Category: blogs

Three Stages to being a Cult Movie Super Nerd 

Stage1

Stage 2

 

Stage 3

Stage 1: The Print – This place (picture at the top) is the Hanwell Library. A small pokey joint that was pretty handy in the 80’s before the rise of the internet and still useful to old people who are technical luddites

This small borough library happens to be the place that kick started my obsession with cinema as a geek.

Back (way-way-back!) in 1988 I used to go to the library and see what was there, I saw this book called Cult Movies 3 by Danny Peary. This book was unlike anything and as I read it it, it opened a world like nothing else. Imagine being 14 (way-way-back) and you are reading about El Topo, Eraserhead, Mad Max 2 and the ultra mondo movie of all, Cafe Flesh. I became curious to discover these films and in that period (way-way-back) late night television was littered with cult movies. I managed to watch The Keep as a late movie, Zardoz and countless others. Films that are now rarely on the same channels and relegated to the niche that has to be searched. These cult movies blew my mind and I started to read more. I bought All three Cult Movies books which are now out of print and John Boorman’s book series, Projections among hundreds of others.

Stage 2: The analogue television – The second thing that blew me away was Alex Cox’s Moviedrome. Imagine a series where a presenter on a slow Sunday night spends 5 minutes talking about a curated Cult movie before the screening? Look at the second picture, look at the films that were screened during 1990 and 1991. An amazing collection. The first film I saw was Kurosawa’s Yojimbo. The rest I religiously stayed up for and was an instant film school of sorts!

Stage 3: The big screen – The Scala Cinema. A friend and I went to this run down cinema in Kings Cross to watch The Wicker Man. The place got shut down in the mid 90’s as they illegally showed Clockwork Orange. They got a print from France and screened it and when Kubrick found out he bankrupted them.

They showed super weird cult movies and all nighters like the evil dead series/ Hellraiser series amongst others. This was also the place I saw Cafe Flesh which is a one of the weirdest films made…. ever. I could say that the BFI was up there and I practically lived there during the 90’s but the Scala was a real proper grind house cinema. I still hunt out other films still but it’s not the same. Admittedly it’s easier to find a film but not as easy to “discover” something.

Nowadays there seems a super fringe place for enjoying classics like Aquirre Wrath of God and even Altman’s The Long Goodbye. When someone catches a true oddity of a film I am amazed it’s even able to be on their radar. When was the last time anyone saw on the schedules Zardoz, Aguirre or even Koyaanisqatsi?

Admittedly I am a fan of all these new platforms as I can now access more films then ever before but aside from me knowing what I want, how will someone be able to just stumble on a true oddity? Not being a Netflix member yet I was told that they are showing cult movies on their platform. Check them out and enjoy.

Motherland and the lack of Diverse Characters

In the current climate of diversity everyone, including me, are shouting about levelling the playing field so it doesn’t feel like the same people working in the top tier. Well, soon after the terrific Boy With the Top Know hitting the BBC I watched a rather funny show, Motherland.

Aside from the comedy I noticed how diverse characters are used in this show IN 2017 NO LESS!!! I have listed them below. In fairness the show is about Middle Class Parents but….

Motherland episode 3: We have a Chinese woman applying for a job as a cleaner. We have a Black woman working behind the counter at the swimming pool. We do have a black guy as a war photographer with actual dialogue….3 throwaway lines at the end of the show

Motherland episode 4: Black woman in the opening episode interviewed for nanny job. Said woman has a white dodgy  boyfriend.  Indian guy as the restaurant server.

Episode 5: Random black man/ pub punter walking in to a toilet.

Episode 6: Two black mother’s sitting on the mother’s table with no dialogue and their only ‘motivation’ is to roll their eyes.

Well done to all!

Will YouTube Get Rinsed Again?

I wrote a while back about the fact that YouTube had a lot of money to spend on ‘original programming’ when they foolishly thought they could create Premium Content that people will pay for. They were completely rinsed by average programming that made no dent on making them anything other than a site where you can ‘upload your shit for free’. Their original success is also the stigma attached to their brand. They created their own monster and still have to sleep with it. The people commissioning these programmes had no quality control filter much like the current SVOD champions.

The difference now that they are trying the same approach again? Maybe they have become wiser.

As a comparison, Amazon Prime and  Netflix have shown that people will pay a premium to watch content online but they never started out giving stuff away for free and giving viewers the concept they don’t have to pay for it. Just ask the decimated press industry who are stuck with advertising and declining print sales as their main revenue. The Sun tried to keep their content behind a paywall but they had to eventually capitulate. Strangely the only subscriptions i have are Broadcastnow.co.uk and Private Eye Magazine who have specific content i crave for.

I sincerely hope YouTube have learned their lesson and actually have people who can get quality media that people are willing to pay for. Maybe they learned their lesson? time will tell.

 

Breaking Up With Cliches: The Radio 4 Play *Updated*

I listen to radio 4 plays on my podcast and 99% of them don’t bear any relation to life around me. They are well written but I personally feel they are created by people who haven’t had real world experiences.

Fine but why do I listen?

Because I write and want to hear what drama plays are being commissioned as Radio 4 is still the gateway for nurturing fresh talent. There is still a distinct lack of diversity for the most part, that is until I listened to  Breaking up with Bradford by Kamaal Kaan which made me slightly annoyed at the opportunities that were missed.

The main Character is a Muslim guy from Bradford and comes back from Cambridge University to see his family but his (white) boyfriend appears wanting to talk to him. The premise is fine and has potential to really be interesting especially with the current climate.

But (and this is my opinion and gut instinct) it comes over as totally inauthentic. This may be based on a true story, I don’t know, but the whole scenario just felt distant and not exactly real. The main character just didn’t feel like he grew up in Bradford and was not as awkward as one would be when growing up in a close knit Asian community and ‘being different’. The restaurant running best friend in Bradford was too forgiving when the secret was out.

The intention was all there but it feels that the development process started doing away with real world characters and how they would really react. Romanticised and too conveniently accepting.

I compare this to Hanif Kurieshi who’s books and screenplays are convincing, even the main character in Buddha of Surburbia’s bisexuality is explored.

Also to add, Sathnam Sanghera’s The Boy with the Top Knot as a novel dealing growing up north was amazingly well written and all the characters were relatable.

Researching the writer and he hails from Bradford and this playlooks to be part autobiographical.

Why the stupid whinge on my part? I think the development process at Radio 4 drama unit is not diverse enough in the managerial department otherwise there would be a drive to make this piece more authentic.

At the end of the day the play is better written than anything I will ever do but is an example of diversity within the development process that is lacking I am am saddened hat the themes could be pushed further.

*Update* I just watched the Master of None episode ‘Thanksgiving’ and blown away with how they dealt with the coming out narrative. It is an excellent example of how the elders are not compromised and reluctantly accept things in their way. If you haven’t watched it do check it out for the structure alone.

Apple Products The The Lost Vision

Apple, You are dropping the ball big time, your products are no longer cutting edge and your pricing is now ridiculous for us little guys who want to stay in the Apple ecosystem.

Back when I bought my Powermac G4, the operating system was immense and when Tiger was unleashed we were all excited. Windows platforms were absolute dogshit compared to you guys because there was clueless Balmer in charge, that man had no real vision. Windows XP was no match. In fact Windows Vista was so shite that some companies offered a free downgrade back to XP. OSX Ruled the planet artistically!

Your products have historically been more expensive but felt worth it compared to what we got out of it.

But in the last couple of years things have changed. Nadella is in charge of Microsoft, Windows 10 is actually very good and a lot of people are moving over. The last few iOS upgrades have been a disaster where phones ended up being bricked.

Now with the new MacBook Pro range the pricetag is nothing short of extortionate for us loyal users. I have been looking at the prices and really have to justify if it is worth the investment. Also online there are a lot of complains at the instability of the software and the hardware of these Macbooks and motherboard failures. We are your fans and you are.

Granted your products were more expensive than the rivals but people lapped it up because it was cool and intuitive. People like me bought into the brand and quality but now rather than charging a premium because you are good is getting a bit long in the tooth. I honestly feel you are just being greedy and seeing how far you can push the pricing. Steve Jobs was front and centre and fiercely defended what he did but from Apple it’s just another brand without an identity. Tim Cook may be visibly promoting Apple products but he is nowhere as visible as Jobs was in the same sales capacity. Jobs convinced you Apple was the best. Now your arrogance is assuming we think it’s the best.

Your much vaunted iPhone range which is your cash cow is starting to have the same disillusioned feel to the fans… oh faster, better camera but when was the last real innovation that was the wow factor? , you seen the OnePlus phones? For the price and quality of build that is your competition right there.  Undercutting you and providing quality.

Is it coincidental that this falling out of love with Apple is timed with when Steve Jobs died?

Basically

Apple may have become too bloated and your apparent greed may be clouding your judgement of your fanbase.

What are you going to do to win us back?

Risk Taking in British Television

It’s interesting to read an article by BBC Controller Kim Shillinglaw looking for something “disruptive” and “anarchic” along the lines of SNL, The Tonight Show etc. The type of programming to go against the grain of the current crop of panel shows and other esoteric light entertainment containing mainly middle class presenters. Something “edgy” and “different” to break the current stale bland schedules. Clearly these guys want something to bring back they youth and make terrestrial television Kool again. Anyone old enough can shout out Def 2

From my experience of keeping my ear to the ground I find the same thing being echoed down the halls of commissioners’ offices. They ask for something different but get the same-old-same-old as it is a safe bet. Sometimes they take the same-old-same-old and try to sell it as a completely different beast. That’s why the same panel shows are commissioned with minor tweaks to the style but sold as bold new formats.

They all seem to have HBO / Lorne Michaels envy and want to find TheNextBigCulturalThing to add to the WaterCoolerTalkingPoint. The problem I see is that the established production companies have a stranglehold on the commissions so the pool for innovation is smaller. If you want something disruptive you need to find the right people who are not corporatized by the standards of television and actually bring in something fresh that reflects society now.

Also do these people know what the term “disruptive” actually means? What they want doesn’t seem like it will disrupt the media ecosystem, especially when it is to be shown at 10pm on BBC 2. Netflix disrupted the business model of waiting each week for the next episode by releasing all 13 parts of House of Cards in one go. That is the term used correctly here. I will let is slide as people love buzzwords like Zeitgeist.

Personally and again this is due to my peculiar taste but the last fresh original anarchic programmes were Nathan Barley and Tramadol Nights. I believe the latter was the last time something so funny and controversial was screened across the airwaves. Granted you can shout out that Toast of London is very funny but I wouldn’t say it’s groundbreaking, just a very funny series.

Commissioners want to discover the next Monty Python and bask in the glory of leaving a televisual legacy and if these people really want to think out of the box they need to talent spot people outside of the safe pool of comics and writers and start developing them. And I don’t mean box ticking. Real risk taking like Lorne does with assembling the writers.

Yes I know the Diversity debate rolls on and people are probably sick to death of hearing about it but compare SNL which has a diverse cast compared to British television. One only has to look at the oft mentioned british exodus to America, look at Armando Ianucci’s, success with his show. The HBO model was to get the talent and leave them alone and have some sort of faith. It worked for them.

As legend has it Only Fools and Horses only starting becoming a ratings grabber after series 3 but nowadays they feel they need to hit the ground running.

Essentially,widen the talent pool and you will be surprised what you will uncover. Be inclusive, not exclusive

The Emperor’s New Media

Here’s the thing. Nowadays, look at the standard television channels and you will see a lot of programmes where you will literally think “who the hell is going to watch this trash?” There is currently a Laurence Llewelyn Bowels obs doc (as of this writing) going to China to release a range of lingerie! Secret life of cats! The very public life of dogs!
How are these shows commissioned still in this day and age and still be woefully out of touch with modernity and why are the commissioners out of touch? Or are they, because they do get the ratings.
My guess would be the background of the commissioners and producers where they think these ideas will please the masses. I constantly ask industry foot soldiers the state of television and they say it’s going downhill and lowbrow but then again I don’t have that many cat loving housewife friends who make up the demographic. I simply don’t travel in those circles.

Brands like Vice are making huge inroads with documentaries and Netflix the same in terms of bold strokes with drama. Also a worthy mention is the Maverick philosophy of HBO where they make programming that people not only watch but talk about afterwards. When was the last time you said ” oh goody! A Lawrence Bowel-Movement programme with a twist”… I would presume never unless you are over 65 and act suspiciously spinsterish.
The thing about programmes such as this is that those in power still want attain the level of mastery on their choices but as the commissioners are in power, they ask for what they think the audience wants, not what they actually want.
Water cooler moments are few and far between and the last time I had one of those for a television programme was The Office and after that Nathan Barley. Nowadays the posts left on my Facebook page rarely consist of MOR television programming.
Another irk is the obs docs nonsense which admittedly my wife watches like 24 hours in A&E which she finds entertaining due to the “human stories”. But a new fly-on-the-wall programme set on night busses? basically just transmitted HD cctv footage with audio and edited for “the best bits”… I blame BigBrother for giving birth to such conceit.
The biggest surprise for me was Gogglebox, hated the premise but accidentally caught a programme and actually found it funny… It’s rather popular too. Unfortunately this success has made the industry think they have their finger on the zeitgeist. They don’t and as the ages pass, their grip will loosen further until their next shows have to find kickstarter for funding.

 

British television needs to be bold, not saccharine.

Super Hip Vice Magazine Blog

Fuck you that’s my name. Read between the lines and it’s there.

I popped into a trendy cafe that sells niche corn flakes from brands that I have never heard of. This is the kind of sugar rich E laden monstrosity that I need to course through my veins. In this uber cool shit hole  you are able to sit next to dead people watching them mindlessly shit-down-their-gullets with this finely malnutritious meal.

What’s the name of the place? I am not going to tell you because that would be me making you cooler than you are and we wouldn’t that.

After scoffing this trendy poverty cuisine my stomach feels like it has been fingered by special branch and my stools will no doubt be less pipe laden but more like a broken M&M machine plopping out multi coloured branded pebbles.

Late afternoon breakfast done I must find the latest, greatest place nobody has heard of. Inconveniently I went into a crack den thinking it was a Nuveau Riche coffee shop. It was only when I realised that an overdose victim was uncontrollably shining my shoes with his jagged head and I vacated the premises quick sharpish.
I am the self proclaimed mega twat with trousers short enough that people can see my socks. It’s enough to arouse the midget literati.

Those who pretend to read books with all encapsulating titles that Tolstoy would describe as top-10-books-to-read-while-taking-a-shit are dead to me. Such shallow behaviour. Obviously this town used to be cool but nowadays the cool places are hidden in spaces that even Anne Frank would turn her nose up at.

My next adventure awaits.

Worst Cartoon Ever Made

I watch shit films all the time and this gives me a high tolerance of crap cinema. I mean there is always something in a poorly made film to keep the interest but watching Colour City makes me feel like this is the worst film ever with absolutely no redeeming values contained within. This wasn’t even a gift from me to me as I went with my kids to watch it in the cinema.

Plot: a bunch of crayons come alive and go to a parallel dimension where crayons live a normal life…such a terrible premise and should have been aborted. Alas due to a possible creative drought and  the producers having no taste, it was pushed through to production.

My kids enjoyed it but then again they will probably stare at Warhol’s Campbell Soup and just think of dinner and not appreciate art as it stands in the modern world.

But I digress

This film had atrociously poor animation with a crew that I suspect was suffering from Parkinson’s and songs that are truly,truly terrible and unmemorable. Elton John this is NOT! A poor imitation of some television animation from the 60’s, you would think things would have progressed after Bod and Morph but alas not.

Crayon Bollocks (as i have nicknamed it) is truly the Lidl of cinema and I think next time will purely stick to Pixar animation or some branded piece of entertainment.

1 star and a disappointed morning.

Sayonara Screendaily 

 

In 1991 I worked for a media company that had a stash of Screen International weekly magazines so I rifles through them during my break. As i was started out in the industry i became fascinated and found this trade magazine a really informative read. Since then I have never missed an issue and it was and still is the only place to see the movers and shakers in the European Film Industry, Variety and the other trades are more US-centric and i never really liked that wacky style of writing and the fractured articles dotted all over was rather stupid.

Then Screen lead the charge of going online and the site was one of the first digital subscriptions I purchased but slowly the site started to be generic puff pieces and a portal for productions to promote their companies and slates. All I started reading at the tail end of these was press that ended with “we look forward to working with so and so who is a visionary”. Any kind of reportage i enjoyed as pretty much evaporated and you know it’s coming to an end when it’s a chore to read the headlines daily. I will say in defence that the festival reporting is spot on and very good but is it enough for me to carry on subscribing?

Things have changed and now i read Variety, LaTimes/ Company Town which went through a digital changeover and i catch up with news from these sites and occasionally from Screen.

April 2015 I have cancelled my subscription which is a shame  but will resubscribe when improvements and investments are made in quality journalism.