Archive for February, 2018|Monthly archive page

The Oscars: What do they know?

With the Oscars coming up this weekend, it’s a good moment to keep things in perspective. I am a big fan of 1970s Hollywood, a golden age in movie-making, and whilst the Academy honored ‘The Godfather’ in 1972, ‘…Cuckoo’s Nest’ in 1975, and ‘Annie Hall’ in 1977 with the Best Picture gong, some of the other collective decisions across that decade look very dubious with the distance of hindsight. Actually they probably looked pretty dubious at the time in the same way that, for example, ‘Birdman’ (2014) and ‘Forrest Gump’ (1994) did.

Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould in MASH (1970)

Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould in ‘M*A*S*H’ (1970)

In 1970 ‘Patton’ beat ‘M*A*S*H’ which tells you a lot about what was going on in the world at the time, particularly from an American perspective.

1974 was a singularly tough year with ‘The Godfather II’ up against another Coppola, ‘The Conversation’, and ‘Chinatown’. They made Godfather 2 an offer it couldn’t refuse which is justifiable but you could still have a pretty good debate about that one.

But 1976 is the real aberration. The Academy picked ‘Rocky’ above ‘Taxi Driver’, ‘Network’ and ‘All the President’s Men’. Really?!??!!! ‘Taxi Driver’ is an absolute masterpiece. The other two are both very fine works which have and will stand the test of time. ‘Rocky’ is a reminder that the Academy is largely composed of American men which for some reason brings to mind the famous misquote of H.L. Mencken:

“No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

What the great journalist/satirist actually said was:

“No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.”

Not as neat but the point relates – ‘Rocky’ is a real “great masses of the plain people” decision.

The decade is crowned with another humdinger. 1979 saw ‘Kramer vs Kramer’ triumph over ‘Apocalypse Now’. Who even knows what ‘Kramer vs Kramer’ is now? It was enjoyable at the time and well made but no masterpiece for all time. In my eyes ‘Apocalypse Now’ is the greatest film made in my lifetime. Even its flaws are fascinating and right.

So when the Best Picture is announced this Sunday, and if it’s not Martin McDonagh’s ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ , we can chalk it up to the long heritage of fallibility and short-sightedness of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences…

  • 2015: Spotlight beat The Big Short
  • 1994: Forrest Gump beat Pulp Fiction
  • 1983: Terms of Endearment beat The Big Chill
  • 1948: Hamlet beat The Red Shoes

I’ve seen some of the back end of this as a voting member of BAFTA and of EFA (The European Film Academy). The process, the screenings, the marketing/lobbying, the demographics of the membership, it can all skew the collective judgment. Like when BAFTA failed to notice ‘Selma’ in 2014 (even though it was subsequently nominated for the Best Picture Oscar). Or take this year’s BAFTAs – how did the performance of Bria Vinaite in ‘The Florida Project’ fail to get noticed? (Or of Brooklyn Prince for that matter, the lead kid in Florida Project.) And what about Mary J Blige’s outstanding performance in Dee Rees’ ‘Mudbound’? Instead we got for Best Supporting Actress Allison Janney’s monotone caricature in the joyless ‘I, Tonya’.

Bria Vinaite & Brooklyn Prince in 'The Florida Project' (2017)

Bria Vinaite & Brooklyn Prince in ‘The Florida Project’ (2017)

There’s no accounting for taste. Or maybe there is.

Robert Duvall in Francis Ford Coppola's 'Apocalypse Now' (1979)

Robert Duvall in Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Apocalypse Now’ (1979)

 

 

 

Advertisements

Principles of Adult Behavior

John Perry Barlow, Internet rights pioneer & visionary, went virtual on Wednesday this week, aged 70 after a long illness. Barlow was co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

John Perry Barlow, Internet rights pioneer & visionary

Bob Weir, one of the founding members of The Grateful Dead, said of him: “John had a way of taking life’s most difficult things and framing them as challenges, therefore adventures.” John wrote some lyrics for the Dead. He also wrote ‘A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace‘ in 1996 (on February 8th as it happens, so its anniversary lies between his passing and the publishing of this post). It opens:

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

so something of the Ginsberg/Howl thing about it. It concludes:

We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.

John drafted a set of ‘Principles of Adult Behavior’.

1. Be patient. No matter what.
2. Don’t badmouth: Assign responsibility, not blame. Say nothing of another you wouldn’t say to him.
3. Never assume the motives of others are, to them, less noble than yours are to you.
4. Expand your sense of the possible.
5. Don’t trouble yourself with matters you truly cannot change.
6. Expect no more of anyone than you can deliver yourself.
7. Tolerate ambiguity.
8. Laugh at yourself frequently.
9. Concern yourself with what is right rather than who is right.
10. Never forget that, no matter how certain, you might be wrong.
11. Give up blood sports.
12. Remember that your life belongs to others as well. Don’t risk it frivolously.
13. Never lie to anyone for any reason. (Lies of omission are sometimes exempt.)
14. Learn the needs of those around you and respect them.
15. Avoid the pursuit of happiness. Seek to define your mission and pursue that.
16. Reduce your use of the first personal pronoun.
17. Praise at least as often as you disparage.
18. Admit your errors freely and soon.
19. Become less suspicious of joy.
20. Understand humility.
21. Remember that love forgives everything.
22. Foster dignity.
23. Live memorably.
24. Love yourself.
25. Endure.

Pretty wise and a number really resonated for me.

5. Don’t trouble yourself with matters you truly cannot change. – particularly useful in the age of Trump & Brexit

7. Tolerate ambiguity. – I’ve become increasingly conscious in recent times of the polarised tendencies of the ways humans think, drawn constantly to black and white rather than grey

16. Reduce your use of the first personal pronoun. – I’ve become particularly conscious of this in the realm of politics – listen out for those “I”s and you’ll be struck by how common it is and how much it makes you doubt the speaker

17. Praise at least as often as you disparage. – a little praise goes a long way from my experience

19. Become less suspicious of joy. – I’ve become fascinated by the word Joy in recent years. My daily motto is: I will enJoy my day. Many things that would benefit from a bit of Joy often are devoid of it for no good reason.

All 25 give food for thought. On the subject of which, a parting shot from JPB:

…in the years to come, most human exchange will be virtual rather than physical, consisting not of stuff but the stuff of which dreams are made. Our future business will be conducted in a world made more of verbs than nouns.

John Perry Barlow at the Bar Cross Ranch

JPB at the Bar Cross Ranch

 

 

The Casting Game No. 134

James Norton

james norton macmafia actor

MacMafia

AS

john f kennedy JFK President USA

O’Mafia

John F Kennedy

Sirens

I was about to sit down to write this when Bob Geldof came on the radio to discuss his documentary ‘A Fanatic Heart’ about the Shakespeare of Ireland that is WB Yeats. During the lively and fascinating interview (with Robert Elms on BBC Radio London) he mentioned that Yeats helped secure a Civil List pension for Joyce.

Joyce and Music and specifically the Sirens chapter of ‘Ulysses’ was the intended subject of this post.

But the radio intervention provides an appropriate Overture for a piece on that chapter which begins with an Overture composed of seemingly randomly colliding sounds and words.

Yeats made a mistake (self-confessed) about ‘Ulysses’. He read parts of Joyce’s great Modernist novel in the ‘Little Review’, the American literary magazine in which it was initially published, and judged it “a mad book” (ironic, given that Geldof has just characterised Yeats as “nuts”). But on further reading Yeats changed his mind: “I have made a terrible mistake – it is perhaps a work of genius… It is an entirely new thing – neither what the eye sees nor the ear hears, but what the rambling mind thinks and imagines from moment to moment. He has certainly surpassed in intensity any novelist of our time.”

Yeats bought himself a copy of the first edition of ‘Ulysses’ (1922) like this one I saw in Dublin in December while I was over working at RTE (the launch of whose TV services Geldof also mentioned in the wide-ranging interview in relation to Ireland’s sense of itself as a nation).

1st edition of james joyce ulysses novel

This one has a €30,000 price tag. A bargain given that a copy sold in 2009 for £275,000.

Yeats was an early champion of Joyce. They first met in October 1902 at the National Library in Dublin (which I visited a few minutes after taking that picture of the 1st edition, it’s literally a stone’s throw away). Yeats was 39 at the time, Joyce half the age at 20. As they parted Joyce declared: “I have met you too late. You are too old.” The kind of thing Geldof would have said when the Boomtown Rats first made their mark.

When Joyce travelled to Paris in 1902 and 1903 he passed through London and hooked up with Yeats (who lived a stone’s throw from Euston), had dinner with him and allowed Yeats to introduce him to his London literary circle.

Here’s another piece I wrote (Yeats Mates) prompted by the Robert Elms show about Yeats (in London). I wrote that piece back in 2015, the 150th anniversary of Yeats’ birth, on 14th June, the day after his birthday and the events described in that post. Yeats’ birthday is therefore the day after Robert Elms’s (which I happen to know as it is the same day as my wife’s) and three days before Bloomsday (the day Ulysses takes place on): 16th June. Things seem to be aligning themselves.

So Geldof, a musician, was talking about Yeats, a poet/writer, as I was preparing to compose a piece on the chapter of ‘Ulysses’ which examines “what … the ear hears”, the seduction of Music.

Last night I went for the second time to the Charles Peake Ulysses seminar, a seminar series that has been running monthly for yonks. I was first told about it some ten years ago by Fritz Senn at the Stiftung James Joyce in Zurich but I never quite got my act together to track it down. Until December, prompted by a visit to the shop where Leopold Bloom bought the bar of lemon soap he has it his pocket throughout 16th June 1904. I wrote about that visit here (Back in the Old Country).

sign for Charles Peake ulysses seminar university of london senate house

On my first visit to the seminar I was welcomed with enthusiasm: “You’re timing is lucky – we’re just starting a new chapter.” I didn’t quite appreciate the significance of this until it became evident that the group had spent 4 years doing the last chapter. When we reached the end of our session someone commented, straight faced, no messing: “Great session, folks – we did 76 lines!”

So the rambling mind comes to the point of this post (which will be an evolving post). While we were working our way word by word, comma by colon, through the next few lines last night I made an observation that when the boots (servant) in the Ormond Hotel bar on the north bank of the Liffey (where the Sirens chapter largely takes place) slams down a tray of tea things for the two barmaids who are those said Sirens, it is like the cymbals player in an orchestra, a lowly member of the ensemble delighting in his simple task and loud execution. For some reason it brought to mind the crescendo of Hitch’s ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ (1956 US version) in the Technicolor Albert Hall.

The crashing tea tray made me reflect on the sequence of non-verbal sounds in the chapter so I took a notion to make a list of those sounds and see what patterns emerge.

So here is a list of the sounds making up the music-focused chapter (No. 11) of James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ – ‘Sirens’:

(page references are to the Danis Rose edition of 1997 (Picador) which my Mrs bought me two decades ago as ‘Ulysses’ emerged as my favourite book)

  1. the “ringing steel” of hoofs from the cavalcade passing by the bar (p.246)
  2. tittering of Lydia Douce (one of the barmaids)
  3. laughter of same
  4. “chattering china” of tea for Lydia and Mina Kennedy (the other barmaid) followed by the tea tray being “banged” on the counter by the boots
  5. steel and hoofs (reprise) “steelhoofs ringhoof ringsteel” (p.247)
  6. “shrill shriek of laughter” of Mina (p.248)
  7. “huffed and snorted” – Lydia
  8. Lydia “chimed in in deep bronze laughter”
  9. “giggling peal young goldbronze voices blended” – both barmaids “high piercing notes”
  10. “panting, sighing, sighing”
  11. Mina “gigglegiggled”
  12. Lydia “spluttered … choking … laughter … coughing” “a splended yell, a full yell of full woman”
  13. [to be continued – from p.249]

Little Dot launches SVoD app

From this week’s Broadcast – by Alex Farber – text courtesy of Broadcast

 

Little Dot launches SVoD app

Real Stories SVOD documentaries app iOS screengrab

Real Stories will offer factual shows

Little Dot Studios has launched an international SVoD service dedicated to factual programming.

The $3.99 per month Real Stories service is available via iOS and Android, with plans to launch via Amazon Fire Stick, Apple TV and Roku devices shortly. It is available as an ad-supported service in the UK.

The service features a host of acquired films, including Rich Russians Living in London, Out Of Control Kids and Interview With A Serial Killer, alongside Little Dot’s debut slate of commissions.

Ordered by commissioning editor Adam Gee, these include Underworld TV’s Sorry I Shot You and Big Buddha Films/MedialabUK’s Absent From Our Own Wedding.

Real Stories’ YouTube channel has generated 1.1m subscribers and some 284m video views to date, and has gone on to be extended across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

The app launch will be followed by an SVoD launch for world history channel Timeline, ahead of Little Dot’s portfolio of other channels including Spark, Nurture and Only Human.

The All3Media-backed business has tied with video streaming firm Simplestream to develop the debut app, revealed by co-founder Andy Taylor in October.

Little Dot’s senior partnerships manager Robbie Spargo said the aim was to learn about changing consumer habits.

“In particular, we’re fascinated by viewing shifting back to the living room through devices like Fire Stick, Roku, and Apple TV,” he added. “The Real Stories app will also give us the opportunity to experiment with different commercial models, from subscription to advertising to branded content partnerships with agencies and brands.”

Simplestream chief commercial officer Dan Finch said the service had been built using its fast-turnaround ‘VOD-in-a-Box’ platform.

“It allows Little Dot to deliver Real Stories on demand, to a targeted end-user’s location whilst serving up the appropriate business model for that territory in line with their programming rights,” he said.

“We’re looking forward to working together over the coming months on Real Stories and other exciting Little Dot brands across the globe.”

%d bloggers like this: