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Showing posts from February, 2020

WE HAD IT WITH YOUR DISCIPLINE [223]

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I recently read "Live From New York," an oral history of "Saturday Night Live," filled with anecdotes about making, and almost ruining, a TV show that has become a cultural institution in the United States. "SNL" has only just begun showing in the UK, on Sky Comedy – previously, it could only be seen in sections officially posted on YouTube, and when other channels occasionally showed compilations of old sketches. Despite this paucity, everyone is almost expected to know what “SNL” is, and its hold on the landscape of US comedy. "SNL" is a ninety-minute mix of comedy sketches, stand-up, and music, aired on NBC since 1975. The first episode had only about five sketches, and the second had just one, but the quality of the performance and writing meant the other "variety" elements, which included short films and the Muppets, were edged out in favour of the "Not Ready for Prime-Time Players," initially Dan Ackroyd, John B

JUMP UP AND DOWN AND MOVE IT ALL AROUND [222]

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Now I am producing the occasional “Dancing with the Gatekeepers” video in addition to these articles, I am considering how to add further elements to them – the writing is fine, the presentation will only become more confident with further practice, but the series, such as it is, currently has no music, and no opening titles. I have keyboards, and some tunes in mind, but creating opening titles appeared to be something well outside my abilities. However, I remembered that, if I played more towards a nostalgia angle, creating effective titles suddenly becomes much easier. Before computers revolutionised visuals on UK television in the early 1980s, there would be departments at TV companies dedicated to moving construction paper and Letraset around our screens. If you wanted animation, it will be hand-drawn – television and film advertising in Britain was shaped and influenced by names like Richard Williams, Halas & Batchelor, Wyatt Cataneo, Bob Godfrey, Aardman, and so on. V

WHO CARES WHAT PICTURE YOU SEE [221]

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Talking about business when talking about art feels vulgar, but “Hollywood” means both, and its success is measured in box office figures and, perhaps soon, subscribers. Each media conglomerate – behemoths like Disney; Comcast, owners of Universal Pictures, Sky TV and NBC; AT&T, recent buyers of Warner Bros. and HBO; and ViacomCBS, which includes Paramount Pictures – will soon have their own streaming services, requiring you to opt in to their service to get the shows they make, and the films they own. Netflix are already concentrating on their own productions as a result, saddling themselves with debt in the process. The entry of a phone company, AT&T, into this industry is not unusual, with technology and IT infrastructure companies already running their own services, like Google, Amazon and Apple. Hollywood is now part of a vertically-integrated media industry, as in one company will now own the entire process from making a film to releasing it, controlling access

IT’S ONLY TEENAGE WASTELAND [220]

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Halley’s Comet, last seen crossing our skies in 1986, will next appear in 2061. Until then, I watched “Night of the Comet,” a more modern version of one of those teenage drive-in sci-fi films – that is, modern for 1984. Having spent the first ten or so minutes setting up the characters and situation, the main event, the flash of a comet in the night sky, seemingly turns all the people watching all the people watching it into to a red dust, apart from Catherine Mary Stewart’s character Reggie, her boyfriend, and a zombie, who appeared behind a door that had a poster for the film “Red Dust” attached to it. “Night of the Comet” is a testament to the effectiveness of applying to cordon off a few areas of a city, and adding a red filter top the top half of a camera lens: instant desolation is created. Having established what pervades the sky throughout the film, the characters that survive – Reggie, her sister Sam, a man named Hector, and two children – behave very matter-of-fa