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June 2012
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MOSTLY FILM: #KeepAsianCinemaInUKCinemas

Sammo Hung, Andy Lau and Tsui Hark, in a gloriously untypical still from A Simple LifeThere's no denying that it's a mouthful of a title (says the man who's previously persuaded Europe's Best Website to publish two separate articles called Terracottadammerung). But it's explained in the first paragraph of this week's Mostly Film piece, and it was the ideal phrase to tie together two film reviews, one writeup of a panel discussion and some thoughts on recent events in the world of film distribution. So, as of yesterday, you can read an article by me called #KeepAsianCinemaInUKCinemas at Mostly Film.

Having said that, at one point it was looking like I'd have to rename it Untitled Asian Cinema Rant. Last Friday lunchtime, literally as I was preparing the final draft for editing, Terracotta Distribution turned up on Twitter announcing a competition to find a shorter, more punchy version of their hashtag. At the time of writing, the competition is still open: searching through their public tweets, I'm amused to discover that two-thirds of the entries so far have come from Mostly Film contributors. (Hi, Clare.) They haven't officially announced a replacement hashtag, so for now let's stick with the current one.

For today's Red Button backup material, here's a question for you: how many Asian films have actually made it into UK cinemas so far in 2012? And how many of them have you seen? I'll give you a few seconds to think about that.

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Edinburgh Festival 2012: A Disinterested Preview

NB: saltireThere are certain things that regular readers of this site have come to expect over the (glances at calendar) more than fourteen years of its existence. And one of those is the sheer bloody effort it takes to write about one of my holidays after I've come back from it. It's now close to two months since The Belated Birthday Girl and I went off to Japan for the latest in a series of visits to the country. I promised at the time that a whole series of articles would be forthcoming: but apart from a piece for Mostly Film and another slab of related material, that still hasn't happened yet. It will soon, I'm sure - it's just that right now, any displacement activity that comes along seems preferable to buckling down to actually doing the job.

What sort of displacement activity? Well, for example, let's say someone - we'll call him 'Nick' - says "I know you're taking one of your years off from the Edinburgh Festival this year, but is there any chance you could look through the programmes and tell the rest of us what's worth seeing, like you did in 2009?" That sort of displacement activity.

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MOSTLY FILM: The Great And Powerful Oz

Because I know Ricky enjoys that picture so much.Happy birthday, Oz! The first ever episode of HBO's sweary, violent, big-dicked prison drama was broadcast 15 years ago today. How do I know this? Because 15 years ago next Thursday (July 19th), I travelled to the USA for the very first time. My first night on American soil was spent in a tatty hotel that wasn't quite as close to New Orleans as the name Days Inn New Orleans would suggest. My stay was made slightly more more comfortable by the discovery that on my TV that night, I could watch the second ever episode of Oz, a new show from the makers of one of my favourites at the time, Homicide: Life On The Street.

Oz eventually made its way onto Channel 4 in the UK, so I was able to catch up with the first episode, and watch all the ones that followed. I became a fan, and even wrote about it here in 2002 (when Channel 4 were four seasons into what would eventually become a six season run). Ten years later, I thought it was worth revisiting the show for the good people at Europe's Best Website. The Editor-In-Chief was initially sceptical - "the 15th anniversary, eh?" were his exact words - but I went ahead and did it anyway.

So yesterday on Mostly Film, I came as close as I could - given our current three-days-a-week schedule - to marking that 15th anniversary with a piece entitled The Great And Powerful Oz. And today on this site, we mark the actual anniversary with the usual bonus content.

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Simian Substitute Site For July 2012: Funny Monkey Comedy Carnival

Funny Monkey Comedy CarnivalMONTH END PROCESSING FOR JUNE 2012

Comedy: RHLSTP! (rhlstp!) Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcast came to the end of its run this month, and I think it can be considered a roaring success. But don't take my word for it: the live recordings that took place at the Leicester Square Theatre throughout May and June are all available for free download or streaming at that link up there. They've all got their highlights. The one featuring Stewart Lee (listen out for myself and The BBG chuckling in row B) is a delightful reunion of Lee and Herring, and sounds exactly like what it is: two old mates having one of a series of irregular catch-up sessions. But the biggest bellylaughs can probably be found in the Charlie Brooker episode, which slowly mutates into the two men trying to see which one can come up with the most unspeakable idea to say on stage. (It's approximately a draw at the end, from what I can remember.) The Edinburgh variant of the podcast returns in August, with the promise of more London shows (with, let's be honest, more famous guests than the Scottish version) in the autumn.

Movies: Plenty of London film festivals are on the horizon, long before we need to think about the London Film Festival. (With new boss Clare Stewart looking to make her mark on her first LFF, her decision to reduce its length by four days is a tad disturbing. But we'll wait and see.) In the meantime, two festivals announced their programmes in June, meaning you've still got time to go along to them if you can. HK15 Film Festival is an event from the lovely people at Terracotta, intended as a celebration of Hong Kong cinema fifteen years after the handover back to Chinese rule. It's a fine mixture of new movies and stone-cold classics: the most intriguing prospect is that of Jimmy Wang Yu doing a Q&A after a screening of the legendary One-Armed Swordsman. Meanwhile, FrightFest continues to do what it always did, although this year's selection of horror movies seems to veer between the extremes of the gruellingly realistic and the spectacularly daft. (Main examples of the latter include Cockneys vs Zombies and Dead Sushi.) In other film festival news, Scala Beyond doesn't announce its programme for another couple of weeks, but the idea behind it sounds fascinating...

Theatre: I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Joe Orton's What The Butler Saw is the finest play in the English language, and that's the end of it. The current London production (running at the Vaudeville Theatre until August 25th) can't quite live up to the first time I saw it: at the National Theatre in the mid-90s, when the cast included a young and unknown David Tennant, and his genitals. (Full proof here. Not safe for work, obviously, and may come with some even-less-safe-for-work advertising attached.) I think that first viewing had the element of surprise on its side: nowadays, I'm already deeply familiar with the precision of Orton's plotting and his hit rate of one zinger every other line, so it's down to how well the cast can deliver the goods. Early reports accused this particular bunch of actors of overplaying the material, but since the press night they seem to have settled down a bit, and overact it just to the right degree. (Lines like 'my uterine contractions have been bogus for some time' don't really call for subtlety.) The iffy reviews have knocked down audience confidence to the extent that big discounts are widely available on stalls seats, so grab a bargain while you can.

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