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November 2007

London Film Festival 2007

This Site Under Construction: the front of the Odeon Leicester Square, about six hours before tonight's LFF Opening Gala of 'Eastern Promises'[counts on fingers] '98, '99, '00, '01, '02, '03, '04, '05, '06... 2007.

Yes, it's true, this will be the tenth consecutive year that I've reported on the London Film Festival for you. (And it's my nineteenth festival overall, since you ask. Maybe for the twentieth one next year, I'll crack open the diary I managed to keep throughout 1989 and show you what my reviewing skills were like back then. Don't take that as a firm promise, though.)

The basic format will be the same as previous years: I'll see a couple of films every day between now and the end date of November 1st, and will attempt to crank out reviews of those films the morning after. You should also hopefully get to hear from a number of Spank's Pals, who'll be reporting on additional films I haven't managed to see, or disagreeing wildly with me about films that I have seen (no names mentioned...).

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The Masque Of The Red Death

Disabled toilet, Battersea Arts Centre, 8:44pm. And some dick in a mask.I think I've worked out how Punchdrunk do it. Whenever you attend one of their theatrical productions, you have to wear one of these plastic masks all the way through it. It has a curious psychological effect on you as an audience member - and we'll get back to that later - but nobody ever mentions the physical effect it has on you. The mask can be a little uncomfortable, particularly if you're trying to wear glasses underneath it: and I've found that on both occasions I've watched a Punchdrunk show wearing one, it's pinched my nose so tightly that I've had to spend the entire performance breathing through my mouth.

You see what they've done there? It's artificially simulated awe.

Mind you, it helps that they're the best in the world at what they do, too.

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Steve McLaughlin: Run For Your Life

Squished Beatles I should be reviewing the new Radiohead album, shouldn't I? After all, as The Belated Birthday Girl keeps sniffily telling me, what used to be a proudly hand-tooled website is now a mere blog. And this is exactly the sort of thing that bloggers around the world will be doing today: downloading In Rainbows as soon as it's released, listening to it over lunch, and posting a review of it by the evening, along with a lengthy discussion of the implications of its unusual release strategy.

And I was half considering doing just that. Except that, thanks to a chance discovery courtesy of Boing Boing, I've actually downloaded, burnt and listened to two complete albums today. One of them was indeed In Rainbows, and on first listen I have to say it sounds fine: a return to more clearly defined songs, rather than the arty noodling of their last few albums. (And in case you're wondering, I chose to pay seven quid for it: this is an interesting experiment in testing the loyalty of Radiohead's fanbase, and I don't see any reason why I should exploit them for their curiosity.)

But if it's arty noodling you want, you can download all 84MB of Steve McLaughlin's Run For Your Life. And it won't cost you anything at all. So what's the catch?

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30 Rock

Jack, Liz and Tracy (aka Alec, Tina and Tracy)A strange thing happened on American TV about a year ago: the NBC network scheduled two shows with an identical premise almost simultaneously. On the one hand, you had Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip, Aaron Sorkin's first piece of major television since he created The West Wing. On the other, you had 30 Rock, from the Saturday Night Live stable. Both programmes were about the backstage adventures of the people working on a live TV comedy show: but Studio 60 was a serious intelligent drama, while 30 Rock was merely a frothy sitcom.

One year later, where are they both? Well, Studio 60 is lying dead in the water, cancelled after a disastrously received season: while 30 Rock has a couple of Emmys and is happily launching into its second series. To our American readers it may seem a little late to be discussing all this, but over here in the UK we're only just getting the chance to start comparing the two shows - well, legally, anyway. Studio 60 has been running for about two months on More 4, while 30 Rock starts on Five this Thursday, October 11th, at 10.45pm.  Which, amusingly, overlaps quite nicely with Studio 60's 10pm slot. If you have to choose between one of the two, I'm here to make the choice easier for you.

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Simian Substitute Site for October 2007: The Flash Monkey

The Flash MonkeyWhat are you staring at?

Oh, yeah, the redesign. Well, let's face it, it was about time, wasn't it? The original site banner has been knocking around the internet since Bastille Day 1998: it was quickly thrown together using some blocky clipart and a distorted Comic Sans font, back in the days when the latter was fashionable rather than justifiable cause for murder. I never suspected at the time that the banner would still be here over nine years later. That's my excuse, anyway, and I'm sticking to it.

So, the banner's been revamped (with the opportunity to bring back a much-missed feature, The Site Tagline That Changes Roughly Once A Month), along with a couple of tweaks to the font and the colour scheme. And thanks to my splendid hosts at Typepad, it's a change that took a matter of minutes to apply across the entire blog: when I used to update the old site, it required me to recode a couple of hundred pages one at a time by hand, owing to my inability to get to grips with CSS. Your comments on the new look are welcomed below. (Whether I take any notice of them is another matter, of course.)

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