Here’s me on BBC Guernsey with Oliver Guillou reviewing August 2015 releases and looking forward to September.
Films being reviewed; Fantastic Four (2015), Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015), The Man from Uncle (2015), Hard to Be a God (2013), Southpaw (2015), Trainwreck (2015), Pixels (2015), Videodrome (1983)… and I’m still banging on about about Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).
Okay, so a couple of months ago I was invited to take part in a monthly film review segment on BBC Radio Guernsey with Saturday morning presenter Oliver Guillou, the idea was to review that month’s films and preview the next month’s. I was supposed to be on for about 20ish minutes and we filled an hour because we be nerds. This month (third time lucky) I think I’ve started to hit my stride.
Here’s the link to the show on BBC IPlayer (skip to 02:09:55)
So where to begin? Season 8 started really promisingly, I even felt inclined to review it, but then, with the exception of almost two episodes it just died on the way to a truly bad finale (The Brigadier? Really?). Which is a real shame because Peter Capaldi is a great Doctor.
So what’s the problem? In short, it’s Clara Oswald. Jenna Coleman has been doing what she can but the character just isn’t interesting and her boyfriend, Danny Pink, is worse. He’s a character that you could only describe as a teacher, a soldier or ‘a bit sad’ or tall. But it’s not his fault, he’s only here because this Doctor is not Clara’s pseudo boyfriend any more so that dynamic had to be shoehorned in elsewhere; presumably women are only allowed on telly if they are available to someone or girls will only watch if there is a romantic sub-plot.
Maybe I’m just miserable. Maybe the sight of a mother riding a bicycle through the forest in her BBC mandated bike helmet just tipped me over the edge.
Ho-hum. Roll on Season 9 and my nerdy and masochistic dedication to watching home-grown sci-fi on TV.
Like a lot of people my age, I first became aware of the Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian genocide through the BBC’s children’s TV show Blue Peter (1958 – ). In 1988 the annual appeal was The Great Blue Peter Bring and Buy Sale for Kampuchea (in 1979 they had done a similar appeal to bring food to the survivors of Pol Pot’s utterly fucking warped ideology). Mention Blue Peter appeals to people of my age and this is generally the one they will remember, no surprise as we were 8 and just starting to look outwards and understand the world a bit. It stuck with me and when I saw The Terminator (1984) for the first time about three years later it was the Cambodian skulls that I was brought back to.
Even having spent a further 26 years looking out at the world, Rithy Panh’s documentary telling of the Cambodian genocide is still a slap in the face. It’s a tale told using simple clay figures and archive footage that drag this tragedy of mass numbers into a very personal and staggering story of humanity, will and survival. What works is the simplicity of it all, a simplicity that still manages to raise large questions about freedom and the meaning of recorded images.
This is a great example of abstracting a subject into focus.
Here’s a clip from the Blue Peter appeal of one of the presenters interviewing the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Well, it’s Easter, Good Friday to be precise, and coincidentally I’ve found myself reading Jose Saramago’s really quiet brilliant novel The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, which, as these things do, has bought to mind several films along related lines but the one that I always think of is Dennis Potter’s Son of Man.
Originally broadcast as part the BBC’s Wednesday Play strand, Son of Man tells the story of Christ (Colin Blakeley on tough form) as if he is unsure of his own divinity, a question that the play itself steadfastly refuses to resolve (even the silence is ambiguous) and a conceit that pushes the central and brilliantly revolutionary thought of loving your enemies to the foreground. There are no miracles here but Son of Man is full of the kind of quietly stunning moments that the small screen does so well, including a shattering (shattered?) reaction from Pontius Pilate.
Apparently, Potter’s film was shot cheaply in about three days in a studio and you can tell that the black and white is hiding a multitude of budgetary shortfalls but, none the less, this is a provocative and fasinating film that easily stands alongside the likes of Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) and Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964).
Like the BBC’s earlier The War Game, Threads is scary in a way that commercial channels can only dream of. It has a bureaucratic public information feel that other broadcasters would have replaced with emotional spectacle.
Of course, Threads still has it’s big moments, with a mushroom cloud over Sheffield and soldiers shooting looters in the streets, but it’s the local-ness of it all that kills you; the emergency committee trying to manage the civic fallout and the iconic image of the armed Traffic Warden working alongside soldiers. The core of Threads is the very British terror that we already know how shit the local council is at getting the bins collected so lord knows what’ll happen if the bomb drops.
Fittingly, even for a story as densely plotted as this, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a film about looking. Director Tomas Alfredson puts this front and center with Smiley’s visit to the optician for new frames and the way that the viewer is invited, just like Connie Sachs, to interrogate the frame (the beginning of ‘the fall’, and the start of the next Le Carre tale, can be found in a missing tie). It’s also in Bill Roach, ‘best watcher in the unit’, mirrored looks across an office party and through a wire fence and Smiley’s inability to see the mole. The classic BBC TV series might be more faithful but the film, with it’s emphasis on the visual, is a much better telling of this gripping tale.