Embattled Five Armies.

Film Kristen Thompson investigates Peter Jackson's The Battle of the Five Armies, specifically the extended versions and doesn't like them as much as I do:
"Throughout the LOTR and Hobbit series, the filmmakers have pushed the limits of the rating system, always achieving a hard PG-13 label for both the theatrical and extended versions. With Five Armies, they have for the first time crossed the limit and been given an R rating, though only for the extended edition.

"I see this as something of a betrayal of the fans, especially families, who have fallen in love with this franchise, sharing the films over many years. The reason for the R rating is probably entirely due to some extreme violence and cruelty. Certainly there is no sexual basis for such a rating, and the mild profanity mentioned above, introduced with the character of Thorin’s cousin Dain seems unlikely to have been a significant cause of the stricter rating."
To be fair, my enjoyment of these films is about being in that world, and indeed it's the character moment I appreciate more than a lot of the action which is formally quite repetitious in the end.  The extended BotFA received a 15-rating in the UK though and I can see why that's problematic if you're adaptating a children's novel.

Who is the new Secret Actress? #1

Film Three years ago, The Guardian ran a short series of columns by a "secret actor" and I spent those two months trying to work out who it was, which I never really did.

Now there's a new column, The Secret Actress, talking about working in the LA scene.

Unlike last time, they've dropped a rather useful piece of information. That it's being written by "an Oscar and Golden Globe-nominated actor" which means that it's possible to make a correlation before even starting in on the columns themselves.

Except checking a list of all the female actors nominated for an Oscar in any category with a list of all the female actors nominated for a Golden Glove in any category (film or television) yields a list of over a hundred people:

Alfre Woodard
Amy Irving
Amy Madigan
Angelina Jolie
Anjelica Huston
Anna Paquin
Annette Bening
Barbara Hershey
Bette Midler
Candice Bergen
Carol Kane
Catherine Keener
Charlize Theron
Chloƫ Sevigny
Christine Lahti
Debbie Reynolds
Diahann Carroll
Diana Ross
Diane Keaton
Diane Ladd
Diane Lane
Dianne Wiest
Doris Day
Eileen Brennan
Elizabeth McGovern
Ellen Burstyn
Emily Watson
Emma Thompson
Faye Dunaway
Felicity Huffman
Frances McDormand
Geena Davis
Gena Rowlands
Geraldine Page
Glenda Jackson
Glenn Close
Halle Berry
Helen Hunt
Helen Mirren
Helena Bonham Carter
Hilary Swank
Holly Hunter
Ingrid Bergman
Jane Fonda
Janet McTeer
Jean Simmons
Jessica Lange
Jessica Tandy
Joan Allen
Joan Plowright
Joanne Woodward
Judi Dench
Judy Davis
Julianne Moore
Kate Winslet
Katharine Hepburn
Kathy Bates
Laura Dern
Laura Linney
Lee Remick
Lesley Ann Warren
Lily Tomlin
Liza Minnelli
Lorraine Bracco
Maggie Gyllenhaal
Maggie Smith
Mare Winningham
Mariel Hemingway
Marlee Matlin
Mary Tyler Moore
Melanie Griffith
Meryl Streep
Minnie Driver
Mira Sorvino
Miranda Richardson
Natalie Wood
Nicole Kidman
Olympia Dukakis
Patricia Arquette
Patricia Neal
Peggy Ashcroft
Piper Laurie
Queen Latifah
Rachel Griffiths
Rosemary Harris
Sally Field
Sally Kirkland
Samantha Morton
Shirley MacLaine
Saoirse Ronan
Sigourney Weaver
Sissy Spacek
Sophie Okonedo
Stockard Channing
Susan Sarandon
Sylvia Sidney
Taraji P. Henson
Toni Collette
Uma Thurman
Vanessa Redgrave
Viola Davis

An awful lot of these are pretty plausible, I suppose.  As we read through the columns though, it becomes a process of elimination.

First column:  She's worked all over the world and went to a school were the English and Drama departments were the same thing.  Early in her career she took her mother to a premiere and ... no nothing especially solid.

Second column:  "I was asleep when it was announced I’d been nominated for an Academy Award."

Well now, that's quite the thing isn't it?

Saoirse Ronan was asleep for her Brooklyn nomination.  She said in her interview that her Mum told her, whereas in the column there's a whole business with a fire escape which might be the same thing.  Plus it's not her first nomination.  But can she be considered an LA actress?  Also this feels like someone talking about an event from some time ago.

There's also this bombshell:

"As for that ceremony – I don’t remember that much of it. I do remember getting hugely sweaty armpits and Meryl Streep helping me dry them under the hand-blower thing in the ladies room."

Which the Vulture have decided means its Kate Winslet.

Except this also means that Winslet has to be turning out these columns for The Guardian on a weekly basis despite being Kate Winslet.

Column Three:  Nothing which can specifically be connected to anyone.

At this point I have no idea.

But if we are going to spoil their fun, we have to work from the basis that it's someone who has the time to sit and write these things.

BBC World News. A History.

Journalism a516digital has a really thorough history of BBC World News which turns twenty-five this year:
"The new BBC World consisted of several blocks of news each day, each lasting between 2 and 3 hours: Newsroom, Newsday, Newsdesk, Newshour Asia-Pacific, The World Today and The World Report. In between, regular World News bulletins sat alongside a selection of lifestyle programmes, stripped across the week in a strand called "Time Out", giving international viewers a chance to see the likes of Holiday, Food and Drink, The Clothes Show, Tomorrow's World, Top Gear and Film 95 with Barry Norman. A further strand of longer programmes were scheduled at various points of the day, with a variety of current affairs programmes including Panorama, The Money Programme, Correspondent and Question Time and factual programmes including Horizon and Rough Guide to the World."
I'm still fascinated by the notion that there are BBC branded channels broadcasting outside of the UK, especially BBC World News which has some of its own presenters and correspondents who we'll never see and programmes we can never watch.

Mother's Helix.

Film Find below the poster for what looks like Gary Marshall's latest demolition of the hyperlink film genre or narrative structure, Mother's Day, to be released in the UK on the 17 June 2016, a full three and half months after Mother's Day is celebrated here, something which is sure to be mentioned in the reviews. Look at Julia Robert's hair:

I'll just leave this here:

Updated (about three minutes later).  Jezebel has a trailer.  It looks rubbish.  Julia Roberts deserves better than this.  Hell, Jennifer Aniston deserves better than this.  Oh and someone in the comments noticed the wig thing too.  So that's all good.

Video Reviews:
All Saints - One Strike.

Music Nice of the All Saints to make their original fanbase feel at home by shooting a homage to Sugababes's Overload video, transferring it to dvd then videoing the result from an black and white analogue television through a letterbox.  At least Flatline had a beach.  But I suppose after Pure Shores they didn't want to seem derivative.  C-

Updated.  I've since been informed that due to the unique way in which this whole escapade is happening, the above video was self-funded which makes me feel a bit guilty.  So I've pre-ordered the album at Amazon by way of karmic balance.  They're apparently signed copies which is quite something.  I'll add it to the set.

Lance Wyman.

Art Last night I attended a lecture by designer extraordinaire Lance Wyman at the Liverpool School of Art and Design at Liverpool John Moores University in which he talked primarily about his work on the graphics for the Mexico Olympics in 1968, whose utilisation of icons and pictograms has gone on to influence the artwork not just on future games but also transit systems and electronic devices, notably iOS.

My original plan was to offer copious notes on the talk, but it occurred to me that it was a fairly polished speech and he must have given it before and sure enough find a recorded version of it from an appearance at the Walker Art Center in New York.  Some of the slides are different and the duration is longer but the content (from a cursory glance) feels roughly the same.  Here's a different recording from four years ago at a design festival.

If you have any interest in design or the Olympics its well worth watching as he demonstrates how very complex information can be communicated with the deceptively simplest of images and how every element has been carefully thought through and has implications in a way which often seems not to be the case in more recent design (see London 2012).  If you want to see his 1968 designs in action, the Olympics have uploaded the official film of the games.

Lear Here.

TV Yesterday at a BBC event, Charlotte Moore the new controller of TV Channels and iPlayer outlined her vision for the various channels and released information about upcoming programmes. 

The banner headline for some of us is a production of King Lear for BBC Two starring Anthony Hopkins which he previous played at the National in 1987 and will be from the same production team as The Dresser, which is to the good since it put the words above staging.

[sidebar: Yes, I know, Lear again.  But like Hamlet you're not really tuning in for the story but to see what Hopkins does with the central role.  I've made my peace with this finally I think.  It'll be interesting to see who the supporting cast is.  McKellan as the Fool would be an interesting twist.]

Part of the speech was about trying to show that the BBC are thinking about how their channels should be defined how best to deal with them although its noticeable that BBC Three isn't mentioned at all in the press release.

Glancing through it's noticeable that the definitions still aren't as clear as they could be and will continue to be eroded as linear television gives way to catch-up.  I wonder how many of us visit the various genres on the iPlayer and really know which channel something was broadcast.

Three things otherwise of note.

(1)  This chunk about Arts:
"BBC Two will be the flagship channel for contemporary arts and music, with partnerships thriving on the channel.

-Ambitious run of Saturday nights dedicated to arts, music and performance will launch on BBC Two in September.
-There will be evenings devoted to Marlon Brando and Alan Bennett, landmark profiles of Sue Townsend and Vincent Van Gogh.
-Behind the scenes of cultural powerhouses like the Royal Ballet and Tate.
-Topical programming about the biggest arts events like Man Booker Prize and Frieze Art Week, and special access to once-in-a-lifetime, blockbuster exhibitions.
-BBC Two will bring audiences closer to great art and performance, to those who make it, how they make it and the art itself."
"Performance" Note this is after the Summer sports disruptions and the Proms so their line of thinking isn't simply music.  With any luck other than Lear this will include more actual "performance" rather than simply making of promotional hours about shows which people outside of London won't be able to see anyway.

(2)  Lucy Worsley is making a show for BBC One:
Henry VIII's Six Wives, 3x60 mins, made by Wall to Wall South

In an ambitious, ground-breaking approach to drama and history, historian Lucy Worsley time travels back to the Tudor Court to witness some of the most dramatic moments in the lives of Henry VIII’s Six Wives. Combining drama written by Chloe Moss with Lucy’s own contemporary historical comment, Lucy will move seamlessly from the present to the past, appearing as a range of silent servants: a maid, midwife or nurse maid. As the drama plays out, Lucy eavesdrops on the events in the Royal Court and reports back.
So will she break the forth wall in the middle of the action to give us some background to the events or simply take over the job of a background artist and then speak to camera in between whilst strolling around the same location as per a more typical presenter led documentary?

(3) The use of the word "impartial" in ever synopsis about the EU documentaries.  It's the BBC.  How does this not go without saying?

My Favourite Film of 1956.

Film Watching Forbidden Planet for the first time during a tea time sci-fi season on Channel 4 in the 1990s, two things struck me. Firstly how much is resembled Star Trek, which it would given Gene Roddenberry has listed it as a key influence on his franchise with the film eventually somewhat being weaved into the franchise's spin-off fiction.

But also the doors.  Or more specifically the giant, weirdly shaped doors on Altair IV in the Krell city.  If you've ever had the pleasure of film studies, you'll know it teaches you to look for details, the mis-en-scene and also how details in even the set and costume design can demonstrate a lot about character both overtly and subliminally.  Once you know to look for it, of course, it's always overt.

The Krell doors are subliminal and yet, if you'll pardon the expression, I'd taken my first step into a much larger world when my teenage self realised that even though the alien race was all but missing from the screen, those doors and everything else about that city provided a range of evidence as to what the race was like.

As an aside that's because the production team had their own very clear idea of what they'd look like. Cinematographer George Folsey has said, "The Krell were originally frog-like in nature with two long legs and a big tail. They were never shown, but it was indicated in the original screenplay that the ramps between the steps were designed to accommodate their dragging tail."

That's not what I imagined.  I imagined giants, true, but something akin to the people Gulliver discovered or indeed what would eventually inhabit the spaceship in Prometheus although that made the mistake of actually showing us the aliens and so made them rather less interesting (although it's not like an Alien prequel had much of a choice).

Nevertheless it was my first inclination of how what I'd later discover was called exposition was communicated in a number of ways and not just verbally and that these were creative choices and that film was an incredibly complex business even in, what I seem to recall being described by the television announcer as, a b-movie.

Ghost BBC Three: Schedule Information.

TV Something I hadn't considered in relation to BBC Three's continued zombie-like existence on the television was how it would be recorded on the website.

Noticing that Mongrels had turned up on the iPlayer with a month left to watch, I checked the episode broadcast data and sure enough right at the bottom here's a broadcast listed for a channel which isn't officially supposed to be on television any more:

Which means that there has to be scheduling information on the website somewhere.

Along with the previously discussed A-Z, the remove of the live feed tab from the BBC's iPlayer page also removed the link to the schedule. Unlike the A-Z simply changing the channel information or adding data doesn't lead to the old mojo. This URL:


Leads instead to a box with a link to the new BBC Three website. But the schedule information is there. If you Google for it.

Google: "bbc three schedule 6 march 2016"

And here we are on the old programme pages:


Where clicking on the calendar at the top it's possible to see what'll be broadcast on ghost BBC Three in the future. Here's Monday 14th March ...


... with its double bill of Don't Tell The Bride repeats.

Looking backwards through the days, this does seem to have become a mechanism for adding BBC Three's older material to the iPlayer.

The third series of Gavin and Stacey is getting umteenth run at the beginning of next week which'll presumably mean it'll be on the iPlayer for the following month.

How long will the BBC keep this version of the channel?  Not sure.  It is a useful way of maintaining the content on the iPlayer so that THREE! retains some of old character in this new online form.  Repeats like this were always a feature so it'd be odd for them to simply disappear.

It's just possible that because of the limited capacity it'll end on Freeview at some point but continue on satellite with just these two broadcast hours (as is true of some commercial stations) although I don't know if the BBC Trust broadcasting rules will allow for that due to universality of access or some such.

Anyway the upshot of all this is its now possible to see whats coming up on ghost BBC Three without having to keep pressing the "+24 hrs" button on an television EPG.