Sunday, 31 August 2008

Good clean fun: Children’s Film Foundation

The scripts were awful, the acting terrible and occasionally, if you were really unlucky, you’d watch the one with a young Keith Chegwin in it. But we’d run home from school on a Friday to watch these films on the BBC.

Here’s Hitch in Time

Hilarity ensues in the Johnstown Monster

And my favourite: The Glitterball

Friday, 22 August 2008

Things that didn't work [Part 1]

Continuing on from the post about Bruce and his verve for talking about things that go wrong, I thought I'd post a few items from Everyday is Sunday. This blog seemed such a good idea at the time. Unfortunately it just didn't have legs.

I was trying to establish a tone of voice and tell the story of an uptight, depressed man who could't admit his unhapiness. But it all came to a grinding to a halt because it's very hard to write about depression without experiencing it first hand. And researching therapy was not only hard, but the more I read up on it, the less I wanted to write loads of gags about it.

The comedy came from the writer's contorted explanations about his beliefs. But this ended up being the only source of comedy. Everything else didn't work. It was too one dimensional

One thing I don't like about themed blogs (unlike this one which is essentially an online sketch book), is too often they meander on without conclusion. Unless it's reportage, it's hard to sustain interest in a made up character without some sort of development. And besides, I think things should have an ending.

Anyway I jumped in without planning it out properly. Here are the best bits from the blog, which will close soon:

Question from my Beautiful Wife
We get on like a house on fire. Surely this is not a good thing? This point was raised this morning by my beautiful wife. I could not answer her question. I felt uncomfortable. I asked colleagues, but they ignored me. Figures for this quarter are due. I need to focus on my work. So I asked my therapist. She said it refers to the action of the fire. Fire is exciting and vigorous. And so this describes the nature of a friendship.

I get it. But it seems a long way round to explain the term. This is what I will say to my beautiful wife this evening as we eat the delicious meal she’s prepared:

We get on like a house on fire
Fire is dangerous. It does not discriminate; it will burn you with impunity. When a house catches fire it is a terrible thing. Women, children, cats even dogs. They are in danger and can get hurt. When a house catches fire, it’s like a cavity in the neighbourhood. And it’s usually started by a fat person.

Perhaps they leave a cigarette burning on the edge of a toxic sofa while they raid the fridge during the ad break. I don’t know what they watch. Maybe a show about mutant poor people. These people deserve to lose their homes. But not their lives. No matter how cockamamie it all seems to us.

That’s why the normal folk run to the burning house and save them. They hand each other pails of water, they raise ladders to windows and they swap names. They say ‘Quick Robert, turn off the gas before the balloon people pop like sausages on a barbecue’. They say ‘Mary, call the Fire Brigade before something important catches fire’. And when they peel their feckless blobby bodies from the plastic sofas, they laugh and say ‘Isn’t it funny how they look like massive babies?’ They are now friends. So when we say ‘We get on like a house on fire’, we remember the times we saved those who couldn’t be bothered to save themselves and How It Brought Us Together.

My son Joel has a question.
Today, I faced the question all parents face at some point – unless their child is mentally retarded: 'Dad, why is the sky blue?' I looked down at my beautiful son as he gazed up at me with his almond shaped, pale blue eyes and asked: 'Why do you want to know?'

My Beautiful Wife suggested this was a rather underwhelming response to an earnest child’s question. So I’ve decided to rectify this, because if I’m to be happy, I must make the people around me happy. This is what I call Good Sense.

So why is the sky blue?
According to the Internet: ‘The sky appears blue because sunlight filters through the oxygen in the atmosphere, and the oxygen absorbs all the other colours but blue.’

Here is what I will say to him tomorrow as we enjoy our daily fibre at the breakfast table:

Oxygen is all around us. You can’t see it, taste or smell it – except when it’s bad – and it gives us life Joel. When we breathe, we wrap ourselves up in the love oxygen has for us. It will never leave us. Or do us harm. And because your favourite colour is blue, it is oxygen that chooses to make the sky blue to show you its love. So as long as the sky is blue, you know you’re safe and loved. And if the sky is black, you know it’s the infinite void of space and it’s time for bed.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

I am not Bruce Robinson

Bruce wrote The Killing Fields and directed Withnail and I. You can find more about him on his Wiki. Or better still, buy ‘Smoking in Bed: Conversations with Bruce Robinson'. The title is awful, but the book is great. The author rightly decided to just pitch up and let Bruce talk.

What I like about Bruce is despite all his success, he’s quite open to talk about things when they go wrong.

For Bruce, this means his scripts and films . When you write anything for Hollywood, everyone from the head of the studio on down will submit 'notes' on how to improve your work. And If you do anything creative for a living you can expect the same thing to happen because:
  • When people spend money, or more importantly, other people's money, they play safe. Hollywood, advertising, television, it doesn't matter, safe sells. Safe is easy to understand, easy to enjoy and easy to forget if it doesn't work. Every film, TV show and advert has a thousand lives relying on its success. Three guys and two girls in a New York flat bellowing 'oh my gawd' is an easier sell than a sitcom about two losers who share a flat and hate each other*
  • People are inherently suspicious of paying money for something creative. It's the old 'I can write, draw better than that,why am I paying this idiot?' argument. And the scary thing is sometimes they're right.
  • Often what you think is shit hot, is actually rubbish. It's ill-thought out, boring or derivative, which is a big word for boring. The world is full of shit books, films and telly that every one of their authors thought was 'great'.

But criticism and failure are good things. You learn from your mistakes and you learn to defend your work from points one and two and how to watch out for three. The interesting stuff usually makes no money, unless you're lucky, willing to wait or end up being dead (in the case of art).

To find out more, click on the new 'I'm not...' It's Alex Cox, a film maker who certainly put with more than his fair share of people saying 'no, do it again'.

This would be Peep Show, so proof that the cream rises to the top, eventually

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Chariots of the Gods

God was an astronaut, Jesus an alien and Man the product of genetic manipulation. It's a load of old hokum. Even the author of Chariots of the Gods? (love the Ron Burgundy question mark) Enrich von Daniken has since admitted that bits of his evidence don't stand up to scrutiny.

But in the seventies, the book sold by the truck load. And yes, they even made a film about it. Stating how ridiculous the film is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. You've only got to watch two minutes to see for yourself. But I like it the wild eyed optimisim and eagerness to ask 'what if?'. We don't seem to question anymore. We look it up online and know everything.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Boring school night, 1993.

Usually after dinner I’d go to my room, draw and listen to either John Peel or ‘Jive Alive’ (a more easy listening John Peel) on Hereward Radio. But not tonight. Tonight I watched ‘No Nirvana’.

Next day everybody had two questions:

When is the Rage Against The Machine album out?
What’s up with Perry Farrell’s mouth?

The following happened in my school:
The RATM album would be worn thin on the Common Room tape deck
More people would jump on the Pearl Jam bandwagon
Girls with cracked nail varnish and DMs started wearing over-sized sunglasses
I tried to get those Tommy Morrello sounds out of my guitar. My Dad told me to turn it down. I briefly wore my Tele high and flirted with the idea of going by the name Tommy, briefly.

Billy Corgan's jumper. Good Lord

Stuff for sale on ebay -1970 Plymouth Roadrunner

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Remember the future?

Another great Jonathan Meades show.