mix are. The '90s was the last time that sort of pan appeal could occur and so, with such cultural cache and multi-platform merchandising potential, it was only right that the girl (power) group got their own movie in 1997.

Except calling Spice World a movie is an act of kindness. Taking A Hard Day's Night as it's cue, but without its charm or inventiveness, Spice World is a series of sketches really and they all more or less fall flat on their face. In fact there's only one I laughed at and it was the one that saw a teenage boy come round from his coma at the prospect of Geri getting her tits out. In contrast, the absolute worst is seeing Michael Barrymore (ask your mum and dad) stealing Victor Spinetti's Sergeant Major routine from The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour to zero comedy effect. Which reminds me, watching this a staggering twenty-one years later, it's surprising just how many people involved ended up in scandal: Barrymore, the Spice Girls rendition of Leader of the Gang (I Am) by oft-convicted paedophile Gary Glitter, and Andy Coulson, then a music writer with The S*n, who has since done time for his part in News International's disgusting phone hacking practices.  

Now I'm not about to fall into the usual trap of many a misanthropic bloke and say that the Spice Girls were crap and I didn't see their appeal. Their music wasn't for me, but I could tell a good polished tune when I heard one (2 Become 1 has some great classy production on it, and Too Much which opens the film is another one I'm partial too) and could see why they were a success: they were fresh and eye-catching, they were good at what they did and the deliberate individual characteristics they presented meant that they each appealed to someone in their audience - and no doubt these characters and looks appealed on another level to some of the many blokes who weren't necessarily fans of the music*.  

But the fact remains that Scary, Sporty, Baby, Ginger and Posh were singers, not actors and it shows.  Sure they could get by doing a bit of chat and having a laugh on kids TV or steal the limelight in front of the press at some function or other, but a film is a stretch for them and it appears that the filmmakers were wholly aware of this fact. Latching onto the aforementioned sense of character appeal, the script plays safe by adhering to the very same stereotypes it goes on to complain about in a rather meta way, so Victoria is a fashion obsessed pain in the arse, Mel C can only talk about football, Emma is childish, Geri is a boring know-all and Mel B is...well, Mel B. This ensures that the girls are never stretched beyond their limited capabilities, and leaves the real work of pushing the story along to Richard E Grant, who sports some magnificent sideburns as their harassed manager Clifton, and the aforementioned Rushbrook as their PA. Naoko Mori pops up as their old friend and mum-to-be Nicola to suggest that there was some life for our heroines before the demands of the big time and, along the same lines, there's even a sweet flashback sequence involving Bill Patterson, but strangely it goes absolutely nowhere in the context of the movie. Also helping to spin this gossamer thread out is the glut of blink and you'll miss 'em cameos that bouy things genially along. Some are great (Elvis Costello, Cathy 'Duffy off Casualty' Shipton as a nurse, Jennifer Saunders playing a slightly milder version of Edina Monsoon, Stephen Fry) and some aren't, but let's thank our stars that Frank Bruno was axed from the role of Dennis the bus driver and the casting coup of the century occurred: Mr Loaf himself, Meat to his mates. But best of all perhaps is the chance to watch Roger Moore bop along to Spice Up Your Life in the film's finale!  

Not a great film by any means and quite cringeworthy at times, but it's harmless inoffensive fun that achieves everything it no doubt set out to do and entertained fans, so in that regard it's surely a success. Besides, cringeworthy, harmless, inoffensive and fun are words that could sum the Spice Girls up, and watching Spice World now is almost like travelling back in time to the '90s - and who wouldn't want to do that?

*if anyone's wondering, I personally saw the appeal of Ginger Spice the most at the time. I know, I know.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

RIP Alex Beckett

Very shocked and saddened to hear that the actor Alex Beckett, Perfect Curve's hopeless hipster Barney in Twenty Twelve and W1A, has died suddenly at the age of 35.


Tonight's Tele Tip: Law & Order (1978) BBC4, 10pm

Do yourself a favour tonight and tune into BBC4 at 10pm for one of the most groundbreaking and controversial TV dramas ever to appear on British television. Law & Order, written by G.F. Newman, produced by Tony Garnett and directed by Les Blair, makes The Sweeney look like Play Away.

Groundbreaking is a word that often gets bandied about when discussing film or TV, but when discussing the 1978 quartet of BBC films entitled Law & Order (not to be confused with the later US show, and its UK based ITV spin-off) there can be no question of using that word in a cliched or lazy way. 

Law & Order truly was groundbreaking; a radical, polemical and shockingly brutal, warts and all depiction of institutionalised corruption within every corner of the UK's law enforcement, judicial and penal system. It's broadcast in 1978 shocked and appalled thenation, causing an uproar which led to questions in the House, an unofficial but clearly obvious embargo on repeating or broadcasting the production in any shape or form for 31 years, and a suggestion that its writer G.F. Newman be charged for crimes against the state. But equally it created a much needed and radical reform of an institution riddled with malpractice and better safeguarding of those in society who come under police suspicion.

The story spans four films each told from the perspective of the police (Derek Martin as the bent DI Fred Pyle) the brief (Ken Campbell as Alex Gladwell) and the criminal, and ultimately, the prisoner (Peter Dean as Jack Lynn) It's a compelling all encompassing approach that hasn't dated; indeed the BBC cribbed it again for their 2013 dramatisation of The Great Train Robbery, splitting the film into two parts to show the villains and the police's viewpoint. 

The trio of writer G.F. Newman, director Les Blair and producer Tony Garnett successfully commented on what was wrong in this aspect society in a gloriously authentic, quasi-documentary style, casting actors who were both unknown or had relatively little experience. And it really works; I defy anyone not to be utterly transfixed by each film's careful pacing, tight naturalistic script and pared down realism. It's often bleak, cynical and despondent viewing, but there's more than a ring of truth to it that makes it vitally important. Even Michael Mann is a big fan and the rumour is he would routinely screen it in the Miami Vice studios in the 1980s as he tried to get his own remake off the ground, but to no avail.

Out On Blue Six: Sleeper

End Transmission

Molly Ringwald, the Breakfast Club and #MeToo

Last week, Molly Ringwald wrote a really thought provoking article in The New Yorker about John Hughes and her experiences of not only making the films The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink with him, but of revisiting them today as a parent. This article manages to remind us how Hughes really spoke for the teen generation when popular culture refused to acknowledge them as three dimensional characters, but at the same time it points out an alarming blind spot Hughes had about the characters he was so adept at presenting - a blind spot that is all the more visible in the present day.

It reminded me of a previous story that had come to light about the making of The Breakfast Club, and I guess the thing we should take from it is that Hughes was open to others poitning out when he'd overstepped the mark. It's a fascinating opinion piece by Ringwald and you can read it here

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Out On Blue Six: Tori Amos

....Or you'll never believe what this song's about #3

Even now, so many people presume Cornflake Girl is just about the divisions and betrayals in friendship that many teenage girls may feel in their school days or something like that. So it's often a surprise for such people to learn that Amos wrote the song about FGM (female genital mutilation). The song is still about betrayal, but it is the betrayal victims of FGM feel when they realise it is a close female family member who has put them through such an ordeal. Here's Amos herself discussing the song's meaning and inspiration...

End Transmission

Girls With Guns

Linda Marlowe in Big Zapper