Based on a thing that Stephen Soderbergh does. Ironically, I watched nothing by Soderbergh this year. No repeats listed. TV shows show the date I finished the season.
14/01 Down With Love
16/01 Casanova 70
17/01 Transparent Season 2
20/01 Only Connect Season 11, Theory Of Everything
23/01 Maron Series 1
24/01 Worlds Fastest Indian, The Beast Of No Nation
29/01 Mozart In the Jungle series 1
30/01 Jupiter Ascending
06/02 Mozart In the Jungle series 2,
07/02 The Red Shoes
13/02 Big Eyes
16/02 Twelve Chairs
24/02 A New Leaf
27/02 While We’re Young, Hannibal
28/02 Men At Lunch
02/03 Canadian Bacon
04/03 X files season 10
06/03 High Crimes
09/03 Whip It
13/03 Heart Of Darkness
20/03 Holy Rollers
26/03 House Of Cards Season 4, Jimmy Carr Funny Business
31/03 Grace And Frankie Season 1
07/04 The Parole Officer
19/04 Creation, Better Call Saul Season 2, Swimming Pool
22/04 Best Of Enemies
23/04 Around the world in 80 Days, Mad Dogs (series 4), Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (series 2)
24/04 Love Is Strange
27/04 Good Bye Lenin
29/04 Fever Pitch
28/04 All Or Nothing
01/05 Aloha, Larry Sanders Show Season 1
07/05 Hot Tub Time Machine 2
08/05 Fish Tank
11/05 Any Given Sunday
14/05 Cunk On Shakespeare
19/05 Sherlock Jr
20/05 Larry Sanders Season 2
22/05 Transporter 2
04/06 Mission Impossible 5, Deadpool
06/06 Gasping, Frankie Boyle Laugh Like You’ve Never Been Loved
15/06 x&y, The Wrecking Crew, Out of Towners, Robin Williams Remembered
20/06 Catfish, Fright Night (2011), Neil Young Journeys
24/06 Absolutely Anything
25/06 Charlie Bartlett
26/06 Irma La Louce
27/06 Dear White People
28/06 Spotlight, Hail Caesar, The Martian
29/06 The Larry Sanders Show season 3
30/06 Superheroes A Never Ending Battle, Man Up, Kingsman, Top 5
1/07 Wild Target
06/07 Look Who’s Back
07/07 American Ultra, What We Did On Our Holidays, Ted 2
09/07 What If
12/07 Heavens Gate
18/07 Man From Uncle
21/07 Special Correspondents
28/07 She’s Funny That Way, The Thomas Crown Affair
30/07 Larry Sanders Season 4
01/08 Stranger Things
4/08 Scrotal Recall, A Most Violent Year
09/08 Angie Tribeca Season 1
10/08 Straight Outta Compton
12/08 The End Of the Tour
14/08 Jurassic World
15/08 Mr Holmes
16/08 Larry Sanders Season 5
22/08 Bojack Horseman Season 1
01/09 The Dressmaker
02/09 Road To Perdition
06/09 Larry Sanders Season 6
07/09 Love And Mercy
09/09 The Lost Honor Of Christopher Jeffries, Bojack Horseman S2, Westworld, The Big Short
14/09 Angie Tribeca Season 2
15/09 Downloaded, The Losers
25/09 Brooklyn Nine Nine Season 3
27/09 Roadies, I Am Road Comic, Lavender Hill Mob
28/09 Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2
15/10 American Gangster, Ex Machina
23/10 Narcos Season 2
28/10 Black Mirror
29/10 Wait Until Dark, Minions
30/10 Good Dinosaur
1/11 Doctor Strange
5/11 Into The Inferno
7/11 Yes Man
17/11 Justice My Foot
25/11 Our Brand Is Crisis
28/11 Man On Ledge, People Places Things
30/11 Arq, Blunt Talk Season 1
6/12 John Wick
12/12 Gilmore Girls Season 1
16/12 For The Love Of Spock
17/12 Snake In Eagle’s Shadow, Star Wars Rogue One, A Grand Night In The Story Of Aardman,
23/12 Mississippi Grind
25/12 Mr Mum
26/12 Doctor Who: The Return Of Doctor Mysterio
27/12 The Man in the High Castle season 1
29/12 La La Land
31/12 2016 Wipe, Cunk On Christmas
Based on a rather crazy list by Stephen Soderbergh. TV show dates are when I finished the season.
01/01 – The Stepford Wives, When Harvey Met Bob, Ghost Dog, Metropolis (anime), The Lovely Bones
02/01 – Prisoners, Cry-Baby, My Beautiful Laundrette, Ghost Rider, Jules Et Jim, The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three, Hello Ladies The Movie,
03/01 – The Birds, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
04/01 – Muppets Most Wanted, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Running With Scissors
07/01 – Faster Pussycat Kill Kill, The Love Guru
09/01 – Broadway Melody
10/01 – The Raid 2, Munich
11/01 – Sleeping Dogs Lie
13/01 – SurbUrbia, Stand And Deliver,
14/01 – Time Travelers Wife
15/01 – Non Stop
17/01 – Midnight Express
18/01 – Lara Croft 2, Healing, Mandela Long Walk To Freedom, The Philadelphia Story
– Serial (Season 1)
23/01 – Simon
24/01 – Holy Smoke
26/01 – Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Stranger Than Fiction, Hairspray 2007
31/01 – Secretary, La Dolce Vita, Louis CK Live At the Comedy Store
01/02 – Kill List
02/02 – Illuminata, Memories Of Me
04/02 – Filth
07/02 – While You Were Sleeping, Klute, The Wolf Of Wall Street
08/02 – Eros, Time Crimes, God’s Pocket, Paul Kelly Stories Of Me, Only Lovers Left Alive, Taken
10/02 – Vanya On 42nd Street, Philomena, Sandman Mystery Theatre: The Tarantula
11/02 – Modern Romance, Le Week-End, Money, The Knick (Season 1)
12/02 – The Sculptor
13/02 – R.E.M. by MTV, Tracks
14/02 – Shoot the Piano Player, Up the Junction
15/02 – Muscle Shoals, The Book Thief, Eagle vs Shark, Life During Wartime
16/02 – The Mission
17/02 – Sidewalks Of New York, Chef
18/02 – The Good Shepherd
24/02 – Transparent (Season 1), Happiness
25/02 – Pans Labyrinth, Parks And Recreation (season 1)
26/02 – Life Is Sweet, Olive Kitteridge (season 1)
27/02 – Sandman Mystery Theatre: The Face
28/02 – Agent Carter (Season 1), Legion Of Superheroes (vol. 7)
01/03 – Hockney The Biography (vol. 1)
02/03 – House Of Cards (season 3)
03/03 – Monsieur Verdoux, Blood Simple, The Cosmopolitans (pilot)
04/03 – Episodes (season 1), Everything Must Go
06/03 – Fierce Creatures
07/03 – An American In Paris, The Impostors, 12 Years A Slave
09/03 – Carnal Knowledge
10/03 – Robocop, The Wicker Man
13/03 – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (season 1), Whats Eating Gilbert Grape
14/03 – Frenzy, Bad Neighbours
18/03 – New York New York
29/03 – contempt
30/10 – Rock Star, The Jinx
31/03 – Only Connect series 10
01/04 – A Field In England
03/04 – I’m So Excited, Stuck On You, Red State, Million Ways To Die In the West
04/04 – Fast Food Nation
05/04 – August Osage County, broad church season 2, Sparrow,
06/04 – taking Woodstock
07/04 – 700 Sunday’s
17/04 – The Affair (season 1)
18/04 – Drugstore Cowboy, The Lost Weekend, The Unknown Known
Last Man On Earth
19/04 – Blue Thunder
08/05 – avengers age of ultron, five easy pieces, barefoot in the park, touch of cloth season 1
09/05 – You Can’t Take It With You
14/05 – Agents of Shield Season 2
16/05 – The Rainmaker
18/05 – Mad Men Season 7
20/05 – Shallow Hal, What We Do in Shadows
22/05 – The Fault In Our Stars, Brooklyn Nine Nine Season 2
23/05 – Witness, Berberian Sound Studio, Bobby Fischer Vs The World
25/05 – Aziz Ansari, Chelsea
26/05 – Sillivan’s Travels
30/05 – Miracle On 34th Street
31/05 – The Railway Man, They Came Together, The Double
01/06 – Daredevil Season 1
03/06 – Louie Season 4
05/06 – Chef’s Table Season 1
06/06 – Be Cool
07/06 – Big Fan
13/06 – Brothers McMullen
15/06 – Game of thrones season 5, Veep season 5
17/06 – The Ice Storm, Silicon Valley Season 2
18/06 – Snowpiercer, Chelsea Walls
21/06 – Maleficent edge of tomorrow
23/06 – Duets
26/06 – glass a portrait
27/06 – Million Dollar Arm, The Casual Vacancy season 1
28/06 – Yojimbo
29/06 – Starter For 10
30/06 – Calvary, The Great Dictator
04/07 – Chariots Of Fire
05/07 – The Other One, Bad Words
06/07 – Inside Out
10/07 – Brothers Grimm
18/07 – Super Mensch, The Skeleton Twins
19/07 – Ant Man
21/07 – Ordinary People
25/07 – Whiplash, Lost Boys
26/07 – All Is Lost, 100 Foot Journey, Under The Skin
28/07 – Flying high II
31/07 – Friday Night Lights Season 1
01/08 – House Of Yes, Bulworth, A Most Wanted Man
06/08 – If…, Irrational Man
07/08 – The Daily Show
08/08 – Gambit, The In Laws
12/08 – A Touch Of Cloth Season 3
13/08 – 7 Days In Hell
14/08 – Lost Highway
15/08 – Die Hard 4
16/08 – Awakenings
18/08 – Long Way Down
19/08 – Americas Sweetheart
21/08 – Doc Hollywood
22/08 – Thin Man, The Judge, Reds 2, TS Spivet, the Mule
26/08 – How To Train Your Dragon 2, Be Kind Rewind
27/08 – wanderlust
29/08 – Hunger Games Mockingly Part 1
30/08 – THX 1138
04/09 – Lucy
05/09 – 20000 Days On Earth, Before I Go To Sleep, Mr Robot (Season 1)
06/09 – Friday Night Lights Season 2, Delivery Man, The Immigrant,
07/09 – Hurricane Of Fun
08/09 – Show Me A Hero
10/09 – Search for General Tso
11/09 – Big Hero 6, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
12/09 – No, obvious Child, Life Itself
16/09 – Taxi, She’s The One
18/09 – Mad Dogs Season 1, Broken Flowers
20/09 – Joan Rivers Piece Of Work, The Wackness
22/09 – You Laugh But It’s True
23/09 – Today’s Special
27/09 – Friday Night Lights Season 3
06/10 – Friday Night Lights Season 4
07/10 – L’Eclisse
10/10 – Fawlty Towers Season 1
14/10 – Harvey, Mad Dogs Season 2, Wanted
16/10 – Keith Richards Under the Influence, The Switch
17/10 – Anthony Jeselnik Thoughts And Prayers
20/10 – Accidental Tourist
21/10 – Friday Night Lights Season 5
24/10 – Muppet Treasure Island
25/10 – The Little Death
30/10 – Paddington
1/11 – This Is Where I Leave You
2/11 – The Man Who Fell To Earth
3/11 – Nightcrawler
7/11 – the man who sued God
13/11 – Howard’s End, Master Of None (series 1)
14/11 – What Happened Miss Simone
15/11 – Pride, John Mulaney The Comeback Kid, The Ten
19/11 – Aziz Ansari Buried Alive
20/11 – With Bob And David
23/11 – Jessica Jones
27/11 – The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
06/12 – Rake Season 1, Mr Turner
11/12 – David And Lisa
12/12 – Monsters, Rake Season 2, Call Me Lucky
13/12 – The Imitation Game, Soul Boys Of the Western World
17/12 – Fargo Season 2, Matilda And Me
18/12 – Attack of the 50ft Woman, godfather part 3, Side By Side
20/12 – Star Wars The Force Awakens
23/12 – South Park season 19, The Client, Savages
24/12 – Rake Season 3, Mad Dogs Season 3
25/12 – The Polar Express, Foxcatcher, Doctor Who Series 9
27/12 – Renoir
28/12 – 42
30/12 – Bob And Carol And Ted And Alice
The year started off great, in terms of catching lots and lots of films. It dropped off by the end of the year, but it really doesn’t seem to be much. Here in Australia, various films that make the 2014 list (say Foxcatcher or Mr Turner) are not out yet.
So here are the films, for what it’s worth.
1. Boyhood Richard Linklater
What can I say that has not been said? Breathtaking, and groundbreaking. Started me on a year of filling the gaps on Linklater’s work. He took out my number 2 spot last year too.
2. The Grand Budapest Hotel Wes Anderson
He’s my favourite director. So what can I say? Other than he’s making his best work yet. The last couple have been so great, and he’s really found how to spread his wings whilst keeping with his style. The opening a closing bookend scenes alone are enough to fascinate. His nod to Lubitsch, it is beautiful and dark yet affirming.
3. Dawn Of the Planet Of the Apes Matt Reeves
I’ve never really heard of Matt Reeves til this year. But he’s pulled off the best blockbuster of the year. And yeah, I saw my share of blowing stuff up films, but they are usually a nice ride and that’s it. Reeves managed to make a Shakespearean epic that just breaks your heart. And he’s even improved on the script – you’ll notice how quickly he cuts away from the minor, undeveloped characters and keeps it about Caesar. And that tank shot…wow.
4. God Help the Girl Stuart Murdoch
God Help the Girl is one of my favourite albums of all time. According to my iPod, it’s my most listened to album – ever. So to finally see the film, I was always going to love it. I knew the songs so well, and the details of these characters. But to see it – Murdoch’s rose coloured view of Glasgow – is stunning. The songs, a big part, are great. And these characters who I have thought about for years, great to meet them. Top of the bunch is Olly Alexander as James, one of films great music philosophers, up there with Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs.
5. Her Spike Jonze
One of those films that was last year for everyone else, but 2014 for me. A film that has touched me very deeply – the bright romantic side to Black Mirror’s brutal cynicism. It’s a vision of life with technology that is beautiful. Never has skyscrapers looked so gorgeous, computers looked so wooden, and typing looks like handwriting. In the end though, it joins the very, very short list of great break-up films.
6. Gone Girl David Fincher
A powerhouse performance by Affleck and Pike make this drama one of the best of the year. It feels like even by now, this might have been turned into a TV thing. But Fincher shows what cinematic drama can be. A scene, that I will only say features someone driving in a car, is beautiful cinema. I watched this without knowing anything, and even if you pick it, it is worth the ride.
7. Guardians Of the Galaxy James Gunn
Plenty of jokes out there about how Marvel is just so good these days that they can make us see anything. I’ve never read Guardians Of the Galaxy as a comic (and when I was reading Marvel, the team was a completely different thing anyway) so I had little expectations. And I’m pretty sick of superheroes onscreen, but this managed to stave off that sickness for just a little. The best thing about it was the humour – it’s swashbuckling fun. It’s not perfect in script, but it is in tone.
8. The Wind Rises Hayao Miyazaki
Another 2013 in the US one. The last film by Hayao Miyazaki, one of my favourites. He returns to his more realist dramas to tell the story of Jiro Horikoshi, its beautifully animated and very touching. Wrapped in this prettiest of presents is bigger ideas, especially the price for progress. A stunning last picture – lets hope the old man was lying.
9. Magic In the Moonlight Woody Allen
Still fantastic after all these years. What starts off as a light hearted romp ends up deadly serious. Eventually we have to face what we do and don’t believe. I don’t want to give it all away, you have to decide for yourself. So why not get swept away to the gorgeous French Riviera to do it?
10. Frank Lenny Abrahamson
Not really about Frank Sidebottom, and after you see the film you only see Michael Fassbender’s Frank. A lovely tale about what makes artists really artists, and not just a hanging out guy who plays a bit. Quirky in a good way throughout, and the songs are wonderful.
Disturbing numbers coming out of Hollywood. There will be a record for sequels this year – a whopping 28. It’s a figure that has rising steadily in the past few years. More disturbingly, things like Harry Potter 7b (essentially an 8), Fast Five, X-Men First Class (essentially another 5), etc makes the average sequel number 3.7.
How did we get here? Franchises seem to live forever these days. And maybe it has to do with digital technology making everything available. It’s never been easier to catch up one something.
Take reunions. With a band like Pulp in the CD era, people would have put away their CD copies of Different Class, occasionally bringing it out for nostalgia. In the era of iPods, many lapsed Pulp fans can carry around Pulp songs in their pockets every single day.
Every band in history is on equal footing. Every album ever made might as well be a new release. They are all equally easy to find. No wonder there is so much money in reunion shows. I’m not sure if bands can even break up anymore. Looks at artists like Pavement or the Pixies. Despite disappearing, their popularity never waned. They reunited to equal, if not bigger, audiences than ever.
Stock issues are disappearing. The idea that a record can fall out of print is outdated. In the 90s and the 00s, it was kinda hard to get Pixies albums in Australia (compared to say Britney).
There are a bunch of golden albums that used to never go out of print, and would be discovered by every generation. Be it Tapestry for thoughtful young women, or the first Violent Femmes album for nerdy young boys. And even the smallest CD store would stock them. Now there is no such thing. Every album is a golden album ripe for rediscovery.
I used to carry CDs in my school bag. I’d fill it with anything I might want to listen to. But no school bag can fit as much as an iPod. And soon those iPods will be streaming from an infinite harddrive in a cloudy sky.
The same used to apply to old movies. From hoping something would be re-run on TV to searching for a DVD at a shop. There was always limits. But no more. There is an infinite database of films online.
Which is why sequels work better than ever. I have friends who have just caught up on all seven Harry Potter films in just the weeks leading up to the 8th. It is the reason films like Fast Five can exist. Because Fast One to Four are so easy to get.
It goes on. Look at reboots. The first Scream movie never fell into an oldies film. Freddie Krueger never died. Even Wall Street was given a sequel 23 years later. Why invent a new brand to discuss the financial crisis? Just use the one that everyone still talks about.
Then there’s good old “nerdstalgia”. Transformers used to be so 80s. Now it’s the biggest franchise there is today. This year, both the Muppets and the Smurfs are back on the big screen. Nothing ever dies.
TV Shows of course fall into the same category. Although huge gaps exist, so many TV shows live online. Most are at unreasonable prices, but hey, that’s how you give birth to a piracy market.
You can always catch up to the story. Season 4 of Breaking Bad is out and you’ve not seen the first 3? It’s really not a problem anymore. Hell, you could have been waiting to be born when the first Harry Potter film came out and you’re probably the target audience for the new one.
Slightly ironic that the very first physical format – print – is the last to drag itself into the digital world. But you can see it going the same way as it’s louder and brighter cousins. Books will never go out of print. They will be instantly accessible to anyone who wants them. The stories will never get old.
This new world brings with it some new concerns. Making something that’s timeless pays off. Flash in the pan also never dies, but who’s going to be looking for it? You don’t need to go back at watch some shit network sitcom because they still make those. But the Sopranos will remain timeless.
What happens to plot twists. I don’t know how it would feel to try and watch Lost now. I think it’s widely known that the ending was a let down. With a show so structured towards an ending, does it lose something?
Then there is the big fight over copyright issues, and when things fall into the public domain. When the UK write copyright rules that allowed people to own their music for 50 years, no one thought Paul McCartney would be one year away from losing the rights to Love Me Do. Or, indeed that ANYTHING 50 years old would have any value.
Public Domain is a funny thing. And I think, on the whole, if something falls into Public Domain, it is terrible for that thing. Because the old arguments about it being free and easy to access are gone. We have solved the access issue. And it just means anyone can make money off someone’s work. No one is going to give it to you for free.
(One of my favourite movies ever – Charade – is one of the more interesting copyright cases around. Many cheap DVDs are no better than people filming shaky cameras in a theatre. But it’s legal to sell that. Proper prints with decent quality are hard to find because they are hard for anyone to sell any.)
The UK are seeking an extension to be in line with the US – 100 years (or so). There needs to be a worldwide consensus because we are dealing with the worldwide web. There is an argument that those rules need to be more lax (in regards to thing like sampling). But really – do they not imagine another Muppets movie in 50 years time? Maybe 100 is not enough.
Are we ever going to forget anything again?
Reboots have become part of our popular culture now. I think the idea was perfected in the comic book world. Bit reboots are getting sooner and sooner. Including the upcoming Avengers film, there will be three Hulks in ten years. Each one a reboot to some degree.
I find it interesting that people can just decide that OK, we are now starting again. Forget the past. This is a new Star Trek. This is a new Spiderman. Is anything sacred?
Franchises are worth more and more. Bands reform to take advantage of it. What happens when HBO realises that another generation has discovered the Sopranos? Will they remake that too?
It’s all up for grabs. Nothing ever dies. The idea that they could recast Star Trek means that they can recast anything. Imagine Star Wars movies picking up after Return Of the Jedi. Why not? We are getting new Spidermen, Supermen and Hulks. The next Batman movie is not even out and they have already announced a reboot to follow. Anything to keep the brand alive.
Try to imagine a situation where they would cancel the Simpsons. They could replace the voices. Get in a whole team of new young writers and producers. Reinvent the show for a new current audience. Use technology to make it cheaper to make. Really, maybe that show will outlive me. And all of us.
With so much information out there, the problem is not finding entertainment. It’s finding something you like. Filters will be the next big thing.
What do my friends recommend. What lists tell me what the greatest movies are. What the hell should I watch next?
It is the next big question in our cultural lives.
Trent Reznor said something wonderful once about the changes of music in the last couple of decades. Since the invention of the CD, all musicians have just been creating software*. And now it’s the visual mediums turn to face the same freedom/dilemma. The lines between TV, Movies, Webisodes, Vodcasts, Streams and more are blurring. Is it inevitable that they blur behind the scenes as well? And what about for us?
The biggest weirdo in the whole visual world is movies. And making a movie is a lot like signing to a major label. They have the advantage of marketshare and better publicity. Movies get hundreds of millions for production, because hundreds of millions of people go to the cinema. And pay over $10 a ticket usually.
What sets movies apart is distribution. And that gain is corroding – slowly.
I for one hate going to the cinema. If anything, it’s gotten worse in the face of multi-platform distribution. The chains are the worse – badly run malls with no food anyone with a brain would eat, with shit seating options and no projectionist. And the cost! But it could also be that I’m getting old. And it’s competing against watching a movie in the comfort of my own home, with no one chatting next to me.
So we are left with three advantages for the cinema. 1) The EVENT-ness. Lets face it. I do actually want to get out of the house sometime. There is a joy of experiencing something with a crowd (sometimes). 2) The screen size. 3) The release date. They get it first.
2). The screen. Hard to beat that one. Especially IMAX or 3D – although it seems 3D is waning. And technology will catch up. Because a lot of projectors are not that great, crisp or bright. Yet big TVs are getting cheaper and Blu-Ray is starting to look like it’s here to stay. And 3D TVs are coming to our homes.
Which leaves 3). The release date. It used to be that cinema got a clear 17 weeks if not more before anyone could see something anywhere else. Last year, Alice In Wonderland was almost banned from Odeon Cinemas in the UK because they were going to release the DVD 12 weeks after release date. At the time, I thought it was a backwards move by luddites (owned by Guy Hands, btw).
But when you break it down, that release date is so important to cinema, and no wonder they fight for it. But the fight is getting harder. So many movies get made, and not all get a cinema release. Docos and indie films are getting DVD releases closer and closer to their cinema date. They are the kind of films that make their money on DVD anyway.
People are talking about movies going all “day and date” in all formats. It will be an interesting world. Fewer cinemas (hopefully good quality ones) for those who want to head out. A stream or a DVD for those who want to watch at home. It would destroy the maths of how these things work. Will it earn Hollywood more money because more people are seeing new releases at their convenience? Or without those expensive cinema tickets, or the wide audience that cinema draws, will it mean that budgets have to go down?
If you don’t go to the movies, and you watch at home, then what’s the difference between TV and movies? It seems the idea that hundreds of millions also watch that movie, and hence it was made with more money.
Can the digital revolution increase TV audiences – and more revenue? Why does TV shows have to be tied to TV sets anyway? And are budgets starting to catch up? The pilot or Lost was the most expensive at the time. Now we have Game Of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire blasting it out of the water. And more to come.
There’s an audience expectation. There used to be an idea that TV production quality was well below the movies. Not anymore. Look at the best special effects shows on TV and they are great. Not Avatar great, but still pretty great. And the talent is going to TV. The planet’s best crew, writers, directors and actors can be seen on TV.
Distribution gave Movies the advantage over “TV”. Those distribution models are merging. When Lost ended, the producers claimed that you will never see such high production quality on TV ever again. They were wrong. We are going to see more of it than ever.
(They said the same thing about the Matrix too.)
On BBC’s wonderful iPlayer alone, Doctor Who gets around 1-2 million viewers an episode. As this platform grows, that figure will grow. So how soon til we get to the point where we can sustain a decent quality show that is never broadcast on TV?
Webisodes exist, tied to regular TV shows or movies. Some have their own stories. But they don’t have huge production costs because they use the same sets and stuff. Then there was the web only Dr Horrible’s Sing Along Blog. It used an existing set and low budget, with a great script to make something great. And it’s sister show, the Guild, fits in the same world.
It is only going to get easier to make these shows, if you have a head start on the production. If you have access to cameras, set, and actors. You can get something made, and out without dealing with TV channels or film distributors.
And then the next step is for completely punk rock, no production skills stuff to make it onto these channels.
The shape of movies, TV and video in general is changing. It is all becoming one big visual blob. Take Michael Winterbottom’s recent project “The Trip”. Was it a movie, or a TV show? Depends what country you’re in. In the UK it was a 6 episode BBC series, in the US and Australia it was a movie. And there was absolutely no difference in the production for either.
And that might not be the only production that could be recut. Could they make Cloudstreet into 6 half hours? Or one movie? Game Of Thrones into a 3 part movie trilogy like Lord of the Rings? It really comes down to how you want to send it out into the world. And even that is starting to feel the same.
Amazon and many places online still splits up “Film” and “TV”. They put them in the same place, but it’s a double term. Maybe we need to start thinking of one term that groups it all. Video seems the obvious one, but seems to talk more about a format than a work. We don’t call music “audio”. So Audio is to Music, as Video is to….?
The humble Film Clip has been left in the cold when people talk about the larger digital revolution. It’s music that has been the conversation for years, and film and TV are up next. But where does the Film Clip future lie?
In the DVD boom of the late 90s, many bands put out collections of their Film Clips. I own dozens of them – for many reasons.
– I wanted easy access to some of my favourite clips
– It was a way to see clips I’ve never seen before
– I want my favourite clips on DVD quality
– I just wanted to own everything my favourite bands did anyway.
But that was the late 90s, and the value of those Film Clip collection DVDs are plummeting. In the brave new digital world, do we really need them at all? Do I even need to keep the old ones I have?
The question of access is the first to become a non-issue, thanks to YouTube. But it’s not just YouTube – all video sites are using music clips as easy content to fill their servers.
Look at the otherside, the DVD. Does anyone really watch Film Clip collections from start to finish? If not, then after you’ve dug out the DVD, put it in the player and waited for it to load, you still have to navigate through a menu.
Having YouTube really puts the myth of access to rest. One click away, no menus, no waiting. My computer is also simply on more than my DVD player.
It comes back to cloud computing too. I don’t think these clips are going away. Even if YouTube falls, there are others. Film clips are not going away any time soon.
I also don’t see any record label putting up a paywall any time soon. They want their film clips seen.
Interesting the trajectory of how labels see the value of film clips. Damian Kulash Jr, of OK Go, nailed it in his New York Times piece from last year (link). In 2006, the viral hit of Here It Goes Again was a success for EMI. It was free advertising. In many ways, Film Clips have always been ads for a song or an album. Bands can’t play on every TV show, so they sent their videos on the road for them.
This led logically to MTV. MTV (back when it played clips) was essentially a series of ads for a series of bands. MTV didn’t pay for the clips – and made a bazillion dollars from them. So it’s interesting to hear CEO of Warner, Edgar Bronfman Jr, say that MTV made millions off the backs of the labels, and doesn’t want this repeated with YouTube. The danger – as he sees it (and others as well) – is creating another monster industry and missing out on any of the benefits.
So by 2010, a series of unsteady agreements were made with YouTube. Videos had ads, miniscule amounts of money exchanged hands and some videos were blocked altogether. The result was blocking the next big OK Go video – This Too Shall Pass. Free advertising for the band had turned into another way to make money.
It seems to be sliding back. I think it’s become quite clear that Film Clips are not a big money earner. iTunes have never been able to get any traction in selling them outright. Some money is passing hands from advertising revenue. And the number of people watching film clips on YouTube has taken on the most importance, yet again.
I think we can count on this trend continuing. Labels and bands never made money off Film Clips directly before. They are not going to be a cash cow now.
There’s also very few film clips I can’t see. Yes, there was a time when on-demand did not exist. And even my favourite bands, there were one or two obscure videos I never saw. Or I had a fuzzy VHS, taped off the telly. Then there are bands that never made it big in Australia (The Jayhawks and Sloan come to mind).
Now everything is up for grabs. Hundreds of thousands of Film Clips (and of course, even more live clips). We can safely assume having a DVD only clip is madness.
There’s not even an argument for having all of one band’s clips in one place. They are in one place – your computer screen. There are many DVDs in stores right now that can show you things you can’t see online. Film Clip Collections are not one of them.
People don’t watch film clips on TV anymore. Not first, and sometimes not ever. It’s an era of YouTube, and watching videos on little frames on our computer screens. NPR’s Neda Ulaby compared watching the ‘Thriller’ clip on a small screen to trying to take in Spartacus on an iPhone. Even the film clips themselves are changing.
It is yet another reason to not watch film clips on the home entertainment system. Single Ladies. The great OK Go videos. They are made for the medium of the internet. It’s also the first place people go to. Videos premiere on websites – and are passed virally.
It brings in a question of DVD fidelity. Do we care? For years, a small but vocal group decried digital music for it’s lack of sound quality. Millions of people chose to ignore this and love music anyway. Then music started being made for digital (see Soulja Boy).
And so, if film clips are being made for the internet – who cares about DVDs?
The final point is the biggest one – ownership. People are still skeptical of cloud computing – and I am too. But I am willing to forsake Film Clip collections for the internet version. Here’s why:
Cloud computing as scary security concerns. From fear that servers-might-crash-and-I-lose-my-stuff to I-don’t-want-a-company-to-know-that-much-about-me. I think both those things fail for Film Clips. I don’t care if YouTube can track the clips I watch. And I don’t think I’ll have trouble finding clips on the internet ever, even if YouTube crashes.
And those old DVDs are awful. They may have seemed nice at the time, but they usually offer no extra features. Even attachment to artwork is out the window. Most of them were just rehashes of existing artwork. Blur’s was just a reshaped version of their Best Of, and I have that artwork on a nice big vinyl record.
I think the ultimate test is this – if I didn’t own that Blur DVD already, and someone offered to give it to me for free, I’d probably say no.
The Film Clip collection is dead, I think that’s certain. But it’s death may be a sign of bigger things to come. As bandwidth and storage space increases, where does it lead for the Film and TV industry? That’s the next big war, and maybe the first battle has already been fought and won.
30 for 30 – as I reach my fourth decade of being, I’m writing about some of the things that made the three that came before what they were. 30 – mostly trivial – things that have been a part of 30 – mostly trivial – years.
28. DOUGLAS ADAMS
I adore the works of Douglas Adams, and the man himself.
This 30 for 30 thing would not exist if not for Douglas Adams.
It was a thoroughly Douglas Adams moment in my life too. I was at my parents house, ready to leave for Paris for the first time. I was thinking, I need to buy The Salmon of Doubt, the posthumous collection of Adams’ writings found on his computer.
I had yet to read it, even though I was a huge fan (it was, after all, promoted as an unfinished novel. Who wants that?). So I decided I would rummage another book out of the boxes I had in my parents garage.
And there it was – a copy of The Salmon Of Doubt.
A perfect, unread, 1st edition paperback.
I’m not the kind of person who buys something and doesn’t know it. No price tag marks of any sort to suggest it’s origin. No one else in my family would have bought it. It wasn’t even amongst the other books in “A”. It was in a completely random box – the first one I looked at. And I was just thinking about it.
The only Adams-esque explanation is this – The Salmon of Doubt has become a very important book in my life. It started on that day. And some time in the future, I will come across a pristine paperback 1st edition. And a wormhole. And I will know to throw the book into the wormhole, leading back to my parents garage circa 1996, ready for my 25 year old self to discover.
(Slightly odder still is I have no idea where the book is. I’m even less inclined to lose things)
As far as I’m concerned with things related to Douglas Adams, the most extraordinary explanation must be the one.
The Salmon of Doubt is not usually considered the most inspiring work by Adams. But, along with half a novel, there are a series of random writings. Wonderfully written, long rambling essays about certain subjects.
I remember reading these articles and thinking – this is exactly what blogs should be. Long, meaty, well written, point driven pieces. Adams jumps around and goes on tangents, always circling the same points. He usually write about technology too – something I love.
So since that time, I have been trying to write blog posts like Adams’ writings in The Salmon Of Doubt. If you are interested in reading a really great essay (Hooray! Essays!) you can find some on his site, and I would start with Frank the Vandal (http://www.douglasadams.com/dna/980707-00-a.html)
I discovered Adams through the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, much like everybody else. I’m guessing this was around age 11, and I was already discovering Monty Python, Red Dwarf and various absurd British comedies. I found it at Campsie Library, when I was devouring so many books. Then I found all it’s sequels – and loved them too.
Those books were, of course, and marvellously, surrounded by Adams’ other works. First was the Dirk Gently books, which I also loved – and the BBC have just announced they will finally make TV adaptations of the two novels. The Meaning Of Liff and the Deeper Meaning Of Liff – a dictionary for things that needed names.
Then there’s the one non-fiction book – Last Chance To See.
I absorbed it all. And I am not the only one. Every time I see the phrase ‘Don’t Panic’, I think of Adams. And ‘42’, yet another Adamsism that has broken through to the mainstream. The glorious Babel Fish. His popularity has never waned.
Hitchhiker’s is, of course, awesome. It is such a deep reflection on the interests of Douglas Adams as well.
I read and re-read the first four books many times. I waited patiently on the library waiting list to read the fifth book – Mostly Harmless. I bought a collection of the first four books, and I eventually found first edition paperback copies of all of them – going for almost £40 each now.
Around that time, the ABC screened the 1981 BBC TV version. Even better was the South Bank show special – a very absurdist take on Adams’ life story, intercut with recreated scenes from his novel. It’s the only time I’m aware that Dirk Gently has been portrayed onscreen.
It was easy to keep track of Adams’ works, because he was almost always first in the sci-fi books section. New stuff stood out. The ridiculous Illustrated Version to the weird and underwhelming Starship Titanic.
I kind of lost track of Adams’ by the time he died in 2001. Although I was really sad – I guess I was at an emotional age about my heroes.
One of the last things Adams worked on was to make the Hitchhiker’s movie. After mulling over a film version for decades, it finally happened in 2005.
I remember seeing it at the cinemas, and loving it. Even with the 1981 TV version, it felt like they mostly got what I imagined the book would look like.
The movie had some major flaws – it’s rambling plotline is just almost impossible to shoehorn into a movie. The wit in Adams’ narrative is missing. It seems they spent all the special effects money went to the last 30 minutes of the film.
But there were lots to love. The cast was mostly perfect. Martin Freeman – the man was made to play this role. Zooey Deschanel is great as usual. Sam Rockwell made a great Zaphod, except no-one’s managed to get the two heads thing right.
And it looked great. The Vogons were perfect. The showroom of planets is honestly breathtaking. In the end, they just nailed the strange humour, and lost none of the heart in the characters. And just that big screen feel. After 15 years and seeing that – it was amazing.
No one’s discussed a sequel, even though the movie made plenty of money. I would love to see it. A hundred scenes I would love to see. Milliways. The krikkitmen at Lords. And most importantly, Arthur and Fenchurch flying over London.
Maybe someone will reboot them again one day. It seems to be the trend. Special effects just get cheaper, and maybe we can get something that looks like the Harry Potter films, and a commitment to make all of them.
More than his work, I love Douglas Adams the person. It’s a side I first got to see when I read Last Chance To See. It’s a non fiction book, an account of Adams’ adventures with zoologist Mark Carwardine, searching for the planets most endangered and rare species. I didn’t finish it the first time, but years later returned to it and loved it.
Adams’ fell in love with these bizarre animals. In fact, they didn’t seem that far from Babel Fish and other weird creatures that came out of Adams’ imagination. In the book, he describes them like he would a Vogon. And he never loss his passion for protecting life on the planet.
In 2009, his good friend Stephen Fry recreated his journey with Carwardine for BBC2. The sequel, also called Last Chance To See, finally showed me a moving Kakapo. And great that this side of Adams’ legacy is getting it’s day in the sun. If he had lived, maybe he could have been a animal lover version of Michael Palin.
For me, it showed me that the amazing things I found in books were equal if not less than the amazing things you can see in life.
Adams had many other passions too. He was a big Beatles fanatic. He hung out with rock stars like Dave Gilmour and was one of the few outsiders in the Monty Python inner circle. He was an outspoken atheist before it became fashionable. He made a short but significant impact on Doctor Who.
He was also a Mac enthusiast, and a technology nut. He understood programming language, energy technology and computer science. According to Stephen Fry, Adams was the first person in the UK to own an Apple computer.
Adams loved technology. He loved the internet. He dabbled in video games in the mid 80s, and supported the advancement for technology. And for technology’s sake. He didn’t just love typing, or games, or graphics. He loved that these devices and how they can fit into our lives.
Imagine what Adams would make of the world today. He loved the internet, and prophesised we would live our lives on there. A comment that mirrors a line in the 2010 movie the Social Network. Imagine what Adams would make of Facebook.
Best still is the iPad. Let’s face it. It’s essentially the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy come to life.
Adams has a theory about progress, that works in three parts.
1) Everything that exists before you’re born is “normal”.
2) Anything created between ages 0-30 is very exciting, and hopefully you can make a living out of it.
3) Anything created after 30 is abnormal, abhorrent and against nature.
So it’s only an age thing that makes us scared of progress of technology (or movies, or music etc). And when new things occur in technology, I think of Adams, always pushing ahead to the front of the line to see what was happening. I hope I can be there too.
May 25th of every year is now Towel Day. It’s a celebration of Adams, of Hitchhiker’s and his other works. It takes his name and inspiration from, in the Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy world, the single most useful device ever – a towel. I’m aware of it every year, but I’ve not been brave enough to carry a towel with me in public.
But its’ something that is growing. A UK thing that is spreading out slowly to dozens of countries around the world, according to towelday.org. It’s yet another sign of how important and ahead of his time Adams was.
If you only know Adams for his sci fi humour, here is a great introduction to his activism.
30 for 30 – as I reach my fourth decade of being, I’m writing about some of the things that made the three that came before what they were. 30 – mostly trivial – things that have been a part of 30 – mostly trivial – years.
I love France and French culture. I am essentially a Francophile.
Paris. Just the word evokes images of style, fashion and romance. It occupied a lot of my thoughts before I ever went there. It is still one of my favourite cities in the world – if not the favourite.
The place reeks of cliché. Walking around a beautiful courtyard, it’s easy to see a man in a stripey shirt busking with a piano accordion. It makes me want to scream “For God’s sake turn down the French!” But why would they? French is brilliant.
The government actually actively turns up the French. No matter how rich your company is, you can’t fuck with large parts of France. Apple wanted to build a store on the Seine and was told to fuck off. It took Apple years to build their first proper flagship store in Paris. The French still hate the new modern entrance in the Louvre – the Pyramide du Louvre.
The list of marquee landmarks are as long as any city and more than most. The Eiffel Tower. The Louvre. The Seine. Hotel De Ville. Notre Dame. Père Lachaise. Pompidou Centre. Arc De Triomphe. Sacre Coeur. But it’s the small things. The merry-go-round near Abesses. The street signs and lamp-posts. Even the most insignificant bridge is amazing.
And the people. The most beautiful women, just walking along the street, smoking. Old American couples on holidays along the river. Trendy French kids dressed in the latest crazy fashions.
There’s not a corner of Paris that I find boring. There’s just something in the water.
Before I got there, Paris was already the main place I wanted to visit. In my naivety I thought this was true for everyone. Paris! I mean, come on!
Yet I know people who’s heart – even far away Australian hearts – belong to different places they’ve never been. Some it’s New York (Amy), Italy (Kathleen), London (Liam) or Egypt (Jeanette). This only makes me love Paris more. I studied maps of Paris before I even earned enough money in my life to afford a flight.
I don’t know why I was drawn to it, but I was.
But this is not a post about Paris. My courting with France began in, as with most things, the music. Being a huge music guy. Being a huge music guy, it’s easy to com across plenty of non English music. For me, something caught my ear with French music. It also began my interest in the language.
It’s small things at first. Nada Surf singing a French song. The original “My Way”. Que Sera Sera. The Grapes song Je M’appelle. Francoise Hardy dated Nick Drake.
Eventually you get yourself some Serge Gainsbourg. Then the chanteuses. Hardy of course. Brigit Bardot. Jane Birkin. Each more beautiful and swoonworthy as the next. Then you get some Edith Piaf. Some Telephone. Some Sebastian Tellier. And you’re stuck.
Then there’s cinema. I discovered Jean-Luc Godard when SBS showed a film of his every week for months. A bout de soufflé, Pierre le fou, Weekend, Masculine Feminine – all great (Sympathy For the Devil is also pretty good, but super weird). Amelie and the work of Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Jacque Tatu, etc. To this day, I am happy to see almost any French film at the cinema, be it arty like Diving Bell And the Butterfly, romance like Priceless or even teen dramas like LOL. If it’s on and I can make it, I do.
I love French cinema more than French music. But there’s also the films set in France. Charade is one of my favourite movies – the best Hitchcock film that Hitchcock never made. Before Sunset, little more than two people walking and talking in Paris – so many great moments. Everybody Says I Love You. Even French Kiss. Even the Da Vinci Code. Perhaps my favourite film version of Paris is Ratatouille. It really glistens bright like that cartoon.
I really loved the food in Ratatouille as well. I’ve tried all the delicacies and liked them. Escargot. Steak Tartare. Raclette. If it’s French I’ll try it. I have thought about getting that Julia Child book. And then there’s the wine. Even the crappiest 2 euro bottle from a shop is pretty good. And my favourite beer is Kronenbourg.
Then there’s everything else. Architecture. Painting. Cabaret. Even mime. It’s the same culture that brought us A Remembrance of Times Past and A Void. There is something about the French. They approach everything with a touch of flair. A je ne sais quoi. They lead artistic lives. If you’re going to do something, do it with class.
Man On Wire was a 2008 documentary on Phillipe Petit, a French tight rope walker and stunt artist. Amazingly, he walked across the New York Twin Towers in 1974. When the American press got to him, they wanted to know one thing – why he did it.
Petit did not know the answer. He barely understood the question. He was expecting “how”. He just did something amazing, that brightened people’s day and fuelled imagination and possibilities. Do you really have to ask ‘why’?
Such a French way to look at life.
I studied some French in high school, and did more years of it in London. I can get by in France. On a good day I can get by without using English at all. I even managed to buy drugs in French once. They should put that in a test.
I have a few French language podcasts and plenty of French apps on my phone. I even tried to read Le Monde every morning for a while but I thought that was taking Francophilia into Wankery. I bought the first Harry Potter book in French and I’m working my way through it – and getting better at not reaching for the dictionary. What I really want is the Roald Dahl books in French.
I will get back to lessons as soon as I can. I started to write a story in French once. I’ve translated some of my own songs into French (badly). I’m still very much a beginner when it comes to the language, but I love it. Studying something has never been so easy.
Last time I was in Paris, I had a strange feeling. In my first couple of years in London, I went to Paris almost every month. I’ve been to many other French cities too. I really got to know the place.
I have my regular things. Train into Gare Du Nord, and walk through Abesses to Tim Hotel. Breakfast pastry from that little boulangerie around the corner that make awesome chocolate croissants. I have the places I like for dinner, for drinks and all around Monmartre. It also all ends at the steps of the Sacre Coeur, looking over all of Paris. I know my spot, the backstreets, how to get anywhere from my spot.
I’m not a tourist, but I’m still a stranger.
It’s like I dated this city for long enough. Time to step up or get out. I wouldn’t have left London if it wasn’t for this. Next time I go to Paris, I have to spend some real time there. Like live there.
So, I’m going to get the language up. I’m going to save. And then I’m going to go back. And live an artistic life.
30 for 30 – as I reach my fourth decade of being, I’m writing about some of the things that made the three that came before what they were. 30 – mostly trivial – things that have been a part of 30 – mostly trivial – years.
10. STAR TREK
I watched and loved a lot of Star Trek. It’s not my favourite show ever, but has been with me for over half my life.
I’m a nerd! And not even the cool type of nerd that’s become hip. Fuck those pussies. I’m an actual nerd. And with that, comes Star Trek.
But the world conspired against me. It used to be on 4 nights a week when I was a teenager, and I usually slept in front of the TV anyway. It was, for several years, Star Trek followed by Letterman. This was how I grew up.
From age 12 or so, up until now. There’s simply no other show that has lasted this long. There are 725 episodes (across 29 seasons) and 11 films. So one and half times the Simpsons, and Star Trek were hour long episodes. Once I got in, how could I not be affected? It’s almost 800 hours of television!
I bring up Star Trek to stop people who I am bored with talking to me.
It’s pretty awful for anyone involved in the making of Star Trek, but I have often, very often, used Star Trek as a conversation killer. And sometimes a date killer.
OK, not so much a date killer. But sometimes you are talking to someone to see where they are at. And sometimes I come across cooler than I am – blame the job and the love of jokes. And when I realise I’ve wasted a drink or two talking to some girl I have no interest in, I bring up Star Trek.
It is pretty amazing how quickly the conversation stops. To most women, you’ve just turned into a slug or something.
It is even quite easy to do.
ALL you have to do is, when you’ve already started talking about stuff, say “Hey, you don’t watch Star Trek do you?”
It’s a beautiful line.
Because it looks like I am interested in furthering this connection. And the way I want to get to know you better is through Star Trek.
There are, as far as I’ve been able to determine, 3 reactions.
1) A quick dismissal. Maybe 3 or 4 more minutes of chatting, then next toilet, smoke or weak excuse break, our seats will be gone and we wont talk again.
2) A feigned (or genuine) interest. Basically the girl tries to engage in this conversation. This is a BOLD move on her part. She is going where no women drinking at this bar has gone before.
Oh, what do I like about it, you ask?
Well, I like the PREMISE. How it’s just a blank page for good writers to hang strong Sci-Fi IDEAS. (That goes down a treat with the ladies).
Oh you know Spock is Vulcan?
Actually, he’s a HALF Vulcan. (His mum was a human). (Girls love that line).
I’m not trying to be obnoxious really. This is just how I speak about nerdy stuff, that includes Trek.
Anyway, that soon ends.
3) The woman I am talking to is actually a Star Trek fan and we talk about Star Trek.
THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED.
I have used this tactic over 100 times. Yes, part of it was when I discovered it, I tried it out a lot. But god, there are a lot of annoying women out there, and sometimes I just want to talk to my friends.
And never, ever once, have I met a female Star Trek fan in the wild.
I haven’t seen every second of Star Trek. But I’ve seen a lot of it.
The original 60s stuff with William Shatner? Check. Seen them all.
The Jean Luc Picard/Patrick Stewart stuff with the robot? Yup.
Deep Space Nine, the lesser known one with the black guy that everyone compared Obama to, in the comics and sci-fi world anyway? Yup.
Voyager, the one with the woman captain? Say maybe half of that.
Enterprise, the one with the guy from Quantum Leap (and the god awful Diane Warren song). Again about half.
I read some of the original novels. One of my favourite comic book writer – Peter David – wrote some great stories.
I’ve seen all the movies, although I only just saw the 10th one, after the 11th one came out.
But my interests waned. In school, when I watched anything and everything, I caught every episode. When Deep Space Nine was cancelled in 1999, my active interest died there too. Like comics, I took a break, and music took over my life completely.
I don’t know a terrible amount of people who like Star Trek at all.
James likes it because we both grew up with it. Casey likes it, I think for the same reason as me – it was on and we watched a lot of TV as teens. Nigel. Really, I am running out here. You either like it, or you don’t. And then there’s that 3rd level where you loved it.
A girl I liked had a housemate who was really into Trek – she was a girl too. She had Trek stuff in the house – a big stand up cut out of a character from memory. I didn’t know her very well, but I told her I liked Star Trek.
Funny though because she got defensive. A bit dismissive. Oh, that old thing. I wasn’t being patronising – I’m a fan – but I guess for her, she’s had to put up with a lot being a Trek fan. People make fun, patronise and flat out misunderstand.
Not that it really matters, but she was a very attractive girl as well. She would be by no means a social outcast. But she was in the fanclub or something, and hung out with a group where she can express her interest. I just wish that she would have talked to me – not so we could have talked, but that the world has made her hide.
In the UK, I’m not sure I’ve met one Star Trek fan. I know quite a few Americans though – it’s where the show was created, and it’s natural, cultural home. It is a bit of an American view of the future.
Which is all very odd, because so much of Star Trek is in popular culture. Phrases like “where no man has gone before” appear everywhere (like in the end of Almost Famous). “Live long and prosper.” 50% of Futurama is pretty much Trek. Like chess – I don’t understand how you can see this world without knowing the basics of Star Trek. What do you think when someone mentions Warp Speed or something? Do you walk through life like it’s one big joke you don’t get?
I was very excited when the new Star Trek movie came out. I saw Star Trek: First Contact in the cinema, and was pretty excited to revisit this world in a darkened cinema and a big screen.
Above I stated that there are over 750 hours of Star Trek. Well, that new movie would be in the top 20 hours of that 750.
Not a terrible amount happens, but it’s a fun action film with some cool ideas. But what really got me is the tone of the film. I really hated Dark Knight, and that dramatic, emo bullshit. I’m an optimist and the future is bright. And Star Trek, that new movie, was bright.
It is the main reason I love Star Trek. It is so optimistic. There is no drama within the crew. They work on each week’s threat together. People of all races and genders (even the odd robot or hologram) working together. As an immigrant in the country I grew up in, I was drawn to this.
I love the idea that maybe one day we will all get along and live these exciting lives. How can you not be?
So if for some reason you want to wade into this whole mess of Star Trek, the 2009 movie is the perfect place to start.
The single greatest question facing mankind is clearly this:
Which is better – Star Trek or Star Wars?
In the late 90s, Star Trek got very bloated. Movies, two TV series, books, comics, blah and blah. It was too much.
Star Wars however was still 3 perfect movies (and a number of really good books actually).
So Star Trek was easy to bash in the 90s, where Star Wars was a lot like James Dean – it left a pretty corpse, and it didn’t age.
Then Star Trek went away, and Star Wars got bloated. Those prequels are awful. Some of the worse films I’ve ever seen. Now there’s a cartoon and an upcoming live action comedy(?) series. Almost all of it is shit. And it really shows how limited the Star Wars idea was. It really had no more to give.
Star Trek however, came back with a very good movie. The memory of past fiascos are fading. What made Star Trek great in the first place still stands.
But Star Trek has never been great in movies. It’s a great premise (Stage Coach in space) and the perfect set up for a monster-of-the-week. Whereas Star Wars was one epic story, start to finish. We are comparing apples and oranges.
In the end though, I like Star Trek. All those amazing stories. 40 years of great ideas, swash-buckling adventure and cool gadgets. It just can’t be beat.
And Luke Skywalker is a whiny sook and the dude kissed his sister. What the fuck?
(Alex Zane did a poll once on XFM asking this very question. Almost every caller said Star Wars. Zane responded to several callers with “How about that bit in Wrath Of Khan where Kirk screams KHAAAAAAAAN?” and none of the callers had actually seen it. So if you’ve not seen it, your opinion is pretty worthless)
So, I have mainly avoided talking about the actual content of Star Trek. The intricacies of which characters I like, what season was best, etc. I think there is enough of that on the internet.
If for some reason, you are a Star Trek fan, and you came across this, here are my top 20 stories (movies and 2-parters count as one) of Star Trek.
1. Best of Both Worlds (TNG, 1990)
2. The Visitor (DS9, 1995)
3. Past Tense (DS9, 1995)
4. Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (1982)
5. All Good Things (TNG, 1994)
6. Far Beyond the Star (DS9, 1998)
7. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
8. The City On the Edge Of Forever (TOS, 1967)
9. Star Trek (2009)
10. Shattered Mirror (DS9, 1996)
11. The Doomsday Machine (TOS, 1967)
12. Crossover (DS9, 1994)
13. Mirror, Mirror (TOS, 1967)
14. Space Seed (TOS, 1967)
15. Descent (TNG, 1993)
16. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
17. I, Borg (TNG, 1992)
18. Q Who (TNG, 1989)
19. Explorers (DS9, 1995)
20. Endgame (VOY, 2001)
Looking at this list really makes it hit home – I do love this show. So many great stories! So many ideas! Every week was something different. A time bending character study, or an all out action packed dog fight in space. All tied together with this wish of living better lives, working together, and leaving our predjudice and hate behind.
30 for 30 – as I reach my fourth decade of being, I’m writing about some of the things that made the three that came before what they were. 30 – mostly trivial – things that have been a part of 30 – mostly trivial – years.
8. WOODY ALLEN
I have loved the works of Woody Allen for many years. His personal life also makes me question how we treat our celebrities. But in the end, I see the world though Woody Allen’s movies.
Here’s something you should never do. Ask me to recite jokes from Woody Allen’s album Stand Up Comic. It’s a “best of” his vinyl only records of live stand up from his early nightclub years. It’s fantastic.
Most people know “the Moose”, but jokes like the Vodka Ad, Eggs Benedict and Bullet In My Breast Pocket are just as great. Woody Allen at his purest form – and early his career. Almost ten years before Annie Hall. But the persona was already there.
I have lots of good memories of listening to this album in my teenage bedroom in the dark. I had no idea about many of the references – Noel Coward, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Lily Pons – but loved the jokes.
(I actually owned it twice, accidentally. It was called Stand Up Comic and on Rhino in the US, but called Nightclub Years in the UK, on EMI. Thinking they were different, I bought both. Oh Internet, where were you then?)
1964 – the start of Woody Allen’s career, under his own name. It’s brilliant stuff.
I also found and loved Complete Prose, a collection of Allen’s short books in the 60s. Surreal, pun filled anecdotes – something he still does occasionally in publications like the New Yorker.
This long ramble is basically a setup so I can say one thing: Woody Allen is more than a filmmaker.
He’s made some amazing films, of course. But he’s a funny man. A writer. And actor. A musician! He’s Heywood Allen.
What’s your favourite Woody Allen movie?
It’s a common pub question amongst friends.
For me it’s Annie Hall (1977). It’s a common answer, followed by Manhattan (1979). Both are amazing films.
‘Annie Hall’ wins out for me. And it helped that when I saw it, I already had my heart broken once. It’s the greatest break up movie ever made. It’s still laugh out loud funny. Touching, sophisticated and made with absolute confidence… the story of Annie and Alvy touched millions, beating Star Wars for the Academy Award for movie of the year. Even thinking about them now as I write brings on a rush of bittersweet feelings – as if I’m reliving a past love of my own.
It’s had more influence on my life than any other movie. From the insightful comments of how we love – the “I wouldn’t want to be a member of a club that would have me” stuff. To wishing you could pull the director of a film when you get into useless arguments. Or trying not to sneeze when cocaine is around. A million memories and feelings fill this remarkable film.
‘Manhattan’ is just as good. Again full of iconic moments, but a love letter to the island as well. The kiss at the Rose Center to the carriage ride in Central Park, all leading to the final scene of Isaac running down Fifth Avenue. Whenever I run, or see running on film, I think of this scene. It has all the intelligence and heartache of Allen’s best work – but it’s by far his prettiest film to look at. There’s also a tremendous score.
Those are the big two that everyone should see. They have dated remarkably well. They created a new genre of film – the sophisticated talkie. And it defined a generation too.
But those are 2 films in career of over 40 films. I have seen almost all of them.
The public perception of Allen’s films are that they are variations of Annie Hall and Manhattan. He does have a house style (he’s used the same fonts and credit style since the beginning. He never pays anyone more that $10K for a film. Every major character has equal billing. Etc) but he’s made a wide array of films, many of which are great.
Before Annie Hall, Allen made these formless, almost Monty Python-esque screwball comedies. Like his stand up, they are clever and witty. And funny of course. Of these, ‘Love And Death’ (1975, a parody on Russian tragedies) and ‘Sleeper’ (1973, a sci fi comedy) are my favourites. Allen is always the star, playing a Charlie Chaplin like character, trying to not fall over in the worlds he’s created.
These straight comedies made Allen’s name. And every film comedian wanting to go serious cites Allen’s move from this stuff to the late 70s Annie Hall era.
The late 70s leading into the 80s is considered his golden period. Beyond the Big Two, there’s similar dramas like ‘Hannah And Her Sisters’ (1986, the tale of a large family over two years) and ‘Crimes And Misdemeanours’ (1989, exploring morality and justice). There were more comedies in this time too – ‘Broadway Danny Rose’, ‘Zelig’ and others. But it’s ‘Hannah…’ and ‘Crimes…’ that really standout in his career.
(There’s also an amazing movie, called ‘New York Stories’ (1989), that is three stories directed by Scorsese, Coppola and Allen – which you should see.)
Allen’s popularity waned in the 90s – but it was when I was coming of age. Many of these films were new and exciting. The early 90s were particularly strong – ‘Husband And Wives’ (1992, a telling rumination on marriage) and ‘Manhattan Murder Mystery’ (1993, where Allen pays tribute to Hitchcock) are considered some of his best work. Mira Sorvino won Best Supporting Actress in the overall fantastic ‘Mighty Aphrodite’ (1995), and the all star musical of ‘Everyone Says I Love You’ (1996) has bad singing but the film is sweet.
It was the late 90s when the controversy about Allen’s private life began to show. On film, he reacted with two of his nastiest films ever – ‘Deconstructing Harry’ (1997, a long damnation on trial by friends and media), and ‘Celebrity’ (1998, one of the biggest, bitterest fuck yous ever in cinema).
(Allen also appeared in the lead role of ‘Antz’ (1998), which gained him quite a bit of popularity).
The 00s were up and down, but Allen maintained his one-if-not-two movies a year schedule. It started off well, with a new deal with Dreamworks and a return to screwball comedy in ‘Small Time Crooks’ (2000, of a couple stumbling into a life of crime). Dreamworks pumped a lot of publicity power behind it, and it’s follow up ‘Curse Of the Jade Scorpion’ (2001, a fun detective caper).
Some truly daft comedies followed, but then came the magnificent ‘Match Point’ (2005, the start of his London films). It recalled his best 80s work, and the nihilism and unhappy endings, betrayal and lust. London was followed by Spain, the best is the recent ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’ (2008). I’ve yet to catch up on the three films he’s made since.
That is quite a track record. Who else has made twenty films I’ve loved, even if 20 of the others are average? Over 5 decades of filmmaking. It’s an amazing career.
So here, for my money, are the ten best Woody Allen films
1. Annie Hall
3. Crimes And Misdemeanors
4. Love And Death
6. Manhattan Murder Mystery
7. Hannah And Her Sisters
8. Husbands And Wives
9. Match Point
10. Small Time Crooks
Woody Allen’s life is surrounded by controversy. And it makes me question our relationship with art and reality.
Is Woody Allen just Alvy Singer, Isaac Davis and any number of his main characters? That nervous, neurotic, New York Jew – obsessed with women, death and god? So much of what appears on screen reflects Allen’s private life. Broken marriages, large age differences, fame and morality – all hallmarks of Allen’s private life.
If you ask Allen, as Terry Gross did on NPR last year – Allen denies his life in onscreen. He is a renown sports fan and has never been a loner – unlike the neurotics he portrays. He’s a musician, and a talented one. He has no problems getting up in front of a world audience at the 2002 Academy Awards and salute New York. Not things he’s characters can do – let alone shepherd almost 50 films.
So who is Woody Allen?
And can we ever know?
A person has to be more than their public persona. We’ve had hundreds of songs by Bob Dylan – but can you really say you know him because of that? Can we know any creator through art?
My opinion has changed over the years but right now I think it’s a no. I think every persona is a lie. And as many movies, songs, books, TV shows etc that I like – I know nothing of the people behind them.
From that – the question of authenticity is out the window. I don’t care that Sylvia Plath and Ian Curtis were ‘tragic’ figures, or that John Fogerty was not from the South. It’s all about the work – for me anyway.
But is there NOTHING we can learn of Woody Allen, the man, from Woody Allen’s films? I think there are glimpses. I think people give themselves away. But people change every second, and you can never hold anyone to it. Annie Hall, I would assume, was written and made in a period of heartbreak and vulnerability. But is it Allen’s, or his co-writer Marshall Brickman’s feelings on show? And we can freeze our minds and think of Allen as Alvy – but that’s like how James Dean will never overcome his persona.
There is more to people, which is my point.
How do I feel about Allen’s private life? I don’t understand it. I would not lead such a life. But it doesn’t affect my enjoyment of his work. I feel that way about almost all artists.
Woody Allen has always been around, but I know the exact thing that made me investigate his movies – in particular Annie Hall. It was Blur’s ‘Look Inside America’ and the wonderful lyric
Annie Hall leaves New York in the end But press rewind and Woody gets her back again.
I loved this line, and so I got Annie Hall out on video and loved it. And I made my way through any film of his I could find at the local video shop.
Allen, in most video stores, falls under ‘art house’. And at Civic Video Belfield, art house was at the back, behind the curtain, with the ‘adult’ stuff. I actually had to get a guardian to go with me to pick out a film. My older brother’s girlfriend would be kind enough to take me, and she would marvel at porn titles at the other side of the room as I dug around non English movies to see if they had ‘Radio Days’.
I bought the books, the albums, and saw what I could at the movies. I read all I could online, in magazines and biographies – although most biographies are mean spirited hack jobs, highlighting the more tabloid side of his life. It took me ages to find the story of Annie Hall – how that was a 3rd of the intended film and how it was originally named Anhedonia.
Nowadays, most of his films don’t get a cinema release outside the US, or at least not for years. It’s getting a little harder to be a fan.
I think about art and creativity a lot. I have hundreds of theories about things, and one of them involves Woody Allen and Stanley Kubrick.
Woody Allen has made over 40 films, and 20 are great.
Stanley Kubrick made around 10 films, of which 10 are great.
Who is the better artist?
I think of artists like Neil Young who still pumps out an album a year. Not all are great, but there is a lot of great stuff throughout his career. Whereas Tom Waits takes his sweet time about it.
Bob Dylan wrote Like A Rolling Stone in 20 minutes. Leonard Cohen wrote Hallelujah over 12 years.
So there’s the Allen school, and the Kubrick school. And you can see it everywhere.
Allen is, of course, closely tied to New York. And when I am there, I always see the city from Allen’s eyes. It’s beautiful. I have sat at the 59th Street Bridge, on the bench on the poster for Manhattan – a poster I own a great print of.
I see Allen’s influence everywhere. Ricky Gervais apes his early career well, and Wes Anderson I guess knows his 80s stuff back to front. He captured the New York elite living – of Sondheim musicals, jazz, dinner parties and brownstone buildings.
But the biggest thing I carry around with me, that Woody Allen gave me, is to think about life. Is there a point to this? Do we enjoy what we can? Life is so fleeting, and people come and go. But the ground we are standing on is beautiful and don’t miss it. Women and love needs to be cherished and enjoyed while it lasts. And maybe it’s all a farce, and whatever works to get you through life is the best way to live it.