Saturday, 19 May 2018

Out On Blue Six: Haircut 100

....Or you'll never believe what this song's about #4

Now, normally when I do this occasional sub-series of my Out On Blue Six posts, I can waffle on about the deeper meanings of each song. However I'm really at a loss here and only have something that Nick Heywood himself said on an old episode of Never Mind The Buzzcocks I was watching earlier this week, because apparently the song was about the Falklands War!

Quite why or how this fey little love ditty was about Thatcher's lust for glory I have no idea. I mean, it's not exactly obvious from the lyrics is it? The only bit that sounds remotely political is the opening line; "I, I went off to the right" Thatcher's right wing policies anyone? As for the rest, and what really was so fear inducing about that lake I have no idea. As you can see from the Buzzcocks clip I've linked to above, it doesn't seem like Heyward knows either!

End Transmission

Frankie Boyle's New World Order

I was looking forward to the second series of Frankie Boyle's New World Order which started last night but it seems the order of the day was the usual BBC mandate to ignore the faults of the Tory government and give Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party a good kicking instead.

The show opened now with how much better spent the £32 million that Harry and Megan's nuptials today could be; specifically cladding and sprinklers for all tower blocks in the wake of the Grenfell disaster that will surely be this generation's Hillsborough - odd considering Boyle has been quite outspoken elsewhere about this tragedy. Nor did it open with a discussion as to how the government continue to fail the victims and families of the Manchester bombing, and the police force investigating. It didn't even discuss the Windrush scandal and the Tories handling of the Skripal poisoning. No, instead it opened with a near 20 minute panel discussion on how Corbyn's Labour party is no longer fit for purpose because of anti-Semitism. That Frankie's opening monologue briefly touched upon Palestine's murderous actions earlier in the week, acknowledging that the MSM described it as little more than 'disturbances', to then go on and discuss this issue with the never popular David Baddiel without ever really addressing how being against Israel's actions does not make you a jew hater just goes to show how a once daring comedian has sold his soul to be on-message at the BBC. Incidentally Baddiel remarked that 28% of Corbyn supporters believe the world is run by a secretive elite of Jews and stated that as a fact of just how anti-Semitic we Corbynistas are. What Baddiel is actually referring to here a YouGov poll made during the Labour leadership election way back in 2015, where supporters of Corbyn, Andy Burnham Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall were each asked the question 'do you believe the world is run by a secretive elite?' And yes, 28% of Corbyn voters said that they did. But NO WHERE AT ALL did the question specify a Jewish elite. That's an extra dimension brought to the table by Baddiel himself that has no basis in fact whatsoever. In reality, many Corbyn supporters could be thinking of the Murdoch and press baron elite, the establishment in general or the sodding Illuminati. The BBC should apologise for putting what is, at best, a foolish prejudiced assumption from Baddiel and,at worst a blatant lie that benefits the Blairite red tories within the party out there as a stone cold fact. But I very much doubt that they will.  An unusually sensitive Boyle has since taken to blocking anyone on twitter who criticised the show; I've even seen someone who simply posted the show's name followed by a poo emoji got blocked. This from a man who has made a living criticising others in far more explicit terms.

A funny closing ten minutes on the Royal Wedding entitled 'We have 12 hours to abolish the monarchy', which Frankie admitted was originally going to be titled 'Prince Philip will die tomorrow as a final act of racism' but was told that was too near the knuckle, was not enough to save this dreadfully obvious piece of Tory appeasement. Interestingly some on the panel - which included Frankie's regular guests Sara Pascoe and Katherine Ryan - chose to play devil's advocate here, yet such a role was not in the offing during the Labour piece. It took Have I Got New For You something like a decade before all its integrity was lost by sucking up to the government of the day. It took Frankie Boyle's New World Order just two series.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Breakheart Pass (1975)

Charles Bronson, the catfish mustachioed tough guy whose career in such similar fare stretches back to the '60s and '50s, could play these kinds of roles in his sleep (indeed, you could argue that he sometimes did!) but his eyecatching, unconventional leading man looks and his natural quiet charisma really shine through here in this multi-faceted role. 

See my full review at The Geek Show

Out On Blue Six: The Smiths

The perfect antidote for this nauseating Windsor-heavy week.

End Transmission

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Resnick (1992-'93)

British TV has always been awash with TV detectives, but they fall into two distinctive categories; there's the made-for-TV cops, and then there's those adapted from pre-existing bestselling crime and thriller literature. In the '80s and '90s it's fair to say that the BBC dominated the former category with a gold run of populist fare that featured the likes of Shoestring, Bergerac, and Spender. Whilst adaptations were principally ITV's domain, the jewels in the crown consisting of  David Suchet's Poirot, Jeremy Brett's definitive Sherlock Holmes, Inspector Morse and A Touch of Frost

The BBC's only real popular foray into adaptation was Lovejoy, but that genial, comfortable Sunday night offering was so far removed from the grubby, cutthroat violent and X rated nature of Jonathan Gash's original novels, and the programme only adapted a couple of the books in the first series anyway, so that need not detain us further.

So at some point in the '90s the BBC woke up to the sobering fact that ITV had the monopoly and thus they attempted to produce adaptations of other popular literary detective series for themselves. Perhaps the most successful (in terms of long-running at least) of these was Dalziel and Pascoe, the chalk-and-cheese sleuthing duo created by Reginald Hill. That series got off to a very strong start thanks to fabulously droll adaptations from Alan Plater and Malcolm Bradbury no less, and ran for eleven years - though they abandoned the source material provided by Hill very early on, offering us the law of diminishing returns. 

But on a par with those early Dalziel and Pascoe adaptations is a mini-series from four years earlier - the BBC's attempts to bring John Harvey's sandwich eating, multiple cat owning and jazz loving Nottingham based cop DI Charlie Resnick to the screen. The channel made just two adaptations of the Resnick novels - Lonely Hearts and Rough Treatment - starring Tom Wilkinson and, having watched them for the first time just a couple of years ago, I've been scratching my head to think why they didn't go on to adapt every single one of them because, quite simply, this would have given ITV's Morse and Frost a good run for their money.

It helps of course that the author himself, John Harvey, adapted the novels for TV. But crucially the director of Lonely Hearts, Bruce MacDonald, understands the material beautifully and gives us something unique that still stands out as a distinctive piece of drama some twenty-four years later. Crucially MacDonald's style, combined with his knowledge and understanding of Harvey occasionally somewhat fragmentary writing style, works in close harmony to deliver an deeply atmospheric piece. Like the jazz beloved of our central character, Harvey's writing often strays from the narrative through line to provide quirky and unusual flourishes or glimpses of other themes. This is best exemplified in the way that we see the team at Nottingham CID (which includes a youngish David Neilsen before he headed to the cobbles of Coronation Street, looking rather different with short hair and a military moustache, and actor/writer William Ivory as a scene-stealing leery, neanderthal cop who despite his blunt methods gets the job done in a way we cannot help but admire) involve themselves in other secondary cases or how we catch references to their home lives. All of these instances help lend a sense of multi-dimensionality and authenticity to the proceedings.

That said, MacDonald's directorial style isn't going to be to everyone's tastes and it is not without its flaws. In creating such a distinctive atmosphere it often runs the risk of being a touch too oblique, with sections of footage done, POV style, from the perspective of our protagonists, often lingering on minor details and abstract items. And there are a lot of moments set at night were everything is just so damn dark - but that might actually be down to the quality of the off-air recording from 1992 (sadly these adaptations have never been officially released and only bootlegs are available) that I watched, I don't know.

The world of Resnick as created by John Harvey is both a well-written and addictive one, and I've enjoyed reading a few novels in recent years. Tom Wilkinson inhabits the character depicted upon the page rather well (though I perhaps expected and would have liked a more native Notts accent) and accurately captures that kind of melancholic detective who seems to have a black cloud perpetually hovering above his head and feels a little too much really well. It's a cliche now I guess, the over-empathetic policeman, but I don't imagine it was at the time. 

The second adaptation, Rough Treatment, arrived a year later in 1993. It was another classy production but, with a different director (Peter Smith) at the helm it felt a little lacking with little to lift the proceedings above watchable, despite Jim Carter and Tom Georgeson as a good pair of chalk and cheese crooks and Sheila Gish having fun as the bored and frustrated wife of a TV director. However, I don't believe for a minute that this slighter offering sealed the fate of any further adaptations - ultimately I can only presume the ascent Wilkinson's career enjoyed round about the mid '90s with The Full Monty ultimately taking him to Hollywood was the real reason Resnick was so short-lived.

DI Charlie Resnick has been on my mind this week because I'm reading another novel and am tempted to revisit these adaptations this evening. In looking over my review (which originally appeared on Letterboxd) I came across John Harvey's blog and saw that the great man himself actually referenced my review here - to have a celebrated author you personally respect single out your writing and describe it as 'really interesting' has made my day!

Wordless Wednesday: Market Scene

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

RIP Margot Kidder

Sad to hear that Margot Kidder passed away at the weekend at the age of 69.

The Canadian actress was best known for her role as the intrepid Daily Planet journalist Lois Lane in the Superman movies of the '70s and '80s (ie the best ones - well, the first two anyway) and the '70s festive slasher Black Christmas. 


Saturday, 12 May 2018

One Summer (1983)

Written by Liverpudlian playwright Willy Russell, One Summer is the story of two scouse schoolboys who flee their life of crime and gang turf wars to seek refuge in the Welsh countryside in the titular brief summer. For my money, it is arguably one of the finest evocations of the scouse character I've seen. I was going to say the juvenile scouse character but, to be honest, there are still grown men in Liverpool who dismiss anything that isn't traditionally macho or they don't understand as 'soft'.

A startlingly young David Morrissey and Spencer Leigh are our two leads and from the off, Morrissey shows the abilities that has made him the reliable star he is today. Leigh on the other hand can be quite frustrating with a slightly more wooden manner and an irritating ability to screech his lines at several decibels too loud (and they wonder where Harry Enfield got his 'Scousers' characters from?) It's surprising then that, off the back of this and Derek Jarman's Caravaggio, it was Leigh who, alongside the likes of Tim Roth and Gary Oldman, was proclaimed to be a key member of the1980s Brit Pack movement of actors by The Face journalist Elissa Van Poznak. 

In contrast Morrissey, who chose to take up the offer to train at RADA followed by a stint at the Liverpool Playhouse, has perhaps proven that slow and steady ultimately wins the race. Both young actors are grounded by a great turn from James Hazeldine as their rural mentor, Kidder. Hazeldine was an accomplished character actor on stage and screen and brings every  one of his years experience to bear on the production, whilst remaining deeply generous to the pair of young leads. His premature death in 2002 at the age of 55 has left a gaping hole in British TV.

Made during the summer of '82 against the backdrop of the Falklands War and the rampant Thatcherism that was notoriously setting in place Liverpool's 'managed decline', One Summer is certainly evocative of that period but it hasn't really dated all that much. Today's innercity kids face the same problems and society at large still believe in the 'lock 'em up' solution to juvenile delinquency. With that in mind, it's easy to see not only One Summer's influence on subsequent films and TV (including the work of Shane Meadows) but also its potential to be remade as a film (something Russell has often expressed a hope for) as it's still highly relevant. Should it ever occur, perhaps David Morrissey could now take the Kidder role?

This was the perfect mini series to watch across last week's long and unusually hot May bank holiday weekend.

Friday, 11 May 2018

Blackball (2003)

Blackball is a deeply misfiring Britcom from writer Tim Firth and director Mel Smith that stars Paul Kaye as a cheerfully insouciant young rebel who sets out on the road of sports stardom, ruffling the feathers of the sedate and genteel conservative world of crown green bowling along the way.  

Just like Firth's other features (Kinky Boots and Calendar Girls) Blackball is based partly in truth. The inspiration for Paul 'Dennis Pennis' Kaye's bowling prodigy Cliff Starkey is Griff Sanders, the self-styled 'bad boy of bowls' who routinely flouted the hallowed rulebook by rolling a cigarette, drinking cans of lager and eating a bag of chips whilst on the grass. But perhaps his biggest transgression was to call the Devon County Bowling Association club secretary a 'tosser', which earned him a ten year ban from the sport (a savage blow which the club tried to ease by citing that, given that most  bowls players were OAPS, ten years was only a sixth of an average playing career!) By 1999 however, with sponsorship and TV coverage demanding 'a character', Sanders was allowed back into the fold and became a minor sports media darling. Naturally a degree of poetic licence comes into play for the movie; affording Starkey with a Romeo and Juliet style romance with Kerry (Alice Evans) the daughter of his nemesis and rival, the snobbish, ramrod straight club champion Ray Speight (James Cromwell), as well as a shot at becoming the England champ, with both rivals having to put their differences aside in a crucial, high stakes match against Australia.

I'm a great admirer of Tim Firth's TV work (Preston Front is one of my all time favourite series), but all too often his opportunity to work in film requires him to churn out deeply formulaic fare. Sometimes, it works - Kinky Boots is quite good and Calendar Girls (which came out at the same time as Blackball) was a resounding success, even though I didn't personally get the hype - but it really doesn't work here. I'm not altogether sure if Mel Smith's direction and Firth's writing is a happy marriage; Smith's humour leans towards the naturally silly and large, and is heavily influenced by his own performing career in sketch comedy. As such the pacing of the film never builds up a suitable head of steam, remaining sluggish and unambitious and offering audiences just a few intermittent chuckles - which are often usually followed by a roll of the eyes. Firth's writing is usually more lyrical, more character driven and ultimately more real, but all that's more or less absent here as he marches to the beat of Smith's drum. However, what writer and director do rather harmoniously provide is a traditional take of David and Goliath via the British class system. Kaye's Starkey represents the plucky, happy go lucky working class underdog who must beat and ultimately win over the stuffy, pompous middle class elitists that dominate his chosen sport, before snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in the final reel. In that regard, Blackball follows the path of most sport movies, and it does it so uniformly that the sport itself - bowls - doesn't really matter and what is arguably one of the most parochial games actually fails to be distinctive in any way, shape or form. 

Ultimately, what just about keeps Blackball afloat is the host of British comic performers and recognisable faces who appear in the film -  from Johnny Vegas to the legend that is Bernard Cribbins -  and inject a bit of much needed life into the proceedings. Weirdly, Hollywood's Vince Vaughn also appears as Starkey's unscrupulous, flashy agent. He's there presumably to attract US audiences - where the film was bizarrely retitled National Lampoon's Blackball

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Out On Blue Six: Shampoo

Did someone mention 'girl power'?

Spice Who? 

Shampoo were there first.

End Transmission

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Modern Life Is Rubbish

Hitting the cinemas later this month is Daniel Gill's feature length debut Modern Life Is Rubbish. The film tells the story of Liam (Josh Whitehouse) and Natalie (Freya Mavor) and a relationship that was brought together by a shared love of music now at breaking point. 

If you plan on watching it at the big screen, do yourself a favour and check out Gill's original short film of the same name from 2009. Starring Rafe Spall and Rebecca Knight, it's a beautiful two hander that I personally related to a lot - certainly in Spall's contempt for digital downloads and 'Best Of' compilations. But whatever your views on those things, I think there's plenty for everyone to relate to across this 12 minute gem because We've all been where these characters are; on the precipice of a relationship break-up, ready to walk away and take that final step into the unknown, but pausing first to lay claim to the soundtrack to and chronicler of our love; music. I can still recall having to traipse back into Liverpool to awkwardly meet an ex ten years ago because I'd left Dare by the Human League behind. 

Watch it here...

Friday, 4 May 2018

Every Loser Wins: The Fake News Around The Election

The BBC today have widely announced that Labour had a 'disappointing' local election yesterday. Their 1 o'clock news bulletin, read by Kate Silverton, reported that Labour didn't win any of their target seats...which is strange, considering that my local news bulletin which immediately followed Silverton's rundown, announced that Labour did indeed take Trafford - a key seat that was on a knife edge here in the North West. Labour securing Trafford means that the whole of Greater Manchester is now Labour run. Labour even gained Plymouth too; another key seat. So why have the BBC's national news been making out that Labour - and particularly Jeremy Corbyn - lost yesterday?

In fact, Labour have seen their councillors increase by 3%. That's a net gain of 55 councillors compared to the Tories net gain of just one seat. The truth is this was a very poor turn out for the Tories, comparable to 2014's election which saw the Torygraph demand that the then PM, David Cameron, assuage the voters rage. Once again, the MSM have given Theresa May's noxious austerity-driven, racist government a free pass. If this government were a person, it would be on life support and everyone would be trying to make out it was fit and healthy, despite the obvious truth staring you in the face. In fact, when it comes to the Tories and the MSM trying to kid us everything is OK, I'm reminded of this classic scene

I'm not saying this was an incredible victory for Labour, after all even Jeremy Corbyn called some of the results 'disappointing'. Much is being made here in the north about Pendle, a skin of the teeth triumph for the Tories that sees them take control of a council that has, for almost 40 years, been Labour run. But the councillor the Tories put up here has previously been suspended from the party for racism, so you really have to ask yourself what kind of party allows such a person to remain in their ranks. I've heard this make the news on local TV, but it hasn't seemed to reach down to London for the national broadcasts, who prefer to spin the Blairite lie that the only racism in politics is the alleged anti-Semitism problem within the Labour party. A scandal that has been manipulated and fueled by those 'Red Tory' MP's who wish to overthrow Corbyn.

 Whatever you do today, please do not take the MSM's reportage at face value because they're only telling you what the government want you to hear. Theresa May can say Labour have lost until she's blue in the face (which would be quite nice for her I'm sure) but the fact is Labour performed incredibly well. They manage to achieve what they have achieved in the face of a complete collapse of the UKIP vote - a vote which was widely predicted as being taken up by the Tories. These 100 net losses for UKIP has not transferred over to the Tories, they helped boost Labour and even the Lib Dems. 

But let's not be too hard on May's chief propagandists at Auntie Beeb. They're not placing it front and centre in their reports, but their digest of these results have shown an interesting projection if this were a general election

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Please Vote Today

Today is the day to cast your vote in the local elections up and down the country. Please do so

And use your vote for good; send a message to Theresa May's austerity driven, racist, corrupt, blood-on-their-hands government that their days are numbered. Vote Labour

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Out On Blue Six: The Fall

End Transmission

McStrike! Show Your Support

Today is May 1st, a day forever associated with the workers. So please take a moment to share your support with the workers at McDonalds who are out on strike today for a £10 per hour minimum wage and the right to join a union. 

Share a message of support here and let them know they're not alone in their fight.