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Showing posts from May, 2019

WITH SO MANY LIGHT YEARS TO GO, AND THINGS TO BE FOUND [177]

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On 30 th May 2016, I published the first article of “Leigh Spence is Dancing with the Gatekeepers,” and while I have largely kept to the “nostalgia culture crisis” theme, I have been impressed by ability to lurch from one subject to the next. The plan has always been to plug the gaps in my own knowledge, report my findings, and improve my writing ability. I just wasn’t expecting culture wars, Brexit and Donald Trump to flare up at the same time – hell, David Cameron was still Prime Minister when this site began. If you have dropped in along the way, wondered where this was all going next, and took a second look, you have my thanks. For the first time, I present the top ten most read articles from the first three years and 176 articles – it turns out one trademark of this site is my ability to lurch from one subject to the next! 1. THAT’S A BEAUTIFUL SPEECH, BUT NOBODY’S LISTENING [ link ] (published 21/09/2017) As “Dada” is an art form that needed its own word to r

YING TONG DIDDLE I PO! [176]

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Hercules Grytpype-Thynne asks Count Moriarty to “Take a letter in gargling fluid... To the Postmaster General. Dear General [gargling noises], according to the shape of my knees [gargling noises], I believe that an illegal raffle [gargling noises] for the Equator is being held, and for certain monies I will reveal the organiser [gargling noises]. Let's have that back, please. ” The message is spat out. “You filthy swine! You've watered my peony.” “What time is it Eccles,” asks Bluebottle. “I’ve got it written down ‘ere on a piece of paper,” replies Eccles. A nice man wrote the time down for him that morning. “Supposing when somebody asks you the time, it isn't eight o'clock?” “Ah, den I don't show it to dem.” “Well how do you know when it's eight o'clock?” “I've got it written down on a piece of paper!” Neddie Seagoon is asked to speak to Fred the Oyster, after insisting oysters can’t talk. He shouts, “ Good morning, I see that it's ear

GIVING YOU BACK THE GOOD TIMES [175]

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“God bless Mrs Ethel Shroake, long live Mrs Ethel Shroake...” After watching a film, you don’t normally need to watch the trailer to work out what the plot was, but I am glad I did it for “The Bed Sitting Room.” In the trailer, Frank Thornton, playing “The BBC,” in its entirety, delivers what was the “last news.” He wears a dinner jacket, and seen through the frame of a television... but only the frame is left, and only the top part of his suit remains. It has been three, or four, years since the “Nuclear Misunderstanding,” or World War III, which lasted for 2 minutes 28 sessions, including the signing of the peace treaty. Thornton continues in a trailer-only voiceover that links together details: only twenty people are left in the UK, including Marty Feldman playing a one-man NHS; all electricity is generated by one man on a bicycle, powering a train on London Underground’s Circle Line; the Queen’s former charlady is now monarch, being next left in line for the throne; an

YOU LITTLE WONDER, LITTLE WONDER YOU [174]

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Some time ago, I downloaded Tetris for my mobile phone, but I rarely play it. The compromises necessary to make the game work with touch-screen technology made it, for me, less playable: the choice is to swipe your “tetrominos” down the screen, or choose where you want it to fall. I want to be able to properly guide them down, and rotate them around – I need buttons, one for each thumb. I took the obvious path: I now own a cheap Nintendo Game Boy, and a cartridge of the game that was, until Pok é mon happened, its killer app – and it didn’t need a character, be they a plumber hedgehog or Pikachu. I need not mention how Tetris works, as everyone must have played it by now – thirty-five million copies of the original Game Boy game, introduced with the console in 1989, were sold, not counting further versions of it, both for the Game Boy and other systems. The game’s inventor, Sergei Pajitnov, has said the Game Boy version is his favourite, and I can see why, having not put it dow

PEOPLE IN THE NIGHT AND PEOPLE UP ABOVE [173]

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Everyone must watch “Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy.” If it doesn’t make sense, you are watching too closely, meaning you must watch it again. Two years ago, when I first heard that Noel Fielding will be hosting “The Great British Bake Off” with Sandi Toksvig, I realised we missed the opportunity for Spike Milligan and Victoria Wood to have presented “Antiques Roadshow.” However, what struck me as being uneasy was Fielding being placed into a predictable format. At the time, he was a contestant on “Taskmaster,” a genius game show built around comedians’ approaches to bizarre and silly tasks – a perfect place for a surrealist, Dadaist operator like Fielding. While other contestants hid behind objects to make themselves invisible, Fielding used a green screen to hide as a banana in a fruit bowl. However, the second series of “Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy,” subtitled “Tales from Painted Hawaii,” infuriated me. Broadcast in 2014, two years after the first series, and only

GON BE A FREE MAN IN THE MORNING [172]

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Towards the end of the film “A Face in the Crowd,” Marcia Jeffries realises she must take action to stop the star of the TV show she produces, Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes. She discovered Rhodes as a drunken drifter in a jail, when trying to find a voice for a radio item back home in Arkansas. His homespun humour and opinions, and his gravelly singing voice, made him a hit with his audience, but as soon as he saw how they responded to him, and how they could be mobilised, his career took off, to Memphis and New York, from radio to television to politics. He had his audience in his hand, he saw himself in them, and he saw how they could be controlled - ultimately, he thought they were his own flock of sheep. At the end of one show, Marcia fades up Rhodes’ microphone as the credits roll, letting his true opinions be heard by all. Switchboards at the TV station are immediately jammed with the fury of those whose trust he betrayed. His career was over before he left the studio. For every

WE’RE OFF TO SEE THE WIZARD [171]

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How is this for a career path: starting as a journalist in Southampton, John Boorman ran the newsroom of Southern Television, launching the evening news magazine “Day by Day,” a forerunner of the local news programmes seen across the UK. From there, he moved to Bristol, to make documentaries for the BBC. He was asked to make use of those documentary techniques to reproduce “A Hard Day’s Night,” except starring the Dave Clark Five. The resulting film, “Catch Us If You Can,” opened up an opportunity to direct a film in Hollywood, “Point Blank”, starring Lee Marvin. After the next film, “Leo the Lion,” was made back in the UK, Boorman’s next American film was “Deliverance.” In twelve years, Boorman made it to the Deep South, from the South of England. So, by 1974, John Boorman could really make any film he wanted. However, because “Star Wars” was still three years away, there was no appetite for something on the scale of “Lord of the Rings,” which was his original plan. However, sc

HARDER, BETTER, FASTER, STRONGER [170]

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There is much to say about “His Girl Friday,” but its super-fast dialogue made me buy a blu-ray copy of it recently. However, its reputation as a masterful screwball comedy, starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, underpinned by the professional production and direction by Howard Hawks, lauded as much of an cinematic auteur as Alfred Hitchcock, is told and retold in scholarly circles as an archetypal example of the “Classical Hollywood film,” displaying the types of characters, story and production Hollywood most often showed between the mid-1920s and 1960, when “Psycho” swept it all away. The play on which “His Girl Friday” is based, “The Front Page,” by Chicago journalists Ben Hecht & Charles MacArthur, made as big a splash in Broadway in 1928 as Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller would make twenty years later. The story, in which journalist Hildy Johnson is due to marry and leave Chicago, but is schemed into staying where he works best by his editor, Walter Burns,

AND THEN THE CAT CREPT IN [169]

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I had not expected myself, having finished watching “Cat People,” to be comparing it to “Get Out,” but both films, in their time, challenged expectations of what a horror film can be, and Jordan Peele caused as much surprise with his debut feature film as Val Lewton had done with his. The horror in “Cat People” is implied, and psychological in nature. Like the other films Lewton made as a producer at RKO Radio Pictures, the story didn’t necessarily need to be told as a horror film – it is grounded in our reality, and the characters are relatable, even being shown at work. In fact, the horror comes when it is needed, not just because the audience needs to be jolted in their seats. The story concerns someone who, like Lewton, was born in Eastern Europe – Irena, a fashion designer, who is haunted by the stories of devil worship and witchcraft from her ancestors’ village, which turned them into cat people. She believes she will turn into a panther if she gives in to passion and b

AND THE POWER YOU POSESS [168]

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After I bemoaned the reduction of comic books to R&D for blockbuster film franchises, I felt I should share some of the comics I like the most. This is not a definitive list of what I personally believe are the greatest books ever created, but rather a list of books that, if I wanted something to read, I would gladly pick them up again and again. 1) The Invisibles (1994-2000): This is the kind of book you want to come across in a library: a teenager joins a cell of freedom fighters that use magic, meditation and time travel as much as their fists, because their enemies also use psychic violence. “The Invisibles” is an exhilarating, psychedelic, existentialist odyssey, flinging new ideas all over the place, in the vein of William Burroughs, waiting for you to keep up. It made the name of Grant Morrison, its Glasgow-based writer, who adopted the bald head and clothing of “Invisibles” character King Mob, as the writing of the book changed his life through the chaos magic he