"I first watched Gilmore Girls around the same time I first saw my mum cry ..."

TV Lovely profile of Gilmore Girls by Abigail Radnor in The Guardian:
"I first watched Gilmore Girls around the same time I first saw my mum cry. I was 21, newly returned to Manchester after a year spent studying at an American university, and I was, as my mum would say, “full of it”: overflowing with excitement and not shutting up. She was driving and I was in the passenger seat; I had just picked up a set of photographs of the best year of my life, and was using them as visual prompts to enthuse about the friends I had made, the places I had been, the ludicrous frat parties I had gone to. Mum was silent for the most part, until she burst into tears. I was dumbstruck. There is nothing more terrifying than seeing the strongest person you know overcome by sadness. Eventually she said, “I am just so jealous”, words I could never have imagined she would say."
I had wondered why, other than budget, the new series was four 90 minutes episodes. Turns out the Palladinos like Sherlock.

The Real First UK Television Broadcasts.

TV Although the launch of television broadcasts is celebrated on the 2nd November each year, there were a number of unofficial test transmissions beforehand, providing an diet of documentaries, film and comedy. Andrew Martin writes on the BBC Genome blog:
"Compared to the regular programmes that started later, there was a high proportion of film in these experimental shows: indeed the first item broadcast, on 26 August 1936, was a Paul Rotha documentary film, Cover to Cover.

"This was followed by the first proper live programme, with singer Helen McKay. This was interrupted by a technical fault (as the start of the transmission had also been). It was followed by an excerpt from the feature film First a Girl, then another outing for Miss McKay preceded a longer programme of film excerpts, including Charles Laughton in Rembrandt, and Paul Robeson in Showboat.

"And that, lasting a little over one and three-quarters hours including tuning signals and breakdowns, was the first day of high-definition television."

Romola on supporting Parents In Performing Arts.

Moccasins and Suspenders.

Commerce On Tuesday I visited Leeds for the first time since 2003, when, you'll remember, my mission was to visit all halls and houses I lived in during my undergraduate degree. This occasion was to see For All Time: Shakespeare in Yorkshire at the University of Leeds's Brotherton Library, a small display of items from their special collections including the First Folio (which I've added to the list here).  There's also a copy of A Yorkshire Tragedy, attributed to Shakespeare on the title cover but actually, analysis suggests, by Thomas Middleton.  Imagine having your work out there with someone else's name on it (although there's a fair few screenwriters for him this is their career).  Middleton would also rewrite Shakespeare plays; it's thought the versions of Macbeth and Measure for Measure we have are his adaptations.

The exhibition only took about half an hour so I spent the rest of the day walking the city centre, something I neglected to do thirteen years ago, not wanting to spoil my memories from the mid-90s, the version which appears in these old videos.  In the fundamental ways, it's exactly the same, the overall structure of the city just the same.  But there are still signs of modernisation and homogeneity, with large sections of the shopping centre having been demolished to make way for giant shopping malls, some architecturally gorgeous palaces, some giant, soulless edifices.  Independent shops do endure at the fringes, so I was able to do some Christmas shopping here and there, unusual items not available elsewhere, from shops which don't have outposts in Liverpool.

The big disappointment was the Kirkgate Market, which other than Morrisons was the place where I did most of my food shopping, eaking out a whole week's meals for £15.  The market was full, dozens of food stalls, the gift market including the stand which only sold tins, loads of clothes places and a general sense of visiting a typical city market but much, much greater.  Now that's all but gone.  Huge empty spaces, plenty of the stalls and shops are not let and there's a general sense of watching managed decline.  It's apparently in the process of being refurbished, but the addition of an event space just seems to be a way of filling an area which was once otherwise buzzing with commerce.

Kirkgate Market was the place were Marks & Spencers was originally founded back in 1884 (sort of) and recently, tying in with an exhibition which has opened at the chain's archive which is housed near Liverpool University, they've opened a pop-up stall inside the market, possibly on the spot where they were founded.  There's a small exhibition and they're selling the kinds of items which would have appeared back then, jams and pickles, tea and biscuits.  There's also a small cafe stand.  I thought you might like to see some photographs.

However tempted I was to buy some marmalade, I quickly remembered that it would be the same stuff on sale in Liverpool, so there wasn't much point in carrying it home.

Mila Kunis on Hollywood sexism.

Film Kunis writes on Medium about some of the male behaviour she's encountered during her career, even after becoming a successful producer. However shocking some of this, isn't unsurprising. I can't imagine how you navigate this and still remain true to yourself:
"In the process of pitching this show to a major network, the typical follow-up emails were sent to executives at this network. In this email chain, this producer chose to email the following:

“And Mila is a mega star. One of biggest actors in Hollywood and soon to be Ashton’s wife and baby momma!!!”

"This is the entirety of his email. Factual inaccuracies aside, he reduced my value to nothing more than my relationship to a successful man and my ability to bear children. It ignored my (and my team’s) significant creative and logistical contributions.

"We withdrew our involvement in the project."
You can imagine the producer's reaction. "What did I say? What did I say?" Kunis explains that he said it was just a "light-hearted comment" not really understanding that it's the fact that he would make that comment at all which is the reason why the actor/producer wouldn't work with him. It's about having a particular mindset which would lead to him thinking that was ok. The ultimate expression of it is to describe that tape as "locker room talk".

Happy Birthday Television!

TV The BBC website has published a history of television on the occasion of its 80th birthday, starting with John Logie Baird. So many interesting titbits:
"If Baird’s machinery looks rather improvised and Heath Robinson-like, that’s because it was. A friend described visiting his Hastings attic workshop and seeing an apparatus made up of an old tea-chest, an empty biscuit box, hat-boxes, cardboard, darning needles, and scrap timber - all held together with glue, sealing wax and string, and balanced on a washstand. By April 1924, though, this bizarre contraption did allow simple outline images of a Maltese cross and various letters of the alphabet to be transmitted two or three yards. And, after the inevitable flurry of press attention, Baird raised enough money to move his operation to London.

"The following year, the retail impresario Gordon Selfridge invited Baird to demonstrate the new ‘attraction’ at his Oxford Street department store. And a few months later, the Post Office licensed Baird’s fledgling company, ‘Television Limited’, to conduct short experimental transmissions from a succession of West End premises."
Baird's experimental transmitter was on the roof of Longleat, which would later house the hopes and dreams of many others.

On Cue-Card Guy.

Film The Atlantic has a well researched column by Megan Garber about how refracted through another prism, the behaviour of the male characters in some romcoms is that of the sexual predator. Somewhat inevitably but it needs to be said:
"The cue-card guy in Love Actually—his character is so roughly sketched that he is generally and correctly known simply as Cue-Card Guy—shows up at the door of his beloved, while her husband sits watching TV, to confess his love. There he is, at her home, without, the cards say, “hope or expectation,” for the purpose of … what? Confusing her? Making her feel good about herself? Convincing her that she should totally leave his best friend for her? Using her so that he may, himself, get some much-needed romantic closure?

"It’s unclear—opacity is the defining characteristic of Cue-Card Guy—but the movie suggests that it is probably the latter of these: “Enough,” Cue-Card Guy says to himself as he’s walking away from her house, “Silent Night” still blaring on his Doblerian boombox, having successfully passed his romantic frustrations on to the woman who is their object. “Enough now.”
Not to mention the number of romcoms in which the male character does something aggressively appauling to the woman who quite rightly moves on and then, what was up to that point a relatively balanced narrative in which both characters have agency, becomes about him trying to win her back, she becoming little more than object in an metaphoric/emotional recreation of the opening scene in Raiders of the Lost arc.

And yes, I'm entirely aware that my favourite film of all time, When Harry Met Sally, somewhat does this, including the run against time and the big speech.  But in that case neither character is really right or wrong, I don't think and Sally still keeps her agency.  Plus the film in general is about friendship rather than romance and you get the feeling that even if they were to divorce later they'd still remain friends.  Or rather that they get married because they're stuck together.

Review 2016:
Review 2016:
Call For Entries.

About The clocks have gone back in the UK, Christmas is close at hand, so it's time, as every year to look towards what's going to be happening on the blog this December.

For the most, when putting out a digital begging bowl and ask if people would like to contribute guest blog post for the end of the year, I make a point of choosing a topic which has nothing to do with that year.

The reviews of the year on this blog have tended to be nothing of the sort.

Not this year. This is different. This year is 2016.

2016 has been so strange, so unlike every other year on record, with so many different things, sometimes positive, mostly negative, so much stuff, that it feels like just the right time to finally make the annual review on this blog, an annual review.

So the pitch this year is - I'd like to you write about something which happened in 2016.

Could be anything, big or small. Massive world event or something which happened in your own life. Could be a review of a book, some music, a film, something you've enjoyed. A holiday. A celebration.

As long as you like. A couple of paragraphs to something much longer and involved. No word limits.

Email them to stuartianburns@gmail.com with "Review 2016" in the subject. Email me first if you like or just surprise me.

As soon as possible but the deadline is really the end of the year.

I'll be happy to plug something in return at the bottom, your blog, Twitter feed, what have you.


My Favourite Film of 1922.

Film My first viewing of Murnau's Nosferatu was exactly eight years ago today and I can't think of a better way of celebrating than to repost, as a Halloween treat, the original story of that night.  Back we go to Thursday, October 30, 2008.

I don’t remember being as cold as I was earlier tonight. I know it’s the winter, and there have been a fair few times when I’ve sat on lonely railway platforms waiting for trains that might not come and I’ve shivered through minutes which seemed like hours but stations, even those open to the air still seem to have a warmth, even if it's because of the internal glow of knowing that home and a warm bed will be in the future. Tonight I stood for an hour and a half in the one place, my feet were numb, my cheeks raw and even hiding my wrists within my armpits underneath my coat didn’t work. I couldn’t move, but didn’t want to move and grim determination was forcing me to stay until the end.

Especially because as a film fan, there was no way I was going to turn up to watch Murnau’s ‘vampire’ film Nosferatu on the Big Screen in Clayton Square in Liverpool and leave in the middle (though some did). Tonight was the Biennial’s The Long Night, and galleries throughout the city opened their doors until late with events including poetry readings at FACT, a short film festival at the Open Eye Gallery and this Halloween presentation in one of the most public squares in the city. Of course I selected the outdoor option on a night like this. In case you need to picture the scene, the BBC Big Screen sits between a Tesco Metro and a Zavvi and is one of the main thoroughfares through to bus stops and Lime Street Station.

This is not the perfect situation in order to see any film, even if it is a silent and yet it’s also the perfect place because it’s so unlikely. As the crowd gathered, people dashing past with their shopping also stopped to look and asked what we were watching. Cars drove through, a large van at one point threatened to park directly between the viewers and the screen (you can imagine the jeers which greeted that possibility), various teenagers turned up and poked fun at the images or rode about on bikes.

Photographers queued up to take pictures of us, looking up at the screen on mass. I’ve seen spontaneous crowds develop in this same spot whenever a big news story breaks, but that’s different to our collective sense of purpose, of watching one of film history’s most unusual films in unusual circumstances. Which isn't to say that everyone stayed until the end; whilst some were doggedly sitting on the floor under blankets, others walked away visibly shivering.

It’s a measure of what the director achieved that somehow some of his images pierced through despite the conditions, the noise, the lights, the distractions. By cranking the camera in experimental ways so that Max Schreck’s movements in the title role become unnatural, despite the obvious make up, he’s a chilling presence, though the directors has already noticed that the best way to show your monster is hardly at all and to let the victim’s fear project the image of what their seeing and it’s that we’re repulsed by.

Taboos seem to stop Murnau from showing Nosferatu actually killing anyone, so the director instead emphasises the details of his killing and also introduced a plaque which spreads in his stead, allowing for lashings of coffin imagery and religious iconography. Considering the film was made in 1922 it still holds up remarkably well as a horror film, if not more so because the production design and values are alien to anything we’re accustomed to seeing a decade under a century later.

There's no doubt the temperature helped with the atmosphere too, as steam rose from our mouths, though I'd be lying if I said there was no chatting, especially at the points when the film repeats story information (we know what happened on the ghost ship, we saw it) or is just plain incoherent (who are all these new characters? What happened to Hutter?).

The new soundtrack provided by Liverpool group a.P.A.t.T. was a multi-textured accompaniment, which oscillated wildly but cleverly between a rural folksy sound to at one point, when the context within which that kind of beastie can exist in the real world is being explained by scientists, a dance piece with BBC Radiophonic Workshop influences. We saw the band as the film played, either cross faded with the action or in a small box at the corner of the screen.

I think I actually lost track of the story during one of these moments and the effect was rather like watching Michael Winterbottom’s 9 Songs with the whoopee making replaced by German Expressionist motifs. But it didn’t matter – this wasn’t a time to be investigating Murnau’s use of lighting, but just to be in a place, enjoying an experience so that one day I can say to someone as we’re passing through:

“You know what? I watched Murnau’s Nosferatu here one All Hallows Eve. It was freezing, and a truck nearly ran me over.”

You can see images of the event at Bren O'Callaghan's webpage.