Posts

Showing posts from August, 2020

NEVER BRING ME ANY TEARS [258]

Image
In 1949, the architect of BBC Television Centre, Graham Dawbarn, answered the question of how to arrange the world’s first purpose-built centre for television production after drawing a question mark on a used envelope: build the studios in a circle, leading to a central hub of tape machines. An outside track would feed the sets built in the scenery block, and rehearsal rooms and canteens were placed at the other end, with offices and editing suites scattered throughout. It was literally a factory: wood, paint, fabric and tape went in one side, and a finished programme was sent out. When I have visited Shepherd’s Bush, I am aware how much of the area was once employed by the BBC: the Shepherd’s Bush Empire was known as the BBC Television Theatre from 1953 to 1991, hosting everything from “Bruce Forsyth’s Generation Game” to Terry Wogan’s thrice-weekly chat show; the former Gaumont-British studios in Lime Grove, used by Alfred Hitchcock to make the original “The Man Who Knew T

BRING ME LAUGHTER ALL THE WHILE [257]

Image
BBC Television Centre (2009) If you get the chance to visit a building usually closed to the public, take it. In 2009, I visited BBC Television Centre in Shepherd’s Bush, London, a literal television production factory: studios were set up to record episodes of “Harry Hill’s TV Burp,” “The Alan Titchmarsh Show,” “Friday Night with Jonathan Ross” (with guests including Christopher Walken and Green Day), and “Strictly Come Dancing,” for which the main doors to studio 1 were open to deliver the set. We were permitted to look down on one studio, known as TC8, filming a pilot for a quiz show featuring Rufus Hound and Sara Cox. These shows were in addition to the numerous news, sport and children’s programmes coming live from elsewhere in the complex. During the ninety-minute tour, starting at the main entrance targeted by a Real IRA bomb in March 2001, we sat in the BBC News editorial meeting room, passed through the famous wood-panelled Stage Door entrance, the circular court

I HATE THESE BLURRED LINES [256]

Image
At the start of “Cherry 2000”, we are reminded the film is “An Orion Pictures Release,” which is charitable of them: it finished production in December 1985 for an August 1986 release, which was pushed back to March 1987, then September 1987, before finally being released in November 1988. This is the lot of many films, especially when there are now many more places to shove a difficult film than ever before. “Cherry 2000,” however, should not have had this fate. It is a post-apocalyptic, science-fiction, romantic-ish comedy thriller: very little is not covered by that description. However, because it is all of those things, and not just one of them, it became too difficult to market – “Blade Runner” was languishing in pre-Director’s Cut obscurity at the time, so comparisons with that film were impossible. Therefore, “Cherry 2000” was squeezed out on VHS in the United States and Japan, although it was seen in cinemas in Europe. Fortunately, the film compares favourably wi

IN OTHER WORDS, HOLD MY HAND [255]

Image
If a film is made of my life, it will begin like this: It is 1987, I am four years old, and have just started school. A teacher notices how I am writing, and takes my pencil, putting it through a triangular block that will help me to write better. I was left-handed, and I am expected to take the pencil back in my right hand. Cut to today, and I write freely and fluidly, with my left hand, like I always have done, because why would you change something that doesn’t need changing? I hadn’t realised that every 13 th August since 1992 has been observed as International Left Handers Day, because left-handedness has largely ceased to be a prejudicial difference in people, when other differences should also have done by now. Whenever left-handedness comes up, even my reaction is just an “oh yeah.” I am aware of the Latin word for “left” being “sinistralis,” causing its own set of problems through history, and how a the perceived cultural issue of using the “wrong” hand has

IT WAS A GRAVEYARD SMASH [254]

Image
"Nosferatu," a German horror film directed by Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau in 1921, may now only receive a "PG" rating from the British Board of Film Classification, but I still problems watching it. Count Orlok's unnatural features and movement, the shadows, and the sense of foreboding may now only be advised as "mild threat" by the BBFC, but their cumulative effects beat the jump scares of a flash of red, a spray of blood, or a hunk of flesh. Meanwhile, auteur theory, centralising a film’s director as the prime creative force in its making, is just as pervasive in film culture as horror movie tropes, making artists out of John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, and even its proponents, like Jean-Luc Godard. The critic Pauline Kael saw through it, preferring to look at each film individually, through the collective effort of everyone that made it: “The auteur theory is an attempt by adult males to justify staying inside the

A WHOLE LOT OF FUN, PRIZES TO BE WON [253]

Image
Coke Zone was the name of a loyalty points scheme operated by Coca-Cola from 2008 to 2013 across its range of soft drinks. By collecting codes printed on bottles, boxes and can ring pulls, the points you accumulate could buy money-off vouchers to use in stores, magazine subscriptions, cinema tickets and, if you were lucky, expensive electrical items like games consoles and cameras. I have great memories of Coke Zone. Diet Coke is still my favourite drink, and because I rarely ever drink anything alcoholic, Diet Coke is often all I ever drink, apart from water. Introducing a loyalty scheme to a product for which I was already a loyal customer was very welcome indeed. To be honest, I practically fleeced Coca-Cola when they ran Coke Zone. I diligently collected the codes to enter on their website to collect the points, and friends and work colleagues that knew I was collecting the codes gave me their bottles and cans to throw away, after I wrote the codes down. You were only