Archive for January, 2013|Monthly archive page

Blue and Brassy

Edison plaque

American overstatement

On a hunt for NFL gear in NYC this morning for one of the Enfants Terribles, I walked past Macy’s and noticed this brass plaque. The exact wording it turns out is crucial. You leave with the impression that this is where the first movie was projected – “Here the motion picture began” is what misleads. But the truth is actually precisely (and narrowly) what it says below: it’s where Edison first projected a movie. It was put up by “The American Motion Picture Industry” where truth is not always at a premium.

Movies were first publicly projected 8 months earlier in Chicago at the Model Variety Theater. And they were first projected to a paying audience 5 months before in Paris at the Grand Café. In fact they’d already been publicly projected in New York before this date. I haven’t done much research but I dare say there are some other European claims to challenge these dates.

Edison had already charged members of the public to watch movies prior to this date but on peephole machines, not projected. On the date marked by this bold and brassy plaque the film was part of a vaudeville show and was simply three of his peephole films spliced together. So over-stated, over-charged and over here.

Meanwhile back at home in London, I was thinking the other day about blue plaques because a newspaper story has been doing the rounds about how English Heritage, who now administer the blue plaque scheme, established in 1866 and believed to be the oldest of its kind in the world, are about to kill the blue plaque. The scheme was set up under the auspices of the Society of Arts (later the Royal Society of the Arts, of which at one time I was a Fellow). The baton then passed to the London County Council and in due course to the Greater London Council. In 1986, English Heritage took up the responsibility. So the press stories recently suggested that the scheme was about to end but I suspect this was actually cack-handed PR on the part of English Heritage, crying wolf in the face of tight times and cuts. They have subsequently said they are just pausing the scheme to deal with a back-log and slow things down in these cash-starved times. What they have done in the process is drawn attention to the cost of what should at heart be a simple operation with expenditure limited to making a robust piece of blue ceramic, but no doubt there is some immense bureaucracy accreted around a simple idea designed to make a plain link between notable characters from the past and the buildings in which they lived, worked and died. As English Heritage summarises the 147 year old scheme with which it has been entrusted: “It is a uniquely successful means of connecting people and place.” I suspect if EH did pull the plug, we the public could do it for ourselves at a fraction of the cost and bring back a long tradition of public subscription in our country with the help of some open, sharing digital technology.

Any way, enough kvetching as they say around here (I’m writing this at 3rd Avenue and 24th Street), I’d like to draw attention to my favourite blue plaque. It’s high up on the wall of 22 Frith Street in London, above the Bar Italia, directly opposite Ronnie Scott’s jazz club – and it’s a model of British understatement:

British understatement

British understatement

So basically “Here Television began”.

If you go to Bletchley Park, or certainly this was the case about five to ten years ago, you could see the concrete base of the hut where the world’s first programmable computer was created by Alan Turing. The hut was knocked down some years ago. The spot is (or was) not specifically marked. I remember standing there and thinking if this was in the USA there would be something pretty significant to mark this stupendous happening. “Here Computing began.” Or at least “Here programmable Computing began.”

It was minus 13 the night I arrived here. As an Englishman in New York I might have said: “It’s a bit nippy”. But there’s a time for sang froid and a time for being big, bold and brassy…

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Oscars 2013

OscarsIf the world were a just or tasteful place, this is who’d be getting a little golden man this year:

BEST PICTURE

Silver Linings Playbook

BEST DIRECTOR

David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)

BEST ACTOR

Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)

BEST ACTRESS

Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)

Argo Alan Arkin

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Alan Arkin (Argo) or Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Helen Hunt (The Sessions) or Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook)

Best Original Screenplay
Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained

Best Adapted Screenplay
Chris Terrio, Argo or
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

Best Documentary Feature
Searching For Sugar Man

Cinematography
Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi or Roger Deakins, Skyfall

Best Original Score
Thomas Newman, Skyfall

More on Silver Linings Playbook here

More on Bond music here

4 for 66 (Happy Birthday David Bowie)

 

One Bowie

One Bowie

Two Bowie

Two Bowie

 

To mark that special Londoner David Bowie’s 66th birthday today and the release of his new single Where Are We Now? here are four of his best ever songs:

  1. Unwashed and somewhat slightly dazed (Space Oddity) – the height of his hippy phase and I’m a sucker for the blues harp
  2. Life on Mars? (Hunky Dory) – from intimate to epic in the space 3’52”
  3. Station to Station (Station to Station) – a journey and a half of electronic, stereoscopic, systematic, hydromatic, goodbuzzin’, cooltalkin’, highwalkin’, fastlivin’, evergivin’ self-dramatisation
  4. Aladdin Sane (Aladdin Sane) – more madness, this time with crazy plinking, the perfect soundtrack to teenage chaos
Three Bowie

Three Bowie

And now a line or two from each:

  1. It must strain you to look down so far from your father’s house
    And I know what a louse like me in his house could do for you
  2. Sailors fighting in the dance hall
    Oh man! Look at those cavemen go
    It’s the freakiest show
  3. The return of the Thin White Duke
    Throwing darts
    In lovers’ eyes
  4. Clutches of sad remains
    Waits for Aladdin Sane

My last Bowie adventure is here at Heddonism

Four. Four Bowies make a bunch - and so do many more.

Four. Four Bowies make a bunch – and so do many more.

Best of 2012

[a work in progress]
Silver Linings Playbook

Film:
Silver Linings Playbook
Runner-up: Untouchable

Speedy – accompanied by Evelyn Glennie & Talvin Singh (Not So Silent Movies)
West Side Story with live orchestra (Albert Hall)
Searching for Sugarman
On The Road
Woody Allen: A Documentary

(2011 winner: Midnight in Paris)
(2010 [reluctant] winner: Toy Story 3)
(2009 winner: Inglourious Basterds)

Actor:
Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)
Runner-up: Anthony Hopkins (Hitchcock), Jared Gilman (Moonrise Kingdom)

(2011 winner: Owen Wilson (Midnight in Paris))
(2010 winner: Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network))
(2009 winner: Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds))

Actress:
Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
Runner-up: Helen Hunt (The Sessions)

(2011 winner: Carey Mulligan (Shame))
(2010 winner: Julianne Moore (The Kids Are Alright) )
(2009 winner: Carey Mulligan (An Education) )

Supporting Actor:
Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)
Leonardo DiCaprio (Django Unchained)
Christopher Walken (Seven Psychopaths)
Alan Arkin (Argo)
Xavier Bardem (Skyfall)
William Macy (The Sessions)

(2011 winner: Corey Stoll (Midnight in Paris))
(2010 winner: Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are Alright) )
(2009 winner: Brad Pitt (Inglourious Basterds) )

Supporting Actress:
Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook)
Helen Mirren (Hitchcock)
Kristen Stewart (On The Road)

(2011 winner: Shailene Woodley (The Descendants))
(2010 winner: Rebecca Hall (The Town) )
(2009 winner: Kristin Scott Thomas (Nowhere Boy) )

Director:
David O. Russell  (Silver Linings Playbook)
Runners-up: Walter Salles (On The Road), Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty)

(2011 winner: Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris))
(2010 winner: Ben Affleck (The Town) )
(2009 winner: Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds) )

Script:
David O. Russell  (Silver Linings Playbook)
Runners-up: Chris Terrio (Argo), Martin McDonagh (Seven Psychopaths), Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained)

(2011 winner: Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris))
(2010 winner: The Social Network)
(2009 winner: The Hangover)

Cinemtography:
Roger Deakins (Skyfall)
Runner-up: Eric Gautier (On The Road)

Dean and Marylou getting it on

Dean and Marylou getting it on

TV:
Olympic Opening Ceremony (BBC1)
Runner-up: The Audience (Channel 4)

Homeland, seasons 1 + 2 (Channel 4)
Grand Designs  (Channel 4)

Gig:

Van Morrison – Ronnie Scott’s
Dexy’s – Empire, Shepherds Bush
Bat for Lashes – The Forum

Gregory Porter – Bloomsbury Theatre
Patti Smith – Troxy, Limehouse

(2011 winner: Sinead O’Connor – St Johns at Hackney church)
(2010 winner: Gil Scott Heron – Somerset House)
(2009 winner: Hothouse Flowers – Community hall, Baltimore, West Cork)

LP:
One Day I’m Going to Soar – Dexys
How About I Be Me (And You Be You)? – Sinead O’Connor

This is PIL – Public Image Ltd.
Holly Cook – In Dub

(2011 winner: Johnny Boy Would Love This – various)
(2010 winner: Praise & Blame – Tom Jones)
(2009 winner: Sea Sew – Lisa Hannigan)

Single:
Harder Than You Think – Public Enemy
She Got a Wiggle – Dexys
One Drop – Public Image Ltd.
Reason With Me – Sinead O’Connor

(2011 winner: Movin’ Down the Line- Raphael Saadiq)
(2010 winner: What good am I? – Tom Jones)
(2009 winner: Glass – Bat for Lashes)

Book:
The Typewriter is Holy – Bill Morgan

(2011 winner: The Sisters Brothers – Patrick de Witt)
(2010 winner: Freedom – Jonathan Franzen)
(2009 winner: The Great Lover – Jill Dawson)

Art:
The Mystery of Appearance (Haunch of Venison)

Musee d’Orsay (post 2012 revamp)
(Preraphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde (Tate Britain))

(2011 winner: Angelheaded Hipsters – Allen Ginsberg (National Theatre))
(2010 winner: Paul Nash – The Elements – Dulwich Picture Gallery)
(2009 winner: Dream – Jaume Plensa)

Can We Talk About This?

Can We Talk About This?

Play:
Can We Talk About This? – DV8 (Lyttleton, NT)

Travelling Light – Nicholas Wright (NT)
She Stoops to Conquer – Oliver Goldsmith (NT)
Singing in the Rain (The Palace)
Jesus Christ Superstar (Millennium Dome)

(2011 winner: Frankenstein (NT))
(2010 winner: Jerusalem)
(2009 winner: August: Osage County)

Sports event:
London 2012 Olympic Games

Website:
Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee

(2011 winner: Instagram)
(2009 winner: Posterous)

Saddest loss:
Neil Armstrong
Dave Brubeck

One Day i'm going to soar cover
Best of 2011
Best of 2010
Best of 2009

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