Sunday 4 February 2024

Spinach or Silence as Sources of Power

 "So, Art is something which is made when you use a material to change something... but it helps people to consider the Art which is in front of them if it is grouped with another set of Art, and it's very difficult to consider Art in isolation from other Art..."
 Born Yesterday has a great format: two twenty-four-hour-old clones of the hosts ask two guests to explain the world in terms of the only three things they've yet had time to learn about. Alexander Bennet and Andy Barr are its perfect hosts, digging down in just the right spots, and presenting perfectly packaged summaries, so no matter how a guest chooses to play it – as hilarious disruptor or dweebish stickler – it's almost impossible not to be entertaining. (Like Taskmaster.) As evidence, I'd like to submit this episode, in which I'm dropped in alongside Andrea Hubert (I'll let you decide which is which) to explain such topics as Cumbria and the concept of "The Ends Justifying the Means" with only Popeye, a Hog-roast, and Birmingham New Street Station as points of reference. Other topics also emerge during the episode, such as animal cruelty in early cinema, Insults, Joy, and whether or not – according to the mathematics of decapitation – Bradley Cooper's nose in Maestro makes him more alive. 
 I've been a fan of this podcast since it began, and obviously I'm always up for explaining the world to babies, so thanks to Andy and Alexander – an old Crystal Maze colleague – for inviting me, and thanks to Andrea for being such a great teammate/opponent and for showing me all her blades. (We appear nineteen minutes in. If you fancy a drinking game, down a shot every time you notice me avoiding saying her name because I get self-consciously stuck on whether "Andrea" has a long or short A, despite it being said numerous times during the record, and the way the name's always pronounced. I'll join you.)
 "So, in building our understanding of what a Mime is, we have been led to believe that, if a dog were to withhold from you its name, it would be able to pick you up..."

Wowee! An Official Film!

Thursday 1 February 2024

Meet Hotten Crusty!

The author, entirerly comfortable doing a first-time Northern accent in front of cameras.
 I swear I didn't just come back on this blog to plug stuff, but back in December I was asked by Jamie Annett – the director of that episode of EastEnders I'd enjoyed being in so much - to take a day off from the Polar Express to come and film a lovely little scene opposite "Bob Hope" (played by Tony Audenshaw) in Emmerdale. That scene went out tonight, and the internet has gone WIIIIILD...
 Okay, that scene's not actually mine. Mine is fourteen and a half minutes into episode nine-thousand-and-five HERE. Personally speaking, I liked Bob. His child's just died, and when I ask him how the guitar playing's going he finds sweet relief in pretending they're still alive. Another really lovely scene then, and Tony was beautiful, and I remembered to hold my clipboard the right way round, and noone asked me to drive the van, and the rain held off, and once the scene was done we all had Christmas dinner at the top of the hill. Rock on.

(Note, road sign right way up.)

Wednesday 31 January 2024

I call this piece "The Person Who Has To Explain The Art"

 No sorry, my point was that when I initially saw those road signs turned upside-down by French farmers over Christmas my first thought had been simply, oh I guess some stuff's upside-down now. I had clocked the symptoms a few weeks earlier while tearing through Norwich Castle on a twilight ticket and noticing that one of the paintings had definitely been hung the wrong way up. Screwed, in fact. Screwed to the wall – see above. In the next gallery I noticed another, by a different artist, again definitely upside-down (I don't mean to boast, an artist like me just has an eye for these things).
  Every room in fact had one painting inexplicably set upside down, and my first thought here was, oh I guess this is some kind of protest – exactly the feeling I didn't get when I saw the protests in Languedoc. (Mum tells me farmers are now blocking every road into every city with tractors, so that's less ambiguous.) I couldn't think what might be being protesting however. So I went up to the information desk and said "Hello" firstly, and then "Can I ask why some of the paintings are upside-down?" and the smiling woman at the desk handed me a leaflet sporting the name Mark Wilsher, explaining "Yes, it's an artist. Five works have been turned upside down. It's all about your reaction to it." And I'm trying to work out how best to explain the way she said it, because I think that's the point of this post.
A sidenote: I come from a generation who have been taught, upon reading the words "the smiling woman at the desk", to imagine immediately something counterfeit and sinister – the polite, public face of an industrial carnivore – but after the trip to the castle I went back to punch imaginary tickets on a train pretending to go to the North Pole, or pour and serve real hot chocolate, because most of the jobs I've taken have been pretty public facing – not just the out-of-work actor stuff, but the actor stuff too. Other credits on my CV include: Announcer; Host; Voice; Receptionist; Narrator; Waiter; Lift Operator; and Conductor, bus. But even the murderers on that list were narratively never threats to the public. I like the public, and I like being the public. 

 Anyway, I don't want you to picture me leaving that exchange with the smiling woman at the desk in any way huffy or aloof. And I don't want to give the impression she didn't seem very much on the side of the exercise. But she did say "It's all about your reaction to it" it in a way that made me wonder how previous enquiries might have gone. I said "Aw thanks" and took the leaflet to let her know she wasn't going to get any trouble from my end at least. I don't know. Perhaps I'm projecting. Perhaps she wasn't deescalating anything, just happy to help. Perhaps I was also projecting when I thought it might have been a protest, or when I thought those upside-down road-signs in France might not. Walking away, I thought: "Well, I guess my reaction to seeing some paintings turned upside-down is to find out why they've been turned upside down. Sorry if you were expecting more, Mark." 
 But now I think maybe the work was actually having her to explain the work to me because – as you might be able to tell – I've had a far more complicated reaction to that. 
 (Sorry I didn't post much here about The Polar Express, but there was Instagram. And that's me with the outstanding Miles Mlambo above. And below, that's me getting over two million likes on TikTok. Boasts of equal stature.)
@bethmae0 💫✨️Just be you✨️💫 #polarexpress #fy #fyp #fypシ #fypシ゚viral #fypviral #foryou #foryoupage #foryoupageofficiall #trend #trending #quoteoftheday #mumsoftiktok ♬ original sound - bethmae🤍

Thursday 4 January 2024

Hat Hat Bang Bang

In which I belatedly honour THE film of 2023...
 (A placeholder's good for more than one day, right?)
 The summer evening I saw "Oppenheimer" I remember I raced hime to get to work on a version of this, inspired perhaps by Nolan's ruthless deployment of the formula: Man plus Hat times Cinema equals Importance. But I couldn't find an untreated soundtrack to the trailer I wanted to mix into it, and it wasn't really synching, and so I moved on. For the rest of the year however I continued to ponder just what that script had meant when targets other than Hiroshima were being dismissed by those men sat round the table as "too small". It was just a throwaway line, but how can a civilan target be "too small"? Noone ever explained that. This was well before thousands more non-combatants would be bombed to death with America's blessing in the Autumn. Anyway, cut to the end of year and I had another look at the edit, and decided it didn't really matter that it was shit; no less effort had gone into it than the idea deserved.
Also for your consideration: "There are some things you can't film" Yoshishige Yoshida
 And working on the mash-up further wouldn't stop anyone actually thinking that one film was a cinematic milestone and the other a risible vanity project, but I was still bugged I couldn't get an untreated soundtrack. Then, tonight, someone on F*c*b**k – already having gone into some length about how much they loathed the charmless Great Man narrative of "Maestro" – started watching "Oppenheimer" for the first time, so I decided to dust this off and join in, and here it is. Tone is tone, isn't it? Where did Michael Flatley go so wrong? Nowhere.


And: "When the horizon is at the top, it's interesting" David Lynch (as John Ford)

Tuesday 2 January 2024

In France I've been giving YouTube ads a little longer to run.

 And I think I may have found my people. Please don't alert them. My French isn't good enough to say for certain whether this advert definitely didn't have to be over three minutes long, but I get it. It's a nice little change, I guess. I leave France tomorrow. I hope I've given you a taste. Here's another.
 Apparently the inverting of town signs is nationwide: a protest organised by local farmers. Isn't it suave?

Monday 1 January 2024

Stepping Into 2024 Like...

 As if! As if I'd ever "step into" a year. Years step into me, baby. Particularly last year, although I dimly remember resolving not to blog to see if anything else got written in its place, if that counts as a resolution. Results: I had a good day's writing in January, and then plans. Sitting on those plans I enjoyed a lot of days off. Too many. But I definitely enjoyed them, which I suspect is a skill. But now I'm poor. As anyone who follows me on instagram may know, I did finally land a job in the last two months of 2023, and I really enjoyed having that job, and then the job got busier, and I missed having days off, and I got iller and iller, and now I'm in France recuperating. That's a French boar. 

 I think she's a boar. My parents drove me up into the mountains to see a village sat in a crater – the Cirque de Navacelles – and she was knocking around a farm on the edge. We left the vineyards of Languedoc and wound up thick white canyons of pine – the temperature falling around us – until we reached a narrow-horizoned plateau of trees the size of bushes sheltering donkeys at the top, a sudden Mongolian steppe. Looking over the side of it was like looking at a map. Click to embiggen. 

 The sun was in our eyes all the way home. 
 It was a nice drive, and reminded me of a couple of things. One was just how much of the year I've spent playing "Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion", searching crags and plains for a cure for my own vampirism, forgetting which horse is mine, running away from anything really well, and maturely coming to terms with my own white privilege by opting to play as an orc. (Everyone in it really does look like Simon Cowell as well; congratulations, Micky D.) 

 The second was THIS excellent adaptation of "Comet In Mooominland"starring our own John Finnemore which Radio 4 has just brought out for Yule, and which is definitely worth a share. I've missed sharing things on this blog. I used to stare at the cover of this for ages when I was ten. 
 Stepping into 2024 like...